With the announcement that “Where the Wild Things Are” author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died Tuesday (May 8) at the age of 83, filmmakers and authors have been mourning the passing of a brilliant mind. From Elijah Wood to “Looking for Alaska” author John Green, the influence Sendak leaves behind in the hearts of many is indisputable.
In a statement to MTV News, actor Tom Hanks — who co-produced the film adaptation of Sendak’s popular children’s book — said, “Maurice Sendak was the fabulously cranky old man, the maker of the Wild Rumpus, who delighted in scaring the kids on the block — and they loved him for it. I think a late supper is awaiting him and it is still hot.”
Sendak revolutionized the children’s book genre by allowing his works to remain a dark fantasy instead of a bright, depthless story. In “Wild Things,” after being sent to his room without dinner, Max — an unruly boy constantly wearing a wolf suit — sails away from home to a land of wild beasts for an adventure.
Sendak’s influence spread from the literary world to the film world as Spike Jonze set out to adapt the widely popular book into a motion picture. Critics were skeptical as the tome was labeled “unfilmable,” but the author remained involved in the project as Jonze incorporated his own interpretation of the book into the film.
“[Sendak] said from the beginning that you have to make it dangerous — make something that respects kids and doesn’t talk down to them or if not, it wasn’t worth doing,” Jonze said in the film’s featurette.
Sendak also created “Seven Little Monsters,” a children’s television series that showed the not-so-little monsters learning about life, and had a hand in creating and writing the Nick Jr. show, “Little Bear.” All the while children read his other picture books such as “In the Night Kitchen” and “Outside Over There.” But it was his classic story of Max and those monsters who “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth” that continues to span time and influence generation after generation.
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