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Remembering Roald Dahl: Films That Brought His Magical Writings On-Screen

Happy birthday to the man who wove magic with his writings.

Updated:September 13, 2016, 1:48 PM IST
Remembering Roald Dahl: Films That Brought His Magical Writings On-Screen
Happy birthday to the man who wove magic with his writings.

Childhood readings would never be complete without a Roald Dahl book.

Capturing a child's attention and imagination through words is one of the hardest things to do but British novelist Roald Dahl made this his forte. The 20th century writer engaged a child's mind in the most creative way possible, by weaving magic around reality. He writings reflected a vivid imagination, a sense of humor both grisly and delightful and a healthy dose of no-nonsense. Through his writings, Dahl respected the inquisitive, honest side of his young audience instead of terming it as 'innocent' and 'naive'. His works had horror and wonder with a splash of humour at the same time.

The worlds Dahl created were populated by friendly giants, oversized talking insects, dedicated fathers, and beloved grandmothers. And, of course, the world's most amazing chocolate factory to satisfy any child's cravings and curiosity. Dahl's unusual writing caught the attention of Hollywood, and films were made on his work. Though it was hard to literally visualise Dahl's idea of magic for the big screen, filmmakers tried and succeeded to an extent in bringing the ‘notorious’ magical experience on screen.

Many of Dahl's twisted magical stories have been adapted for the big screen. On the author's 100th birth anniversary, let's take a look at five memorable films made out of his literary works:


In The BFG, two out caste characters in their respective societies, an orphaned girl and a friendly old giant, become each other's best friends amidst gruesome intentions and situations. In a way the story beautifully depicted an unlikely friendship and going by the trailer, Spielberg has kept that as the main essence of his film. Steven Spielberg's film captured the true sense of Dahl's narrative. The film was heartwarming and a treat to the eyes courtesy the visual effects that complimented Dahl's visions perfectly.


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Adapted from Dahl's most famous novel Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, the film was released in 1971 which Dahl himself scripting. A tale of morality and 'feel good' ending, the film portrayed as much hilarious and twisted moments as Dahl wrote in the book. The punishment each child receives on breaking rules and the enthusiasm and goodwill of Charlie till the end, proved it to be an ideal watch for children. The way Charlie never lets his dreams die and win the ticket of his dreams, portrayed the hopeful, optimistic side of children. The film beautifully captured the satirical elements of the source material and the fine actors made the film as enjoyable as Dahl's original.


The Witches

Released in 1990, The Witches can easily be regarded as one of the most terrifying children's watch o all times, Based in the world of baby-killing Witches and little kids smelling like dog-poop, the film presented magic as a twisted weapon. Considered a classic, both in the world of literature and film, The Witch presented everything evil yet a child's spirit to overcome it all. The film has since then inspired many horror writers to weave story around the creepy scenarios present by Dahl and screen vision presented by Jim Henson. The story of the film is Dahl's best work in terms of presenting innocence and everything 'magical' with a twist.


James and The Giant Peach

Another imaginative piece of Dahl, produced by Disney, James and The Giant Peach combined his imagination to Tim Burton's vision and the result was fantastic. A chronicle of a James and Peach adventure, the film was an enjoyable ride for children and adult alike. The film perfectly captured death, fear and abandonment along with hope, friendship and the spirit of rebellion.



Mara Wilson, best known for her role as Robin Williams’ youngest child in Mrs Doubtfire, had the biggest role of her career, playing the titular role in Matilda. As the genius girl with special powers, Wilson handily carried both the fantastical elements of Dahl's story, as well as the darker, more grounded elements. Danny DeVito justified every element of Dahl's story; from greed to central character's longing to fit into the world. This story of a 'misfit' into the set structure of a society, connected with every child who's imagination was the power disregarded by the elders.


Fantastic Mr Fox

In 2009, Wes Anderson combines Dahl's offbeat fantasy with his own imagination in Fantastic Mr Fox. The film originally written in 1970's, took a modern touch and the fight between the animals and humans took a grander narrative. With voices of Geroge Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray, the film was a funny feast with an appeal for all. With animation and creative liberties, Anderson justified the underlying theme of disparity and rebellion perfectly in his film, making it one of the best adaptation of Dahl's work.


Dahl always believed that fairy tales should always have something scary for children- as long as you make them laugh as well and the films adapted from his work do the same.

Happy birthday to the man who wove magic with his writings.

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