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Where the Wild Things Are is a American fantasy film directed by Spike Jonze and adapted from Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book of the same name. The film combines live action, performers in costumes, animatronics, and computer-generated imagery (CGI).


Max (Max Records) is a lonely boy with an active imagination. His older sister, Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) does nothing when her friends crush Max's snow fort (with him inside) during a snowball fight. Out of frustration Max messes up her bedroom, specifically destroying a special card that Max had made for her. His mother, Connie (Catherine Keener) invites her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) to dinner. Max wears his wolf costume, acts like an animal and demands to be fed. When his mother gets upset, Max throws a tantrum and bites her. She yells at him and he runs away. Max finds a small boat in a pond, which he gets into and departs.

Sailing across the ocean, Max eventually reaches an island. Still in wolf costume, he explores the island and stumbles upon a group of six large creatures. One of them, Carol, is in the middle of a destructive tantrum while the others attempt to stop him. As Carol wreaks havoc Max tries to join in on the mayhem but soon finds himself facing the suspicious anger of the wild things. When they contemplate eating him, Max convinces them with a lie that he is a great king with magical powers capable of bringing harmony to the distraught group. They promptly crown him as their new king and introduce themselves:

  • Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), the most impulsive and charismatic of the wild things.
  • Ira and Judith (voiced by Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara), a gentle-speaking pushover and his aggressive, "downer" girlfriend.
  • Alexander (voiced by Paul Dano), a goat-like wild thing who is constantly ignored, belittled, and mistreated.
  • Douglas (voiced by Chris Cooper), a bird-like peace-keeper who is Carol's best friend.
  • The Bull (voiced by Michael Berry Jr.), a quiet and intimidating beast who mostly keeps to himself.
  • K.W. (voiced by Lauren Ambrose), the loner of the group whose constant departures irritate Carol greatly as he wants all of them to stay together.

Soon after Max arrives, K.W. returns and Max declares a "wild rumpus", in which the wild things smash trees and tackle each other, ending with them all piling on one another then going to sleep, with Max at the center of the pile. Carol takes Max on a tour of the island, showing him an intricate model Carol built out of sticks, depicting what he wishes the island looked like. Inspired by this, Max orders the construction of an enormous and fantastical fort, with Carol in charge of the construction. As Max bonds with Carol, K.W. brings her owl friends Bob and Terry to the nearly completed fort. Another argument ensues, as Carol feels the togetherness of their group is threatened by these outsiders. Max has the tribe divide into "good guys" and "bad guys," for a dirt-clod fight to release their frustrations, but Alexander is hurt during the game. Tension mounts between the wild things as it becomes increasingly obvious Max favors some of the wild things over others.

Eventually, Max finds Alexander alone in the fort that they built and has a conversation with Alexander who is still mad from the dirt-clod fight and finds out that Max neither king nor has magical powers. Alexander suspected it and warns Max to never let Carol know, though quickly Max's secret is exposed when Carol throws another tantrum and Douglas tries to make Carol accept the fact that Max is not and never was a king. Carol becomes enraged and accidentally rips Douglas' arm off, though only sand pours out of the wound. Carol then chases Max into the forest and threatens to eat him. Max is saved by K.W., who hides him in her stomach. Max eavesdrops on K.W. explaining to Carol that their lives are already difficult, with Carol's tantrums only making things worse. Hearing this, Max decides to leave the island.

Max seeks Carol out but only finds the crushed remains of his model island. Max leaves a token of affection for him to find. The other wild things escort Max to his boat and he sets off for home. Carol, after finding Max's token and regretting his rage, arrives just in time but is unable to speak, so they howl to one another. Max returns home, apparently just a short time after he left. He is embraced by his distraught mother, who gives him a piece of cake and sits with him as he happily eats it.



Suit performers

  • Vincent Crowley as Carol
  • Alice Parkinson and Garon Michael as KW
  • John Leary as Douglas
  • Sam Longley as Ira
  • Nick Farnell as Judith
  • Sonny Gerasimowicz as Alexander
  • Angus Sampson and Mark McCracken as The Bull


Where the Wild Things Are started its development life in the early 1980s, originally to be an animated feature by Disney that would have blended traditionally animated characters with computer-generated settings. Animators Glen Keane and John Lasseter (who later moved on to Pixar) had completed a test film to see how the animation hybridizing would work out, but the project proceeded no further. Universal Studios acquired rights to the book's adaptation in 2001 and initially attempted to develop a computer-animated adaptation with Disney animator Eric Goldberg, but in 2003 the cartoon version was replaced with a live-action concept and Goldberg was dropped for Spike Jonze.

After years of interest from various producers, Sendak favored Spike Jonze as director, noting he was "young, interesting and had a spark that none of the others had." The film was originally set for release from Universal, and a teaser of the film was attached to the studio's 2000 adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Disagreements between Universal and Sendak over Jonze's approach to the story led to a turnaround arrangement where the film's production was transferred to Warner Bros.

In 2005, Jonze and Dave Eggers completed a 111-page screenplay, expanding the original ten-sentence story. On July 8, 2006, production began open auditions for the role of Max. The process took months, but, eventually Max Records was cast. Academy Award-winning make-up effects supervisor Howard Berger (The Chronicles of Narnia) turned down offers to work on the film four times. Although the book inspired him as a child to work in special effects, he felt filming it was a "horrible idea". Jim Henson's Creature Shop provided the animatronic suits for the Wild Things.

Filming began in April 2006 at Central City Studios in Melbournemarker, Australia. According to Jonze, most of the film was shot with a handheld camera in order to complement the "evocative" "other-worldly" feel of the film. Adam Keenan and John Nolan are responsible for the animatronics. Jonze kept in close consultation with Sendak throughout the process, and the author approved creature designs created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Michelle Williams was originally cast as the female Wild Thing, KW, only to leave the project after her voice “didn’t match the original vision of how the Wild Thing should sound.” She was replaced by Lauren Ambrose, and filming continued.

In 2008, test footage was leaked onto the internet leading to mixed reactions. Jonze responded "That was a very early test with the sole purpose of just getting some footage to Ben, our VFX supervisor, to see if our VFX plan for the faces would work." Following early fan outcry over the leaked video and rumored “scared children” in test audiences, Warner Bros. announced a massive year-long delay. On February 20, 2008, speculation emerged that Warner Bros. was considering reshooting the entire film. WB president Alan F. Horn responded, “We've given him more money and, even more importantly, more time for him to work on the film. We'd like to find a common ground that represents Spike's vision but still offers a film that really delivers for a broad-based audience. No one wants to turn this into a bland, sanitized studio movie. This is a very special piece of material and we're just trying to get it right.” Producer Gary Goetzman followed, "We support Spike's vision. We're helping him make the vision he wants to make."At the end of 2008 Spike got together with Framestore in London to complete his movie and work with them to bring to life the performances through their animation and visual effects team. Over the course of the next six months Spike spent time with the animators on the floor of the studio as they worked together to realise his intention for the performances that had started many years before with the voices, continued with the suit performances in Australia, and were completed in London's Soho.

Maurice Sendak said after having seen a completed cut of the film, “I’ve never seen a movie that looked or felt like this. And it’s [Spike Jonze's] personal ‘this.’ And he’s not afraid of himself. He’s a real artist that lets it come through in the work. So he’s touched me. He’s touched me very much.” After seeing the finished product, a Warner Bros. executive stated "He's (Jonze) a perfectionist and just kept working on it, but now we know that at the end of the day he nailed it."

Release and reception

International releases

Internationally, the film will be released in Australia on December 4, 2009, in Russia on February 4, 2010, in Germany on December 17 2009, and in the UK on December 11, 2009 and in the Republic of Irelandmarker on December 11, 2009.

Box office

The studio decided not to position the film as a children's movie and spent 70% of the advertising on broad-based and adult-driven promotion.The film was released in North America in both conventional and IMAX theaters on October 16, 2009. Early Friday box office estimates show the film earned about $32.7 million on its opening weekend in theaters.

Critical response

Reception to the film has been generally favorable. The film holds a 70% "Fresh" rating on review website Rotten Tomatoes from 174 reviews with an average score of 6.9/10.Review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating of 100 reviews from mainstream critics, gave the film an average score of 71% based on 36 reviews.

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A declaring "This is one of the year's best." Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote that Spike Jonze's "filmmaking exceeds anything he’s done" before, while also noting the imaginative visuals and otherworldly feel, along with the fantastic creature effects on the "Wild Things". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars saying, "For all the money spent, the film's success is best measured by its simplicity and the purity of its innovation." Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars out of four.

Some critics have noted the dark adaptation for children, such as David Denby from The New Yorker saying, "I have a vision of eight-year-olds leaving the movie in bewilderment. Why are the creatures so unhappy?".Stephanie Zacharek of criticized the film's visual aspect claiming, "Even the look of the picture becomes tiresome after a while — it starts to seem depressive and shaggy and tired." and complained, "The movie is so loaded with adult ideas about childhood — as opposed to things that might delight or engage an actual child."The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey branded the production a "self-consciously sad film."

Also, while counting down his top ten movies of the decade on the popular movie review show At The Movies, critic A.O. Scott placed the film at number five on his list.


Film classification agencies have tended to assign "parental guidance" ratings rather than general or family ratings. MPAA in the United States assessed a PG rating due to "mild thematic elements" and elements of language and adventure. A PG rating was also declared in the United Kingdom by BBFC, citing "mild threat and brief violence". In Canada, the film also received a PG rating in Ontario with an alert for frightening scenes while Quebec awarded a General rating. British Columbia also assessed the film with a G rating with a proviso that it "may frighten young children". In the Republic of Irelandmarker the film has been classified PG because of what is claimed as having "mild" violence Similarly in South Africa, the film received a PG rating with a consumer content Violence indicator, noting there were "moments of mildish menace and poignant themes." Australia also applied a PG rating to the film and noted "[m]ild violence and scary scenes".

The movie's release generated conflicting views over whether it is harmful to expose children to frightening scenes. Jonze indicated that his goal was "to make a movie about childhood" rather than to create a children's movie. Dan Fellman, Warner Brothers' head of movie distribution, indicated that the film's promotion was not directed towards children, advising parents to exercise their own discretion. In an interview with Newsweek, Sendak felt that parents who deemed the film's content to be too disturbing for children should "go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate" and he further noted "I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child's eyes. So what? I managed to survive."


Video game

A video game based on the film was released on October 13, 2009 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS. It was developed by Griptonite Games and published by Warner Bros. Games.


The soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are was released on September 29, 2009 as a compact disc, digital download, and a vinyl record.

  1. "Igloo" – 1:48
  2. "All Is Love" – 2:49
  3. "Capsize" – 2:38
  4. "Worried Shoes" – 4:12 (Daniel Johnston)
  5. "Rumpus" – 2:43
  6. "Rumpus Reprise" – 1:53
  7. "Hideaway" – 5:10
  8. "Cliffs" – 2:59
  9. "Animal" – 4:10
  10. "Lost Fur" – 1:06 (Carter Burwell)
  11. "Heads Up" – 2:55
  12. "Building All Is Love" – 3:32
  13. "Food Is Still Hot" – 2:44
  14. "Sailing Home" – 1:02

Spike Jonze's ex-girlfriend Karen O, the vocalist of the New York art rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, wrote the film's soundtrack. Karen O's bandmates Brian Chase and Nick Zinner and former touring guitarist Imaad Wasif, Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, Liars' Aaron Hemphill, The Dead Weather's Dean Fertita, and Jack Lawrence from The Raconteurs all also contributed.

The first single of the soundtrack, titled "All Is Love," was released on August 25, 2009 and featured in the credits of the film.


Initial critical response to the soundtrack was generally favorable. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 78, based on 13 reviews.

Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" (Trailer Song)

For the film's trailer, Arcade Fire provided a re-recorded version of the track "Wake Up" from their album Funeral.The new version is not featured in the actual movie or the soundtrack.

Skateboards and limited edition shoes

To coincide with the release of the movie, Girl Skateboards (which Jonze co-owns) came out with seven pro-model skateboards with the Wild Things as the board graphics. Also, Lakai shoes also re-designed most of their pro-model and stock shoes and added in different colors, adding in pictures of the Wild Things on the side and on others with Where the Wild Things Are printed on the side.Ugg Australia also designed limited edition Where The Wild Things Are boots.


  1. Where the Wild Things Are Russian release date February 4, 2010. Page in Russian.
  2. Wo die widlen Kerle wohnen -
  3. Where The Wild Things Are Runs Up $33M by Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood, October 17, 2009
  5. Reviews of Where the Wild Things Are 6th October 2009 from Irish Film Classification Office.
  8. Where The Wild Things Are Limited Edition Boots - UGG Australia.

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