To continue a discussion from last week, there have been quite a few feature films based on picture books. At first this seems an odd combination. A picture book is constructed to be short, clean, almost zen like. These days picture books books longer than 900 words are rare.
Some picture books are high concept and speak a cinematic language. For instance, as was brought up in the discussion, Chris Van Allusburg books have been turned into live action feature films. Jumanji (Jumanji 2 which was not based on a book, but an extension of the film), The Polar Express and Zathura are big spectacle, Hollywood films. Am I forgetting one?
Visit Chris Van Allusburg’s site here.
And Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things are was another live action adaptation in the past few years.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was an animated feature that differed greatly from the picture book by Judi and Ron Barrett. But they kept the million dollar idea, food falling from the sky.
Then you have The Dr. Seuss film library. The Lorax is the most recent animated adaptation, but I haven’t seen it yet. So I can’t make fun of it or tell you how wonderful it is. Each time they released a trailer it looked better to me. But they were making Seuss films way back in 1953. The 5,000 fingers of Dr. T is not based on a book (I don’t believe) but The good Dr. wrote the film himself. I’ve never made it through a whole screening. He was wise to stick with picture books.
For many, including myself, the best adaptation of Seuss is still the Chuck Jones directed, animated TV special from 1966. That Grinch is the one and only Grinch to me. I am too scared by the posters to watch the Jim Carey version.
Looking at even smaller scale origins for feature films you can find many films and TV shows/specials based on comic strips. The comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz has been turned into numerous films and of course the TV specials still air and draw huge ratings. They also adapted Li’l Abner into a film and a broadway play. The list of adapted comic strips is pretty long from Little Orphan Annie to Garfield.
Titles like Prince Valiant (film released in 1954) stayed in the public eye all the way from the golden age of comic strips to the 1970′s.
And the list of comic books turned into films or TV shows…well you can research that yourself!
So feature films have looked for inspiration from picture books, comic strips, graphic novels and of course comic books for a long time. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see them continuing to do it. And these days having a title with some preexisting market awareness probably trumps a lot of original but unexposed ideas in Hollywood.
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