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Netflix To Produce Animated Series Based On Works Of Roald Dahl

Netflix is bringing the astounding imagination of Roald Dahl to the small screen.

The streaming giant announced that it is creating an animated series based on popular works from the beloved childrens' author, with the blessing of his estate. Variety was first to report the news.

The series will be produced in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the trademarks and copyrights of the late author. In keeping with the current trend of seemingly everything being part of a larger television and/or cinematic universe, the series will feature stories with interconnecting elements, all taking place within the same fantastical setting (the... Dahlverse?) According to Netflix VP of kids and family content Melissa Cobb, the featured stories will "potentially overlap... there will be threads that connect all of them," adding, "we want to do the animation in the style of Dahl." 

Dahl is well-known as the author of a plethora of iconic works, many of which have received screen adaptations in one form or another. Perhaps most-loved among these is 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (adapted from his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), featuring Gene Wilder in the title role of the enigmatic candyman. Other well-received films based on Dahl's books include the Nicholas Roeg-directed 1990 fantasy The Witches, 1996's Matilda, and director Henry Selick's 1996 animated adaptation of James and the Giant Peach.

The list of titles which falls under the agreement with Netflix is extensive. Included are Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryMatildaThe BFGThe Twits, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator — along with lesser-known titles George's Marvellous MedicineGoing SoloThe Enormous CrocodileThe Magic FingerEsio Trot, The Giraffe and the Pelly and MeHenry SugarBilly and the MinpinsDirty Beasts, and Rhyme Stew. Notably not included in the arrangement are James and the Giant Peach and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, the latter of which received a critically acclaimed big-screen adaptation in 2009.

The announcement underlines just how serious Netflix is about beefing up its slate of original content — and, in this case, family-oriented content — in anticipation of the launch of new streaming service Disney+ sometime next year. Disney's platform has been referred to early and often as a potential "Netflix killer," a possibility which Netflix is not taking lying down. The acquisition of a huge chunk of Dahl's library could turn out to be a significant coup; with ticket prices adjusted for inflation, films based on his works have grossed over a half-billion dollars in the U.S. alone.

The author was always rather fussy over adaptations of his properties. He famously hated Wilder's iconic turn as Willy Wonka (having always imagined the character to be more of a "British eccentric"), and responded to The Witches with blistering hostility, saying that Roeg had "missed the entire point of the book." But his estate, and in particular his widow Felicity, seems satisfied with Netflix's approach to the material. In a statement, Felicity Dahl said, "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...This partnership with Netflix marks a significant move toward making that possible and is an incredibly exciting new chapter for the Roald Dahl Story Company. Roald would, I know, be thrilled."

If this is true, then Netflix must indeed have a firm grasp on the author's singular voice and boundless imagination. We'll see just how squarely they hit the mark before too long; the series is slated to begin production sometime next year.