1. The Wizard of Oz
Because he died in 1919, there’s no knowing what L. Frank Baum would think of the classic 1938 film based on his bestselling children’s novel (which is actually titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-somewhere in the book-to-screen translation, the wizard got less wonderful), but it’s worth noting some of the differences between the movie and the book. The biggest one is that in the book, Oz is a real place, not just a dream Dorothy has after being knocked unconscious by the tornado like in the movie. In the book Dorothy’s magic slippers were silver, not ruby, and Dorothy herself is both younger (Judy Garland was sixteen at the time of filming) and hero rather than a damsel who needs rescue (Baum was an ardent feminist).
2. The Outsiders
The 1983 movie based on the 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton (who you should follow on Twitter) is a reasonably faithful adaptation. Some characters were cut and the ones who remained don’t all look as they’re described in the book, but that isn’t very surprising. There are other differences, too, but what’s interesting is the fact that director Francis Ford Coppola released a complete novel version of the movie in 2009. The Outsiders: The Complete Novel contains extra scenes (previously deleted) that seek to align the movie even more closely with the book. The film had to be re-rated PG-13 as a result of the additions.
3. Peter Pan
Like L. Frank Baum, J.M. Barrie was long dead before his play, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up made its way to the big screen. It was a favorite story of Walt Disney’s but he had to work hard to secure the rights-from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, who inexplicably owned them. The movie is more inspired by the play than directly adapted from it; the play is more a collection of adventures than one complete story, and even includes an additional scene (written four years after the original premiere of the stage production) that explains how the women of Wendy’s family keep growing up and having their own daughters, who Peter then takes to Never Land until they are too old. Interestingly, the reason the Lost Boys are, in fact, lost is because they wandered off in Kensington Gardens (and, we assume, somehow got sucked into Never Land viamagical portal?), according to the play. Which is pretty creepy.
4. Alice in Wonderland
Yet another book people always refer to by the wrong name, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 by Lewis Carroll, a.k.a. Charles Dodgson. The most famous film version, Disney’s animated movie Alice in Wonderland, was released in 1951, almost a century years later. Like Peter Pan, Alice was delayed by story problems and World War II (Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, actually took a shot at the script, but Disney felt was too literal), and when it was finally released Disney came under criticism that he’d made a quintessentially British story too American. It kinda tanked, but found a second wind during the 1970s when it became a cult film with the psychedelic crowd, which, LOL. Now it seems impossible that the movie wasn’t destined to be a classic, but Disney himself worried that Alice herself had no heart.
5. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
There was a Winnie the Pooh movie that came out in 2011, but the best known version is the 1977 musical film which largely consists of previously released short features based on A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh novels. Most people know that everyone’s favorite cartoon bear was inspired by a teddy bear owned by Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, which was in turn named after a real black bear at the London Zoo and Pooh, a swan. Not sure what childhood horrors inspired the antagonists depicted in the nightmare fuel Heffalumps and Woozles song, but Milne was writing about Winnie or a character much like him as early as 1924, in a collection of children’s verse called When We Were Very Young.
It may surprise you to know that Roald Dahl’s Matilda, which feels like a timeless classic, was only published in 1988. In 1996, a feature film version was released. Overlooking the fact that the film is set in America, while the book’s events take place in England, what really surprised us when we recently re-read the book was how young Matilda actually is-most of the events take place when she’s five-years-old! And (spoiler), Matilda loses her powers in the book, but not the movie. There is also a musical production, which moved to Broadway in April of this year and has added its own flare, including a unique take on Miss Honey’s mother and father.
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