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Scholastic Video presents
Where The Wild Things Are ...and other Maurice Sendak stories (1975-88)

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him, 'Wild thing!' And Max said: 'I'll eat you up!' So he was sent to bed without eating anything."
- Narrator (Peter Schickele)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 29, 2002

Stars: Peter Schickele, Carol King
Director: Gene Deitch, Maurice Sendak

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:27m:54s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 767685951637
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+CC+ C

DVD Review

Three samples of the work of children's book author Maurice Sendak come to DVD here, and more than likely the stories are familiar to the kids in your house; they're probably memorable from your own childhood, too. These aren't likely to replace the repeated bedtime readings of some of the best-loved kids' stories, but they aren't without their own rewards.

Sendak's first and probably most famous book for children, Where The Wild Things Are (06m:48s), is animated for the first selection. It's a brief runthrough of the story, with the famous illustrations brought to life; Peter Schickele, of P.D.Q. Bach fame, provides both the narration and the accompanying music, as Max journeys into the land of the mysterious wild things, and makes it back home in time for supper. This pretty much bears the same relationship to the source material as do the animated versions of many of the Dr. Seuss books—the spirit of Sendak's brief, charming book is ably re-created, but this is no substitute for the genuine article.

Next up are The Nutshell Kids (14:09), four of Sendak's poems set to music by Carole King; as you might imagine, there's definitely a groovy, early 1970s vibe here. (These are essentially animated music videos, taken from the feature film Really Rosie.) The first song is Alligators All Around, a run through the alphabet; second is Pierre, about a contrary, disaffected little boy whose ennui leads him to be eaten by a lion. (Don't worry, he recovers just fine.) One Was Johnny does for numbers what the alligator song does for letters, and finally Chicken Soup With Rice is a whimsical little number about Jewish penicillin.

Last but not least is In The Night Kitchen (06m:57s), another animated version of a Sendak storybook; to my mind, this is the most successful of the three entries on the disc. Mickey is a little boy who is jolted awake by all the noise from the kitchen—he finds three enormous bakers, each of whom resemble Oliver Hardy, making great quantities of cakes and breads, for the good people of the city to consume when the sun rises. The animation is especially well done and riotous; narration is again by Peter Schickele.

The work here is uniformly of high quality, but there just isn't that much to it. Sendak's output may not have been enormous over the years, but even though these are nicely told little tales, as a DVD release it feels a little thin.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The colors demonstrate some fading, and there's no shortage of nicks and scratches. This may well be the result of source material neglected over the years, but it doesn't seem as if much (if anything) has been done to spruce these up for DVD release.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Sound quality varies among the threeŚWhere The Wild Things Are sounds best, but unfortunately King's songs for the second entry test the limits of the audio transfer, in the higher registers especially. Balance is pretty reasonable on In The Night Kitchen, despite some hissing and popping.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 3 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The featurette, Getting To Know Maurice Sendak (06m:02s), is a clip from a longer documentary on the author, and he's charming especially talking about the origins of the wild things. Originally, the book was to be called Where The Wild Horses Are, but, inconveniently, Sendak found he couldn't draw horses—hence the wild things were born, inspired by his garrulous aunts and uncles.

What's billed as a chance to read along is nothing more than English subtitles, and the trailer is for the entire Scholastic series. Only Where The Wild Things Are is presented in Spanish, and it seems to lose something in translation, as Donde Viven Los Monstruos.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

I'm a great advocate of quality over quantity, but given that the cumulative running time of the animation on this disc is less than half an hour, it's hard to endorse it wholeheartedly. The kids will probably enjoy it, and it may well send them scurrying back to read the books on which these stories are based; that can only be a good thing, and perhaps next time around Scholastic will be a little more generous with Sendak on DVD.


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