wildthingsWith all the success of the film adaption of Where the Wild Things Are, it’s only a matter of time before other great classic children tales become movies.

To get in on the action early, let the wild imagining of future films begin.

Goodnight Moon

This classic tale of “the great green room” and its odd collection of suspicious items: a telephone, a red balloon, and a picture of “The cow jumping over the moon” is so very ready for the screen.  Things seem quiet enough.  But are they?

Yes, we have seemingly harmless bears and cute kittens and an enigmatic pair of mittens, but there is also the creepy “quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush.'”  Twice, she whispers “hush.”  Maybe she’s just a retired librarian, but I suspect she has some dark secret.  The film adaption will explore the psychological aspects of those mittens and kittens and three bears without a single bowl of porridge.  But most of all, the film focuses on the sinister old woman in her rocking chair who keeps quieting an innocent child.

There lies the makings of a Stephen King novel, or deeply disturbing movie.

Runaway Bunny

What awful events led to the bunny running away?
What awful events led to the bunny running away?

“Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away,” announces the opening line.


Are we talking bunny abuse?  A raging, drunken stepbunny father?  Exactly why is the bunny so intent on escaping?  A filmmaker can run with this, exploring the troubled relationship between the mother, the child, and any unmentioned secondary characters who may lie at the heart of this terrible tale.

The little guy certainly is persistent.  He warns his mother again and again of all the ways he will try to escape her clutches, but she makes it clear none of them will succeed.

“I will run after you,” she warns.  “For you are my little bunny.”

I’ll be a fish, he says.  I’ll be a bird.  Or a sailboat.  I’ll be a crocus hiding “in a hidden garden.”

Doesn’t matter, mom replies.  I’ll find you.  Oh the humanity, or bunnanity, of it all.

In the end, the little bunny concedes defeat.

“I might as well stay where I am,” he sighs, “and be your little bunny.”

And then she force feeds him a carrot.  An awful story, a potential blockbuster movie of chases and forced vegan gluttony.

The Digging-est Dog

Everyone loves a good dog movie.  This has all the ingredients for a morality tale of love and loss, of holes dug in the ground and the harshness of not being accepted by one’s peers.

So the story opens with Duke lamenting his fate in a cage.  “I was the saddest dog you could ever see,” he says.  “Sad because no one wanted me.”

Imagine the potential teen market here, a film of angst and unrequited love.  All you’d need is a dopey vampire and cash in.

Duke is adopted by the fickle Sammy Brown.  At first all is well.   And then not.

Duke, you see, can’t dig.  How could he, having lived his whole life on “that hard stone floor.”

This story is rich with symbolism.  A filmmaker of even moderate skill can delve into what that floor truly represents, because it returns again and again.

So Sammy happily introduces his new friend to the other dogs.  They begin to dig.  Duke tries and fails, earning the derision of his peers.  Oh the angst.  He tries and tries.  “Sammy sighed,” he tells us later that night.  “I almost cried.”

And the next morning, in desperate bid for acceptance, he digs!

You’d need powerful music here, a sweeping vista of Duke digging up the world.  He digs up flower gardens, he disrupts businesses.  “So I dug farther.  I dug faster.  I dug and dug to please my master.”

Master?  Yes, so obviously ripe for deeper analysis.  Could this story be an analogy for slavery?

Tragedy follows tragedy.  He digs “a lot of buildings down” and a happy Sammy becomes an evil Sammy who warns him: “I’m sending you back to that animal store.  They’ll tie you to that hard stone floor.  And you’ll never, ever dig any more.”

Maybe this will be PG-13.  Or higher.

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!

Al Gore is the obvious choice to bring this ecological cause-and-effect tale to the silver screen.  A bug’s sneeze shakes a seed to the ground, which strikes a worm, which in a biologically confusing moment kicks a tree and eventually poor Farmer Brown — representing the agri-industrial complex — is hurt.

This brings in law enforcement, a flying boat, and a surreal city “circus parade.”

The big smash ending alone is enough to bring kiddies to the theater and appropriately indoctrinate them in the ecological dangers we face when worms can kick.

Flat Stanley

In a painful story of parental indifference, poor Stanley is struck in his bed and flattened by “an enormous bulletin board.”

When I say “flattened” I mean really flattened.  Or as his dad so sensitively puts it: “as a pancake.”

Why would the parents put such a dangerous, potentially flattening object over their son’s bed?  And what, exactly, is on that bulletin board?  The filmmaker can explore all these angles, the knowing looks of the parents when they realize the usefulness of a flat kid, but more on that later.

They rush him to Dr. Dan.

Rule number one: don’t trust doctors who go by their first name.

The kid’s okay, he reports.  Except that he’s a half-an-inch thick.  Which doesn’t seem to worry him.

Where’s Dr. House when you need him?

Stanley can now slip under doors.  He can be a kite.  He can mail himself in envelopes.  Maybe in the film he becomes a stalker, a peeping Stanley.

But then the story darkens.

Thieves have been stealing paintings from the local museum.  They recruit Stanley to help.

What kind of parents would volunteer their kid to sit in a painting in a darkened museum and wait for two creepy, shadowy guys in masks to show up?  The same kind that let bulletin boards fall on them, I think.

“The sneak thieves are here!” he calls, leading to arrests.

Stanley is the hero for a while until, yes, we get some teen (or pre-teen) angst.  Kids make fun of him as being “super-skinny.”

Here, we shift into Supersize Me meets a crimefighting kid.  The obesity angle is satisfied to the fullest when a friend inflates him.

Other Books Ripe for the Plucking?

No doubt you have your favorite kids picture book.  I ignored The Cat in the Hat.  Been done, and badly.  I also wanted to write about Dr. De Soto, a favorite of mine with the classic line by the cat as he’s under gas to have his teeth worked on by a mouse dentist: “How I like them raw, with a pinch of salt and a dry white wine.”  But I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy.

Barry Hollander

Barry Hollander

Former hack at daily newspapers, now hack journalism professor at the University of Georgia, number cruncher and longtime Net user, caffeine addict, writer of weird fiction, and a semi-retired god in an online fantasy world where godhood suits him quite well, thank you very much. He also blogs at http://www.whatpeopleknow.com

  1. Terri Evans

    And just in time for a pandemic: The Velveteen Rabbit. Thanks for the memories, Barry! HBO has already done a very sweet treatment of Goodnight Moon, which I recommend. As a mother who frequently read Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny to my daughter when she was young, I found it disquieting to later learn that Margaret Wise Brown did, in fact, love chasing “bunnies” when she was beagaling. (Yes, that is a word.)

  2. Barry Hollander

    Drat, didn’t even think of The Velveteen Rabbit and we own it too. I wonder what other classics I missed.

    I haven’t seen the HBO thing and my kids are too old to justify putting it on our Netflix queue, but yeah — that Margaret Wise Brown chased bunnies while beagaling, creepy. But it explains a lot about Runaway Bunny. Freud would have a field day.

  3. Another Sendak book, although only a minor classic at best, Higgledy Piggledy Pop tells the story of Miss Jenny the dog, another pet on the lam, and one with an inordinate love of buttermilk pancakes. Drawn in an uncharacteristically (for the author anyway) Edwardian style, this production would be a stylish runaway hit for Merchant Ivory (if they were both still alive). And how about those untapped psychic issues – a canine eating disorder (at one point a mop is consumed – is nothing sacred?), an escaped lion, and a spectacular appearance by Mother Goose, the substitute parent who won’t make you finish your vegetables.

    The word, subversive, comes to mind. I can see Maurice buying a house in Laurel Canyon.

Comments are closed.