The BFG: 1989’s Take on Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Classic

The BFG - 1989
It’s the Big Fat Git.

This British animated film from the now defunct Cosgrove Hall Films has a special place in our vile hearts. It’s a real nostalgia-fest for us, a dark but endearing adaptation from 1989 of Roald Dahl’s 1982 word The Big Friendly Giant.

The BFG

First up, the book has sold over 37 million copies worldwide. It’s popular!

Directed by Brian Cosgrove and written by John Hambley, it rather closely follows Roald Dahl’s classic. The author was still alive at the time, so he got to see it – which is fab.

According to Cosgrove, Dahl loved it and after a screening stood up and applauded happily. Apparently, he wasn’t such a big fan of previous adaptations.

As a story, it’s along the lines of Disney levels of harrowing kids stories. Although not on the same level as Watership Down, sure.

It follows the adventures of Sophie (Amand Root), a young orphaned girl in London living in a horrible orphanage run by some psychotic nuns.

One night, she wakes up and spots an enormous figure off in the distance blowing strange spirals out of a huge trumpet.

The giant sees her and “kidnaps” Sophie, taking the young orphan off to Giant Land.

The BFG, as it turns out (voiced by David Jason), is a lovable sort who’s actually very friendly. His job is to provide fun dreams to kids, which is why he has that trumpet thing.

In Giant Land, most of the others aren’t quite as nice as the BFG. In fact, a lot of them are just bloody terrifying.

There are nine others of those scary ones, who are child-eating and pretty unpleasant. They have an attitude of casual malice to the BFG and often rough him up a bit.

But he and Sophie hit it off and become good friends quickly.

So he takes her to Dream Country to explain to her how he makes the fun dreams that kids have, which leads to an impromptu dance number.

He then takes her to London at night to show her how the dreams affect the kids, but the psychotic Fleshlumpeater giant also arrives and devours several children.

Seriously… this film was designed to just freak the hell out of young minds, wasn’t it?

Sophie eventually convinces her giant friend to end the reign of the nasty giants. So they visit (and things go a bit weird here) the Queen of England and provide her with a giant-based nightmare.

When she awakes, the Queen demands the annihilation of the nasty giants and befriends Sophie. Yeah, as anti-monarchists we never did really like that bit.

But, yes, justice prevails! And the big bad giants are wiped out by the British army.

The BFG is noteworthy here as this was the last – and a posthumous one – role for British actor Ballard Berkeley (1904-1988). He plays the head of the army.

Most of you will know him as the senile, partially crazed Major from Fawlty Towers.

Anyway, to sum up The BFG… we’re not sure if it’s the nostalgia factor of having watched it so much aged around five back in 1989.

But, yes, we watched it again recently and really enjoyed the dark take on Dahl’s famous work. The animation is top notch for the era, plus the voice acting is full of charm – there’s a very natural feel to proceedings, despite the fantastical setting.

And it’s scary! The nasty giants really stick with you, they freaked us out a great deal. But there are important life lessons to learn there. Not everyone is nie.

30 years later, this sterling British production definitely stands as a giant amongst Hollywood productions.

Full Movie

If you want to watch the whole thing, you can find it above in complete form. Cheers, YouTube! Pretty sure that’s illegal, but for a small production from 30 years ago we think it deserves some added exposure.

2016 Adaptation

A few years ago, Disney went ahead with a full adaptation and went totally technology crazy with it. The BFG (2016) features impressive live-action animation – Mark Rylance is the voice of the friendly giant.

Steven Spielberg directed the production, so it has all the pananache and little touches you’d expect from the industry legend.

And it’s a fine effort. Although, interestingly, from its $140 million budget it only recouped $180 million. Even when it was released in China it struggled, with critics saying it was too juvenile for adults to enjoy. Um?

So, unfortunately, it stands as one of Spielberg’s worst performing films and could represent as much as a $100 million loss for Disney. Bugger.

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