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Movies That Escaped Development Hell

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A children’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are is a 1963 book by Maurice Sendak. Work on a film version, directed by John Lasseter, began in 1983, with the future Pixar boss planning to use early CGI to create a to create an animated adaptation. His efforts resulted in a famous test animation sequence, but the footage didn’t help move the project forward. The film languished on the shelves until the rights reverted to Sendak.

In the 1990s, Sendak and producer John B. Carls formed Wild Things Productions to get things going again. They signed a deal with TriStar Pictures and hired Spike Jonze, but a management reshuffle changed things. “They didn’t like my ideas and thought it would cost too much,” Jonze said of the new rulers (via The New York Times). TriStar decided to pull out and the rights eventually ended up with Universal.

Universal hired director Gore Verbinski in 1999, and Tom Hanks also served as a producer, according to Variety. By 2001, Verbinski was out and Disney animator Eric Goldberg (who co-directed “Pocahontas”) found himself in the director’s chair. Jump forward another two years and there’s an old face in the hot seat: Spike Jonze came back on board in 2003.

The first teaser for Where the Wild Things Are actually appeared in 2000 and was shown before the theatrical release of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It was almost a decade before it was released in cinemas. The project went into production in 2007 and has had a predictably bumpy ride — at one point, Warner Bros. executives were reportedly so dissatisfied with the development of Jonze’s film that they considered starting over. “Where the Wild Things Are” was released in 2009 after more than 25 years of development hell.



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