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'Whizzpopping' News: Netflix Now Owns All Of Roald Dahl's Stories

Writer Roald Dahl with his wife American actress Patricia Neal at the Screen Directors Awards, circa 1962.
Hulton Archive
Getty Images
Writer Roald Dahl with his wife American actress Patricia Neal at the Screen Directors Awards, circa 1962.

From Matilda to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl's delightfully offbeat children's books have been turned into movie, TV and theater gold over the decades. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it has acquired The Roald Dahl Story Co. (RDSC), which manages all things related to the British novelist's catalogue.

Netflix and the UK-based RDSC have worked together before. Three years ago they struck a deal to create animated adaptations of Dahl's work. Filmmaker Taika Waititi and screenwriter Phil Johnston are working on a series based on the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sony and Working Title are developing an adaptation of Matilda The Musical to be released in December. The deal "builds on the partnership we started three years ago to create a slate of animated TV series," writes Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer and Luke Kelly, managing director of RDSC and Roald Dahl's grandson.

The venture's ambitions include "the creation of a unique universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theatre, consumer products and more." Even a "tasting experience" to bring Willy Wonka's chocolate factory is in the mix.

"Human beans" just can't get enough, as Dahl's loveable BFG might say.

In a 2009 interview with NPR, Dahl's widow Felicity Dahl said the estate had received numerous screenplays proposed for his books. They were "nowhere near it," she said, because they lacked, "The wit and the charm and the spooky." The deal announced today leaves much of the creative control with the RSCD, calling for its team to "stay in place, operating as an autonomous unit within Netflix." In addition, proceeds from the sale will set up a charitable trust that will "focus on supporting existing and new charity partners in the areas of children's health, anti-hate and anti-racism."

Quoting from Dahl's Billy and the Minpins, Luke Kelly writes, "the narrator tells us to 'watch with glittering eyes' as 'those who don't believe in magic will never find it.' Our eyes are glittering as we embark on the next stage of this great adventure, and we cannot wait to see what magic awaits."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.