To celebrate the release of FANTASTIC MR FOX in cinemas nationwide from 23 October, we look back at the wonderfully dark books written by the master of childhood fantasy, Roald Dahl. From the magical mischievousness of Matilda to the touching relationship between father and son in Danny Champion of the World there is bound to be a Roald Dahl story to suit the whole family.
Fantastic Mr Fox
Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were none the less equally mean.
After being caught stealing chickens from the mean local farmers Mr Fox is trapped in his underground home, with shotgun and spade aimed at his door. It is up to Mr Fox, with a little help from his fellow ground dwelling animals, to outsmart the crooked farmers and find a way out to provide food for his family and friends. Wes Anderson, well known for his critically acclaimed dry comedies combines his original sense of humour together with traditional stop motion animation to bring a distinct air of sophistication to the farmyard with a star studded voice cast.
They have no hair, have claw like fingernails disguised with gloves, have no toes, spit which is bright blue and pupils where you can see "fire and ice dancing". The book that first introduced us as children to spot ‘the witches’ also managed to scare us behind the sofa when Angelica Huston portrayed the Grand High Witch that turns the protagonist into a mouse using the persuasive power of chocolate!
James and the Giant Peach
One of the best loved Roald Dahl books, follows the journey of the orphan James. After his parents are killed in a rhino rampage he is sent to live with his matriarchal aunts. With the help of some magical crystals he manages to escape the grasps of his awful aunts to a magical, miniature world filled with adventure, insects and lots of peach! Adapted for film in 1996, and featuring the voice talent of Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon and David Thewlis and appearances from Pete Postelthwaite and Joanna Lumley, makes this story one of the most beloved of Roald Dahl’s books.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory x2
One of the most essential books to read in childhood Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has become a timeless childhood classic. Charlie becomes involved in a race across the world to win one of four golden ticket that will let him into the world’s most amazing chocolate factory. Introducing the world to Umpa Lumpas, everlasting gobstoppers and the repercussions of being greedy! Such is the popularity of the Classic Dahl book, there has been two adaptations of the book, both as magical and crazy as the other. The 1971 version, featuring Gene Wilder, manages to both fascinate and scare all those watching making us all want to avoid the suspicious Slugworth! The 2005 Tim Burton adaptation with Johnny Depp manages to match the book’s original wackiness with an incredible mix of CGI psychedelic visuals.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
The lesser known sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Great Glass Elevator starts off where the previous book left off with Charlie, now the owner of the Chocolate Factory crash landing on the moon! Charlie must save the inhabitants of a space hotel from the attacks of the vicious, Vermicious Knids. Although never adapted for the big screen, Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featured a few scenes mentioned in the book.
Another dark book following the unhappy life of Matilda, A five year old girl whose parents have little interest in the well being of their child. Determined to do more in life than rot in front of the television, Matilda takes herself to the library. After reading classics from Dickens to Orwell Matilda’s intellect gets noticed in the classroom and is moved up a year into Miss Honey’s class. But the rulings of the school headmistress, Miss Trunchball seem just as harsh as her parents at home leading Matilda to discover one day that she has telekinetic powers. When it is discovered that miss honey has been swindled out of a large inheritance by Miss Trunchbull, Matilda strives to right the wrongs around her using her new found powers.
Adapted for film by Danny Devito in 1996, the film managed to transfer the magic of Matilda onto the silver screen.
As this top ten list shows Roald Dahl had a tendency to focus on abusive adults, and this character trait continues with The Twits! Mr. and Mrs. Twit, an unhygienic shaggy haired (Mr Twit’s food has a habit of getting caught in his bushy beard!) couple, who take great pleasure in luring birds to bake in a pie and torment their pet monkey Muggle-wump. One day a ‘Roley-Poly bird’ from South Africa encourages Muggle-Wump and his animal friends to extract their timely revenge. Just desserts are served as Mr and Mrs Twit are terrorized and run out of house and home!
Danny, Champion of the World
After the death of his mother at the age of four Danny and his Father only have each other. By the age of nine Danny thought he knew everything that could be known about his best friend, his father, until he discovers a dark secret. What follows is an attempt at the most daring, the most dangerous and the most dastardly plan to outwit a wicked landowner.
A heartwarming story of father and son with the lead character a typical example of Dahl’s ability to paint witty and intelligent characters. The Television adaptation in the late eighties saw real life father and son, Jeremy and Samuel Irons, take on the lead characters.
George's Marvelous Medicine
If there is an illness George Kranky is likely to have a cure for it! Fed up with his bad tempered grandmother, George sets out to cure it with his own special brews, concocted from all the dangerous liquids, tablets and substances you may find in the garden. He has medicine to make you tall, medicine to make you small but can he find that fantastic formula to make you happy? One of the few books not to have received a big screen adaptation, Georges Marvelous Medicine has featured on an episode of Jackanory and has been west end treatment with a critically successful stage play.
The BFG is the nickname for the Big Friendly Giant, who befriends orphaned Sophie. The girl soon learns that her giant friend is responsible for creating the dreams of children and helps him along with his job. The 1989 animated film based on this story doesn't exactly coincide with the book, but it still brings to life the interesting tale. The character of Sophie is actually based around Dahl's daughter, Sophie Dahl.
FANTASTIC MR FOX is released in cinemas nationwide form 23 October 2009