One of the most anticipated movies of 2009—Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved picture book Where the Wild Things Are—is finally approaching its release date, after a long and tumultuous road to production. The live-action film features extensive animatronics, CGI, and puppetry (the actors playing the Wild Things perform inside enormous furry suits).

With a screenplay co-written by Jonze and author Dave Eggers, the film arrives in theaters October 16; aptly named newcomer Max Records stars as Max, while Catherine Keener appears as his mother, Mark Ruffalo as her boyfriend, and James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker and others lending their voices to the Wild Things Max encounters.

Plans to bring Sendak’s picture book to the big screen have been underway for more than a decade. Universal was the film’s original studio, but the film moved to Warner Bros. in 2006, due to differences between Universal and Sendak, who is one of several producers on the film and had struggled to find the right writer and director for the project before connecting with Jonze and Eggers. And after early test footage was leaked in early 2008, rumors that the movie was being re-shot buzzed around the Internet.

Actor Max Records,
as Max.

But, despite fears that the film might not see the light of day, it’s nearly here, and Sendak, for one, sounds happy with the end product: at this summer’s Comic Con he announced, “I’ve never seen a movie that looked or felt like this.” Of Jonze he added, “He’s a real artist that lets it come through in the work. So he’s touched me.”

Fans looking for more behind-the-scenes info and sneak previews in advance of the film’s release date can visit the official Web site for the film, as well as the blog We Love You So, which contains posts written by Jonze and others about various Wild Things news as well as assorted artists, movies, videos and books.

On the publishing front, HarperCollins, which published Sendak’s Caldecott-winning picture book in1963, is issuing three Wild Things tie-ins under its HarperFestival imprint: a movie storybook (featuring stills from the film), a puzzle book (which has six puzzles embedded into board pages) and a coloring/activity book with crayons. School Library Journal has additional information about and reviews of the tie-ins.

Max with two of the Wild Things,
in a still from the film.

HarperCollins’s nascent It Books adult imprint will also publish Heads On and We Shoot: The Making of Where the Wild Things Are on October 13; the book will include character sketches, photographs, storyboards, interviews with the cast and crew as well as drafts of the screenplay and forewords from Jonze and Eggers. Additionally, McSweeney’s is publishing a novelization by Eggers entitled The Wild Things, which is available packaged in fur. (Like the film, the Eggers novel has had a circuitous path: it was originally to have been published by HarperCollins’s Ecco imprint, before ending up at Eggers’ usual publisher, McSweeney’s, which he founded.)

In addition to the Harper and McSweeney’s books, as reported in Children’s Bookshelf’s Licensing Hotline this week, a range of Wild Things merchandise, licensed by Warner Bros., is also on deck, including puzzles, bobbleheads, toys and t-shirts.