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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

It’s Only a Matter of Time: Licensed Properties That Haven’t Made the Leap to Film

I can’t pinpoint what it was that made me think of this.  In this day and age with children’s picture book characters appearing as television and movie characters every other minute, to say nothing of the new deals being made with the names of classics we all grew up with, it’s a lot easier to pinpoint the ones that haven’t been appropriated by the entertainment industry. With producers more than willing to suck every little last bit of goodwill from a property, here is a list (insofar as I know) of the characters that haven’t been seen in their own television shows / CGI films.  Oh, and I should note that when I say these haven’t been adapted I am not referring to the multiple very clever stage shows made of each one of these.  Theater is the classy version of what I’m envisioning here:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle : Not that you can miss him.  If you don’t own Caterpillar bedsheets or hand puppets then maybe you have him on your curtains and wallpaper.  I’m no different.  My child is proud to sport Caterpillar shoes and eats from Caterpillar plates.  Still, we haven’t yet seen the Caterpillar Saturday morning cartoon show.  And it would be soooo easy to do so.  The Caterpillar and his friends (The Very Quiet Cricket, the Very Grumpy Ladybug, the Very Lonely Firefly, etc.) have a variety of preschool-friendly adventures, usually involving counting, colors, and days of the week.  Oh, you just know some exec has pitched this to Carle himself.  Fortunately the fellow doesn’t need the dough.

– Peter and friends from the books of Ezra Jack Keats : They have been adapted into books by authors other than Mr. Keats, and in the 70s there were some pretty awesome live action short films made of their stories.  However, there’s been nothing recent, which raises my suspicions.  Is there a belief that stories about inner city kids wouldn’t sell or are the characters too enmeshed in their era to be timely?  I suspect the former but I’m naturally suspicious.  Could just be the Keats estate is full of classy folks unwilling to sell out.

– The Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems – Or Elephant and Piggie for that matter.  This isn’t entirely surprising, of course.  Mo’s not exactly a small town rube.  He knows the television world well having worked there for a while (to say nothing of this) and I wouldn’t be surprised if the multiple folks courting him have been rebuffed mightily over the years.  Like Carle, Willems doesn’t need ’em.  His Pigeon does well enough on its own.

– Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson – Short animated films of Harold have been made, but I live in fear that . . . oops.  Didn’t see this.  Just found out about this.  Too late.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey – One suspects that the McCloskey heirs are protective of Robert’s work, and well they should be.  Like the Carle characters I can see this as a NickTOONs creation.  Probably Ouack would be the hero, and the whole thing would be animated and set in Boston.  Best case scenario, animated in Flash.  Worse, bad CGI.  There would be lessons to be learned at the end of each episode.  The cop would be a regular character.  They’d probably throw in a librarian character as well for no discernible reason.  *shudder*

– Lilly from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes – I’ve seen the stage play that combined four of the Lilly books and it was  hoot.  A television show or, worse still, a movie would be painful beyond belief.  Like Keats and Carle the temptation would be to take a whole mess of Henkes mouse characters like Chrysanthemum, Owen, Lilly, Wendell, and the new Penny and to cram them onto a single program.  “Like Arthur but with mice!”  I’m in the wrong occupation.

– George and Martha by James Marshall – I just want to kiss the tiny feet of whoever it is that has the rights to these two.  Because a G&M television show would probably be enough to . . . oh.  Dang it.

There are many many others (Frances by Russell Hoban, David by David Shannon, Harry the Dirty Dog, etc.) but these are the first that come to mind.  Any of your own you’d care to add?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. The loveable dinosaurs from HOW DO DINOSAURS etc.

    But then I am a bit biased.


  2. I’ll second Jane’s dinos, and offer up Mr. Putter and Tabby, the series by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard. I think they’d be totally wonderful in a t.v. series.


  3. Mo WIllem’s Elephant & Piggy, SkippyJon Jones, Ladybug Girl, Fancy Nancy. There’s also a slew of middle grade books that would be perfect for tv: Franny K. Stein, Ricky Ricotta, Lunch Lady, My Weird School.

  4. Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos/Nicole Rubel; The House on East 88th Street (the first Lyle, Lyle Crocodile) by Bernard Waber, and BINK & GOLLIE by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee

  5. There’s actually a CGI production of Frances by the Jim Henson company, which should have known better.

  6. I second Lunch Lady–what a hoot!

  7. bill greenberg says

    Hi Betsy,
    Nancy Shon who illustrated McCluskey’s work is lovely. She lives in the Boston Area. A copy of her Ducklings statue was installed in a park in Moscow by Raisa Gorbachev at the time of the START treaty. This could lead to additional adventures in Moscow/Russia should the book turn into a television show/CGI film.
    Nancy’s website is at The ducklings statues both Boston and Moscow are under the category public statues. Other public statues are meaningful and incredible.