Based on the (Picture) Book

Picture books are short - very rarely more than thirty pages. Their story-lines are simple, easy enough for a child to follow. Their characters are bold, colourful and sometimes crazy. A picture book wouldn't be your first choice for a big screen outing - or would it? On researching this post I discovered a surprising number of illustrated children's books that have merited an adaptation, whether as a short televisual film or a full blown Hollywood movie. Many even plump for live-action over cartoon. If I'm honest, the results are often pretty terrible, but when they get it right it's something special.

Below are some of the best known and loved - in some kind of order anyway. Bring back any memories?

10. The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011) 

Based on The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure by Herge

It's scary how good animation has gotten nowadays - although those motion capture faces are still creepy. I read a few Tin Tin books as a child and enjoyed them for the action, the adventure and the dog. Although this film wasn't all that great (read: boring) it was an impressive attempt and gained critical praise as well as a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film.

9. Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Based on Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where The Wild Things Are is a classic, but the story of a young boy and his dreamworld of benevolent monsters seems a strange choice for a feature film. The film divides opinion and it certainly looks beautiful. I'm going to guess though, that since I got bored watching the trailer I don't think I could sit through almost two hours of this.

8. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Based on A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce

I once saw this film reviewed as unoriginal. I don't know what that reviewer was watching because this is possibly the most random film I've ever seen - and I love it! The story of an orphaned boy who travels to the future and meets an extraordinary family, this is an extremely underrated film, with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. The story is expanded from the picture book, but the characters are pleasantly similar in appearance to the original drawings. Worth a watch.

7. The Grinch ( 2000)

Based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Doctor Seuss


I hate The Grinch (yeah and I don't like Elf either, go ahead and judge me). Personally I find it too creepy, but Doctor Seuss is a genius and the film makers did a good job in adapting the story - much better than with Cat in the Hat anyway. Whether you like it or not, The Grinch is a Christmas classic, which is why I have included it here. See below other (and some arguably better) Doctor Seuss stories that have also made it to the big screen:

The Lorax (2012)


The Cat in the Hat (2003)

Fun fact: After the monstrosity that was this film, the Doctor Seuss estate vowed that they would never allow another live action film to be made.

Horton Hears a Who (2008)

6. The Gruffalo (2009)
Based on The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo was adapted into a short film first shown on the BBC in 2009. The style of the short is simple and classic -  the story is narrated whilst the action plays out in animated form. Short, sweet and faithful to the book. And the voice cast is very impressive. In recent years other Julia Donaldson stories have been adapted in a similar style, and 2012's offering, Room on the Broom, was even nominated for an Oscar.

The Gruffalo's child (2011)


Room on the Broom (2012)

5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Based on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

This film takes the basic premise of Judi Barrett's original tale - a town where it rains food - and spins out the story into something new, and just a bit nuts. It was always an odd idea and although the film looks completely bizarre it did well at the box office and has even spawned a sequel. Strange but fun.

4. Madeline (1998)

Based on the Madeline series by Ludwig Belmans



Published in 1939, Ludwig Belman's Madeline and its sequels (five written by the original author and six more recent stories by Belman's grandson)  have led the way for both a children's television series and a film adaptation. The series was one of my favourites as a kid and the film is good too, despite how English the 'French' children sound. Some of the books' original rhymes have made it into both adaptations, as have the recognisable images of Miss Clavel and the 'twelve little girls in two straight lines.'

3. Shrek (2001)

Based on Shrek by William Steig

Did you know that Shrek was based on a picture book? Steig's book is about an ugly, smelly ogre who - with the help of a talking donkey - is on a quest to find a princess even uglier than he is, to be his true love. The film basically takes the character of Shrek and creates a whole new story around him, but despite the differences the book looks like a lot of fun.

2. Jumanji (1995)

Based on Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

In the picture book there is no Alan or Sarah, only Judy and Peter playing the game whilst their parents are out. Still, there's plenty of drama in that alone. Jumanji is one of my favourite films and so well plotted that I would never have guessed it to be expanded from such a short narrative. It's imaginative, funny and just a little bit frightening. And it's not the only blockbuster to come out of a Van Allsburg story...

  Zathura (2005)


The Polar Express (2004)

1. The Snowman (1982)

Based on Raymond Briggs' classic story, The Snowman has earned the status of Christmas classic, despite being essentially, a silent movie. The beauty of the original illustrations is retained and 'We're Walking in the Air', the song that plays over the Snowman's flight, brought this short film to the attention of the world.  


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