Stockwell takes on L’Engle, DiCamillo, Miyazaki. [-updated-]

Bedrock Pictures is not necessarily making all three of the films in question.
But the screenwriter, Jeff Stockwell, is attached to all three projects.]

Bedrock Pictures plans to make a movie of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, from a script by Jeff Stockwell.

And my, my… Stockwell’s a busy guy.

He’s also working on adaptations of Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service.

This news has tied my guts into knots. I feel competing urges to pray and to go to a pub for something strong.

If Bedrock didn’t have such direct ties to Walden, the company that has made a mess of Narnia and other great children’s books, I wouldn’t be so worried about the outcome of A Wrinkle in Time.

But I love all three of these stories. Whatever studio makes them, I hope they know what they’re doing. If these storiesĀ must be made into movies (or in the case of Kiki, into another movie), I’d like them to be in the hands of patient, thoughtful artists, not hasty crowdpleasers who fail to understand why these stories shine.

All of this just makes me increasingly grateful for the folks at Pixar, and for folks like Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) and Henry Selick (Coraline). And Miyazaki, of course. Artists who make movies that will last. Movies that are truly mysterious. Movies that make me want to go back to discover more rewards in them over and over again.

The Narnia films should have been movies like those. And the stories that Stockwell is adapting for the big screen deserve to be glorious movies as well.

I’ll try to be hopeful. But it isn’t going to be easy.

9 Responses to “Stockwell takes on L’Engle, DiCamillo, Miyazaki. [-updated-]”

  1. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    For what it’s worth, Kiki’s Delivery Service was originally a children’s book written by Eiko Kadono and published in 1985; according to Wikipedia, she went on to write four sequels as well. So Miyazaki’s 1989 film was an adaptation, and according to the Hollywood Reporter story that announced the Bedrock line-up, Bedrock’s film will be an adaptation of the novel as well (just as their version of A Wrinkle in Time will be based on the novel, and not on the TV-movie that was made a few years ago).

  2. closerlooker Says:

    Kiki’s Delivery Service was published in Japan in 1985, true. But it didn’t get an English translation until 2003, long after Miyazaki’s 1989 movie had helped the story’s popularity spread worldwide.

    And even though it did get an English translation in 2003, you can’t get it new in the U.S. directly from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You have to get it through a dealer (which Amazon does make possible, for almost 20 bucks). The vast archives of the Seattle Public Library don’t even include a single copy of the novel… just comic books based on Miyazaki’s film. If Stockwell’s decided to adapt the novel, well, I’m impressed with how far his reading has taken him.

    What is more: This news about the new adaptation is really quite old. Even though The Hollywood Reporter is just now reporting that Jeff Stockwell is adapting it for Bedrock, Variety announced that Stockwell would adapt the “series of books” for Disney back in February 2005! I wonder, did they mean the original novel? Or the Miyazaki series of comic books?

    All of this leads me to strongly suspect that Stockwell’s project was sparked more by Miyazaki’s fantastic animated adaptation than by the book itself.

    Not that this really matters much. What concerns me is that Miyazaki has made a wonderful movie. I’d be interested to find out if there’s a big difference between Miyazaki’s movie and the original series of books. If there is, it’ll be very interesting to see if Stockwell’s movie is more faithful to Miyazaki, or to the original book.

  3. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    Wow, good catch on that Variety story.

    For what it’s worth, the story does say that Stockwell’s script will be based on “Eiko Kadano’s books”, not the comics, and it does mention that the first book was translated into English the year before Stockwell was hired to write the new adaptation — so I’d say it stands to reason that Stockwell’s project was sparked by the book itself. The timing fits. (Although I would be interested to know why the English translation was produced as late as it was. If I had to speculate, I might suppose that it had something to do with the increasing popularity of all things Miyazaki, including his source materials, following the release of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away in 2002.)

    Also for what it’s worth, I have neither read the book nor seen Miyazaki’s film, so I can’t say how different the two versions of Kiki’s are, but I seem to recall that fans of Ursula K. Leguin’s Earthsea series were a bit upset about the many changes made to her story when Miyazaki’s studio produced its adaptation (though Miyazaki himself did not direct that one). So there may be a bit of a track record, there.

  4. Josh Says:

    For L’Engle–it must be said the gentleman in question did a fairly admirable job working with author Paterson to bring us Terabithia. That was a movie that transcended the Walden brand, imho…I, for one, would take just about any improvement over the previous Disney crapola inception!

  5. closerlooker Says:

    Yeah, I agree, Josh, and I think that had everything to do with the fact that on *that* film Walden worked with a screenwriter who was passionately devoted to honoring the source material. Katherine Paterson’s son worked with her to write a screenplay that captured what was beautiful about that story. That’s the kind of storytelling care these films will need.

    It’s possible to make engaging, meaningful films from these stories. That’s why I’m hopeful. But it isn’t often achieved, and that’s why my hopes are not very high.

  6. Neil Says:

    I guess it would be okay if they touched the Eiko Kadano book instead of Miyazaki’s delightful children’s classic, but if they try to remake “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, I would be filled with disappointment. As a Taiwanese-American, I grew up with Miyazaki films and just like how someone would not want their favorite Disney movies turned into live-action films, I don’t really want a Miyazaki film turned into live action.

    Hayao Miyazaki has always made films worthy of the children’s audience that they have received, for he not only respects children’s intelligence, but most importantly their imagination. Recently I have seen “Princess Mononoke” again, and I was so deeply touched by what Miyazaki had to say to his audience – an audience that grew up with “My Neighbor Totoro” and had since grown older and more able to take in complex ideas – that I am thankful that God has helped me find these movies to guide me in my quest(and everybody else’s quest) to make sense of this temporary dwelling known as Earth.

    Like children, we will always have something to learn, no matter how old we get.

  7. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    Well, if Ghibli can adapt American and British novels (like the Earthsea series or Howl’s Moving Castle), there’s no reason Americans and Brits can’t adapt Asian novels.

    Re: the L’Engle adaptation, it does seem that Cary Granat has a knack for getting the heirs to famous authors involved in his adaptations of the stories written by those authors. But sometimes this approach works, and sometimes it doesn’t. When we’re lucky, we get Bridge to Terabithia. When we’re not, we get the Narnia movies.

    In that vein, I would note that, of the three adaptations just mentioned — Terabithia, Narnia and Wrinkle — the Terabithia adaptation is the only one that was produced while the original author was still alive. L’Engle is no longer here to guide her granddaughter, so it’s anyone’s guess how faithful to the book the movie will really be.

  8. Peter T Chattaway Says:

    FWIW, a commenter at Steve Greydanus’s blog just noted that if you look more closely at that Hollywood Reporter story, it never claims that Bedrock is working on Kiki or Edward Tulane. Instead, all it says is that Jeff Stockwell is writing the scripts for those films, just as he is writing the script for Bedrock’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. So the new Kiki adaptation is probably still at Disney; and it seems that Edward Tulane is being adapted for the fine folk at New Line, the studio that gave us The Lord of the Rings and The Golden Compass. (And just as Variety reported the Kiki story in 2005, it seems that Stockwell got the Edward Tulane gig back in 2006.)

  9. closerlooker Says:

    Noted. Corrected. Thanks.

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