As a child, this was one of the shorts that I played a lot (it came in one of those clamshell cases as part of a series, another with it was The Snowman for example). It didn't really sink in that Maurice Sendak was the creative force behind it (aside from Carole King, who is unmistakable in the lead role), but seeing it today it's so Sendak's work that it works as the kind of musical other side of what he could do from Where the Wild Things Are. Where that had lots of monsters and adventure, this is more grounded in the urban area, with kids singing along and playing with the big-hatted/flamboyantly dressed Rosie - and it also comes, from what I've read, from books by Sendak, so it makes sense he would want to spear-head the direction of the TV special.
I think that a big part of the enjoyment for me was the songs. They're catchy and memorable, but they also have things that kids can relate to: Chicken Soup with Rice is something kids like, and when the one kid whines "I Don't Care!" it inspires one of the songs that has stayed with me for my entire life: a story of what happens if you keep repeating 'I don't care' over and over to the things you don't want to try or do. If you don't take to the songs as a kid then it might not stick with you, but the combination of animation that has a quality that is all Sendak's - a little rough but also warm at the same time, an odd combination but that was the artist and author for you - and the music, worked for me many times over, as it seems to have for other generations of kids (whether you were born in 1970 or 1980 or 1990).
Is it perfect? I don't know, but it's all about the joys of being expressive and being a child and not holding too much inside - enjoying life, in other words, which was one of Sendak's chief concerns. It's jubilant, soulful and, in its unassuming way, masterful. I hope to show my children this special one day.
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