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modern-day fable creates a world where the animals are more civilised than the humans. This can be seen in the film in the gangster chic of the foxes’ smart clothes, although the farmers are also more sophisticated than those scruffy Quentin Blake illustrations that we so associate with Dahl’s book.

But if Blake’s grotesque depictions of Boggis, Bunce and Bean are the ones we picture as the ‘true’ image of the farmers, then this view also needs revising. The book was first published in the USA with beautifully detailed drawings by Donald Chaffin, and followed in 1974 by the first UK publication, illustrated with exquisite precision by Jill Bennett.

The ‘true’ depiction is often, but not always, the one we encounter first. JM Barrie’s Peter Panis an example of a story that has lived through many an adaptation. Written as a play, which was hugely successful when it was first performed in 1904, Barrie didn’t publish the book Peter Pan and Wendy until 1911 and it has been available in various formats ever since. One film adaptation – a 1924 silent movie produced by Paramount – was released in the author’s lifetime, but subsequent Peter Pan activity has been authorised by the Great Ormond Street Hospital, to which JM Barrie left the rights.


The same was inferred of Wes Anderson’s 2009 film Fantastic Mr Fox by Felicity Dahl, Roald Dahl’s widow. The filmmaker had waited six years for Felicity to give him permission to adapt the book, but when they finally met she approved of him due to his passion for the book. Indeed, Fantastic Mr Foxwas the first book Wes Anderson had owned as a child. On seeing the film, Felicity said, ‘I know they’ve changed the story a bit… but I think Wes has really got that Dahl humour and darkness. I think it’s a masterpiece.’

One of the differences in the film to Roald Dahl’s book is that Mr Fox is given a much fuller home life, including a wife named Felicity, after Dahl’s widow. Wes Anderson also went and stayed at Gypsy House, Dahl’s home, and photographed all the rooms in the house to reproduce the author’s furniture and ornaments in the film. If Anderson aimed to capture the essence of Roald Dahl, he nonetheless did so with American actors (George Clooney plays Mr Fox) in an expertly stylised stop motion film noir. Dahl’s

Disney’s 1953 animation of Peter Pan is still its main reference point, but other films including Hook(1991), Peter Pan(Universal Studios, 2003) and Finding Neverland(2004) have all proved incredibly popular. A new film, Pan, starring Amanda Seyfried and Hugh Jackman is in production for release in 2015. The book has been published in innumerable versions. Yet, to my mind at least, it is the relatively new David Wyatt illustrations of an authorised sequel, Peter Pan in Scarletby Geraldine McCaughrean (2004) which finally, perfectly capture the images of Peter, Wendy and Neverland which make the enterprise worthwhile. Even so, these images lead me back to JM Barrie’s own magical, wordy, circuitous text, where my recharged imagination finds satisfaction.

Moving Pictures is at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle upon Tyne until April 2015. n

Illustrations & Photographs: 1. Cinderella – illustration out of copyright 2. Light Box Slide – out of copyright 3. David Wyatt © Great Ormond Street Hospital 4. Damien Wooten © Seven Stories, National Centre for Children’s Books 5. Fantastic Mr Fox Dummy Book © Roald Dahl Museum 6. Illustration for Fantastic Mr Fox © Jill Bennett

The Books

Ella’s Big Chance, Shirley Hughes, Red Fox, 978-0099433095, £7.99pbk

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, Scholastic, 978-1407103488, £14.99 hbk

Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl, Puffin, (colour edition), 978-0141348827, £7.99 pbk

Peter Pan in Scarlet, Geraldine McCaughrean, Oxford, 978-0192726216, £6.99 pbk


Laura Fraine is a journalist based in the North East. 5 Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014 9

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