The current rush on young adult and adolescent-oriented book properties may be omnipresent at the moment, but it’s also nothing new. Adapted stories geared toward children and teens – from The Wizard of Oz through Harry Potter – have captured imaginations (and purse strings) since the dawn of film.
Though the majority of these adaptations have held some cultural cache in their immediate era, some properties must wait quite a long time before they see a proper translation to the big screen. A prime example of this is the Encyclopedia Brown book series – first written by Donald J. Sobol in 1963, but only now headed to theaters.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Warner Bros. is actively pursuing a big screen adaptation of Encyclopedia Brown. Producers Roy Lee (How to Train Your Dragon) and Howard David Deutsch have begun to laying the groundwork for the movie, for which Deutsch has held the film rights to the property for well over 30 years. Despite multiple efforts to get an Encyclopedia Brown movie off the ground, the stories have seen only a single adaptation – a truncated TV series broadcast by HBO in 1989.
Written right up until the time of his death in 2012, the many books of Sobol’s series revolve around Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, a 10-year-old boy nicknamed for his somewhat freakish intellect. Almost all of the Brown tales take place in the fictional town of Idaville, where Encyclopedia’s father works as the local Chief of Police. Something of a celebrity among local children, Encyclopedia runs a private detective agency out of his garage along with his best friend and nominal muscle, Sally Kimball.
Most of the books follow a strict formula, presenting a number of cases of fraud and hooliganism for Brown to solve. Each case is set out as a kind of elementary logic problem, encouraging readers to figure out the mystery before turning to an end note-style solution set at the back of the book.
Though the heyday of Encyclopedia Brown is somewhat past, the property could do quite well with a number of tweaks to reposition it as a combination of mystery and kid-friendly action-adventure. Since the episodic structure of each of the Brown books will obviously work well as a feature film, one must wonder what kind of approach the Deutsch and Lee will push toward. Will the eventual movie resemble a kid-oriented National Treasure – a kind of potboiler mystery-thriller for the playground set? Or will we see something more low-key and in line with the genial tone of the books?
For the moment, the eventual outcome of the Encyclopedia Brown adaptation remains (I’m so sorry) a mystery. If the adaptation gets off the ground, it could very well be one of the more interesting family-targeted properties of the next few years.
As of yet, Encyclopedia Brown does not have a definitive release date. Screen Rant will keep you informed as this particular mystery unfolds.