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BY Steven D. Greydanus
If the name Bedrock Studios doesn’t sound familiar, you might think it’s because you haven’t watched “The Flintstones” lately … especially since the new production company was co-founded by Cary Granat—not the Hollyrock star, the former CEO of Walden Media—and Ed Stones, er, Jones of Industrial Light & Magic.
Like Walden, Bedrock Studios aims at family audiences. Their first project, an animated buddy film bravely named Turkeys, stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson; their sophomore project is an eye-popper: In the Beginning, a 3D live-action adaptation of the creation story of Genesis. Granat is a Christian, and I have to admit I’m curious where this will go.
Bedrock is also developing a few Waldenesque projects based on award-winning children’s books, including the Newbery Award winners A Wrinkle in Time and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (the latter of which was previously adapted, or misadapted, in the 1980s by animator Don Bluth).
Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer has his eye on a number of these projects … and he isn’t happy about what he sees. For one thing, he’s concerned about Mrs. Frisby’s good name:
The hero of Robert C. O’Brien’s classic children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH never gets any credit. When Don Bluth’s extravagant animated adaptation hit theaters, her name had been dropped from the title. Now it was just The Secret of NIMH.
But that’s not all. In the movie, her name had been changed to Mrs. Brisbie!
Why? According to Wikipedia, the name was changed “to avoid potential objections from the makers of the frisbee, Wham-O.” Huh. Really? It’s spelled differently in the book. And the book is already published and beloved!
Now, word arrives that Bedrock Studios is working on an adaptation of the same book. But they’ve chewed off Mrs. Frisby’s name! If the article is accurate, the movie will be called Rats of NIMH … Is it uncool to have “Mrs.” in the title? Not sexy enough?
But Jeffrey’s real concerns come out in a second post on Bedrock’s other projects:
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.
But I love [all] of these stories. If they 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. …
The Narnia films should have been movies like those. And the stories that Bedrock is preparing to film deserve to be glorious movies as well.
I’ll try to be hopeful. But it isn’t going to be easy.
That about nails it, I think.
Positive sign: Turkeys is slated to be directed by animator Ash Brannon, who co-directed the classic Toy Story 2 and directed the oddly winsome Surf’s Up. Less positive sign: The screenplay is by John J. Strauss, whose previous writing credits include a pair of Santa Clause sequels and The Lizzie McGuire Movie, as well as, um, a story credit on There’s Something About Mary.
It would be nice if Turkeys were only the name of that first flick.
CORRECTION: A misleading sentence in the original version of this post, implying that upcoming adaptations of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Kiki’s Delivery Service being written by A Wrinkle in Time screenwriter Jeff Stockwell were also Bedrock Studios productions, has been deleted. Also, the suggestion that Bedrock’s new adaptation of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH would be retitled Rats of NIMH seems to be unwarranted. I regret the errors.