28 November 2006

A Bridge Too Far?

Some people will be terribly disappointed in the new Disney/Walden adaptation of Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, to judge by its website and trailer. The movie will either be quite different from the trailer, disappointing moviegoers, or quite different from the book, disappointing its many readers over the years.

The studio's synopsis calls Bridge to Terabithia a "fantasy/adventure story of friendship, family, and the power of imagination." That writeup highlights how "the world of Terabithia is brought to life by the amazing Academy Award®-winning visual effects wizards at Weta Digital." Such an emphasis reflects, of course, the recent box-office domination of other fantasy adventures, such as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Narnia franchises.

But all those books were true fantasies to begin with. Terabithia is about the appeal of playing at magic within the real world--a world that sometimes contains great sadness. It's a realistic story about friendship, family, and the power of imagination, and it's realistic for kids to create imaginary worlds.

That approach is better reflected in such low-key adaptations as this staging at the Great Big Theater Company, or the 1985 adaptation for television. (Is it just coincidence both of those productions came from Canada, not Hollywood?) Obviously, CGI and a bigger budget can make the land of Terabithia look like it's been "brought to life." But that's not the point of Bridge
to Terabithia; the book is about life itself.


Pooja said...

Ah, but do you remember the filmstrip version?

J. L. Bell said...

No, the filmstrip came out past my time in elementary school classrooms, but thanks for the link.

(I have to say I was dismayed at seeing the transcript of Bridge to Terabithia on your website. Even an educational purpose doesn't permit such copyright infringement. "Fair use" allows people to reproduce a portion of an overall work for particular purposes, such as criticism and parody. Sharing a portion of the filmstrip, which is apparently no longer easy to find, in the context of discussing how it differs from the book is arguably fair use. But reproducing the whole book, especially when it is widely and cheaply available in an edition authorized by the author, seems disrespectful of Katherine Paterson's creative rights.)

Pooja said...

I saw the entire strip twice when I was in fourth grade--once in language arts class and the second time in the library. That soporific voiceover still makes me slee... *snore*.

(And this IS NOT my site; just a link I found while Googling.)

J. L. Bell said...

I'm terribly sorry about assuming that was your site! Since the filmstrip isn't on the main menu of its content, I figured that only the site owner would know about that page. But I hadn't reckoned on Google's ability to ferret out corners of the web.

I myself almost fell asleep listening to the filmstrip because I hadn't read closely enough to realize it was only the audio. So I kept waiting for the first picture. And waiting. And waiting.

Nancy said...

My thought exactly about the "someone's going to be disappointed" point you've made at the start of your post. The trailer sure makes the movie look like a FUN ADVENTURE.

Ignoring the book for a moment though, the trailer was very pretty.

J. L. Bell said...

Yeah, I'd like to see that movie in the trailer. I don't think it would make me cry, as the book did.