Netflix makes a play for young audiences with slate of Roald Dahl adaptations

The works of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl are coming to Netflix in a brand-new form.

The streaming service announced plans to adapt several stories penned by Dahl as a set of animated “event series,” with the first project expected to begin production in 2019. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda, and The Twits were among the first books identified for adaptation. An animated teaser featuring the books’ titles accompanied the announcement.

According to Variety, the shows will be produced with the blessing of Dahl’s family and estate.

Netflix indicated that it’s planning to develop something akin to a cinematic universe with the adaptations, with some of the stories potentially overlapping their narratives while remaining faithful to the “quintessential spirit and tone of Dahl.”

The announcement comes at a time when Disney has been pulling much of its content off Netflix in preparation for the launch of its own streaming service, Disney Plus. In addition to its own original programming, Disney Plus is expected to be the exclusive streaming source for future projects from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar, among other Disney brands.

With children and families believed to be a major portion of the streaming audience, Netflix appears to be building its own stable of properties to offer subscribers.

“Our mission, which is purposefully lofty, is for as many children as possible around the world to experience the unique magic and positive message of Roald Dahl’s stories,” said Roald Dahl’s widow, Felicity, in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This partnership with Netflix marks a significant move toward making that possible and is an incredibly exciting new chapter for the Roald Dahl Story Co. Roald would, I know, be thrilled.”

Many of Dahl’s works have been adapted in the past, with mixed results.

The most successful adaptation so far has been Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which earned $475 million worldwide against a budget of $150 million. The most recent adaptation, 2016’s The BFG, was a box-office disappointment that earned just $183.3 million, barely covering its $140 million budget. Prior adaptations, including the animated feature James and the Giant Peach, the live-action Matilda, and 1990’s The Witches all underperformed in theaters despite positive reviews.

“Immersing ourselves in the extraordinary worlds of Roald Dahl stories has been an honor and a massive amount of fun, and we are grateful for the trust the Roald Dahl Story Company and the Dahl family have placed in our team to deliver more moments of shared joy to families around the world,” said Melissa Cobb, vice president of Kids & Family Content at Netflix, in a press release. “We have great creative ambition to reimagine the journeys of so many treasured Dahl characters in fresh, contemporary ways with the highest-quality animation and production values.”

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