Is the movie ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ too scary for kids?

Spike Jonze’s movie adaption of the classic book “Where the Wild Things Are” was No. 1 at the Box Office this weekend and brought in $32.5 million.

We have the book, and I have actually talked with Maurice Sendak once for a story. He was lovely, but I was never a huge fan of the book. I’m just not that into the movie, and I think it would be scary for many kids.

Here’s a story from Entertainment Weekly on the issue.

From the Seattle University Spectator:

“In a recent Newsweek interview, Maurice Sendak was asked what he would say to concerned parents who feel the new film adapted from his children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” may be too scary for children.”

“ ‘I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate,” Sendak said. “If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered. …‘ ”

“The film is scary. Really. Freaking. Scary. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it follows the adventure of a young boy who runs away from home after a particularly terrible tantrum and finds himself (after a very long boat ride) in a land full of giant monsters who enjoy being just as terrible as him.”

So I guess my instincts are right from the trailer, however The New York Post is reporting that it’s Gen Xers and Gen Ys that are filling the audience.

Did you see the movie? Did you take your kids? Was it too scary? Was it entertaining? How old is the right age to take to see the film? Is this really a movie for adults?

78 comments Add your comment


October 19th, 2009
8:47 am

My kid loves scary things. I will take him.

He had a great time at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade and got his picture taken with the scariest of the people there.

I have always enjoyed horror movies, so I guess he got it from me.


October 19th, 2009
8:50 am

Gee, Maurice, nice way to respect your audience. *NOT*

At least, with a book, it can be read different ways — you can read it to a child in a silly voice, to take away the grimness, or you can read it in a portentious, scary voice, to scare them — or some combination of the two, as best fits your child.

With a movie, it’s all or nothing, and you have to make a split decision as to whether or not you’re going to be dealing with nightmares or giggles for the next week or so.

(Personally, I always hated the book . . . :-) )


October 19th, 2009
8:59 am

I seem to remember this same argument when Disney released, “The Lion King.” And overprotective helicopter parents were all up in arms about how violent and scary the part where Mufasa dies was.

Get the @#$% over it or don’t go see it. It’s as simple as that. End of story.


October 19th, 2009
9:10 am

What is wrong with this Sendak freak? As a grandparent who was seeking a answer I wouldn’t take my 4 year old kid to this jerk’s movie if it was the most entertaining thing on the planet.

mom in decatur

October 19th, 2009
9:16 am

With a response from the Author like that there is no way I would take my children if they were older to see this. (they are 2 and 2 months right now) In fact I will make sure to never buy this book with an attitude like that.

Jesse's Girl

October 19th, 2009
9:19 am

Sendak is notorious for being a douche bag…..however…I loved the book as a child. It allowed me to live vicariously though the boy. How many of us argued with our parents horribly and threatened to run away?! I think many are overlooking the moral of the story. Having said that…I have never read this book to our kids. I always let them choose what to read at the library and this one just never came up.


October 19th, 2009
9:24 am

Sendak’s remarks actually make me want to see the movie more.


October 19th, 2009
9:26 am

People need to get things through there head. This movie is for people who were born or grew up in the 80s, period. Its not for kids at all. DONT take your kids. Bitch all you want, Maurice said what he said because kids arent his target audience. if your not 20-30 years old right now, this movie is not for u.


October 19th, 2009
9:53 am

“Its not for kids at all. DONT take your kids”

Well, I disagree. I think kids get it too. Its a great story that anyone who is growing up or has grown up should be able to relate to it.


October 19th, 2009
10:00 am

It is not that the movie is that “scary” it is that it is NOT this heartwarming, family film they say it is. I saw it this weekend with a 12 year old, 17 year old and another adult. While I liked the movie, there are serious issues raised that parents need to be ready to discuss. It is funny in spots, but it is not an epic adventure like a Harry Potter, or Star Wars. Max is a troubled little boy with issues he is facing about being abandoned, not listened to, frustrated and just plain mad. You will cry more than laugh, and be challenged especially as a parent, or if you are a child of divorce, or someone raised by a single parent. I would NOT recommend taking small children to this film.


October 19th, 2009
10:03 am

Just wait for Toy Story 3 next summer!


October 19th, 2009
10:08 am

My son is a teenager (13) and he LOVED it. He thought it was great. I enjoyed it as well. The author is known to be a jerk and I am sure he amped up the antics to help promote the movie. Anything that will create a buzz could potentially translate into dollars.


October 19th, 2009
10:13 am

Sendaks right, don’t water down a movie and make it cute just to please an overprotective parent. It is not what the story is about. Why not remake the Godfather for kids too? Seriously, if your kid can’t handle it don’t take them. Duh.

Elaine Ess

October 19th, 2009
10:24 am

why did the mom fall asleep at the end?


October 19th, 2009
10:32 am

Greatest children’s book ever written. If you didn’t care for the book don’t see the movie. As for respecting the audience… Great art doesn’t abide to audience whims.


October 19th, 2009
10:33 am

First of all -Sendak wrote the BOOK -he didn’t make the movie although he was certainly consulted a bunch. Not taking your kids because you don’t like what he said is silly. We took our 3 1/2 year old yesterday. IMNO -he also LOVED the L5P Halloween Parade (it is awesome)! He is really into skeletons, monsters, ghosts, etc. and we all love the book. He’s very good about saying when he thinks something is “scary for him” but also good about knowing that it’s pretend. Basically we were all a bit bored at the movie. Before some of you who think you’re too cool for school start acting like I’m a complete philistine -yes, I thought the puppetry and setting were wonderful, and I love indie films, quirky storylines and character studies, but this was slooooooowwww. It was particularly slow for a child. I think teenagers might enjoy it -or preteens. I don’t think it’s too scary at all for kids above 6. Below 6 I would use my judgement about your kid -you’re the one who knows how easily scared they are. With about 15 minutes left, mine announced he wanted to go home, and we didn’t blame him. I have to say I was disappointed.

I will say this for Mr. Sendak and others, the book IS a children’s book! It’s actually a very simple children’s book. We’re not talking “Alice in Wonderland” or even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” here. I am not a helicopter parent, and I really can’t stand those who are and get riled up over the least little scary thing around kids, but I think due to the fact that it’s a simple children’s book, many expected the film to be a little more interesting for kids. The scare factor doesn’t bother me -it’s just boring! The thing I found interesting and that my boy seemed to enjoy was the first part where he’s having issues at home and is tearing around his house and the complexities of his family relationships that are pretty sad.

My 3 year old also made the comment after we left that it was “scary for him”, but he wasn’t scared in the movie and has had no fall out from it.

Joe G

October 19th, 2009
10:33 am

” ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is *not* too dark, too complex, too strange or too scary for children. It *may* be too dark, too complex, too strange or too scary for parents.” -MovieBob,

The book’s been continuously in print since 1963, and sold almost 20 million copies in that time. Clearly there’s something in it that speaks to every generation, not just Xers and Ys.


October 19th, 2009
10:34 am

It’s rated PG, not G. Doesn’t that say all you need to know? You don’t bring young children to a PG film and expect it to be appropriate for them to watch. That’s why they rate movies in the first place!


October 19th, 2009
10:36 am

The whole audience let out a disappointing sigh at the end of the movie… not because it was touching, but because it was such a disappointing film. I would not recommend taking kids to see it either. I went with my college team mates and we all liked reading the story, but the film was simply horrible. None of the characters were actually likeable either.


October 19th, 2009
10:44 am

My husband and I took my 13 year old. Yes, it would be too scary for smaller kids. But it lacked any suspense and excitement to really be considered truly frightning. Our complaint was that it was too lame and boring. The preview was more entertaining.

My son read the book in school and said it wasn’t like the book. No limbs were torn off and the boy wasn’t swallowed by any of the monsters. That part was more gross than scarey.

I actually was tempted to walk out due to boredom. I was more upset over the waste of my time
than the waste of the cash for the tickets, well at least the popcorn was good. So if Mr. Sendak
wants to make a “kids” movie with supsense and a good moral, he should have worked with the director of Bridge to Terribithia instead of telling parents to go to hell. This film is the cheapest quality Indie film I’ve ever seen and I happen to love Indie films. Usually they have great actors and likable characters. The kid was a spoiled brat and the monsters looked more like the Banana Splits, in fact the muppets are scarier looking and much more lovable.


October 19th, 2009
10:58 am

I loved the book and really loved the movie. This is NOT a kid’s story and I wouldn’t take kids. It’s for grown ups who can identify with emotions that are terrifying and scary for kids. For people who loved the book as a kid, and for the parents who loved reading it to them…..this is for them. As for the person who asked why the mom fell asleep at the end? She’d been up all night worried about her kid and needed him to be close in order to fall asleep-just like the wild things. DUH.


October 19th, 2009
11:12 am

It was never one of my favorite books and I’m not particularly interested in the movie, but I have to say, I do like Sendak’s comments. I mean really, how do you answer that question? Say “no, it’s not — take your kids”? Apologize for the movie’s scariness? It’s a ridiculous question that implies the movie’s creators’ have some sort of obligation or responsibility to make the movie not too scary. He’s right — see it, don’t see it, take the kids, or don’t — it’s up to you. The film makers have taken a financial risk in putting their point of view of the story out there but aren’t complaining that some parents will choose not to go (and the risk could pay off by making even more money by pulling in young adults instead), so really, what else is there to be said?


October 19th, 2009
11:19 am

I took my 5year old to see this movie on the weekend, he thought it was great & wasn’t scared at all. He loves the book as well. I personally do not like the book and felt the movie was a waste of $40.00. However its not the first time I’ve felt that way about a movie and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. :)


October 19th, 2009
11:40 am

i was scared of the book when i was little because of the angry eyebrows on the monsters. i questioned why my childhood friends like it so much.
now that i’m older, i appreciate the book for its honestly. i feel the same about the movie. it felt honest and i saw myself in max, both the childhood version of me and adult.
i can totally understand why parents would not want to take their child to see this movie. though i think it’s one of the best movies i’ve ever seen, the images are questionable. but i think each parent needs to think about their own kid and not all kids. some kids can take it and appreciate it without fear, while others will not. if i was little, i’m not sure if i could handle it. i also didn’t take my lil one b/c i’m not sure how he would process it.
in the end, i still think this is a magnificent movie. maybe not for you or your child right now, but maybe in the future.


October 19th, 2009
11:45 am

Seeing as it’s an indie movie it’s obviously not for everyone. And it’s not for every kid, While in the theater I heard many scared kids who wanted to leave but I also heard kids coming out saying they loved the “wild things.” Overall I feel the target audience was the adults who had read this as kids. And for the people complaining about the characters…really? They are supposed to be horrible monsters! What do you expect? They are all parts of ourselves that we don’t like….fear, loneliness, anger, ect. I think the movie was wonderful, I also think it was a little deeper and darker than some tend to go.


October 19th, 2009
11:53 am

@Julia: I’m sorry, but when your audience has made you rich by buying your books, you don’t then turn around and insult them. It tends to be off-putting. Art is art, but it also engenders opinions. As an artist, you may not agree with those opinions, but you don’t bite the hand that has fed you very well.

They weren’t telling him how to write his books/movie, etc. They expressed a concern. There are 20 other ways he could have answered that question/concern without coming off as an ass.


October 19th, 2009
12:07 pm

My wife and I took our 4 yr old yesterday. I honestly thought there were a couple of sequences that were actually violent and very threatening. I think it would be fine for kids a couple years older than our son. At the beginning of the film the monsters surprise the kids in the audience as they appear mean and threatening and turn out to be good playmates. But the sequence when Carol is honestly angry, out of control and trying to eat Max is too much for younger children. Our son normally likes scary movies, has always loved halloween. After that sequence, he was crying, afraid to look at the movie screen and generally miserable the remainder of the movie. He was not the only child crying either! After watching the movie, it is clear it was made for an adult audience to give them a chance to be introspective into thier child’s behaviors and to flesh out a story that we all remember. Now seeing Sendaks comments above, thats an eyeopener. He won’t benefit further from me!


October 19th, 2009
12:11 pm

Wow! This book has always been a favorite of mine. However, the fact that they made a movie out of a short picture book was (I think) a mistake. I am sure that things had to be added to make it longer. My grandkids don’t see anything but G movies so it would be a while before they could see it. I am really surprised at the author’s remarks.


October 19th, 2009
12:34 pm

Terrible frightening movie for little kids. This film is a very sad and emotional tale. I would recommend that children under the age of 15 not to see it. I left very disturb by the film and walked out only after 45 minutes of it. I hope the ending was uplifting compared to what I witnessed. I think little kids will be frightened and any children with parent loss issues will be disturbed as well. I wanted the movie to be FUN and Happy, not mean, destructive, and so untimely sad. But I did think that James G. did a great job as Carol’s voice.

Whatthe h*

October 19th, 2009
12:38 pm

It’s obviously not a “children’s movie” and for that, I will forever be eternally grateful. Like all wonderful Art, it makes you feel… something. You bring your own to it. I think it happens to be Wonderful for pg aged kids, we don’t give children enough credit… Hats off to Spike Jonez, Dave Eggers and Maurice Sendak..They get it!

My family Loved it!


October 19th, 2009
12:40 pm

Fright factor is determined by the individual. The viewer needs to be honest with themselves. If the movie is too scary then the viewer needs to make an active choice, stay and be afraid, or leave and perhaps be irritated at ‘having” to leave but unafraid. This movie was not for very young children as it presents the darker side of the human condition.

The movie did get to the gist of the book… took longer to do it but still the message was very similar. People do love others so much they want to eat them up but they also want a warm dinner and comfort when they move beyond the gnashing of teeth and back to a smile.


October 19th, 2009
12:46 pm

Austin, the book was written in 1963. What on Earth gives you the impression that it’s only meant for people in their 20’s and 30’s? Let me guess – You’re in your 20’s or 30’s?


October 19th, 2009
12:49 pm

I took my 7 year old autistic boy to see the movie. He loves the books, loves Max.. identifies with it, and he actually like the beginning. He identified with how angry Max was.. and how sad. But the relentless sadness of the movie was too much for him. The movie changed a very fundemental part of the book, the core really. My son was sad, and crying because he didn’t want what happened to the Monster Family to happen to his family.

Movies based on Children’s Books.. should be.. friendly for children.
And the Author is a world class jackass for his comments. Especially considering he wrote such a simplistic children’s story in the first place.


October 19th, 2009
12:50 pm

I went with my 17 year old daughter and her boyfriend on Friday and we thought it was terribly scary and awful. During the first minute of the film I leaned over and told my daughter it’s a good thing you’re not little because if you were, we’d be leaving, and she said, yeah right? We three agreed it was full of violence and angry wouldn’t recommend.


October 19th, 2009
12:59 pm

Um hello “PG” rating….DUH!!!


October 19th, 2009
1:02 pm

Terrible movie for kids and not interesting for adults. There were quite a few scenes (minus the profanity) where it was Tony Saprano as Carole in a tirade complaining about his family, breaking things, and feeling sorry for himself. It really felt like scenes from the Sapranos at points. I made the mistake of assuming it was for small children.


October 19th, 2009
1:03 pm

I never saw the appeal of the book to a child. I have a very old paperback copy from being a child. It has amazing artwork — none of which ever bothered me as a child or adult.

Both my children said they had had the book read to them in Kindergarten and loved it.

The movie, however is appealing to me. Probably as an introspective thing.

My kids want to see New Moon. I have not decided yet, though I have read the book multiple times and will be seeing the movie (sans kiddos) over Thanksgiving. I would think New Moon to be more and less scary than this movie.


October 19th, 2009
1:18 pm

My 21 yr old son is a film student who likes ALL genres and has seen a huge variety of films over the years. He took his girlfriend and her 14 year old sister to see it Saturday and told me that it was one of the most sick, twisted movies he’s ever seen. They managed to sit through the entire thing, but all left feeling disturbed by it, the 14 yr old in particular. Definitely not for kids.


October 19th, 2009
1:24 pm

wow, i think the movie is too much for little kids, i think there is a lot more going on than monsters screaming and playing around. Its too much of a drama-and not even a good drama. I had a really hard time sitting through it-and wanted to walk out various times. There’s nothing worse than a movie about a braty kid, and the bratty monsters he meets.


October 19th, 2009
1:30 pm


So what you are saying is that seeing this movie is like being tied down and forced to read all of the countless mindless diatribes motherjanegoose has posted on this blog?


October 19th, 2009
1:48 pm

@lakerat. +1 Thank you.


October 19th, 2009
1:52 pm

Don’t take your precious little snowflakes. Wrap them in cotton and keep them away from the sharp edges that the world will present them. Kids are as sensitive as people think they are. Their minds are not as fragile and the minute amount of scary in the film won’t hurt them. Quit raising pansies.

Jim Judy

October 19th, 2009
1:58 pm

Our full content parental review found that some of the material could be scary or unsettling for the youngest of kids, but that can vary from child to child. More info here:


October 19th, 2009
2:00 pm

I took my 6 year old this weekend…she totally got it… I got it too..I need to go back to therapy.. lol


October 19th, 2009
2:47 pm

When are they going to make “Green Eggs and Ham” a movie. That is my favorite childhood book. Of course this would be pretty hard to top.


October 19th, 2009
3:06 pm

I did not find the movie the least bit scary. I loved the book when it came out and I have read it to all my children. My 21 college senior son went Friday and called me to tell me I had to see it, My wife did not care for it, but then again, she never liked the book. I am going to buy a copy as soon as it comes out on DVD so I can watch it over and over again.


October 19th, 2009
3:06 pm

I loved the book as a child and loved the movie even more. Especially because I think all of us can identify with one of the monsters at some point in our lives. I took my 9-year old daughter and she loved it too. I read that book to her as a young child and she still got the movie. And it’s not for young children–the PG rating alone should tell you that. But in the end I was left with a feeling of hope. Max went back home; Carol felt love (and remorse) and the monsters seemed to be trying to get along. But the movie, like the book, is all based on interpretation.


October 19th, 2009
3:06 pm


October 19th, 2009
3:27 pm

Well Terry, here’s a clue…’s rated PG!!! You shouldn’t be taking a four year old to it, period end of story.

Do parents even think to look at the rating anymore? Or do you just take your kids b/c they want to see it? You are the parent, if they whine and cry when you tell them no…TOO BAD, it is your decision to make, not theirs!


October 19th, 2009
3:38 pm

Book is nothing like the movie.