This summer's family smash The BFG is no ordinary family movie. It's adapted by famed Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg and E.T. writer Melissa Mathison from a novel by possibly the greatest children's author of all time: Roald Dahl, an architect of the imagination who opened an entire generation's eyes to the wonders of storytelling.
With the movie of The BFG set to introduce Dahl's brand of magic to a whole new generation, we thought we'd recap why it was we fell in love with Dahl in the first place, and what we took away from his stories.
1. The world is a sinister place
Few authors were as good at exposing children's fears as Dahl. From wrinkly, evil old relatives in George's Marvellous Medicine to the ferocious headteacher the Trunchbull in Matilda, he wasn't averse to scaring the life out of his young readers.
Yet there's also a real thrill and joy to being scared from time to time – and Dahl understood that completely. As with the original novel, Spielberg's take on The BFG introduces us to an extraordinary world of giants that, aside from the eponymous Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), is populated by ferocious, child-eating ogres (played by the likes of Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords).
2. Magic is real
In The BFG, young orphan Sophie (played in Spielberg's movie by newcomer Ruby Barnhill) spots the title character during the infamous 'witching hour', the time at which everything gets a little spooky, and he promptly whisks her away into his home world.
This is a classic Dahl concept: he always made us believe that reality and fantasy could intersect, thanks to his beautifully drawn and believable characters. Just think of the eye-poppingly scrumptious chocolate factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (adapted twice for the big screen) or the giant peach populated by talking insects in James and the Giant Peach (also adapted via a blend of live-action and stop-motion animation).
3. Kids know everything!
In The BFG, orphan Sophie teaches our lonely yet kindly title character about what it means to love when you appear to have nothing in the world. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the title character's self-belief and kindness bests all of the other horribly self-absorbed kids who venture into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. And in George's Marvellous Medicine, George puts together a potion that literally blows away his revolting grandmother.
If any author properly credited children for their resourcefulness and intelligence, it was Dahl.
4. Horrible is hilarious
Kids love being grossed out, and Dahl knew it. In The Twits, the brilliantly disgusting title duo haven't washed for years and Mr. Twit even picks mouldy cornflakes out of his beard to eat. In The Witches, the notorious Grand High Witch peels off her attractive face to reveal the hideous monstrosity that lurks beneath (an unforgettably terrifying image from Nic Roeg's 1990 movie adaptation).
Dahl taught an entire generation that to be gross is to be genius, and the same can be said for The BFG with its consortient of drooling, flesh-eating villains. Fingers crossed that Spielberg, himself a lover of shock material (remember the head in Jaws?) can do them justice.
5. It's OK to cry
Dahl may have loved the macabre but underneath all the dark humour and creepiness, there was a great big heart laced with sweetness, one re-affirming a gentle message of kindness. At the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for instance, our young hero is able to secure his own family's beloved future and in James and the Giant Peach, persecuted James forms a life-long friendship with his surrogate insect family. In Matilda, meanwhile, our gifted young heroine finds happiness away from her horrible family with her teacher Miss Honey.
Assuming that Spielberg's adaptation of The BFG sticks close to Dahl's vision, we'll be getting a movie that blows our minds with wonder, makes us laugh and, ultimately, makes us get all teary-eyed over the unlikely bond between a teeny-tiny girl and her towering giant friend.
Don't forget: booking for The BFG is open now so click here to get your tickets. The movie is released on 22nd July. If you've got special Roald Dahl memories of your own we'd love to hear them, so drop us a tweet @Cineworld.