As an avid reader, I’ve been dismayed by the fact that I’ve recently been struggling to sustain interest in a book or series long enough to complete it.
As I slid a dull espionage thriller back onto my bookshelf, something caught my eye – an old friend that I had pushed to the back of my mind.
It was my battered old copy of Brian Jacques’ Redwall; first published in 1986, I’d been given it as a birthday present in the early 2000’s and initially dismissed it, until a rainy day forced me to reconsider (I had yet to get a smart phone or a PlayStation) and realise how wrong I was.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Redwall, it’s a children’s fantasy book series consisting of over twenty instalments (though they aren’t all directly connected); set in a fictional medieval world, it features a host of anthropomorphic British woodland creatures (mainly mice, moles, otters, squirrels, hares and badgers) who must go on dangerous quests or defend their peaceful lives and the grand, sandstone abbey Redwall from the evil schemes of invading forces (predominately rats, weasels and foxes).
Think Beatrix Potter, The Wind in the Willows or Richard Adam’s Watership Down meeting JRR Tolkein. In movie terms, it is similar to The Secret of NIMH (1982) and the Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010).
It may sound like an odd story, but millions have fallen in love with the overlooked series. It was adapted into an animated television series. Here is the introduction for those who want a dose of nostalgia:
A movie has been rumoured and attempted for years, but one has never materialised.
Below are the five reasons why this should be reconsidered.
Fantasy and Sci-fi Are On The Menu
Think of all the most anticipated movies coming out in the next two years; chances are you’d name several comic book movies or adaptations (in some shape or form) of famous books or series.
The film industry has long looked to the printed word for inspiration, and it’s clear from the plethora of superheroes, the re-emergence of classic literary monsters in Dracula Untold (2014), Frankenstein (2015) and the rebirth of King Arthur in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming movie, that the demand of colourful escapism has never been higher.
Redwall is not a flashy or overly traditional series. It has no dragons or dungeons, and rather than animals casting magic at each other it features visions and mysticism.
Its plot, which features the timeless themes of love and friendship with its sword-and-shield fighting sequences would fit the gap left by the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s foray into Middle Earth.
Indeed, there isn’t really a magical fantasy series dominating the movie market at the moment…until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives that is…
The series has a way of captivating the young and old; I haven’t read one of the books for years (and discussing it like this is tempting me to revisit them) but looking through the comment series it’s clear that I’m not alone. It’s like a medieval, furrier Star Wars with the themes of good vs evil, destiny and choice, love and sacrifice.
In the books, Mossflower Country and beyond are wonderfully described and the characters are memorable and strongly defined through the accents and dialects that are unique to their species.
Though it has cuter comedic characters, loving depictions of sumptuous feasts and various love stories, it may not be suitable for the younger viewers.
It depends on how close a studio is willing to stick to the source material; chances are that they may tone down some of the more risky elements, but in the books there are cruel, often scary characters and the battle scenes are occasionally vividly described, with beheadings, gut wounds, and enemy soldiers being boiled alive all featuring in the pages of the series.
But then again, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and even the tolerable Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole have violence and terror in their own ways.
Essentially, there is something in this series to appeal to the family audience, and feel unique in a crowded market.
Following from his first novel in 1986, Brian Jacques expanded the Redwall series firstly into a trilogy, with the prequel Mossflower telling the story of Redwall Abbey’s beginnings and a sequel to the first book in 1988.
This was then followed up by Mattimeo in 1989, which was a sequel to the original tale, and from them on Jacques began expanding the history of the Abbey and its various defenders in different time periods. Indeed, there are in total twenty three books in the series!
This means, that if a movie adaptation was ever considered by movie executives, there are plenty of avenues for the franchise to be expanded into so that the dough can be raked.
If the Redwall series was to be transferred to the silver screen, it would be advisable to start with the earlier stories, since even though the latter tales are enjoyable they admittedly fall somewhat into repetition and predictability, though the originals remain gold material that is waiting to be mined by the right team.
The Development of CGI
Though I’ve mentioned Legend of the Guardians several times and it’s perhaps not the best example to use because of its slow and predictable script, it is perhaps the closest movie in terms of visuals which would suit a Redwall adaptation. Redwall features woodland creatures that stand on their back two legs, using their fore paws to hold weapons and fight.
A highly realistic yet stylised CGI, such as in Paddington (2014), would allow these characters to be fantastically realised. Motion capture might even be an option.
Additionally since traditional animation has lost favour with audiences, CGI would help it reach a wider audience.
Plus, especially in the first novel, there are full scale assaults on the grand Abbey by an enemy army, and as evidenced by the TV series, stop motion or hand drawn animation could severely limit the potential of the sequences which could, if managed correctly, be reminiscent of The Battle of Helms Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).
From the triumph of The King’s Speech in 2010, to the regular success of British actors and production teams at the Oscars, it’s clear that we have entered a period of time where British talent is coming to be noticed in popular entertainment.
The frequent casting of British actors in tent pole releases (the latest two Spider-Man incarnations and Doctor Strange for example) and television (Game of Thrones), highlights how fashionable and widespread it has become.
Redwall has the potential to feature a fantastical, recreated version of the British countryside and if a host of recognisable actors lent their voice talents to portray these woodland characters, it would surely go some way to ensuring that Redwall was a solid artistic and commercial enterprise.
How about Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the youthful Matthias the Warrior? Tim Roth as the evil Cluny the Scourge? John Cleese as the outrageous Basil Stag Hare? Or Imelda Staunton as Constance the Badger?
The potential is massive, and the possibilities are endless