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Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Spike Jonze: What happens when Hollywood's dark and edgy auteurs mine childhood for its tragi-comic absurdity?

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The-Mad-Hatter

The-Mad-HatterLast week at Comic-con, audiences got their first glimpse of footage from director Spike Jonze’s big screen adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak’s bedtime staple about a naughty boy who travels to a land of hairy-toed beasts when he’s sent to his room with no dinner. The images were fierce and fanciful at the same time, and they drew gasps of joy and horror both in person and virtually once the stuff hit the web. Then, two days ago, the trailer for Wes Anderson’s stop-motion version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox debuted, full of characters probing the nature of whether it’s okay to be the wild animals they are. The response was a similar chorus of rage and rhapsody. The same thing happened when Tim Burton revealed the first gothic and gruesome images (like this one, above, of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter) from his take on Alice in Wonderland. Step aside Disney, the outlaws are taking over childhood.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the juice-box set responds to such de-Disneyfied approaches to kids’ entertainment. I suspect — and hope — that kids will be excited and relieved to see movies that acknowledge the dark complexities of childhood. I mean, don’t kids deserve a little more meat to chew on than talking guinea pigs and chihuahuas? On the other hand, there are plenty of adults I know who have been waiting breathlessly for Tim Burton, Spike Jonze, and Wes Anderson to make another freaking movie and are kind of bummed that they’ll have to get their fix with a bunch of kids watching a wacko tea-party, a bratty kid swinging from trees, and beautifully-dressed rodents. What do you think? Are you interested in seeing these visionary directors’ childhood fantasies come to life on screen? Do you think it’s a good thing if kids’ movies become a little less happy-go-lucky?

Photo credit: Mary Ellen Mark