Great kids’ book adaptations – from ‘Coraline’ to ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

‘The BFG’ is released in Irish cinemas this week, and heralds Steven Spielberg’s return to kids movies after a run of dramas with ‘Lincoln’, ‘War Horse’ and ‘Bridge of Spies’. Based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl, ‘The BFG’ is the story of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), an orphaned girl who knows that the Witching Hour comes at 3am. One night as she looks out of her window she sees something impossible; a giant. The giant – whose name is the Big Friendly Giant, or BFG, lives up to his name – and he and Sophie become fast friends, and work together to stop the other evil giants from kidnapping and eating “human beans”.
To celebrate the release of ‘The BFG’ in Irish cinemas, has taken a look at some of the best movie adaptations of beloved children’s books.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, and directed by Henry Selick, ‘Coraline’ is the story of a young girl who, feeling neglected by her career driven mother and absent minded father, finds a door into another world almost identical to her own, where she meets her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and gets all the attention she wants. The trouble is that the Other Mother’s motivations are not as simple as Coraline (Dakota Fanning) first thinks.
Like many of Roald Dahl’s books for children, Neil Gaiman made ‘Coraline’ a dark and scary story with a magical and fantastical setting. Director Henry Selick uses stop motion animation to beautiful effect in the film, making ‘Coraline’ feel like a story in a doll house and eerily creepy at the same time.

Another film based on a Raold Dahl book, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ tells the story of a wily and cunning fox (George Clooney) who cannot help but raid local farms for food and sport. When the farmers band together to kill Mr Fox, he joins forces with his other animal friends to outsmart the farmers and steal the biggest feast they have ever eaten.
Directed by Wes Anderson, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ is another stop motion animated film and, while the story is transported to the US, away from England where Dahl set his book, the story is remarkably similar to the one Dahl wrote, but is laced with the deadpan humour, charm and nostalgia that Anderson is known and loved for.

Although ‘Mary Poppins’ is based on the book of the same name by P.L. Travers, this was not a well-known fact until the release of ‘Saving Mr Banks’ – starring Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell and Tom Hanks – in 2013. ‘Mary Poppins’ is the story of the Banks family, who desperately need a new nanny, but the children and their father disagree on what kind of nanny they need. When the children’s advert for a kind, gentle nanny magically disappears from their fireplace and Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) arrives at their door, the children are taken on some magical, fun and whimsical adventures.
The adventures had by the Banks family are very different in the film and the book, but there is little doubt that ‘Mary Poppins’ is an iconic and beloved film. The mix of animation and live action, the songs and the magical adventure throughout the film is one that has endeared it to audiences around the world.

There have been many adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s famous story, but the best is almost definitely Disney’s 1951 animated version. After Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) becomes bored while reading under a tree, she follows a White Rabbit (Bill Thompson) down a rabbit hole and into the magical, confusing and beautiful world of Wonderland. After making friends with the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) and dodging the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton), she finds herself returning home very changed.
There have been so many different adaptations of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ through the years, but this animated Disney version is one of the most beloved and, since the technology of animation was the only way to tell the magical and weird tale in the 1950s, is still one of the most gleefully odd. Newer adaptations, in an attempt to give Alice’s adventures an over arching storyline, have failed to live up to the greatness of this Disney cult classic; even if it is rather different to the book.

Cressida Cowell’s book series about Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon friend Toothless began in 2003 with ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. Made into a film by DreamWorks Animation in 2010, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is the story of Hiccup, a Viking who is not as fearsome as the rest of his tribe, and the friendship he strikes up with the most fearsome of beasts; a dragon. Hiccup is the first Viking to prove that dragons have the potential to be friends and allies of the Vikings and he, along with his friends and the dragons they train, see off a big and dangerous threat to the village.
‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is similar to the book that inspired it to a point, but it is in the final battle that the two take different directions. Nevertheless, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is a charming and sweet coming of age adventure tale, that was a surprise hit in 2010.

Honourable mentions to… ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Harriet the Spy’, ‘Hugo’ and ‘The Princess Diaries’

Words: Brogen Hayes

‘The BFG’ is released in Irish cinemas on July 22nd 2016. Watch the trailer below…