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Another Live-Action Treasure Island Movie Is In The Works

Hollywood is going back to Treasure Island. 

Universal Pictures has hired How to Train Your Dragon director Dean DeBlois to produce and direct the latest live-action adaptation of the 1883 Robert Louis Stevenson novel, which has gotten the Tinseltown treatment a time or two over the years. Screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos (who penned Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast adaptation) will handle scripting duties, with input from DeBlois on the story. (via Variety)

Just in case you're not familiar with the age-old yarn, Treasure Island tells the story of a young boy named Jim Hawkins, who discovers a map to buried treasure among the possessions of an old pirate who passes away while staying at the inn owned by his family. He enlists the aid of a couple of upstanding local citizens, and the trio charter a schooner which — unbeknownst to them — is staffed almost entirely by the ex-crew of the notorious seafarer who stashed the treasure in the first place, Captain Flint.

Hawkins overhears the crew plotting to mutiny after the treasure is secured, and much intrigue and adventure ensues. We won't spoil the novel's resolution for you; it's only 136 years old, there are bound to be plenty of fans of pirate lore who haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Suffice to say that if you've ever seen a depiction of a pirate in popular culture, you've seen the influence of Stevenson's novel — and, in particular, the 1950 film adaptation, which gave us the archetypal images of eye patch-wearing, peg-legged, hook-handed scalliwags saying "Arrrrr, matey," while parrots sit on their shoulders.

Treasure Island will mark the first live-action feature for DeBlois, who broke into Hollywood as the co-head of story on the 1998 Disney classic Mulan. He would go on to write and direct Lilo and Stitch, and he worked extensively on the ABC/Disney Channel series focused on those characters; he also wrote and directed all three films in the How to Train Your Dragon series, which is considered by many learned observers to be among the finest animated trilogies of all time.

Spiliotopoulos labored away on the scripts for direct-to-video sequels to Disney classics for years before landing the assignment to pen 2014's Hercules, a live-action vehicle for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In addition to Beauty and the Beast, he also wrote 2016's The Huntsman: Winter's War and the upcoming Charlie's Angels reboot, and he's attached to the G.I. Joe spin-off Snake Eyes and the sequel to the 2018 Netflix original film Bright.

How many times has Treasure Island been adapted?

DeBlois and Spiliotopoulos will be tasked with putting a fresh spin on a yarn that can politely be described as "well-worn." Treasure Island was adapted twice for the big screen in the silent era, in 1918 and 1920; in 1934, the first talkie to be adapted from the novel was fielded by director Victor Fleming, who would go on to make a couple little films called The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

The 1950 version is to this day considered to be a stone-cold classic, but that didn't stop Hollywood from going back to the Treasure Island well early and often; the flick was even adapted twice in consecutive years, with a 1972 live-action version (which starred Orson Welles) followed in 1973 by an animated adaptation which featured Monkee Davy Jones as the voice of Hawkins.

The novel was adapted again as a TV movie in 1990, with Charlton Heston saddling up to star; this version notably starred a young Christian Bale in the role of Hawkins, and also featured the legendary British thespians Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee. Finally, the story returned to big screen in 1999, with Jack Palance starring. 

The property has also received several "loose" adaptations, including 1996's Muppet Treasure Island, a 2006 offering from notorious mockbuster house The Asylum titled Pirates of Treasure Island (which was intended to capitalize on the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series), and the 2002 Disney animated feature Treasure Planet, which was a massive flop despite actually being quite good.

Hopefully, DeBlois and Spiliotopoulos will field an awesome adaptation for the modern age; DeBlois in particular seems incapable of making a bad film, so our hopes are high.

Treasure Island isn't the only big project Dean DeBlois is directing

DeBlois has had an exceptionally good couple of weeks, as the new Treasure Island adaptation is the second high-profile project that he's signed onto recently. Late last month, it was announced that he had signed on to write and direct an adaptation of Micronauts, a property that should ring some serious nostalgia bells for those of you who grew up in the '70s and '80s. (via Variety)

Micronauts is based on a line of toys and action figures produced by Japanese toy company Mego, which were notable for their detailed mythology and interchangeable parts. The tiny warriors hail from an alternate dimension known as the Microverse, which is under constant threat of destruction from the nefarious Baron Karza. While the toy line was discontinued in 1980, the Micronauts remained a popular property, largely due to an eponymous Marvel comics series which was introduced in 1979 and ran until 1986.

Various toy companies and comic imprints have attempted to revive the property in recent years with varying degrees of success, and the feature film has been in development in Paramount for over a decade — but with the addition of DeBlois as writer and director, the film finally appears to be picking up some steam. As an interesting aside, the "Quantum Realm" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introduced in Ant-Man and featured as a major plot point in Avengers: Endgame, is a rough analog for the Microverse of Marvel comics — but just to be perfectly clear, despite the property's Marvelous history, Micronauts will in no way be connected to the MCU.

Neither Treasure Island nor Micronauts have been assigned release dates as of yet. Of course, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for all the news worth reporting, and we'll be sure to keep you informed.