JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
James and the Giant Peach was also part of a mini-vogue of Roald Dahl adaptations that seemed to be happening around that time. It is based upon Roald Dahls first ever childrens book, published in 1961. Unlike Danny De Vitos miscalculated Matilda (1996), which came out around the same time, Henry Selick gets the essence of a Roald Dahl childrens story just right and understands that Dahl is always about catching a perfect balance between gleeful nastiness and transcendent sweetness.
The sheer inventiveness of Henry Selicks animation is breathtaking. This is animation that is a quantum leap above the creature effects of Ray Harryhausen in the same way the visual effects of Industrial Light and Magic are over the simple stop-camera effects and double-exposures of George Melies. The scene with the attack of the shark depicted as a giant Victorian submarine with rings of rotating teeth and grappling hooks with each of the insects coming to the aid is absolutely joyous. The moment when the seagulls are finally shackled and the peach gracefully rises into the air is sublime. The film has so much visual invention packed into it it is difficult to encompass there is the appealingly sweet song number where the sky behind is filled with comets, airplanes, balloons and men flying bicycles. Henry Selick also includes an hilarious cameo appearance from The Nightmare Before Christmass Jack Skellington, which leads to an outrageous pun Centipede, upon finding a ship full of bones, Its a Skellington. Selick does seem slightly less sure of himself when it comes to directing the live-action scenes but otherwise the film is a delight.
Henry Selick next went on to ply his stop-motion talents on Monkeybone (2001), which ended up being a widely pilloried, although not entirely unenjoyable, flop. It took Selick some years to recover but he eventually returned with Coraline (2009).
Other Roald Dahl screen works are his screenplays for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968); the childrens classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971); the psycho-thriller film The Night Digger (1971); the Tales of the Unexpected tv series (1979-81), an anthology series adapting Dahls macabre tales; and the adaptations of The BFG (1989), The Witches (1990), Matilda (1996), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and The BFG (2016).