On adapting children’s books: replication vs. recreation

Found a great article on The Bygone Bureau by Tim Lehman regarding the remaking of two of my favorite children’s books: Where the Wild Things Are (trailer) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (trailer).

From the article:

Turning a 40-page book, half-filled with pictures, into a feature-length movie is daunting, and judging by recent attempts, fraught with failure. (The Cat in the Hat, The Polar Express, and Curious George immediately come to mind, though I have admittedly not seen a one of them.) Matt Kirby identified the main pitfall of the process when he wrote, “Picture books are an art form altogether different from other types of literature. For me, they are an alchemy of story, poetry, and image, almost impressionistic works.”

I tend to agree with every point of the article. While I understand the difficulty in adapting books this short, there has to be a certain level of consistency.

In this case, both books take a different approach to adaptation – Wild Things’ trailer is steeped in the same imagery and soul that made the book such a beautiful exercise in imagination, while Cloudy’s trailer shows a ham-fisted attempt at recreating The Incredibles, only this time with food.

(I’ve already made it known which one I’m most excited for.)

What made Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs so iconic – and cemented its legacy as, hands down, my favorite children’s book of all time – was the art. The hand drawn illustrations, looking more like a Wall Street Journal staff picture than the typical children’s art, showed great detail in documenting something so implausible, yet so creative.

It’s a wonderful article for those who love both books, highlighting how one film replicates the feeling of the book, while the other recreates it.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 24th, 2009