I recently read 2008 Caldecott winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, which is a gorgeous historical novel for children. It’s sort of half text and half illustration, and it’s just a really lovely and interesting book. It’s also about to be a major motion picture, directed by (of all people) Martin Scorsese. Yes! A kid’s movie! It looks beautiful, and has a bang-up cast. Take a look:
It looks great, if a bit different from the novel, but that’s how adaptations go, right? Anyway, it got me to thinking about children’s movies, and about some of my favorites in particular. I realized after a while that most of those are adapted from kid’s books. I know, total shocker. And so, five of my favorite kid’s movies adapted from books. I have to admit that the list is a little old, but well, it’s been a while since I was a kid. I tried to include some more recent selections, but mostly I’m interested to hear what your favorites are. I had to narrow my list down, so I know that there are dozens of great movies/books that are not represented here. Check these out (in no particular order), and then weigh in!
Mary Poppins (1964)
Please. Mary Poppins is on everyone’s list, I would hope. This movie made a star out of Julie Andrews, and has been delighting children (and adults) for nearly 40 years now. I remember well my mom bringing it home, and insisting to me and my brothers that we’d love it. We were highly skeptical, and sat down grumbling. As soon as the credits started to roll, we turned around, looked at Mom, and said “Can we watch it again?” You might not have known that the story of the magical nanny is based upon a series of children’s books by P.L. Travers. I haven’t read any of them, but they sound fantastically imaginative … maybe I’ll check them out when my daughter’s old enough to care that we’re reading to her, eh?
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
This surprise animated hit is a truly delightful film. It bears little resemblance to the book of the same name (again part of a series) by Cressida Cowell, but I have to imagine that it got the feel of the characters and the stories right. The film boasts an impressive voice cast and some really stunning animation, and a sequel is due out in 2014. You can read my review of the movie here, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I still highly recommend it.
The Harry Potter franchise (2001-2011)
For the past ten years, audiences have flocked to see J.K. Rowling’s amazing world of witches and wizards come to life. The three young stars (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) will likely be famous for the rest of their lives, and their supporting cast was pretty much everyone who is anyone in British acting circles. Through several different directors, all with different visions, these movies have managed to remain hugely successful, and the grand finale this summer was a fitting end to the franchise as a whole. I don’t think any list of kid’s books-turned-movies would be complete without them.
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
This is possibly one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s just perfect. It’s based on the novel by T.H. White, which is part of a larger series about the life and times of King Arthur. The Sword in the Stone is about Arthur as a boy growing up and not really knowing who he will become. He encounters Merlin the Magician, who takes it upon himself to educate the boy who will become king of all England. There are fun adventures and animated animals (I love Archimedes!) and some good songs, too. After all, it is Disney. I might need to go home and watch this, now. Seriously, love.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
You may be surprised to learn that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming. It’s the story of two children, their father (a somewhat-failed inventor), and a magical car. The film version stars Dick Van Dyke and is a joyous and colorful musical. It’s another one my brothers and I loved as children, and, like Mary Poppins, it’s on my shelves today. I think I probably know all the songs by heart, and my favorite scene is when they invade the castle disguised as toys. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch the movie!
Black Arrow (1985)
I was unable to find a good picture from this last movie. Black Arrow is based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (best known for Treasure Island, probably), and is about two young people caught in the midst of the War of the Roses in England. The movie was made by Disney, and IMDb says that it was made for television, although we always rented it from the local video store. It breaks my heart, but it’s not available on DVD at all, and seems pretty hard to find even on VHS. It’s a great dramatic movie, though, with some good action, a fiery heroine, and some excellent acting, courtesy of Donald Pleasence and Oliver Reed. Maybe if I can drum up enough interest in it, we can write to Disney and ask them for a DVD release, eh? Seriously, it’s so good.
That’s my list! There are so many other movies I could have included, but I tried to stick with ones that are near and dear to my heart. Yes, I suppose this list ages me a little, but that’s ok. I’m sure I will be up-to-date on all the latest kid’s movies in the next 10 years or so, and then maybe I’ll revisit this list. But for now, tell me: Which are your favorites?