Hot on the box office success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, original Jumanji creator and book author Chris Van Allsburg has landed a movie deal at 20th Century Fox. With his producing partners, William Teitler, Ted Field, and Mike Weber, the children's book author will develop new tentpoles from his previous work, future books, and emerging ideas alike.
The renewed interest in Van Allsburg and his work is a direct result of Sony's Welcome to the Jungle's commercial success, with the film having now grossed over $823 million worldwide in theaters. The 1981 picture book Jumanji, which Van Allsburg both wrote and illustrated, previously inspired the hit 1995 film, as well as an animated television series, and its sequel Zathura, which was adapted for the big screen in 2005. In 2004, Robert Zemeckis brought the author/artist's The Polar Express to the big screen as a pioneering motion-capture animated film. The Warner Bros. movie, starring Tom Hanks and Josh Hutcherson, grossed over $310 million worldwide.
According to Deadline, Van Allsburg's movie deal with Fox includes his previously published works like The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Sweetest Fig, The Garden Of Abdul Gasazi, The Widow’s Brook, Wreck Of The Zypher, and The Stanger. Fox executive Matt Reilly is overseeing the development of future Van Allsburg properties for the studio, and brought the author and his producing partners to meetings with Emma Watts, Vanessa Morrison and Nate Hopper, within a day of making a quick deal. Letting the appeal of books speak for themselves, the pitch involved detailed premises of 15 of titles spread out along a huge conference table. It was enough to seal the deal.
Teitler has issued the following statement, regarding the deal:
“Chris Van Allsburg has created a universe of imaginative and visionary stories with broad and enduring appeal. We look forward, in concert with Fox, to bringing together writers and directors to adapt and translate his work into the medium of film and think this will be an exciting magnet for the entire creative community.”
Prior to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Van Allsburg's Zathura was a costly under-performer for Sony in 2005 (albeit a strong indicator of Jon Favreau's talent as a director). However, in the wake of Welcome to the Jungle's success, Hollywood studios are now excited to further explore Van Allsburg's imaginative library of work, and see if there's another potential franchise waiting to be found. As producing partner Mike Weber puts it, Van Allsburg's titles has having a "magic that make(s) for high concept hit movie adaptations."
It certainly helps that the author/illustrator's work has been honored twice with prestigious Caldecott Medals (both for Jumanji and The Polar Express). In 2012, the Grand Rapids-born author received an honorary Doctor of Human Letters from the University of Michigan - and to date, the celebrated Van Allsburg has written and illustrated nearly twenty books.
"The idea of the extraordinary happening in the context of the ordinary is what's fascinating to me," says the author on his official author page with publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Fox is banking on audiences craving those "extraordinary" stories, in their search to find the next big hit.