Roald Dahl’s popular children’s books are about to get a new life on Netflix, with the streaming service announcing a “new slate of original animated event series” based on the author’s iconic novels, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, The Twits, and more.
Many of Dahl’s books have been adapted to live-action before, ranging from the iconic 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (along with the decidedly less iconic 2005 remake), the 1996 Matilda movie, and Disney’s more recent, big-budget version of The BFG, to name just a few. But the Netflix deal will create animated versions of these properties for the first time.
And from a business perspective, animated versions of Dahl’s stories seems like a natural step for Netflix to compete with the animated offerings of competitors like Disney (with its Pixar and Disney Animation Studio wings) and Universal’s Illumination, which has already taken a similar approach by mining the works of Dr. Seuss in new ways, including the just-released The Grinch.
The full list of Dahl titles included in the Netflix deal are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, The Twits, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Boy: Tales of Childhood, Going Solo, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Billy and the Minpins, The Magic Finger, Esio Trot, Dirty Beasts, and Rhyme Stew.
Per Netflix’s announcement, the Dahl adaptations are set to be “event series and specials,” rather than ongoing shows, with production set to start in 2019. That format makes sense for Dahl’s work, especially some of the shorter books — it’s hard to imagine stretching the 32-page picture book that is The Enormous Crocodile into a multi-season epic. And the series format could also give some of Dahl’s longer work, like Matilda or the Charlie books, more room to expand their stories.
Notably missing from the deal is The Witches, which saw a film adaptation in 1990, and has a remake currently in the works. Robert Zemeckis is reportedly set to direct, although few details have been announced. Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Peach have also already been adapted into films, and may still be contracted out in ways that pose rights issues, although that’s largely speculation.