As any publisher will tell you, getting hard, concrete information on film and TV tie-ins is mighty difficult -‘it’s scheduled for the Autumn’ (don’t try to pin them down to which Autumn), ‘they’ve just started/finished filming’, ‘it was coming last year, now it might come next’, ‘they’re still talking’ – forget it. It’s whispers, rumours and mentions until suddenly, like a greyhound coming out of its box, the film and TV companies unleash their product and all its attendant publicity, for the publisher, the wrong side of the last minute. For BfK we have the added bonus of getting it out of our publishing friends – it’s amazing what they can omit to tell us. Even so my sympathy is with them; it’s a dodgy business not least because the book and the screen work on entirely different timescales. So stand by with your salt (forget pinches, have a shovel handy) because here’s the best update we could manage for the coming Autumn and beyond.
Coming this Autumn from BBC1 and made by the doyen of children’s serializations Paul Stone, this big production will be using all the latest graphic and animation techniques we saw in A Box of Delights. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Collins, 0 00 183180 1, £6.95; Lions, 0 00 671663 6, £1.95 pbk) will come first though not all the books are being filmed. The last episode is proposed to be screened on Christmas Eve. If possible we’ll follow up with more information in September.
Simon and the Holiday Club
Margaret Stuart Barry, Collins, 0 00 184922 0, £4.95; Lions, 0 00 673262 3, £1.75 pbk (both to be published in October)
More engaging stories about the cantankerous, badly behaved witch and Simon are being screened by BBC I starting on 14 November, twice a week for six weeks in the 4.00 to 4.30 slot. Elizabeth Spriggs as the witch, and Hugh Pollard as Simon.
The Nature of the Beast
Janni Howker, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 194 X, £6.95; Lions, 0 00 672582 1, £1.95 pbk
This multi-award winning novel (Winner of the Young Observer Teenage Fiction Prize, the Whitbread Children’s Novel Prize and Highly Commended for the Carnegie Medal) will, when it comes, be seen on Channel 4. Starring Paul Simpson, Tony Melody and Freddie Fletcher with the screenplay by Janni Howker herself, this must be one to watch for. The fact that Lions already have this tie-in cover suggests that filming has been completed and it’s just a matter of fixing a transmission date.
John Burningham, Cape, 0 224 02279 2, £5.95; Picture Puffin, 0 14 050.841 4, paperback in the summer
A Christmas ’88 screening by the makers of The Snowman and When the Wind Blows of this award-winning Burningham picture book. Keep an eye open for this one.
Catherine Storr, Puffin, 0 14 03.0209 3, £1.95 pbk
A feature-film, retitled for the screen as Paperhouse, with an October release date. No other information to hand.
The Watch House
Robert Westall. Puffin Plus, O 14 03.1285 4. £2.25 pbk
The BBC have this scheduled for six half-hour slots starting December ’88.
Roald Dahl, Cape, 0 224 02165 6, £7.95; Puffin, 0 14 03.1730 9, £2.50 pbk
Winner of the Whitbread Award in 1983, wish we knew more about this one. lt’s TV but don’t know which channel. It’s got Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling and Rowan Atkinson on the cast list plus the might of the Jim Henson organisation (The Muppets etc) behind it. The book has nearly sold 700,000 copies and is one of a clutch of Dahl titles coming up for screening over the next year. There is also a special tie-in edition but we haven’t seen it yet.
Roald Dahl, Cape, 0 224 02040 4, £7.95; Puffin, 0 14 03.1597 7, £2.50 pbk
A feature film originally for this Christmas but now postponed until 1989.
Danny the Champion of the World
Roald Dahl, Cape, 0 224 01201 0, £6.95; Puffin, 0 14 03.0912 8, £1.95 pbk
As far as we can gather it’s still at the ‘they’re still talking stage’. Not next year, more like next decade!
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken, Puffin, 0 14 03.0310 3, £1.95 pbk
A feature film lined up for Christmas with Mel Smith (huh?).
Astrid Lindgren, OUP, 0 19 271097 4, £3.25; Puffin, 0 14 03.0894 6, £1.95 pbk
Another long-term project but the BBC are interviewing Astrid this summer – it’s her 80th birthday – and sending our very own Chris Powling to Sweden as part of a special programme later this year.
According to Pan this has been sweeping the States in a BIG WAY and elicited wild applause when shown at Cannes at the end of May though I don’t recall Barry Norman mentioning it in the Filmnight he devoted to the Cannes shindig. The trouble is we really know very little about it or, at least, nothing that doesn’t have the slight aroma of hype. It’s a ’30 million dollar fantasy adventure epic’ with George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) as writer/producer. Will keep you posted.
The Snow Spider
Jenny Nimmo, Methuen, 0 416 54330 0, £5.95; Magnet, 0 416 06492 2, £1.75 pbk
A Smarties Prize winner to be networked on ITV from November or December, it stars Sian Phillips as Nain and Ossian Roberts as Gwyn.
The Whipping Boy
Sid Fleischman, Methuen, 0 416 12512 3, £5.95; 0 416 08812 0, Magnet paperback due early 1989
To be broadcast on Jackanory, date not known. I only mention this because Sid’s our September Authorgraph, and the book is an absolute winner running off with the hugely prestigious Newbery Medal in America earlier this year. We’ll track it and other Jackanory information for you as and when we get it.
Why the Whales Came
Michael Morpurgo, Magnet, 0 416 97090 7, £1.75 pbk
Filmed on location on the Scilly Isles for general release at Christmas. It stars Helen Mirren and Paul Scofield.
Peter Bonici and Lisa Kopper, Magnet
I’ve got a PR handout from the production company in front of me and it looks very nice but regrettably no books to hand to see what they’ve got in mind. I have a feeling that Magnet might be hoping for a rival to Spot and even Postman Pat – there’s ambition for you but with Lisa Kopper on board this might be interesting. There’s merchandising plans afoot (wall-paper, china, toys, jigsaws, stationery, lunch-packs), a strip cartoon in one of the nationals, and the BBC are talking about giving it 13 five-minute slots starting probably just before Christmas. Two Barney titles to come in October this year, followed by two more next year.
Now where’s that shovel?