I just got back from around the world. That was exhausting but we had a blast too. Max is a hero. Thanks to Humberto from Opening Ceremony and his mom Wendy joined who us in Tokyo. We found out who was the hidden weapon behind the company. When Humberto needs a shop built out or a sofa that looks like a slice of pizza, or a new menu put together for the café in the shop, Wendy makes it happen. More of them here!
Also thanks to Sean who organized an event at Opening Ceremony Tokyo. He threw a great party with Luli at La Barron. At the party he hosted an on stage staring contest called Staremaster you can check out some previous Staremaster contests here. Thank you Sean and Luli!
A month after the premiere, people around the globe are still creating amazing homages to Where the Wild Things Are. We’ve received so many great emails in the past few weeks, we had to share a few of our favorites. Check out the parade of adorable costumes and art projects. These smiling wolf-suited kids are so sweet, I can already feel the diabetes setting in.
Spanish street artist Rodriguez Ledesma transformed a crumbling wall into a vision of Carol taking Max for a ride. Max Records sent us that fantastic photo of a jack-o-lantern– carved by his social studies teacher. Stop-motion animator Jessica Bayliss‘ larger than life Carol costume is one of the most brilliantly detailed we’ve seen yet. And cartoonist Steven Weissman’s sketches of the Wild Things playing chess and Rampage (the arcade classic) are positively inspired.
Last but not least, don’t miss this clip of rad pint-sized skater George Karvounis tearing up the skate park in a Max costume!
Rad photographers were in no short supply behind the scenes of Where the Wild Things Are, but only one of them had the unique privilege of approaching the experience as both a wide-eyed documentarian and the father of the film’s nine-year-old star. Shawn Records is an artist who brilliance lies in capturing near-weightless moments of ephemeral beauty, casually illuminating banal absurdities, and unveiling the clandestine grace of seemingly ordinary juxtapositions. His gentle approach is especially refreshing when pitted against the coarse cacophony of an epic film production.
Spike summed up Shawn’s attitude perfectly– “Patient and observed”– when we posted a small set of Shawn’s photos in July. The amazing images from that post are included alongside dozens more from the set of Where the Wild Things Are in his brand new book, Owner of This World. Go order yourself a copy from inspiringly autonomous DIY publishing house Publication Studio, and then read on for an enlightening interview with Shawn Records!
Using a list of adjectives, how would you describe the experience of working on Where The Wild Things Are?
Confusing, chaotic, humbling, fun, educational, inspirational, exhausting…
Were you a fan of the book growing up?
Not only was I a fan of the book, but when Max was born, we still had a copy of the book from my childhood, my own name scribbled in orange crayon inside. After Max started working on the film and we had that copy of the book out a lot, Sam, my younger son, ripped it apart and added some additional scribbles to it. It was perfect. We ended up using some of those pages to create a birthday scrapbook for Maurice Sendak with some photos of what he was missing on set.
Max Records cut his acting teeth on a pair of alt-rock music videos. After dipping his toes in the water with the warm and fuzzy sing along of Cake’s “Guitar Man,” (directed by the lovely Cat Solen), Max’s second role, in a Death Cab for Cutie video, strongly foreshadowed the young thespian’s capability to take on meditative, emotionally challenging roles with a natural grace. Shot in a tin shed on a shoestring budget, Max manages to convey a sense of loneliness and loss in this wordless performance that echoes throughout the atmosphere of the entire video.
Director Aaron Stewart-Anh contributes to Giant Robot and has helmed videos for bands like The Decemberists, The Album Leaf, and Asobi Seksu. He shot the somber, Silent Running-esque “Stable Song” for Directions, an ambitious project in which the filmmaker enlisted 11 directors to create long-form videos based around each track on Death Cab for Cutie’s 2005 album, Plans. Contradicting the conventions of the music video medium, Stewart-Anh’s project permitted the directors an unusual amount of creative freedom—the songs became scores for a series of short stories and visual experiments, rather than products being marketed by throw-away visuals. Originally released in weekly installments through the band’s website, Directions was almost a prelude to the plethora of indie rock experiments in video that would soon be fostered by the explosion of YouTube.
Lance Bangs, who contributed to Directions in the form of a bizarre and hilarious first-person live concert video, asked Stewart-Anh if he knew any kids capable of playing Max, and the rest is history.
Collider posted a roundtable conversation with Spike and Max that includes some excellent anecdotes about the making of the film. Representative excerpt:
Q: Max, how gross was it for you to do that scene where you come out of KW?
Max: You don’t want to know. They put some sort of gross gel stuff on me.
Spike: He was covered and goopy. He hated it. We shot it once, and then we had to shoot another piece of it again, and he just did not want to get in it. He said, “I will only do it if, afterwards, you let me cover you in it.” And so, afterwards, we went back to his room and he just covered me in it. He was so happy and I was miserable, so it was a good retribution.
Last weekend’s press junket for Where the Wild Things Are was like an extended debutante ball– a strangely rigid and somewhat superfluous ceremony by which a crowd of adult strangers decide when a girl has become a woman. To help shepherd their baby into the world, Spike and his band of cohorts fielded questions from a deluge of revolving journalists for three days in a dimly lit nook of the Beverly Hilton.
With many of these interviews lasting no longer than 3-4 minutes, it’s unsurprising that variation was scarce. “What was it like working with Spike?” became a nauseating refrain in the endless hours of Max Records’ interrogations. Sometimes there’d be curveballs, like when a bald Scotsman posed pseudo-esoteric questions dancing around the periphery of awkwardness, like this one: “Where does Spike end and Adam begin?” On the other end of the odd question spectrum, we scratched our heads as a spaced out Japanese lady muttered almost (but not quite) poetic non sequiturs about Spike being a 39-year-old man in a 9-year-old boy’s wolf suit. Spike, I have to say– you handled it all with admirable charm.
At least the set-up was comfortable– Warner Brothers hired the fantastic crew behind Space 1520’s pop-up shop to construct a fantasy haven of barren branches and dry leaves for the occasion. Led by Stephen Hill (seen above, sticking his face in a Wild Things comic foreground), the pop-up boys whipped together a glorious woodsy environment that magically obscured the sterile conference rooms playing host to this unique set of alien interactions.
When I swung by on the press event’s final afternoon, lunch was a fancy buffet (a contradiction that Shawn Records reveled in) where Spike’s dad, Arthur, told us how he’d posed as a studio executive during several interviews, until his cover was blown by an intrepid journalist who recognized him as the elder Jonze. Max loaded up on exotic desserts before heading over to Catherine Keener’s place for a sleepover with her son, Clyde, and everyone parted ways as the ceremony finally came to an end. Where the Wild Things Are had undergone the media’s rigorous rite of passage and was finally on her way to the world at large.
Taken on their own, any one of these elaborate elements would be rad: the lovely branch sculptures, the fiberglass oak tree replete with fur-lined nook– to say nothing of the massive bunk-bed fortress. Put it all together and the experience is simply divine. These pictures cannot do justice to the outstanding amount of effort put into the Where the Wild Things Arepop-up shop– an effort that paid off in spades. And of course, Christian Joy’s insane costumes looked marvelous as the vibrant centerpiece of all the Space 1520 wildness.
Across the courtyard, Spike and Lance Acord took over the gallery, filling it with Sonny’s astonishing early sketches– the crucial seed of inspiration that blossomed into the film’s unique character design. Alongside those rad drawings, the gallery was covered in enormous, beautifully printed photos from a league of brilliant photographers Spike had invited to document the breathtaking bizarreness of Where the Wild Things Are’s production.
Sonny, meanwhile, made an entire gallery wall his canvas, composing a dreamy painting of Max and Carol taking a nap the night before the opening. Spike would like to note that he lent at least a couple of brush strokes to that massive mural. Really, it couldn’t have been done without him. Even Max Records stopped by the gallery, in town to shoot a rad-sounding robot-related short film. No relation to Spike’s recent robot short, but can one ever have too many robots? No. Of course not.
Hits news stands on the 11th. Our friends at Filter just passed along some pretty stellar advanced copies. Includes interviews with with Spike, Karen O, Max Records, Catherine Keener, Dave Eggers, Catherine O’Hara, Lance Bangs and some pretty great never-before-seen photos and art from the set and crew plus the above cover illustrated Geoff McFetridge. Nuts!