WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is Copyright 1963 by Maurice Sendak, photographs and text are Copyright Mel Birnkrant. Interview is Copyright by Plillip Weiss.
This was an exquisite moment, as, without preliminary sketches or overlays, these images just flowed from my pencil in the form of finished drawings. Admittedly, I devoted more care and intensity to my favorite Wild Thing, the one we called the Main Guy. I knew if I could capture him, the other ones would follow, easily. My intuition told me that the dolls should have a classic feel, not unlike the greatest rag dolls of all time, Raggedy Ann and Andy. I also wanted them to embody Maurice’s unique line quality, therefore the fabric would have to be preprinted. If the dolls were simply made of fur and fabric, without that element of printing, they would be merely cute, but ordinary.
I love the elusive feeling, when every fiber of my being is vibrating with unseen energy, tingling with the very essence of creativity. The rest is just hard work. But at this magic moment, the statement is made. Alas, the images now conceived on paper were only the beginning. From this point forward, there began a long and arduous journey, to turn these initial images into tangible reality.
That is why I prefer discovering collectibles to actually generating artwork. The moment of discovery, seeing that object and realizing its merits, is almost exactly the same. It too, is an instant rush of creativity, and the object, unless it requires restoration, is already complete.
These images were far from being the final realizations, but some, at least, came uncannily close. I’ve been looking at the Wild Things dolls for thirty-five years, now, and discovering these drawings just the other day, which, by the way, is the main reason I am updating this website, surprised even me. The Main Guy especially was all there, already.
Incidentally, back when we were working on this project, he didn’t have a name. For the sake of the recent movie he was called “Carol.” Apparently, the screen writer and the director named, or some might say, misnamed him, and the other Wild things too. At one time, Maurice came up with the name, “Moishe” for the Main Guy, and “Bernard” for the Bull.
The Bull, by the way, proved to be a little more elusive. There were some nuances around his lower jaw that needed further study. I attempted several variations.
This bird footed lady was perhaps the least interesting character to me. I could never quite get a handle on her identity, but I gave her my best shot, and visualized her with yarn hair, like Raggedy Ann and Andy.
Up to this point there had been no mention or discussion of how many dolls there should be, so I added two others, this tall and stately bird like figure:
And this rather gross and somewhat vulger fellow who reminded me of one of my own relatives.
And then there was Max. I saw him as easy, one view of him was plenty. Here he stands beside Maurice! Er, I mean my favorite Wild thing.
And last of all, here is the entire gang, seen from the rear, which brings us to the end of this page.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Maurice loved the drawings, and that meant we were on our way. The next step would be to create the actual dolls, and the master patterns, from which they could be made.