These 13 Picture Books For Children Inspired Feature Length Films

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These 13 Picture Books For Children Inspired Feature Length Films

These 13 Picture Books For Children Inspired Feature Length Films

Where the Wild Things Are 2

Adapting a novel or a series of books for the big screen is tricky, but stretching a picture book less than 100 pages into a feature-length film is a real challenge. Still, many filmmakers have tackled classic children’s books with varying degrees of success. Read on for 13 children’s books that got the big screen treatment.

Jumanji – This story of a jungle-themed board game come to life won the Caldecott Medal, and the film adaptation starring Robin Williams became a sort of 90s cult classic.


Running Time: 100 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “…’Jumanji’ isn’t easily overlooked, as it has Robin Williams and runaway special effects to recommend it. Mr. Williams, giving one of his kindly performances rather than a funny one, plays a lad who has been held prisoner by the Jumanji game for 26 years. This lost boy returns to his hometown as a middle-aged man covered with scraggly hair, which may be the film’s scariest effect of all.” Janet Maslin, New York Times

Curious George – The 2006 animated adaptation of Curious George kept its story simple and sweet, and the lack of pop culture references made critics and fans of the books very happy.

Curious George

Running Time: 88 minutes
Number of Pages: 46
Critical Response: “In this film version of ‘Curious George,’ directed by Matthew O’Callaghan, George is all monkey — a quality that will not only appeal to children, but will also come as a great relief to parents who grew up with the classic stories by Margret and H. A. Rey and are not eager to see them turned into the slangy, ironic metacartoons now in fashion.” Dana Stevens, New York Times

Horton Hears a Who – Since Theodor Seuss Geisel’s death, there have been film adaptations of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears a Who. Out of all of these films, Horton Hears a Who is easily the best reviewed and most successful at stretching its story to a feature length running time.

Horton Hears a Who

Running Time: 86 minutes
Number of Pages: 64
Critical Response: “What distinguishes ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ from the other recent Dr. Seuss film adaptations —‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ in case you need reminding — is that it is not one of the worst movies ever made. That’s faint praise, I know, and I’m even willing to go a bit further. There are aspects of ‘Horton,’ directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino under the auspices of the 20th Century Fox animation unit responsible for the ‘Ice Age’ movies, that are fresh and enjoyable, and bits that will gratify even a dogmatic and orthodox Seussian.” A.O. Scott, New York Times

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Disney’s adaptation got Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner to star as Alexander’s parents, and though the movie only grossed $66 million at the box office, it easily surpassed its $28 million budget.

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

Running Time: 81 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “’Alexander,’ directed by Miguel Arteta, written by Rob Lieber and based on Judith Viorst’s beloved 1972 picture book, is less an act of spite than a failure of nerve. It approaches its young audience with an anxious, condescending smile that masks an unmistakable panic. What if they don’t like it? What if they’re bored? Or scared? Or upset? What if their parents take offense? To guard against such unwelcome responses, the movie tosses out a hectic barrage of almost-naughty jokes and gags (vomit is shown; poop is mentioned), reassuring speeches and constant signals that no matter what goes wrong, everything will be all right in the end.” A.O. Scott, New York Times

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Before The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller surprised audiences by turning a 32-page picture book into one of the most entertaining animated films in years.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Running Time: 81 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “This first animated feature by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cut their animation teeth writing the short-lived ‘Clone High’ on MTV, spins a predictable tale of youthful ambition, love and the quest for approval, yet without leaving a sappy or snarky aftertaste. (Fathers, for example, don’t always know best, but sometimes they do.) Parents will enjoy tracking the endless stream of movie and television sendups. If the filmmakers opt to make only light statements about junk food, obesity and solid waste, they at least leave the audience sated on a single serving of inspired lunacy.” Daniel M. Gold, New York Times

Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are was unpopular with early parent test audiences, but critics absolutely adored the film’s strange and beautiful production design and melancholy tone. The movie also got the stamp of approval from the book’s author Maurice Sendak.

Where the Wild Things Are

Running Time: 100 minutes
Number of Pages: 48
Critical Response: “After years in the news, the project and its improbability — a live-action movie based on a slender, illustrated children’s book that runs fewer than 40 pages, some without any words at all — are no longer a surprise. Even so, it startles and charms and delights largely because Mr. Jonze’s filmmaking exceeds anything he’s done in either of his inventive previous features, ‘Being John Malkovich’ (1999) and ‘Adaptation’ (2002). With ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ he has made a work of art that stands up to its source and, in some instances, surpasses it.” Manohla Dargis, New York Times

Madeline – The tale of twelve little girls in two straight lines who lives in house in Paris “covered in vines” has been adapted for the stage and television, but it came to the big screen in 1998 with Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel.


Running Time: 105 minutes
Number of Pages: 54
Critical Response: “There’s a picture-book prettiness to the terribly sweet film version of Ludwig Bemelmans’s ‘Madeline’ stories, so that the Paris and the schoolgirls and the matching hats of the author’s delightful drawings really do spring to life. But ‘terribly’ is the key word in that sentence, since the film’s preciousness often threatens to eclipse its ingenuity. With a cast of 12 pert little girls who seemingly have been encouraged to lisp, and with a primness that outlasts the film’s ingenuity, this ‘Madeline’ is best watched by viewers who approach the material in a state of pre-adoration. Anyone else will begin to wish that a 13th, hell-raising little iconoclast had been thrown into the mix.” Janet Maslin, New York Times

The Polar Express – Fans of the book The Polar Express and its Caldecott Medal illustrations were generally underwhelmed with Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation. Critics complained that the human characters looked strange and dead-eyed, and the film lacked the magic of the original book.

The Polar Express

Running Time: 97 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “Because of the story’s charm, and because the film’s backdrops are based on Mr. Allsburg’s drawings, it’s easy to imagine that a movie made with either traditional or digital animation might have worked. The largest intractable problem with ‘The Polar Express’ is that the motion-capture technology used to create the human figures has resulted in a film filled with creepily unlifelike beings.” Manohla Dargis, New York Times

Shrek – Most audiences are more familiar with the film Shrek than the original picture book, but like the film, the book hilariously subverts fairy tale conventions and revels in its weirdness.


Running Time: 89 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “When ”Shrek” is cooking, thanks to the writing as well the improvisational skills of stars like Mr. Myers and Mr. Murphy and the performance of Mr. Lithgow, the jokes have a bark. The film’s co-producer, Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks, is taking cartoons back to their roots. They weren’t originally created for children but were consigned to the early morning children’s ghetto in the early days of television because they were colorful, imaginative and short.” Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

Clifford The Big Red Dog – As Louis C.K. famously put it, there isn’t much to Clifford the Big Red Dog. He works well as a picture book character for young children, but he is pretty much just a giant dog who goes about his life, being a giant dog. Unfortunately, the filmmakers behind Clifford’s Really Big Movie didn’t really try to flesh out the character, and the movie came and went without much notice.


Running Time: 76 minutes
Number of Pages: 32
Critical Response: “If you are reading this review, you are probably not part of the intended audience for ‘Clifford’s Really Big Movie,’ an oppressively innocuous animated feature.” A.O. Scott, New York Times

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups – The Wonderful World of Disney’s adaptation Eloise at the Plaza boasted the talent of Julie Andrews, Jeffrey Tambor, and Debra Monk, but critics including Hal Erickson at the New York Times and Reel Film Reviews blamed the film’s disconnect with audiences on the characterization of Eloise as a spoiled brat.


Running Time: 89 minutes
Number of Pages: 68 pages
Critical Response: “The charm of the ‘Eloise’ books has proven elusive whenever the property is adapted for another media, as witness a disastrous musical version which aired live on Playhouse 90 in 1956. On this occasion, Eloise came off as a spoiled obstreperous brat, which was as much the fault of the child actress cast in the role (Evelyn Rudie) as the adapters.” Hal Erickson, New York Times

A Day with Wilbur RobinsonMeet the Robinsons is loosely based on A Day with Wilbur Robinson. In the book, Wilbur Robinson is helping his grandfather find his teeth while meeting the rest of the crazy Robinson family. The events of the book take place about halfway through Meet the Robinsons, but the film has a much larger story about time travel, memory inventions, and the importance of failure for future success.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson

Running Time: 94 minutes
Number of Pages: 29
Critical Response: “[W]ith the exception of a few quiet early moments before the full whirligig of narrative starts spinning, just about everything in ”Meet the Robinsons” has been done better before, including at the Disney factory.” A.O. Scott, New York Times

The Little Prince – The 1974 adaptation of The Little Prince featured Bob Fosse as the Snake and Gene Wilder as the Fox, and there is another stop-motion animated film adaptation scheduled for release in 2015, featuring the voices of Marion Cotillard, Jeff Bridges, James Franco, Benicio del Toro, and Rachel McAdams.

The Little Prince

Running Time (1974): 88 minutes
Number of Pages: 83
Critical Response: “It’s the kind of movie that refers to adults as grown-ups to show us where it means its sympathies to be. Yet it’s too abstract and sophisticated to be of interest to most children, and too simple-mindedly mystic and smug to charm even the most indulgent adult. You don’t have to be W.C. Fields to want to swat it.” Vincent Canby, New York Times

Related topics A Day with Wilbur Robinson, Adaptation, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, children's book, Chris Miller, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford's Really Big Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Curious George, Dr. Seuss, Eloise A Book for Precocious Grownups, Eloise at the Plaza, film, Horton Hears a Who, illustration, Jumanji, Louis C.K., Madeline, Meet the Robinsons, movie, Phil Lord, picture book, Shrek, The Little Prince, The Polar Express, Where the Wild Things Are
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