The Great Kids’ Book/Movie Comparison

Lucky for movie studios, there are a couple other children’s book adaptations right on Meatballs’ heels. Will they do just as well, or did Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs beat them all to the punch by getting out of the gate first?

I don’t know if it’s the back-to-school season, Sunnyside’s recent Children’s Book Day, or something else entirely, but there’s a lot of attention being paid to children’s books lately. (I even wrote an article featuring many of their authors in our September issue — if you ever want a great interview, get a children’s book author on the line. They have the best stories.)

The most recent children’s book in the spotlight is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, in light of its current big-screen adaptation. The film topped the weekend box office for the second week in a row, and, according to the New York Times, the estimated 10-day box office total has ratcheted up to $60 million. Not bad for a 32-page book, eh?

Lucky for movie studios, there are a couple other children’s book adaptations right on Meatballs’ heels — almost exactly one a month for the next three months. Will they do just as well, or did Meatballs beat them all to the punch by getting out of the gate first? Let’s compare:

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Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs © 2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Book creators: Author Judi Barrett and illustrator Ron Barrett
Movie creators:
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller with voice cast members Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan, and Mr. T
Reviewer quote: “Fairly inventive and exceedingly manic… to say the title helped sell the kids story is an understatement, certainly the only understatement involved with the movie version. Still, there’s a semblance of a comic personality at work.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
FYI: While the book is mostly quiet and reflective with charming, muted-color illustrations, the film takes the general premise (raining food!) and makes it louder and wackier, with slick, futuristic-looking animation in an over-stimulating 3-D. Amping up the volume turned out to be a winning formula, making back 2/3 of its $90 million budget in the first two weekends.
Release Date:
September 18

Where the Wild Things AreWhere the Wild Things Are photograph by Matt Nettheim, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Where the Wild Things Are

Book creator: Author/Illustrator Maurice Sendak
Movie creators: Director Spike Jonze, writer Dave Eggers, and voice actors James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, and Forest Whitaker
Reviewer quote: There are no real reviews out yet since the movie isn’t due out for another few weeks, but New York’s Vulture had this to say about the script: “Eggers and Jonze have fleshed out the story not, unexpectedly, with wild plot developments, and not, thankfully, with densely packed pop-fiction references. Instead Where the Wild Things Are is filled with richly imagined psychological detail, and the screenplay for this live-action film simply becomes a longer and more moving version of what Maurice Sendak’s book has always been at heart: a book about a lonely boy leaving the emotional terrain of boyhood behind.” Who knows how much of that will actually make it to the screen, though.
FYI: Heck with the kids — everything about this movie, from the Gen-X hero writer/director combo to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O-penned score suggests this movie is actually aimed at the people who read the book when they were kids and grew up to become hipsters. That said, I’m first on line when it comes out in October — the whole thing looks awesome.
Release Date: October 16

The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Book creators: Author Roald Dahl
Movie creators: Writer/director Wes Anderson with voice cast George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Michael Gambon, Brian Cox, and Anjelica Huston
Reviewer quote: There’s not much out there now, but there will be when the film opens the AFI festival at the end of October. Still, Cinematical had this to say about the trailer: “This tale of a sly fox (voiced by George Clooney, natch) taking on some grumpy farmers reminded me a great deal of Chicken Run, if it were inspired less by The Great Escape and more by Ocean’s Eleven, and while it does look perfectly family-friendly, it really does seem to be a Wes Anderson film through and through — only Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman are all talking animals in stop-motion.” That does seem like a total blend of Dahl’s original capering adventure and Anderson’s wry style and wit.
FYI: Instead of going for the slick-futuristic look that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had in its favor, Anderson is gambling on retro. His animated film uses stop-motion and looks more like the films in the old-time Rankin/Bass mold. Also, his woodland creatures wear suits with pocket squares. I hope that it resonates with kids, because I find it to be awfully cute.
Release Date: November 13

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Any box-office predictions for these three? Let me know in the comments.

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