Terrible Yellow Eyes, With Apologies For Vitriol

Later this year Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers will unleash upon the unsuspecting public a vicious betrayal of my childhood in the form of Where the Wild Things Are or: Max and the Island of Misfit Baseball Mascots, the trailer for which features a child dressed like Max cavorting to the strains of Arcade Fire, making it appear to be squarely aimed at the trilby-wearing, fixie-riding crowd. Eggers is also set to release a novel based on his script based on the children’s book, no doubt filled with long, rambling passages detailing how Max was eating peanut butter with a spoon when his cat was diagnosed with feline AIDS and pockmarked with self-aware, ironic footnotes detailing how you should read the book.*

Either way people are planning on making a significant amount of lucre by tricking us all into putting down our hard earned cash to watch Max Just Wants A Hug by appealing to our powerful sense of nostalgia. In this regard they shall no doubt succeed. As depressing as this fate is to me at the very least there is some small ray of sunshine to be found in the sense that there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the book and its creator. Case in point, Terrible Yellow Eyes, a blog dedicated to artist’s interpretations of Maurice Sendak’s timeless art. Content to be homages and not reimaginings, these appeal to me in all the ways that the upcoming film does not.

[via Bibi’s Box]

*I used to eat peanut butter using a spoon which is why it is included in that joke. Also, I actually know someone whose cats have feline AIDS, although I cannot confirm or deny any occasions on which they ate peanut butter with a spoon. You’ll also notice that I poke fun at people who wear trilby hats. This is because I am unable to wear hats due the massive and irregular circumference of my skull. Lastly, you should probably just skip to the link at this point as I am probably just going to continue to make fun of post-modernist literature and complain about how Mssrs. Jonze and Eggers are raping my childhood.**

**At least, that’s the plan. It may all go horribly awry and I may just completely blow my load writing footnotes, which seems to be happening. Fuck. Seriously, get out now because it’s all downhill from here.

22 Responses to “Terrible Yellow Eyes, With Apologies For Vitriol”

  1. Stagger Leah Says:

    Thanks for the blog Ross, it’s amazing to see how many people in the world have been inspired by one children’s book.

    But I’m gonna have to disagree with your sentiments on the movie. I’m reserving most of my judgement until it comes out of course, but I think the trailer is beautiful and it managed to erase most of my doubts. I can’t wait until it comes out.

  2. Kate Says:

    I had low expectations for the movie until I saw the trailer, actually. I think it looks amazing. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t own a trilby and would rather skateboard than ride a bike ;)

    I LOOOVE LOVE LOVE all of the different artistic interpretations on “Terrible Yellow Eyes”, though! Thanks!

  3. DeusXMachina Says:

    Case in point, I am looking forward to this upcoming fall exhibit of Sendak’s work much more than the film itself:


  4. Tequila Says:

    I too look forward to the film, heard a lot of good things from inside the production so I’ve faith it’ll turn out even better than the well received trailer. The book is such a classic I’d much rather have an interpretation than a literal translation at this point.

  5. ashabeta Says:

    I’m with you, Ross-
    Just say no to “re-interpretation”!! How’s about some innovation??
    I’m totally sick of seeing our beloved childhood icons CGI-ed to shreds… especially when it was the originality and poetry of so many of these amazing stories that inspired the artistic minds of our generation.

  6. fortheloveofthestars Says:

    DeusXMachina- God! Thanks for that link. He’s one of my favorite writer/illustrators.

    ashabeta- Hate to disappoint you but the larger percentage of the films critters are live action suits, not CGI.

    In general on the subject of the new film, if you can think of a children’s movie you love there’s a 60% chance it was a book first and I don’t hear anyone retrospectively complaining about those. This new film looks absolutely beautiful and the last live action film inspired by a Sendak book was Labyrinth, so I’m down for the ride.

    As for the link, lord I love that site. It reminds me a bit of Drawer Geeks which is a very good thing. :)

  7. ironrinn Says:

    The book is such a classic I’d much rather have an interpretation than a literal translation at this point.

    First off, let me say that I’m not picking on you, Tequila, but you gave me a good preface to my argument, so you get quoted!

    Anyway, here we come to my main issue: Why? Why does this book need to be made into a movie? Why can’t we accept that there are pieces of art that work perfectly well as they were intended? Why does every book need to be turned into a movie; every movie a videogame? Besides money, there is no good reason why Where the Wild Things Are should be made into a film. It functions perfectly as a book.

    On top of that is the fact that the book’s power lies in its brevity and simplicity; it is, after all, a book written for children. So now, instead of a delightful, short story about a kid who’s a brat and goes off to an imaginary land to do whatever he wants only to realize the importance of his home, we have a movie and a 300 fucking page novel shoehorning Meaning and Gravitas into the proceedings. It’s maddening.

    On the other hand it has given me a great idea for my pitch of an epic, 12 hour trilogy “based on” Goodnight Moon.

  8. fancycwabs Says:

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There’s nothing Dave Eggers can do to this story that could possibly be worse than what the sorority party T-shirts have already done.

  9. ashabeta Says:

    so sorry to generalize about the CGI– I guess I’m still bitter about Star Wars, but I don’t see how that really makes a difference.
    i wholeheartedly agree, some things are absolutely perfect the way they are.

  10. rickie Says:

    i have ‘where the wilds things are’ checks.

    i am excited about the movie. i know it will be different, but i hope it will be in a good way.

  11. ian Says:

    What’s wrong with loving your wonderfully intoxicating sense of nostalgia?

    We abuse nostalgia like we abuse anything else, it’s self-medicating.

    And I, for one, am for it.

    That trailer makes me so incredibly artificially happy, and I have loved it to death.

    Dave Eggers has bettered more people’s lives than all of us combined in this internet machine, so give him a break.

  12. Tequila Says:

    @ironrinn…I agree with your point. I felt the same way about Watchmen. Some things are better left as they are and not turned into the next Hollywood cash cow. However that’s just the nature of Hollywood and really art as a whole. Without people interpreting, adapting, etc. you lose out on things like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory…so it’s a necessary evil really and in the right hands…it’s deliciously evil and perfect.

    It’s not like the film is going to change our impressions of the book or any kid from reading the book or having it read to them before they’re even aware it’s a movie.

  13. fortheloveofthestars Says:

    ashabeta Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 10:20 am

    so sorry to generalize about the CGI– I guess I’m still bitter about Star Wars, but I don’t see how that really makes a difference.”

    Dude, totally understandable, I’m just overly excited because they are using suits and stuff, and not CGI. Just like the new Dark Crystal which almost didn’t happen because the director refused to not use puppets.

  14. Mer Says:

    Definitely curious about the new Dark Crystal movie. I’ve been hearing some fairly good things. We’ll see.

    “Dave Eggers has bettered more people’s lives than all of us combined in this internet machine, so give him a break.”

    Um. I like Eggers’ writing as much as the next disenfranchised-yet-hopful, quarterlife crisis-having, McSweeney’s-reading individual… but you’re high.

  15. Red Scharlach Says:

    Dave Eggers is a tremendously poor writer.

  16. Mer Says:

    And you, dear Scharlach, are a tremendously predictable commenter.

    Feel free to say something kind or positive every once in a while.

  17. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I’ve watched the trailer, loads. I get misty/tardedly smiley EVERY time. I’m all the fuck for it.

    p.s. Per the post, the link is GOLD. Pure, pure, pure gold. Thanks!

  18. Nadya Says:

    I never got to experience this book as a child. We didn’t have this book in Russia, and, though our teachers read us plenty of books in America, this one passed me by. I’ve seen artwork of this book throughout the years, and reading this post and all the comments, I really feel like I missed something special! Luckily, I have a nephew and a niece who will soon be the perfect age for this book, and I will discover it alongside with them! Or maybe I’ll just pick it up for myself before then…

  19. Erin Says:

    Yes, it would be nice if Hollywood came up with more original concepts, more frequently, but this entitlement complex that a lot of readers seem to feel about the creative purity of their favorite works gets a bit tiring after awhile, as well. Congratulations, you’re literate. But just reading a massively popular book doesn’t make you any sort of authority on anything.

    Most of my favorite books have been made into movies. I’ve liked some, disliked others, but I just cannot understand the intense indignity that some people seem to feel towards remakes or interpretations. Yes, it may be a bastardization, but I don’t think it’s the casual reader’s place to decide what does and doesn’t get bastardized – the work is there for everybody to enjoy, discuss, and build off of. It’s yours to protect, and keep sacred only in your own mind. The rest is fair game. If you don’t like the idea, don’t see the movie.

  20. Mer Says:

    But getting butthurt about other people getting butthurt doesn’t make much sense, either, does it? ;) It just creates a closed, rapidly cycling loop of indignant butthurtedness that WILL BURY US ALL ALIVE.

    A visual interpretation:



  21. Ross Rosenberg Says:

    Erin – You are indeed correct, it is not the casual reader’s place to decide on what gets bastardized; but as a licensed, professional reader it is my duty to write pithy blog posts about such matters. If I don’t, they’ll revoke my reader’s license and, well, there goes my private practice. Won’t even be able to read a goddamn menu after that.

  22. kai Says:

    My main thought about the movie is that I AM SO GLAD THEY ARE USING PUPPETS and COSTUMES!

    CGI is NOT believable to me. I like it when it seamlessly enhances puppetry (see Coraline), but on it’s own it’s like watching a shadow. I don’t find it scary, moving, or whatever emotion the filmmaker is trying to convey.