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Willy Wonka, Matilda series to launch at Netflix as it acquires Roald Dahl catalogue

·3 min read
Willy Wonka, Matilda series to launch at Netflix as it acquires Roald Dahl catalogue
British children's author, short-story writer, playwright and versifier Roald Dahl poses for a photo on Dec. 11, 1971. Netflix has acquired Dahl's works, including classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.  ( Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Getty Images - image credit)
British children's author, short-story writer, playwright and versifier Roald Dahl poses for a photo on Dec. 11, 1971. Netflix has acquired Dahl's works, including classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. ( Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Getty Images - image credit)

Netflix Inc. has bought the works of Roald Dahl, including classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, in its latest content deal and as the streaming service faces stiff competition from Disney+ and HBO Max.

The company did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, which will give it full access to Dahl's works as well as animated and live action films.

The deal expands Netflix's existing licensing agreement with The Roald Dahl Story Co to create animated series based on the author's books. Struck in 2018, the agreement was reported to be among the biggest ever for children's programming at that time, worth between $500 million and $1 billion US, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As part of that deal, Academy Award winning director Taika Waititi is already working on a series based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Netflix is also working on an adaptation of Matilda The Musical.

The company announced the acquisition on Twitter Wednesday morning, shortly after Bloomberg News published an article speculating the deal would be announced soon.

In its Twitter post, Netflix also revealed the coming Matilda musical will be directed by Matthew Warchus, star Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch and Alisha Weir, and will be released in 2022.

"As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we're committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix," Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and Luke Kelly, Dahl's grandson and MD of the Roald Dahl Story Co, wrote in a supplementary blog post released on the same day.

LISTEN | Roald Dahl on CBC Radio in 1981:

News of the acquisition came only days after the streaming giant's commanding performance at the Emmys, which gave it — and other streaming services — a long-awaited artistic stamp of approval in the face of traditional TV producers.

Netflix was the clear frontrunner at Sunday's ceremony, winning more awards than any other broadcaster or network. Over the past decade, Netflix has trailed HBO when it comes to Emmys, though finally came out on top this year with 44 wins compared to HBO's 19.

With its 44 statues, Netflix tied the record for most Emmys won in a single year, set by CBS in 1974.

It also won a top category for the first time, as The Crown took home the "outstanding drama" award, and swept the acting category besides.

Author's works frequently adapted

Dahl's fiction has been adapted in Hollywood numerous times, spawning everything from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to 2016's The BFG.

Dahl himself spent a considerable amount of time in Canada, including as an air attaché at the secretive Second World War training facility, Camp X, located on the shores of Lake Ontario.

And while it's his children's fiction for which Dahl is now most remembered, the author spent his early career writing stories aimed at adults — which became controversial in their own day due to blatantly sexual content.

Many of those stories were themselves adapted for the TV show Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected.

Despite the frequency with which his work was adapted, Dahl had a fraught relationship with Hollywood. He disliked many movies that came out of his writing — including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and even the much beloved Willy Wonka.

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