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Canberra Today 6°/11° | Monday, October 25, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Endearing appeal of Dahl and all his characters

“Fantastic Mr Fox”… endearing and aesthetically entrancing.

The appetite for Roald Dahl’s endearing stories is still out there, writes streaming columnist NICK OVERALL

IN its biggest deal to date, Netflix has acquired the entire works of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, meaning a bunch of new takes on everything from “Willy Wonka” to “Matilda” are well on their way.

Nick Overall.

The half-a-billion-dollar deal will undoubtedly have the Disney mice miffed. Their streaming service, Disney Plus, wants to be the one-stop-shop for all family entertainment.

But Netflix securing itself hours worth of whimsical entertainment may very well be its golden ticket to getting the subscriptions of families in the streaming wars.

The appetite for Roald Dahl, who died in 1990 at the age of 74, is certainly still out there, even after multiple attempted takedowns of the author by mainstream media outlets calling out some of his racist beliefs.

But even now, a Dahl story sells every 2.6 seconds, says his grandson who runs the Roald Dahl Story Company and who shook hands with Netflix.

The world’s largest streaming platform won’t leave a stone unturned here. 

They already have a new take on “Matilda” coming up, the story of a girl discovering telekinetic powers and who, of course, became famous in the 1996 Danny DeVito film, which is also on the streaming platform.

However, their upcoming “Matilda” production will be an adaptation of the broadway musical inspired by the book, which has also become a major international hit.

That’s just the start though, Netflix has got blueprints for 19 productions based on the author’s stories.

Of course, among the first promised and plugged is a new spin on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” from Taika Waititi, a NZ comedian whose career has skyrocketed since its breakout in 2014.

His film “What We Do in the Shadows”, a quirky comedy about a group of housemates who happen to be vampires, has become a cult classic and spawned a television series spin-off on Binge.

The series is certainly serviceable, especially for viewers looking for some outlandish laughs, but doesn’t quite capture the raw charm of the original flick made on a tight budget in Wellington that, sadly, can’t be found on any streaming platforms at the moment.

Since then Waititi’s blockbuster works such as “Thor: Ragnarok”, the third instalment in the Norse God’s Marvel film trilogy, and “Jojo Rabbit”, a comedy where the actor bravely cast himself as Adolf Hitler and somehow pulled it off, have a home on Disney Plus and been huge successes.

With a track record like that, Waititi’s Wonka has some potential, but the director will certainly have to pull something out of a top hat here to make it work.

Interestingly, the 1971 “Willy Wonka” film with Gene Wilder is nowhere to be found in the streaming world even with its 50th birthday this year, but the 2005 Johnny Depp take can be watched on both Binge and Amazon Prime.

British author Roald Dahl… stories today sell every 2.6 seconds.

For those looking for a cracking Dahl adaptation kids and adults can enjoy on Netflix right now though, it’d be hard to go past the endearing and aesthetically entrancing “Fantastic Mr Fox” from 2009.

Wes Anderson’s zany direction and the film’s unique animation style capture that imaginative wonder of the book to a degree unseen before.

If there was ever a plan to have another film or TV series crack at “Fantastic Mr Fox”, it’d be a tall mountain to climb indeed.

Ultimately, Netflix’s acquisition of Dahl’s works is another clever move capitalising on this entertainment era’s craving for nostalgia and will go a long way in one-upping its competitors in the streaming world.

All the while, Disney continues its relentless endeavour of turning animated classics such as “Dumbo” or “The Lion King” into live-action remakes.

Amazon has dropped billions on franchises such as “The Lord of the Rings”, which will have its own spin-off series out about a year from now.

How long or how far can this golden age of remaking and readapting go on though?

Is that the sound of the bottom of a barrel being scraped somewhere in the distance?

 

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Nick Overall

Nick Overall

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