Maurice Sendak passed away today at the ripe old age of 83, a blow that most of us feel somewhere inside ourselves where a little bit of childhood still lives. I won’t try to write his obituary, especially after the New York Times put together a great one, but I will say this: the lasting power of Sendak is his ability to take children’s books, a genre normally flooded with an absurdly sunny aesthetic, and turn it at once into something haunting, dark, and occasionally downright scary. Real life looks nothing like Saturday morning cartoons, Teletubbies, or Clifford, and while I’d never believe in the type of heavy-handed machismo that says young kids out to be shoved into the horrors of the real world, Sendak’s stories and illustrations show that, even with all the bad parts in this world, things tend to turn out out okay.
Sendak’s vision was brought to the big screen with the 2009 adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. On assignment for Motherboard, Vice co-founder Shane Smith traveled to London to meet with Spike Jonze during the film’s production. It took 300 artists and specialists to develop an innovative and heavily work-intensive way of animating – using CGI on top of giant puppets and costumes – to reproduce the Wild Things of Sendak’s book. Despite the fact that Sendak was vehemently anti-tech when it came to books (see the following interview with Stephen Colbert), the film required a ton of innovative technology to get off the ground. In honor of one of our favorite dream-makers, enjoy this video from our vaults, get ahold of Spike Jonze’s and Lance Bangs’ 2009 Sendak documentary Tell Them Anything You Want (or watch the Vice version) and take the chance to dig through Sendak’s excellent bibliography. Just don’t look for his books online.