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He brought us Oompa-Loompas and whizzpopping to snozzcumbers and Mrs Trunchbull. Roald Dahl’s fantastical stories cemented him as the inimitable king of nonsense, and whether we realise it or not, his tales have touched us all in some way or another.
The world continues to celebrate Roald Dahl once a year, almost thirty years after his passing. In 2019, Roald Dahl Day falls on Friday, 13th September, and to mark the occasion we’ve rounded up some of our favourite family film adaptations of the stories he gave us.
Roald Dahl (1916-1990)
Matilda – 1996: When Danny DeVito took on the role of directing this film adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Matilda something pretty magic happened. Mara Wilson stole all of our hearts as a young genius named Matilda, who uses telekinesis to deal with her obnoxious parents, and the infamous Agatha Trunchbull, the oppressive leader of Crunchem Elementary Hall. Also starring Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz and Pam Ferris, Matilda quickly became one of those movies that millions of families could recite by rote!
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – 1971: Starring Gene Wilder who made the role of Willy Wonka his own, this is a fantastical tale of the adventure had when Charlie Bucket receives a Golden Ticket and visits Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with four other children from around the world. If you didn’t watch this and dream of your own chocolate river did you even have a childhood?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 2005: An adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been in the works since the early 1990s. And when it was announced that Tim Burton was taking on the challenge fans, knew we were in for a interesting ride. Add Johnny Depp into the mix as Willy Wonka and all of a sudden something pretty special was afoot. Fans weren’t disappointed. Colourful, slightly dark, magical and fully embracing the silliness Roald Dahl embodied, Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quickly became a family classic.
The Witches – 1990: Anjelica Huston nails the role of the Grand High Witch in this film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much adored story, The Witches. In the final film he worked on before he died, Jim Henson lent his puppetry prowess to make sure this film captured the literal magic needed to bring this tale to life. Because when the world is plagued by infanticidal witches who masquerade as ordinary women, some pretty supernatural things are bound to occur. A young boy called Luke boy and his grandmother set out to destroy the witches after he is turned into a mouse by their newest weapon against human children.
The BFG – 2016: Steven Spielberg took on the director title for the second screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beautiful tale of a Big Friendly Giant. The BFG tells the story of a young girl named Sophie and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Together, the BFG and Sophie must convince the Queen of England to get rid of the giants once and for all. That is, once they succeed in convincing her royal highness that giants even exist. And let’s just say Spielberg nails this whizzpopping adventure.
The BFG – 1989: Roald Dahl’s tale of the lovable Big Friendly Giant and his little pal, Sophie was originally adapted as an animation in 1989. Stories abound that after Roald Dahl saw the movie for the first time at a screening, he gave it a standing ovation. What makes The BFG story even more special, is the fact that Dahl dedicated it to the memory of his daughter, Olivia, who tragically passed away from complications due to measles.
Fantastic Mr Fox – 2009: Director, Wes Anderson took on his first animated film and his first film adaptation when he brought this Roald Dahl story to life. The film is about a fox who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers. They think they can catch him, but Fantastic Mr Fox and his pals manage to outwit them all!
Danny, the Champion of the World, 1989: Starring Jeremy Irons and his son, Roald Dahl’s story tells the tale of a father and son who conspire to thwart a local businessman’s plans to buy their land by poaching his game pheasants. Directed by Gavin Millar Danny, the Champion of the World captures the Dahl magic and quickly became a beloved family favourite.
James and the Giant Peach – 1996: Roald Dahl refused many offers to have his story, James and the Giant Peach made into a film. It was only after his death, that his wife gave permission for this live-action adaptation to be made. It was a controversial move, because for sometime, James and the Giant Peach was banned because it had references to alcohol, drugs, violence, and “suspicious behaviour”. The story tells the tale of a young boy called James who lives in the South of England. When his parents are eaten by rogue rhinos, he is sent to live with his two horrible Aunts where he is abused for no reason. One day, he’s given magic green “crocodile tongues,” which makes a peach in his backyard grow to epic proportions. When he crawls inside, he befriends a group of insects and they roll away on an adventure across the country and the ocean.