Roald Dahl classics are coming to Netflix – which deserve to be adapted first?

In 2018, Netflix confirmed that it has secured the rights to a slew of classic children’s books by Roald Dahl. With production reportedly already underway, it is further proof that Dahl’s stories continue to captivate audiences. His work has, of course, received the big screen treatment more than once – most recently, we have seen Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016). Netflix’s announcement has been followed by plenty more recent speculation, including rumours that Ralph Fiennes and Emma Stone are being wooed for the part of Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey in a new version of Matilda. Additionally, it seems Netflix plans to adapt or re-adapt Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Twits, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Boy – Tales of Childhood, Going Solo, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Henry Sugar, Billy and the Minpins, The Magic Finger, Esio Trot, Dirty Beasts, and Rhyme Stew. Below, we round up a list of Roald Dhal stories that we believe most deserve the silver screen treatment.

Roald Dahl at book signing in Amsterdam – via National Archives, Netherlands

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972)

While the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted for film and television three times, its slightly batshit sequel has never received the same treatment. Picking up where the original book left off, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator sees Charlie, his family and Willy Wonka accidentally end up in orbit around Earth and visiting the Space Hotel USA. They cross paths with aliens, give the President of the United States the fright of his life, and later find a way to de-age Charlie’s elderly grandparents. It is a strange and curious sequel that doesn’t have the same zip of the original, but it is about time that The Great Glass Elevator was taken to the next level. 

Danny, the Champion of the World (1975)

Dahl’s 1975 book about a young boy and his father who set out to ruin the pompous Mr. Hazell’s annual pheasant shoot is included in TIME’s list of the best 100 young adult books (one of three Dahl books mentioned). It only has one adaptation to its name so far – a 1989 TV movie starring Jeremy Irons and Robbie Coltrane. Yet there is so much about the story that singles it out as prepped for a modern reinvention, class consciousness being just one of the fertile subtexts. Sadly, this is one of the few works not included in Netflix’s scoop, so it is unclear whether the novel will be adapted again in the near future. 

The Twits (1980)

Dahl’s playful, funny and bizzare short novel – inspired by little more than his own hatred of beards – is a beloved oddity of a book. Looking at it today it is a clear case of the outdated trope of ugliness being associated with evil (Dahl was neither the first nor the last to be guilty of this), but its popularity upon release has assured its status as a classic. A film version has almost happened before; after several years in development hell, it was announced in 2012 that an adaptation directed by Conrad Vernon was due for release. Since then however, nothing has happened. It makes this one of the most intriguing prospects for Netflix, taking on the mantle of bringing one of Dahl’s most original stories to life in a way that at least tries to move on from arguably dated characterisation. 

George’s Marvellous Medicine (1981)

Another one of Dahl’s balmier short stories, George is just a young boy who decides to get revenge on his wicked grandmother by changing up her medicine using ingredients he finds around his house. Unsurprisingly, parental sensibilities intervened when the book was released, and it came with safety warnings inside the cover telling children not to repeat George’s behaviour. Being a shorter, more linear story, there is plenty of room for potential side plots and new characters. A look at what makes the grandmother so wicked could prove especially fruitful, and add a new twist on a plot that was at the time criticised by some for being underdeveloped. Streaming giants have already proved their bravery when it comes to adding meat to a story (Amazon’s tackling of Good Omens is just one example). Perhaps Netflix can add its own ingenious ingredient to the marvellous medicine. 

Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984)

This is one of the most fascinating books to come under Netflix’s adaptive gaze. Tales of Childhood is not a novel, but an autobiography, with Dahl recounting his years as a student and young man up until the eve of World War Two. It is a deeply personal story, yet it still showcases glimmers of the imagination and fun that proliferates Dahl’s work. It is a story he continues in his follow up, Going Solo (1986). Dahl touches on everything from personal tragedies to his love of sweets, and discloses to the reader details about the ‘great mouse plot of 1924’ – Mission Impossible, eat your heart out. There is a lot of beautiful potential with this story, and with this adaptation being overseen by the Roald Dahl Story Company (as are all the others), it is a new opportunity for insight into the man behind the magic.

James Hanton

James is a contributor to Outtake, Starburst Magazine and The Wee Review. He is also the former Editor-in-Chief of The Student, the oldest student newspaper in the UK. A recent graduate from the University of Edinburgh, James is looking for paid writing gigs so he doesn't fall into the endless abyss of graduate unemployment. He can be contacted at: jhantonwriter@gmail.com