Where the Wild Things Are movie/book mystery

I’ve addressed this before, but now that we know more about the movie, the mystery seems even greater.

In a nutshell, Maurice Sendak’s names for the Things are not the movie’s names for the Things. Moishe has become Carol, etc…

The names of the Wild Things are, of course, not in the book. But they do exist. Wikipedia lists them as Aaron, Bernard, Emil, Moishe and Tzippy.

The names seem to have come from Sendak’s own relatives, but there are differing reports about which relatives.

 In 2001, the Atlanta Jewish Times reported that:

Sendak says he’s “obsessed” by the anguish of the Holocaust.

References to family members who perished thrive in his meticulous artwork, “Wild Thing” dolls are labeled Moishe and Bernard after cousins who died, and the texture of the Jewish experience fuels his limitless imagination.

However,  a “Resource Library” article about the 2005 museum exhibit “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak” has this to say:

While Sendak pays tribute to the relatives who perished [in the Holocaust by using their faces for the illustrations in “Zlateh the Goat“], he pokes fun at those he grew up with. His best-known creations — those beloved monsters of Where the Wild Things Are (1963) — are none other than his maternal aunts and uncles who visited his childhood home in Brooklyn every Sunday, pinched his cheeks and ate all the food in sight.

There’s a IMDB message board thread on the differing names and a writer has said that Sendak didn’t want to give them names, but did. I have no idea where that bit of info originated, possibly from an article about the Macfarlane toys.

A regular fan, like myself, may have come into contact with the names through these toys. I have a couple myself. In this photo you can (maybe) see that the Thing is named Moishe.

But this is the movie’s “Carol.” It appears that other Wild Things are named Judith, KW and Daniel the bull, as best I can make out from the list of voice actors at IMDB. The cast list certainly does not have a “Moishe” or “Tzippy.”

Over at the online store Things From Another World they’re handling it like this: Where The Wild Things Are – Carol (Moishe) Wacky Wobbler  (Nice looking Wacky Wobbler by the way! There’s no doubt about the name either, as you can see.)



They’ve also got:
Bull (Bernard)
Douglas (Emil)
In the Opera, only Tzippy is named. (Again according to Wikipedia. Sorry I do not have stronger sources for this. I did look.)
I think all this is especially strange since one wouldn’t expect the Wild Things to actually have names in the movie. (Although I expect we should expect the unexpected from Jonze/Eggers.)
So, why toss out names that were given to honor specific people? Perhaps Sendak himself wanted the change. IMDB says Eggers and Jonze worked with him closely. But it seems odd that he would approve the names for toys and then not do so for a movie. Perhaps Eggers needed his own characters to work with and he didn’t see them as aunts and uncles.
Clearly there’s a reason and I’m willing to believe it’s a good one.
On a related note, I may have stumbled across the fairy tales that inspired Where the Wild Things Are — yellow eyes and all. Read all about it…
One other item: I noticed on Wikipedia that Gene Deitch made an animated version of WTWTA back in 1973. Deitch is the mad genius behind Terr’ble Thompson and Tom Terrific.

4 Responses

  1. […] NOTE: A  NEWER/BETTER POST on this subject of the name change to Carol from Moishe IS HERE… Really, don’t read this one, read the new one. For some reason this has turned into movie […]

  2. I hear that Carol is a reference to director, Carroll Ballard, one of Spike’s hero’s and a good friend of Sendak’s.

  3. Very interesting! Thanks, Alice!

    Ballard is of particular interest on this blog because of Star Wars. And the kidlit connection is “The Black Stallion.”

    That theory also suggests another Carol: Carole King, who did the right on music for “Really Rosie.”

    • At a screening in San Francisco Spike made an announcement that a “special guest” was in the audience: Carroll Ballard, and how the black stallion was one of Spike’s favorite children movies. But that still does not explain the spelling.

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