Roald Dahl has been about as dependable of a creative well to tap as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick have been in their substantial media output. It tells you a lot when some of the best projects all come from writers who’ve been dead for well over 20 years. With Dahl’s books for children, there’s still a substantial goldmine of material there to mine. While movie rights have already been acquired for most of them, which ones are we still waiting on that deserve a movie? Steven Spielberg will now cover a much-needed big screen remake of “The BFG”, and that only leaves a few Dahl books that could still resonate with just about any age group.
“Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”
While a few elements of the book sequel to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were incorporated into the 1971 musical “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”, it still needs a separate movie on its own. The book was written at the tail end of the Apollo moon landing missions and incorporated the aspect of Wonka’s famous elevator thrusting its occupants into space by accident. What made the book so fun is that it was talking about space shuttles a decade before NASA’s real space shuttles launched into space. It also addresses the idea of a space station hotel, which isn’t too far off when you consider our current International Space Station.
A movie adaptation might sound archaic in these terms, though wouldn’t be if updated to reflect what’s possible now. Considering space elevators are still talked about as being reality in the not-too-distant future, this could technically turn into a genre-busting sci-fi family movie. We’d also see it take place right where “Gravity” left off, as in right in our own orbit.
Outside of Johnny Depp not seeming to resonate with the public lately, there really can’t be anyone else to play Willie Wonka again. That is, unless Gene Wilder decided to come out of retirement.
“The Magic Finger”
This mid-1960s book might be a little odd, yet it was another whimsical example of how Dahl integrated the animal world in with the human world. In my opinion, that was translated the best in “James and the Giant Peach.” While that showed anthropomorphism in the best possible light, “The Magic Finger” gets into the surreal and has the adults switching places with the animals. All of this is the result of an anonymous little girl who’s able to do these role reversals by lifting a magic finger. No, it isn’t THAT finger, though you might see Dahl’s more adult sense of humor shining through.
An anti-hunting story, a movie adaptation would be adored by those who support the animal side and abhor hunting. It could become the “Babe” of a new generation without any pigs, and instead giant ducks.
“The Vicar of Nibbleswicke”
One of Dahl’s last books (and published after he died in 1990), this has yet to have any confirmed movie adaptation plans. It probably will eventually, despite having a hilarious plot utilizing word play. On the printed page, it perhaps works better, yet a celebrity voice cast would have a field day with a clever script adaptation.
The plot involves a vicar named Rev. Robert Lee who moves into a small English town called Nibbleswicke. It so happens that he has a form of dyslexia that makes him utter nearly every word backwards. Considered to be a comedic yet respectful look at how dyslexia can affect people, an adaptation would be the first to address a mental condition in a more lighthearted way.
It’s possible some would take it the wrong way considering the “cure” for the vicar’s problem is to walk backwards everywhere he goes. Regardless, the hilarious play of saying words backwards would bring some big laughs without making any direct references to dyslexia itself. In fact, the book was originally written to support the Dyslexia Action in London with all earnings going to the institute.
If these books aren’t made into movies right away, you’ll be seeing other Dahl books soon made into either movies or TV shows. Books like “The Enormous Crocodile” will be turned into a TV series, and 1980s-era “Esio Trot” is being planned as a movie. Then there’s “The Gremlins” that might need to be finally made into a feature after Disney abandoned it 70 years ago. With the jitters of flying still a problem, though, it might freak out too many seeing little creatures giving airplanes more trouble than they already have.