From the Harry Potter series to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s just something about seeing your favourite fictional characters come to life that makes films adapted from novels and comic books so much more intriguing. Did you know that many of the most astonishing tales from kid- and family-friendly movies were actually based on actual written novels? Below, we introduce some of the most well-received films that were inspired by children’s books!
Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)
No matter how packed the film industry is now with new fairy tale or animation characters, Alice in Wonderland remains a timeless classic that still sits well with people of all ages. The world-famous story of Alice and her adventures in a fantasy world underneath a rabbit hole is based on a fictional novel written in 1865—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The widespread popularity of the novel has resulted in a few adaptations of the storyline into both animated and live-action films, the most recent being Alice Through The Looking Glass in 2016. The Disney fantasy film starring Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway loosely follows Carroll’s sequel novel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. This time, Alice once again finds herself in the fantasy world of Underland, where she goes against the passage of time to save the Mad Hatter.
The BFG (2016)
Disney’s The BFG recalls a heartwarming tale of extraordinary friendship, courage, parenting, and childhood, inspired by a book of the same name penned by one of the world’s most celebrated children’s fiction authors, Roald Dahl. In the film, an orphaned human girl Sophie teams up with the gentle Big Friendly Giant (BFG) to save the human world from antagonistic man-eating giants.
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Jungle Book is no doubt an undisputed childhood favourite, with its merry song-and-dance numbers that are just so hard to forget. With the trend of live-action adaptations in the film industry these days, we definitely can’t leave out this jungle classic, as we see its impressively true-to-life rendition in Disney’s The Jungle Book in 2016. The fantasy adventure film attempts to reenact the familiar series of short stories under the broad title of The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling. Follow “man-cub” Mowgli and his pawed buddy, Baloo the bear, through a journey of self-discovery, unlikely friendships, and episodes of admirable bravery and independence.
Fun fact: The tales of The Jungle Book were so stirring that they inspired Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement, to launch the Boy Scouts initiative that has since taken root all around the world!
The Paddington Bear is unrivalled in its popularity—featured in over 20 children’s books, boasting two hit films, and carrying numerous other small screen stints under its name. The cuddly bear, with its signature red floppy hat, first made its appearance in the 1958 children’s book A Bear Called Paddington and the rest is history. Paddington (2014) tells the story of Paddington bear’s travel to London in search of a home, and his subsequent encounters with human beings. Following the mega hit of the first Paddington film, the sequel Paddington 2 premiered in 2017, where it showed Paddington fully-settled within civilisation, and the string of misadventures he went through to celebrate his aunt’s 100th birthday.
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
When we say Mary Poppins, the iconic “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” catchphrase is sure to come to mind. Some wouldn’t know that the quirky and much-adored Mary Poppins is actually based on a series of eight children’s books under the Mary Poppins title by P.L. Travers. The whimsical tale of the English nanny Mary Poppins, who got carried by the East Wind to the Banks’ household at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, has since been adapted into two Disney films—the renowned 1964 classic, Mary Poppins, and its sequel, Mary Poppins Returns (2018). The 2018 adaptation fast forwards the original story to when the Banks children are all grown up, and Mary Poppins once again re-enters their lives to relieve them from a family misfortune.
The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)
With the festive season just around the corner, here’s the time to revisit some of Disney’s best Christmas movies (that is not Frozen). Disney’s retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, in its 2018 fantasy film—The Nutcracker and the Four Realms—offers a refreshing take on this old-time holiday classic. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms deviates from the original storyline, so that protagonist Clara now faces more than just the challenge of defeating an evil Mouse King in the fantasy world. True to the film’s title, the young Clara lands herself in a surreal, parallel world with four realms—the Land of Flowers, Land of Snowflakes, Land of Sweets, and Land of Amusements—where she uncovers the secret of her birth and is tasked to restore peace to the realms.
The Grinch (2018)
On a “crankier” note, we introduce another holiday favourite starring a furry, grumpy, green character called The Grinch. Based on the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, The Grinch tells a healing story of how an unhappy Grinch, who plots to ruin Christmas for the town of Whoville, eventually finds joy and comfort in celebrating the season again. The film also holds a poignant message, which emphasizes that Christmas is not just about the presents and treats but more about spreading kindness and warmth to people around us, and to derive happiness from spending this magical season together with our loved ones.
Christopher Robin (2018)
When we think of the honey bear—Winnie the Pooh—it is not uncommon to recall his stuffed woodland friends like Piglet and Eeyore first more than his human owner, Christopher Robin. Thus, imagine the surprise when a live-action film adaptation of the beloved children’s classic was announced with the title Christopher Robin, and not the would-be-expected Winnie the Pooh. Loosely-based on A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard’s Winnie-the-Pooh books, the 2018 fantasy-comedy film follows a grown-up Christopher as he reunites with his plush toy, Pooh, and subsequently finds himself returning to the famous Hundred Acre Wood.
Peter Rabbit (2018)
The mischievous Peter Rabbit, based on the 1902 Tale of Peter Rabbit and a series of five other stories by Beatrix Potter, may hit closer to home for the parents as compared to your little ones. However, the old-school Peter Rabbit was only made into a film character in recent years, with two live adaptation movies: Peter Rabbit in 2018 and its upcoming sequel, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway in 2020. Relating closely to Potter’s original stories, the first Peter Rabbit movie narrates the playful endeavours of Peter (voiced by James Corden), as he risks his life to steal fresh produce from the garden of antagonist Mr McGregor.
How To Train Your Dragon (2019)
Would you have guessed that this box office hit animated film is based on a series of children’s books under the same title? Written by Cressida Cowell, the How To Train Your Dragon narratives follow the protagonist Hiccup in his multiple encounters and adventures with dragons in the make-believe Viking world—a storyline well-reflected in Disney’s How To Train Your Dragon film trilogy: How To Train Your Dragon (2010), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019).