The Disney Films That Never Were: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Disney Films That Never Were: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

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The Graveyard Book, the 2008 young adult fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman, traces the story of the boy Nobody "Bod" Owens who is adopted and reared by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered. Sounds just up Disney's street, doesn't it?

Er, no! Which is why in 2012, when Walt Disney Pictures acquired the screen rights and announced they were producing an adaptation it was quite a big deal.

Gaiman had set out to "write something a lot like The Jungle Book and set it in a graveyard." It took him 23 years to complete the book! Rudyard Kipling clearly not being so easy to emulate. Still, when he eventually completed the novel there was certainly a Kipling-esque feel to it. Each of the eight chapters is a short story, each set two years apart as the protagonist grows up, with some chapters having analogues to Kipling's 1894 work; for example, the chapter "The Hounds of God" parallels the story "Kaa's Hunting".

The Graveyard Book won Gaiman both the British Carnegie Medal and the American Newbery Medal recognising the year's best children's books, the first time both named the same work. It also won the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention, the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book selected by Locus magazine subscribers, and a decade later still featured highly in Time magazine's 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.

All this acclaim, it was only a matter of time before someone adapted Gaiman's novel for the big screen, and that actually happened just four months after the book's publication when in January 2009 Miramax announced Neil Jordan (of The Crying Game fame) had signed on to write the screenplay and direct a film adaptation for them. The project stalled and Disney, subsequently, picked up the screen rights for a hefty six figure sum. The plans they then announced in April 2012 for The Graveyard Book seemed like a match made in heaven.

Aiming for an October 2013 release date, Disney hired Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman's novel Coraline, to direct a stop-motion version of The Graveyard Book. Selick was already in pre-production for another film which never made it to the screen, Pixar's The Shadow King, but it was announced that he would begin work on The Graveyard Book straight after.

Perhaps because The Shadow King was not meeting Pixar's production goals, Disney moved The Graveyard Book to Pixar, with Selick still attached, and confirmed it would still be a stop-motion production. This would would have been Pixar's first adapted work, and first fully stop-motion production. However, Selick and Pixar parted ways over scheduling and development.

In a twist, The Graveyard Book went back onto Walt Disney Pictures schedule. It was announced in January 2013 that Ron Howard would direct the film, co-author a new screenplay and produce The Graveyard Book as a live-action feature. Once again, Disney proclaimed that their director was just putting the finishing touches on their current project, in Howard's case it was Rush, and then they would be moving onto The Graveyard Book.

But that didn't happen. And the trail went cold.

In 2019, Neil Gaiman was asked about the film adaptation and if it would ever see the light of day...
"Every 18 months, the same cycle has been happening, where [Disney] tell me that they’ve got a new writer on it. Then, a few months later, they send me a script and it’s okay. It’s 75% of the way there. It reads a lot like the last scripts that were done. And then, they tell me that they’re out for a rewrite. Normally, I don’t get sent the rewritten script. They just tell me, “No, we don’t really like it. But we’ve got an idea for a writer who’s going to really nail this.” And then, a few months later, they tell me that they’ve hired the new writer, and it begins again. That’s been happening since they bought The Graveyard Book."
Clearly Gaiman is very frustrated about the situation.

Walt Disney Pictures still own the screen rights for The Graveyard Book, so there is a chance that maybe one day it will finally enter active production. Over to Gaiman again...
"I really hope that they make it, and that they make it into something good.

I would be perfectly happy for The Graveyard Book to be a TV series. I wouldn’t mind. I’d also love it to be a fantastic movie. That would be wonderful."
I wouldn't hold your breath.

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