Deadline just reported that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are in talks to produce a live-action adaptation of Martin Hanford’s Where’s Waldo? through their production company, Point Grey Pictures. Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir are attached to write the film, tackling the unenviable task of somehow finding a narrative in a book series that is nothing but a series of drawings of large crowds with Waldo hidden away somewhere. MGM, which has had the rights to the series since 2011, may have finally outdone Battleship for the most pointless adaptation ever made. Name recognition is one thing, but the only identifiable characteristic of the books is something that can’t be reproduced on screen. (If the idea is to literally shoot a series of crowd scenes in with a tiny main character, Jacques Tati already made that movie in 1967). It’s no secret that Hollywood is running out of things to adapt, but there are any number of illustrated children’s books that are far more obvious targets for a live-action movie than Where’s Waldo. Here are five surefire kids’ lit properties Rogen and Goldberg should have chosen:
Make Way For Ducklings: (Robert McCloskey): The 1941 story of the Mallard family’s search for a new home has sold more than 2 million copies over the years, a built-in fan-base. The ducklings’ voyage from the center of the Charles River to the Public Gardens form a clear narrative arc, and Mrs. Mallard teaching her ducklings to be ducks has limitless potential for training montages. No children’s book has captured Boston so well, which makes the live-action version a perfect project for Gone Girl and The Town’s Ben Affleck. He’s already shown he can direct himself; imagine the acclaim he’d receive if he used CGI to play the parts of all eight ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and even audience-favorite Quack.
The Snowy Day: (Ezra Jack Keats): With the spotlight on Hollywood’s well-documented problems with diversity, Peter, the black American hero of The Snowy Day, is a better move than the lily-white Waldo. And the snow? Call Roland Emmerich and take the rest of the day off.
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business (Esphyr Slobodkina): It’s been obvious for years that the real money in the film business comes from merchandise, not ticket sales; just ask George Lucas. Caps For Sale, whose protagonist is literally in the business of selling caps, serves as its own marketing campaign. In the book, the caps cost fifty cents each, so this would need to be updated, but even at a $5 price point, the first studio that makes this will be sitting on a gold mine. Parents would quickly discover that a single cap wouldn’t be enough to stop their child from whining. It’s right there in the book: “First he had on his own checkered cap, then a bunch of gray caps, then a bunch of brown caps, then a bunch of blue caps, and on the very top a bunch of red caps.” The illustrations show seventeen caps on the peddler’s head. Money in the bank.
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen (written by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake): Another example of a more compelling property than Where’s Waldo. Protagonist Tom excels in “fooling around,” which is much more likeable and relatable than the enigmatic Waldo. And his three sporting matches against Captain Najork—they face off in womble, muck, and sneedball—give the film a natural three-act structure. Audiences who loved Downton Abbey will flock to see Dame Maggie Smith as Tom’s aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong, who “wore an iron hat, and took no nonsense from anyone.” And there’s franchise potential: simultaneously filming the sequel, A Near Thing for Captain Najork, would give two summer tentpoles for the cost of one.
Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Mo Willems): There is literally no wrong way to make a movie called Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus!