In Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, the "wild things" are nameless; in Spike Jonze's movie version, which opens tomorrow, they're called Carol (a male, voiced by James Gandolfini), Alexander, Judith, Ira, and Douglas. Jonze and Sendak talk about monster-naming in a roundtable interview in the October 19 issue of Newsweek:
How did you name them?
Jonze: Dave [Eggers, the screenwriter] and I named them. We took the book and went to Kinko's and blew up big poster-size images of each spread. Our dining-room walls were covered with every spread of the book. As we'd write, we'd look at the images, just sort of soaking it in. It was a process of going back to the book and sitting and listening to the character. You realized how certain characters came and went in the book. The characters appearing and disappearing, it makes it more wild.
Maurice, you never had names for the characters?
Sendak: I never wanted them to have names. When it was an opera and the director and I were working on it during rehearsal, we had to have names to tell them when they were screwing up. They had Jewish names: Moishe, Schmuel. You have to remember this is an English opera house. We were all speaking Yiddish. It was very funny. But the names were dropped after the opera. They never had names until they became movie stars.
Which is most effective (scary or funny): ordinary Jewish names, ordinary Anglo names, or no names at all? Would you have preferred that the wild things be given traditionally scary names from folklore and fairy tales: Igor, Grendel, Ichabod? Or should the names have been invented, such as Voldemort and Cruella?
Read outtakes from the interview at Pop Vox, Newsweek's culture blog.