This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Children’s Classics Adaptations

17 12 2008

Dr. Seuss. Roald Dahl. C.S. Lewis. Chris Van Allsburg. L. Frank Baum. These writers are all responsible for some of the greatest children stories of all time. Their work has been turned into dozens of films — some good and some no so good. This Weekend’s Film Festival takes a look at five of the good ones. Inspired by the release of Blue Sky’s HORTON HEARS A WHO! on DVD, the lineup is a mix of modern renditions and bona fide classics. Get your golden ticket to hear all about witches and wizards and Santa Claus.

With a shoddy track record in adapting Dr. Seuss to the screen preceding it, this adaptation was a welcome surprise. This Bob Clampett-style animated feature fleshes out Seuss’s picture book combining the original work’s rhyme with sly pop culture references. Horton, voiced like a perpetually optimistic tween by Jim Carrey, sets himself on a mission to guard a speck, which holds the entire world of the Whos, who are led by their overwhelmed mayor, voiced by Steve Carell. The short 88-minute feature manages to find gags that work with the overall story, helping flesh out the characters add to the dilemma, or simply make us laugh. Filled with bright colors and wacky environments, HORTON HEARS A WHO! captures perfectly the anarchical worlds that are synonymous with Dr. Seuss. To quote my original review, “With great messages about imagination and respect for your fellow man, this animated feature version of Dr. Seuss is the best yet.”

Speaking of anarchy, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was adapted for the screen by its author Roald Dahl. The candy-coated imagery is in stark contrast to Gene Wilder’s masterful turn as the mysterious, and possibly psychotic, candy man. With the promise of sweets, Willy Wonka lures five young children and their hapless guardians into his strange factory where they are one-by-one victims of seemingly gruesome fates. This is all done with a smile and wink you see. As I said in my original review, “[Some]thing WILLY WONKA has in common with other great children’s films is a darkness that bubbles right under the surface.” This mischievous tone coats the film with subversive humor, a tasty treat for the adults in the crowd. Like many classic children’s films, WILLY WONKA is a musical, where the songs flow seamlessly with the action and character development. Willy Wonka has an ulterior motive for bringing these children to his factory, and in the process he teaches each one about good behavior. Charlie Bucket might not be perfect, a rare trait for a kids film hero, but he is honest. And as they say honesty is the best policy.

C.S. Lewis set out to tell Christian parables in his THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. While Andrew Adamson’s film version retains the many religious allegories present in the book, the motion picture is not a religious tract. What it is is a stirring family adventure dealing with issues of family, courage and sacrifice, all ideals that any believer, or non-believer, can stand by. The Pevensie children head to their uncle’s house during WWII and find a magical wardrobe, which leads to the fantasy land of Narnia. There the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) has put an icy curse across the land and the children discover they are destined to join forces with Aslan the lion to free Narnia once more. Never watering down the action, this exciting adventure puts the four children in a world of talking beavers, minotaurs, and magic, brought to life through Oscar-nominated, cutting-edge visual effects. As I said in my original review, “Many naysayers are calling the film LORD OF THE RINGS-lite… [but] this film is just as good as the first two LORD OF THE RINGS films and is destined to become a children’s classic.”

THE POLAR EXPRESS brings a touch of the holidays into the Fest. Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, Robert Zemeckis’ groundbreaking motion-capture adaptation is an adventure with heart. As I said in my original review, “It contains some of the creepiness of WILLY WONKA and WIZARD OF OZ and the heart of the CHARLIE BROWN specials.” A young boy has accumulated all the facts to prove that Santa does not exist. That night the Polar Express arrives and takes him away to the North Pole to witness firsthand the magic of Christmas. Like OZ, it could all be but a dream, but the theme is clear — the hope of magic is worth holding onto. Mixing songs and adventure, the story flies by like a bullet train, moving stealthly from one moment to the next. Tom Hanks lends his talent as the performance several lead characters, voicing the mysterious Polar Express conductor. During this magical night, the young boy and his new friends will learn something special about themselves and what the holidays really mean. THE POLAR EXPRESS is never sappy, and often heartwarming.

No film could be better in closing This Weekend’s Film Festival this week than THE WIZARD OF OZ. The legacy of Victor Fleming’s quintessential children’s film, based on L. Frank Baum’s classic book series, touches every family fantasy film since. The deceptively rich film mixes black & white sepia-toned photography with brilliant Technicolor vistas, songs and poignant character development, and magic. The story of Dorothy’s journey through Oz is also a staple of children’s entertainment — the coming of age tale. Along with her beloved friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, she must face her fears — in the form of the Wicked Witch of the West — and learn what really counts in life is family and friends. Scene after scene is iconic, having penetrated pop culture completely. Dedicated to the young at heart, this family musical transcends genre and works for all ages. As I said in my original review, “The young will simply be whisked away in the fantasy, but for the truly young at heart, they’ll see a film rich in its understanding of the process everyone goes through in growing up, and understand more fully what Dorothy means when she says — there’s no place like home. Home isn’t always in Kansas with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and some of us have to go to Oz to find it, but when we do there’s nothing quite like it.”

To book your spot on this ride head to your local videostore, update the rental queue, check out for TV listings, or buy the films on DVD at the below links.

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Buy “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” Here!

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Buy “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” Here!

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Buy “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” Here!

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Buy “The Polar Express” Here!

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Buy “The Wizard of Oz” Here!



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One response to “This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Children’s Classics Adaptations”

11 05 2009
vignesh (00:45:42) : edit


I would like to share a information about Children’s Film festival which is organize by Alliance Francaise of Madras in their Auditorium. Hope this holiday’s will be very useful to all the kids, and they will enjoy these shows. For your more information i am giving you few of events;

Rock a Doodle - Time: Mon 18th
Directed by Don Bluth - English/1992

Wed 20th
The Young Magician
Directed by Waldemar Dziki - 1 hr. 39 min/English /1987

To view more about the Childre’s Film Festival events visit

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