Top 10 children’s books that should never have been filmed
#10 – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
In keeping with the dodgy spiritual subtext and near-constant child suicide of The Brothers Lionheart, we’re kicking off with the similarly leonine The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The fact that Susan doesn’t get to go to heaven because she’s too fond of lipstick and cock had better wait for another blog, so for now we’d just like you to think about Lucy, poor little Lucy – what is she, eight? – weeping into the shorn scalp of her massive furry Jesus analogue as he lies dead on account of her bastard brother. It doesn’t matter how many mice come to chew his ropes, she’d still be on course to kill herself before she left university if she wasn’t already DEAD IN A TRAIN CRASH.
#9 – Mary Poppins
You know how when Mary Poppins leaves at the end of the film it’s all alright really, because Mr. Banks has realised the important things in life and they all go off and fly a kite together? Nope. Never happened. Mr. Banks has three more children after Jane and Michael and never shows any interest in any of them. Nor does Mrs. Banks, who isn’t a suffragette – she just doesn’t much like her kids. And Mary Poppins (vain, capricious and unpleasant to everyone) just fucks off. Without warning. Repeatedly. Because the wind changes. No goodbyes. Send the therapy bill to Mr. Banks, he can pay it with all the money he saved on family days out.
#8 – Skellig
David Almond’s award-winning book should never have been made into a film, chiefly because in America they called it Skellig: The Owl Man. The owl man. Do you remember any owl men in Skellig? No, you don’t, because there aren’t any. Owl man. He is literally not an owl. He literally says what he is, and (spoiler) it is not an owl. However much we may like owls at BFF, even we will admit that Tim Roth is absolutely not one of them. Do you hear me, Tim? You are not an owl. Owl man. Owl man. Get out, America. You disgust me. Owl man. Pah.
#7 – Pollyanna
For the terminally pessimistic among us, Pollyanna might just be too much to bear. The first of the ‘Glad Books’ (oh, kill me), every adaptation seems to gloss over Pollyanna’s love of saving the “little heathen boys” in favour of her obsequious pandering to limping orphans and invalids inexplicably obsessed with gelatinous offal products. Happily, the moral of the story is that if you’re always over-chirpy, you’ll probably be hit by a car, even in an age with not many cars. Given Pollyanna’s optimistic, spine-crunching example, BFF feels justified in being the bearer of perpetual snark.
#6 – Babar the Elephant
Everybody loves an orphaned elephant, particularly one married to his cousin and bringing the virtues of civilisation to the savage. Sure, he’s an autocratic dictator perpetuating deeply problematic stereotypes, but look at his little green suit! Neocolonialism has never been so dapper.
#5 – Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
There’s a reason most children’s films aren’t about the National Institute of Mental Health, or a group of former lab-rats’ attempt to save themselves, their widowed mouse friend Mrs Frisby and her sick kids. Spoiler: lots of people/rats/whatever die. Terrifying in both book and film, although the latter has magic in it – presumably to insulate America’s children from the brutal reality of being a genetically-engineered rat desperately trying to survive a twisted parody of typical muroidean existence. O’Brien and Conly wrote two sequels, involving teenage runaways, fathers, terrorism, abandonment, being lost in the wilderness, and more genetic experimentation; however, the studio went with the straight-to-TV-release Timmy To The Rescue!. Wonder why.
#4 – Watership Down
Despite somehow appearing on our list of Top 10 Ships in Film, Watership Down is practically a chapter heading in the annals of utterly messed up kids’ films The book is worse. In Adams’ world, rabbits are nasty, nasty little bastards – rape, murder, and the full effects of the patriarchy in action are par for the course. Oh, and some truly horrific nightmares and visions. And a deeply, deeply odd internal mythology. And despair. You might as well give yourselves up to El-ahrairah now.
#3 – Black Beauty
“The head hung out of the cart-tail, the lifeless tongue was slowly dropping with blood; and the sunken eyes! but I can’t speak of them, the sight was too dreadful. It was a chestnut horse with a long, thin neck. I saw a white streak down the forehead. I believe it was Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over. Oh! if men were more merciful they would shoot us before we came to such misery.” Jesus.
#2 – The Witches
Roald Dahl dubbed the film of The Witches “utterly appalling”, largely because it dicked about with the ending. If you’ve got to substantially change the ending of a book to make it pass a PG rating, probably you shouldn’t be making that film. Although Dahl’s work is generally pretty grim (in this one alone: mutilation, “gums like raw meat”, the bit where the little girl lives out her whole life in a painting on her family’s living-room wall and eventually dies), the ending of The Witches takes some beating. You may recall how the little boy is turned back into a human at the end. WRONG. He stays a mouse. There is no cure. But he doesn’t mind, because that means he will die soon along with his diabetic, cancer-ridden granny – and if they are going to die, they can commit mass witch-slaughter without fear of repercussions.
#1 – Sleeping Beauty
Once upon a time there was a princess who pricked her finger on a spinning-wheel and fell into a deep sleep for a hundred years. Along came a prince, who broke into the castle, saw her sleeping, and raped her. Then he went back to his wife in the next town. Fast forward nine months, and the still-unconscious princess gives birth to twins, who (newborn, and starving) crawl up her body “searching for nipples”. One twin finds the princess’ finger, and sucks the spinning wheel splinter out. The princess wakes up, and although presumably baffled and traumatised to find her body colonised by tiny bloody infants, gets on with it.
Several years later, the prince fancies another go. Finding the princess awake and well, he explains what happened and then, er, leaves again, back to his wife. Unfortunately he calls out the princess’ name in bed and so, obviously his wife decides to have her stepchildren (ish) made into a pie and fed to her husband. While the prince is eating his own babies, the wife is stripping the princess naked, in order to “burn her alive for a whore”. Luckily, the prince arrives just as she’s about to get into the fire, and saves her. And then they all lived happily ever after, apart from the prince’s first wife who was cast into the flames. Sleep tight, children!