EXCLUSIVE: Enid Blyton has been called the JK Rowling of her time. The English writer who was born in 1897 is one of the biggest selling children’s authors in history with global sales of over 600M books. One of her most iconic series is The Famous Five, and I hear Working Title has just acquired theatrical rights to the full library. That includes over 20 novels which center on the adventures of a group of four young children and their dog Timmy. I understand the plan is to launch a live-action franchise based on the books, the first of which was published in 1942 under the title Five On A treasure Island. The deal was sealed with publisher Hodder, a subsidiary of Hachette which owns the Blyton estate.
This is spiffing news for Working Title which is understood to be out to directors and on a fast-tracked development schedule. A first live-action family-friendly epic adventure film would feature the kids as well as eyeing star cameos in the various adult roles. The books all take place during summer vacations when the friends return from boarding school and get mixed up in an adventure. Working Title has a history with family brands that include the Nanny McPhee and Johnny English films. The Famous Five series will look to tap into a similar space as the Tintin and National Treasure movies. It’s also got a bit of the Goonies about it. It’s not yet clear if the plan is to set the films in a period or contemporary milieu. WT’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan will produce with Fellner expected to oversee.
It was estimated in 2012 that a Blyton book is sold in the UK every minute, and her Famous Five series has lately been the subject of heated interest. Earlier this month, Old Vic Productions acquired stage rights and is looking at launching a musical version. Germany’s Constantin has also built a successful local franchise based on the books, releasing Fünf Freunde 3 earlier this year. Along with the UK, Blyton’s work is also very well known in Germany, the rest of Europe and Australia.