It was recently announced that the Jim Henson Company would be bringing the beloved 1970s classic children's series Frog and Toad to the big screen. The Jim Henson Company knows its frogs, that's for sure. Craig Bartlett, the mastermind behind the popular PBS Kids cartoon Dinosaur Train, will manage the script and Hoodwinked's Cory Edwards will direct.
Frog and Toad was a series written and illustrated by the late, great Arnold Lobel, featuring, unsurprisingly, a frog and a toad. While one might think these two amphibians would be quite similar, the beauty of the books was their distinct personalities. They were Felix and Oscar for the younger generation. A mismatched pair arguing about cleaning or flying a kite, dressed in corduroy slacks, with elbow patches on their tweed sports coats. It was the '70s, after all.
As this is the Jim Henson Company we are talking about, it is natural to assume the movie will be a live-action or puppet type of film, with the inevitable CGI to make it look "real." What an exceptional and peculiar book to bring into the current lexicon. Children must still be reading these books for the idea to get the green light, but still, it is surprising.
If this film turns out anything like Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are or Wes Anderson's flawless The Fantastic Mr. Fox, they just might be on to something. What other off-the-wall books from our childhood should they turn into live-action films? Oh...you want a list? Fine!
5. Bread and Jam For Frances by Russel Hoban
Frances is a badger, and at times she can be quite a handful. There are several Frances books, but Bread and Jam is unrivaled in the series. She wants to eat nothing but bread and jam, and quite frankly, I can't blame her. It's delicious. Her parents decide that if it is B&J she wants, let her have it...all the time. In addition to the fact that this would be a live-action movie about badgers who eat toast and jelly, Frances makes up little songs about all of the things she loves and hates in the world, eggs, bread, jam and that's about it. So the character would need to be voiced by both an astute actress and singer. Hello, Amanda Bines, you just got your career back.
4. Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Author Leo Lionni created many wonderful children's books throughout his prolific career; Swimmy happens to stand out amongst them. As the story goes, a tuna devours Swimmy's school, and he is left to his own devices. At first it is a sad tale, a Finding Nemo way before its time. Swimmy encounters another group of fish and together they persevere against large tuna everywhere. There is a fabulous illustration of the entire school of fish working together to form a giant fish with Swimmy at the helm. For a live-action film, we would want James Cameron to get involved, but he would need to be heavily reined in so as not to make Swimmy turn into some sort of action-packed, 3D nightmare.
3. George and Martha by James Marshall
George and Martha are not representatives of our first president and his beloved wife. George and Martha are a pair of hippos who happen to be the bestest besties in the whole world. George and Martha are a crazy duo, getting themselves in and out of obstacles, but they never lose sight of their interminable friendship. There should be a live-action G&M movie. A movie all about two giant, silly hippos, hopefully voiced by James Gandolfini and Kristen Wiig, walking around among us humans, knocking things down and making a mess everywhere they go, needs to happen. Come on, Hollywood, you have the technology.
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2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Peter Rabbit is the infamous, mischievous bunny who has stolen the hearts of many a child for over 100 years (yes, this book was first printed in 1902). There was a live-action film produced in 1971 called Tales of Beatrix Potter, which featured members of Britain's Royal Ballet dancing around in silly bunny costumes. This might have been quaint for the time, but let's get serious. As a 21st century film, this could be wonderfully frightening. There was always a sense of fear in the book about Mr. McGregor's farm; Father Rabbit found his demise there. A live-action movie could harness that fear and become a nice cross between Watership Down and Babe.
1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Every single person you know would go see a live-action movie of The Giving Tree, especially if the tree could movie/magic talk and give and hug and be emotionally abused. One prevailing question remains, though -- is the tree a male or female?