Thursday, October 15, 2009

Disney's "Where the Wild Things Are"

Tomorrow "Where the Wild Things Are" releases to theaters and I could not be happier. Many people do not know the troubled history behind the movie adaptation of this book and how easily it could have been ruined. But one of the most interesting tales of the process of creating a movie from this classic book is the Disney and John Lasseter test. In 1983, a 26 year-old Lasseter experimented with creating animation using (then rudimentary) computers. After Tron's success, John Lasseter decided to create a test based on one of his favorite books to show the further potential of computer created backgrounds (computer character animation was still many years away)in a Disney feature:

Unfortunately, John's ambition and desire to change the (stagnant) norm at Disney led to confrontation with his direct superiors. The aging administrators did not like the idea of a young upstart taking over animation as he did and immediately fired him after presenting this test.

(He then went on to work for Lucas/Arts, founded Pixar, created Toy Story et al, outsold Disney features at the box office, sold Pixar to Disney, and took the position of Chief Creative Officer at Disney where he had final say in all creations. Things worked out for him to say the least...)

I will see the new Wild Things movie this weekend but so far the general consensus is the movie serves the book well. Which is a relief because this movie could have been much, much, worse. Vern at "Ain't it Cool" gave a great example of this movie's probable terrible adaptation:

"You know what the trailer would've been like: Starts out real dramatic, Harry Pottery orchestral score playing as the camera floats through a beautiful CGI ocean, onto an island, into a forest. The sound of giant feet plodding through dirt. The camera comes to the unmistakable shadow of a large, horned monster. Then...

"Wild thing. You make my heart sing. You make everything... groovy." The computer-animated wild thing leaps weightlessly in the air doing air guitar. Then a wacky record scratch and Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" comes on. And some sort of dated MATRIX reference maybe. Or American Idol. The wild things make little quips, puffs of smoke come out when they dart around waving their arms everywhere, and there's jokes about cell phone minutes or 401Ks or something. Ha ha, because why would a wild thing have a 401K. Funny stuff.

The teaser poster: white background. A wild thing standing with his arms folded like a lost member of Run DMC, wearing Snoopy Joe Cool sunglasses. Max next to him, similar pose, backwards baseball cap, skateboard in hand. Below that it says 'BORN TO BE WILD.'"


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