After its lengthy journey that Rolling Stone documented last year, Where the Wild Things Are — the big-screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book about a kid who escapes his gloomy home in search of an undiscovered island full of wild beasts — finally arrives on the big screen tomorrow.
Peter Travers’ four-star review of Where the Wild Things Are praises director Spike Jonze as a “visionary” who “filmed a fantasy as if it were absolutely real, allowing us to see the world as Max sees it, full of beauty and terror.” Travers notes that the film’s power is enhanced by its songs and soundtrack. Rolling Stone has an exclusive look behind the making of the dreamy score with Jonze and co-composer Carter Burwell (click above to watch the video).
“Nothing that he does is generic. It’s all totally handcrafted to the project,” Jonze says of Burwell, who previously composed for every Coen Brothers film plus Twilight and Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. Burwell kept the music “unsophisticated.” Jonze says he asked for the musicians to play the guitar like a 5th grader would play it, devoid of vibrato and other expert techniques.
Watch Burwell’s team twirl flexible swimming-pool vacuum-cleaner tubes through the air to generate eerie, warm whooshing sounds that are “intriguing, not scary, but not familiar” in the clip. “This music shouldn’t feel like it comes from any recognizable locale or any particular time or place,” Burwell says. “And that was quite a challenge. All the music has to come from the boy’s point of view and take place in his mind.”
As Rolling Stone previously reported, Karen O and the Kids — a group of musicians led by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman that features members of bands including Deerhunter and the Dead Weather, plus an untrained children’s choir — also provided songs and soundscapes for Wild Things. “My job was to come up with simple, childlike melodies reminiscent of hooks of great old pop songs that you can’t shake,” Karen O said.
Stick with Rolling Stone for more Wild Things coverage, including an interview with author/screenwriter Dave Eggers. Plus, read Rolling Stone‘s 1976 profile of Sendak.