“I would tell them to go to hell,” Sendak said. And if children can’t handle the story, they should “go home,” he added. “Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered.”
In a bracingly unsentimental interview with Newsweek, Sendak, director Spike Jonze, and screenwriter Dave Eggers discuss why Max’s dinner is “still hot” and not “still warm,” why he believes Disney is bad for children, and why it’s okay—maybe even necessary—for children’s books (and films) to be scary:
Jonze: We are squeamish. We are Disneyfied. We don’t want children to suffer. But what do we do about the fact that they do? The trick is to turn that into art. Not scare children, that’s never our intention.
Sendak: […] This concentration on kids being scared, as though we as adults can’t be scared. Of course we’re scared. I’m scared of watching a TV show about vampires. I can’t fall asleep. It never stops. We’re grown-ups; we know better, but we’re afraid.
Why is that important in art?
Sendak: Because it’s truth. You don’t want to do something that’s all terrifying. I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child’s eyes. So what? I managed to survive.