October 18, 2005


Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Hollywood Franchise (SHARON WAXMAN, 10/18/05, NY Times)

The book has "franchise" written all over it. For 42 years, Encyclopedia Brown, boy detective, has been one of the literary world's best-known children's protagonists. And yet, despite Hollywood's fervor to mine popular literature for the movies (paging Harry Potter), it has never made it to the silver screen.

On Monday, agents for the producers Howard Deutsch and Ridley Scott sought to change that by setting in motion what they hoped would be a lively auction of the movie rights to "Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective," a trove of some two dozen books. The agents began calling all the major Hollywood studios with a package offer that included the movie rights, an action-adventure script, the rights to ancillary markets, like video games and merchandizing, and the cachet of the powerhouse filmmaker Sir Ridley.

For Mr. Deutsch, who bought the multimedia rights to the books in 1979 for $25,000, it was, he hoped, the final push to bring Encyclopedia Brown to the giant screen after myriad attempts in 25 years.

"It's a classic, and it's been relevant to three generations of children," Mr. Deutsch said.

The only way such a franchise might be tolerable is if the filmmakers were strictly forbidden ever to use special effects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2005 9:01 AM

It would have to be better than Ridley Scott's last directorial effort.

Posted by: John at October 18, 2005 10:21 AM

From the article:
"Mr. Deutsch said the script he commissioned from the screenwriter Ryan Rowe significantly updated the character, and envisions the series as more an action-adventure type movie rather than a straight-ahead detective story."

Oh *great*. So basically it's going to be Spy Kids or that horrible Frankie Muniz movie.

Posted by: Governor Breck at October 18, 2005 10:41 AM

No special effects? What, you don't want to see Sally do some wire-fu on Bugs and the rest of the Tigers?

Posted by: Mikey at October 18, 2005 11:31 AM

A great kids franchise would be Clair Bee's Chip Hilton books. Way too All-American for H'wood of course, but one can dream.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 18, 2005 12:45 PM

What special effects could you have? If I remember correctly, nothing ever happened that was more exciting than riding a bicycle.

Posted by: Brandon at October 18, 2005 12:56 PM

Encyclopedia Brown would make a much better children's TV show than movie. Particularly anything "updated." Blech.

If they want action-adventure, go for Tom Swift.

Posted by: Timothy at October 18, 2005 1:30 PM

I've bought and read every Ency Brown for the past twenty years, and I wouldn't pay one dime to see the garbage H'wood will make out of them. "Significantly update" is a polite way of saying "ruin with H'wood vulgarity while casting some Disney Channel original series castoffs in the important roles." If Donald Sobol is still with us, please: STOP THE MADNESS!!!

Posted by: AC at October 18, 2005 2:54 PM

The unofficial Harry Potter ban on American actors works pretty well, too. If it had been applied to the Lemony Snicket movie, the movie would have been saved from becoming "A Series of Unfortunate Jim Carrey Sketches."

Hey... a ban on special effects and American actors. Might be a winning formula.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at October 18, 2005 3:12 PM

The computer generated actors are getting to the point where the real ones won't be needed any more. The next steps are coming up with the ways of eliminating the need for voice actors, and reducing the huge crews needed for such "animated" films down to a few people. Then we will start to see films that are the vision of one person the way books are the vision of one person. (And no, I don't include the dross produced by George Speilberg and Steven Lucas and those other megalomaniacs as "one person's vision".)

I would also love to see a new method/medium of distribution of such works. The current two hour movie is much too short, while the TV series always have to be padded out with "B plots" and digressions to get to a full season. Maybe the old serial format (movie or magazine) will make a comeback, with stories taking ten or twelve episodes being released once a month or over the period of a year or two.

All I know is that by 2025, the old Hollywood ways will be gone, and good riddance. (And replaced by just as awful new ways, my inner cynic says...)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 18, 2005 5:07 PM

I used to LOVE the Encyclopedia Brown series around the same time that Mr. Deutsch bought it.
I'm surprised that Disney never got around to filming them in the 70s.

Mr. Deutsch got a great bargain for $ 25,000, even if one counts inflation and opportunity costs, which bring his payment up to perhaps $ 250,000.

Raoul Ortega:

You're right, computer generated actors are going to replace humans in most high-budget films within a generation, at least for the principal characters.

2025 seems like a very good estimate.

However, if we start to see films that are the vision of one person, the way books are the vision of one person, then the awful new ways should be bearable, in the same way that genius coexists with dreck at the bookstore.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 8:13 PM