Despite my utter exhaustion and annoyance at the sheer number of sequels, prequels, reboots, cinematic universes and adaptations in cinema and television these days, there are still a few book to animated film/series adaptations that I would like to see. I was a bit of a bookworm as a child, and there have been a few series that I’m surprised haven’t gotten the silver screen treatment yet, or whose adaptations could be better.
- The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
Yes, Suzanne Collins wrote something besides the The Hunger Games trilogy. Despite The Underland Chronicles being less popular, I think it’s the stronger of the two stories. It’s vastly underrated.
The books follow 11-year old Gregor, who along with his baby sister Boots, falls through an old grate during summer vacation falls into the Underland. There they enter the city of Regalia; full of people with translucent skin who have been living underground for centuries, and the giant sentient animals living within and around the city.
In the first book, the city determines that Gregor is the warrior talked about in a mysterious prophecy written by their founder Bartholomew of Sandwich, and he must go on a quest to rescue his father, held captive by the gnawers (rats), who had disappeared years earlier.
There are five books in the series, and each one features a different prophecy that Gregor must figure out complete. There are plenty of interesting characters; Princess Luxa of Regalia; Ares the flyer (a bat); Ripred the rat; and the Bane, the main villain of the series who is introduced in the second book. The books can be pretty dark for a series aimed at 10 year olds; lots of people die. I’d probably argue that more named characters die in this series than in The Hunger Games, which is pretty impressive. There are also a few pretty good twists, none of which I’ll spoil.
The story is interesting and ripe with interesting themes of war, genocide, child soldiers, PTSD, acceptance, equality and coming of age. It would be really cool to see the Underground and its brought to life through animation, so we can get a better feel for the world Collins created for the series.
It would work well as a Netflix series; with each book as its own season rather than trying to squeeze each book into a 90-minute movie. Also, if you haven’t read these books, please do.
2) Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Time and Space series by DJ MacHale
This was another series that never really rose to the same height popularity as Harry Potter. But I think there were some decent reasons for it. The final book was one of the biggest literary disappoints I‘ve ever had the displeasure of reading. But, that’s what adaptations are made for; fixing these issues. Fanfiction isn’t going to cover it this time.
Pendragon follows young Bobby Pendragon, from the fictional town of Stony Brook, Connecticut who is whisked away but his Uncle Press to Denduron, a medieval world about to fall into chaos. Press tells Bobby he is a “Traveler,” a person who must keep the universe, known as Halla, in check from the evil Saint Dane. Using “flumes,” Travelers are able to travel between Halla’s ten territories
Each of the ten books focuses on a different territory and its “turning point,” in which Saint Dane tries to steer the territory towards chaos and destruction. Each territory has a different culture and setting (mostly), and each, of course, comes with its own Traveler.
The books cover a lot of different themes and ideas but nothing that hasn’t been covered in a YA series before. It does cover more than Bobby’s story, though. His friends Mark and Courtney, who receive his journals, also play some pretty major roles in the story.
Because there’s so much to see and tell, I think an animated series would be a really interesting way of exploring the tale. There’s plenty of material, too much for each book for each to be a movie, so it’d have to be a series. I think it would be particularly interesting if each territory and its characters were animated in a different style.
3) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I know this already has two adaptations, but hear me out: STOP-MOTION. I think that stop-motion would fit this story perfectly! The tragic tale of the Baudelaire orphans, trying to survive after the unfortunate death of their parents in a fire was a defining part of my childhood; the books have a very unique tone and aesthetic that neither the movie or series has exactly managed to recreate.
But, stop-motion with its slightly creepy and off-putting track record, would be the perfect medium for the story and though Laika does films, it would be cool to see them tackle these books in a series form. They know how to tell unique and creepy story, and do it well. They do well with adapting more ludicrous and outlandish stories and that is exactly what A Series of Unfortunate Events is.
This isn’t something I need, or even really desperately want, I just think it would be really cool to see.
4) The Magic Tree House series by Marie Pope Osborne
This series doesn’t get enough credit. Seriously, these books were huge when I was in elementary school. Everyone read them. The hype did end up dying down, though I don’t remember when, but the series is still going strong. The latest book in the series was published in 2016, and there’s nothing indicating it’s the final one. That makes for a pretty impressive 56 books, not counting the non-fiction companion guides.
For those of you who haven’t read or heard of the series, the books follows Jack and Annie, two siblings living in the fictional town of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. One day, they find a tree house filled with books that can transport those inside to any place or time by simply pointing to a page in a book, and wishing to be there.
The first half of the series is mainly focused on time travel; Jack and Annie go to places like Shakespearean-era England, pre-historic times, Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages…all the classic spots. The second half, starting at Book 29, focuses more on magic and supernatural locations (hence why they’re called the Merlin Missions.) The books in this part are longer than the first half.
There is also a third part being produced, though only one has been released which seems like it will focus on more mature themes. The first book focuses on World War II.
Though I stopped reading around the time the books switched from time-travel to magic, I would really love to see at least part of it, or all of it, adapted into an animated series. There’s more than enough material for an animated show in the same vein as Doctor Who.
And I don’t think an animated series would be too tall of an order; the series has already been adapted to an animated movie in Japan, as the books are super popular over there. If I can manage to get my hands on a copy, I’ll definitely review it. I think, that with the first half of the series at least, it wouldn’t be hard to adapt each book into its own 22-minute episode. And the medium would suit the story well
And it turns out Lionsgate bought the rights to turn one of the books, Christmas in Camelot, into a film in 2016. There haven’t been any updates on that end, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be live-action or animated but it would cool to see either way.
And that’s the scoop!