The darker, more troubling thoughts that happen sometimes in teenagers and children are seen in his work in a way that weren't really reflected before him.
He didn't think of himself in terms of being a kiddie book author. His influences include William Blake, Mozart, Winsor McCay, and Melville, especially; those are the artists that really resonated and that he plunged his mind into and sort of swam around in, creatively. But the work he did that was recognized commercially was the sort of illustrations that he'd been hired to do for a series of children's books in the first half of the twentieth century. In a lot of that work he was humanizing children, and actually drawing them. At that time, there weren't really books that had children as characters that were being published in America for children. The deeper, darker themes he was drawing from Melville and Blake were in his mind, creatively, and I think that's what people ended up recognizing and responding to, those deeper emotions and acceptance of a larger world than the mass market kids books might have been prior to him.
And yet Maurice doesn't have kids and isn't particularly drawn to them, but he writes books that are cherished by them.
That's true. It was a sort of peculiarity that at that point he stumbled onto an artwork that children responded to. But I think some of that was due to a change in the times. 'Where the Wild Things Are' came out in 1963 and found its audience around '64, which is the same time that the Beatles were taking over in the States and the Kennedy assassination was playing out. There was a massive cultural shift going on at that time. The darker, more troubling thoughts that happen sometimes in teenagers and children are seen in his work in a way that wasn't really reflected before him. He himself is not really fond of spending time around kids or running around with them, and he doesn't think that everything that they say is cute and adorable. But something about that coming out in his work, kids do recognize and respond to and appreciate. And not only 'Wild Things' but his books 'Really Rosie' and 'In the Night Kitchen' and a whole world of work you may have seen during your own childhood, but not realized, was all done by this one man.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
I hope they come to understand the amazing spirit and dazzling creativity and mind of Maurice Sendak. I hope people see that even if you have no children yourself but you appreciate a unique perspective of an amazing artist ... If you see this work and get more of a sense of who this person was behind it, you can get to know and love his mind and his endless imagination.