Monday, April 28, 2014
To Whom Do We Owe the Honor Mister Dahl? by Matthew MacNish
There was a tragedy in my house the other day. An absolute miscarriage of justice which left me short of breath, emotionally and legally concerned, and utterly disappointed in my progeny.
Let me back up.
Start from the beginning.
My younger daughter, who is twelve, is in her middle school production of the stage adaptation of the film adaptation of the wonderful Roald Dahl Middle Grade novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has tragically been mis-titled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (or sometimes just Willy Wonka) since time immemorial.
Anyway, opening night was last Friday, and I went on Saturday afternoon to see the production, and it was a lot of fun, but that's not what I'm posting about here.
What I'm posting about is an argument I got into with my child and her older sister after the final dress rehearsal on Thursday.
We were discussing the legacy of the greatness of a story like the one that takes place in the eponymous Chocolate Factory, and they tried to make this ridiculous argument that the legacy of such a thing is owed mostly to whoever adapted the novel for the silver screen, and then after that, owed secondly to whoever adapted the screenplay to a stage play.
I was obviously appalled.
I don't mean to imply that adaptations of such a wonderful and culturally important story are not important, necessary, and deserving of praise and historical import, but I was aghast at my children's insistence, especially after I tried to bring it up, that in a legacy like that of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, less appreciation is owed to the original creator, the man who dreamed the whole thing up, Roald Dahl himself, hands down the greatest children's author who ever lived, in my own humble opinion, than it is to whoever adapted it, and admittedly probably cemented it in the psyche of the American Mind.
I don't mean to discount the role those people played (FWIW, Dahl himself wrote the screenplay for the 1971 film, which was directed by Mel Stuart, and John August wrote the 2005 screenplay, while Tim Burton directed. For the stage musical, assuming we can trust Wikipedia, it seems it was written by David Greig, with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), and like I said, I have no intention of denying the contribution those people made to the legend of this book, but I must say, I was surprised, offended, and a little ticked off when my kid's tried to say that Disney, of all entities, had more to do with the popularity of the tale of the Chocolate Factory than Dahl himself.
I mean, really?
How could the story even exist if Dahl had not dreamed it up? People can adapt great works until the cows come home, but unless a genius like Dahl imagines them in the first place, no one will have anything to adapt.
What say you?
NOTE: In other news: Apparently Steven Spielberg will be directing an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG for Dreamworks.