Literature: James and the Giant Peach
James Henry Trotter was a young boy who lived a happy life with his parents, until they were eaten by a rhinoceros (yes, really
). Afterwards, he is sent to live with his abusive aunts, Spiker and Sponge. One day, James meets a strange old man who gives him a bag of magic "crocodile tongues", which can make James' life better. James accidentally drops the bag on his way home, which causes the contents to sink into the ground. Soon, a nearby peach tree starts to bear fruit, namely, the titular giant peach, which grows to about twice the size of the tree. One night, James crawls into a hole in the peach, and discovers a group of huge, talking insects (another result of the "crocodile tongues"), who befriend James, and they all decide to travel to New York City in the peach (initially by floating the peach on the Atlantic Ocean, then by flying through attaching seagulls to it) to start their lives anew.
The book was made into a 1996 live-action/stop-motion animated film from Disney, directed by Henry Selick (who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas
), and with songs written by Randy Newman. Despite doing poorly at the box office, and getting lukewarm reviews upon it's original release, it has since become a Cult Classic
, and is one of the better adaptations of Dahl's work, though it can be considered... trippy.
Tropes shared by book and film:
Tropes exclusive to the book:
- Adults Are Useless: And giant bugs aren't much more useful. Though they have skills and knowledge that can be put to good use, James is the clear leader, he's the one who has all the good ideas, and he's the one everyone turns to in times of crisis.
- Ambiguous Gender: The Silkworm is referred to as a "he" by the Old-Green-Grasshopper, but later on as a "she" by the narrative.
- Ascended To Carnivorism: The Rhinoceros, apparently.
- Asshole Victim: James aunts, who die when the giant peach crushes them.
- Cheerful Child: James, in direct contrast to his more anxious film counterpart.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The Cloud People are pretty sinister from the get-go, but are too astonished at the sight of the flying peach to attack... so of course the Centipede has to call them names and make rude gestures just to show he's not afraid of them. The others immediately call him out on it, but by then the damage is already done and the peach is under attack.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The book contains references to Vermicious Knids, Whangdoodles, Snozzwangers and Hornswogglers, all creatures later mentioned in other Roald Dahl books.
- There are a few more ideas in this book that would later be used in the two Charlie books. The peach smashes into and partially destroys a chocolate factory on its wild ride towards the sea (to the delight of many children, who are suddenly swimming in chocolate). The Centipede also sarcastically mentions "skyhooks" as a possibility for hauling the peach out of the ocean, an answer Willy Wonka gives Grandma Josephine in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator when she asks what's keeping the Great Glass Elevator up.
- Escaped Animal Rampage: James' parents were killed by a rhinoceros that broke out of London Zoo.
- Heavy Sleeper: The Silkworm, who spends most of the book fast asleep.
- Karmic Death: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, very early on. It's made pretty blatant that they could have survived the giant rolling peach if they had cooperated instead of tripping one another up in order to save themselves.
- The Centipede also sums up their deaths as a direct result of Sponge having killed Miss Spider's uncle earlier on — after all, he points out, everybody knows it's bad luck to kill a spider.
- The Millstone: The Centipede, whose sole contribution to the party is to gnaw over the peach stalk and set the peach rolling. After this, he mainly just makes a nuisance of himself (though he does tend to get the funniest lines and sings most of the songs in the book.)
- Shown Their Work: Though the story is most certainly a fantasy and takes several Acceptable Breaks from Reality, there's a lot of accurate trivia and information about the various types of bug, as the bugs are happy to tell James of various quirks and traits of their kind.
- Static Character: Most, if not all, the characters stubbornly refuse any kind of Character Development. Particularly blatant with the Centipede, who suffers the most abuse but cheerfully refuses to learn any sort of lesson.
- The Villain Sucks Song: Sung by the Centipede (on Miss Spider's request), about Spiker and Sponge. One of the rare examples of this type of song that's sung after the villain has died.
- The Voiceless: The Silkworm doesn't get a single spoken line.
Tropes exclusive to the film:
- Acting for Two: In addition to playing Aunt Sponge, Miriam Margoyles also voices the Glowworm.
- Adaptation Expansion: In the original book, the only major trouble in the journey is the confrontation with the Cloud People. In the movie, there's a mechanical shark, a trip to the North Pole with undead pirates and facing the Sky Rhinoceros.
- Adaptational Heroism: The Centipede, as part of his Character Development.
- Adapted Out: The Silkworm doesn't appear in the movie. Given how she was an extremely minor character in the book who never even got a spoken line of dialogue and what little function she performs in the plot is easily taken over by Miss Spider, the loss is barely noticable.
- The Cloud People also don't appear in the movie, having essentially being replaced with the skeleton pirates (though traits of them can be found in the movie's version of the rhino).
- Art Shift: In the movie, James has a Disney Acid Sequence dream about his aunts finding him. The art shifts from stop-motion to cutout animation, kind of like Slow Bob In The Lower Dimension, a short directed by Henry Selick.
- More obviously, the style changes significantly after James enters the peach.
- Ascended Extra: The Rhinoceros gets this treatment in the film. Being originally just a normal rhinoceros escaped from the zoo, it is here a supernatural beast made of clouds and lightning.
- Ax-Crazy: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker try to kill James with axes, complete with a Slasher Smile!
- Bag of Holding: Ms. Ladybug pulls out a hand mirror (Which is about half her size), a megaphone, three bouquets of fully bloomed flowers, and Grasshopper's top hat and cane!
- Because You Were Nice to Me: When James notes to Ms. Spider how kind she is with him she replies that its because he was kind to her first; she happens to be the spider on the window of James' bedroom, the one which he saved from his aunts.
- Beta Couple: Debatable. Most fans of James and the Giant Peach movie end up pairing Mr. Grasshopper and Mrs. Ladybug together for no reason other that they are simply there and single.
- Big "NO!": James does this in the movie version when he is falling into the peach while the peach is falling onto the Empire State Building.
- Brooklyn Rage: Centipede in the movie. The others even call him "The Yank," and at one point he even shouts "I'm from Brooklyn!"
- Canon Foreigner: The Skeleton Pirates did not appear in the book. In the movie, they've replaced the Cloud People, maybe to give the characters some foes to fight away from the peach instead of another case of "defending the peach against attackers."
- Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: In a Dream Sequence, the aunts use one of these on a bug version of James.
- Character Development: As opposed to the book, most of the main characters go through a small character arc.
- James spends much of the movie being timid and scared of his aunts and the rhino, but in the end learns to face his fears and stand up to them.
- The Centipede starts out as a Jerkass Miles Gloriosus who makes bold claims but is essentially useless when called upon to actually do something. Over the course of the movie he takes a level in both Kindness and Badass and becomes a hero in the end.
- Miss Spider, though affectionate towards James, is aloof and reserved with the other bugs (except with the Cenipede, to whom she's openly hostile), but eventually warms up to them all and becomes friendlier.
- The Earthworm, at first, is incapable of seeing the positive side of anything, but while he never quite loses his fundamental pessimism he learns how to "look at it another way."
- Mr. Grasshopper starts out as a class-conscious snob, and becomes... less of a class-conscious snob.
- Not sure how class-conscious Mr. Grasshopper is—Centipede aside, he seems to interact just fine with the other insects, especially Mrs. Ladybug, who appears to be middle-class at most. It might be more accurate to say he has a serious suspicion of Centipede's claims (which ends up being justified) but comes to appreciate the lengths to which Centipede is willing to go to save them. Based on his honest, obvious dismay at Centipede's "pesticide" and the violin performance on the peach, it almost looks like Mr. Grasshopper goes through the biggest change in terms of one-on-one relationships.
- Composite Character: The rhino and the cloud people have essentially been merged to create a sinister cloud rhino.
- Cute Monster Girl: Miss Spider in the film.
- Dark Action Girl: Miss Spider in the film.
- Darker and Edgier: Despite the aunts being Spared by the Adaptation and the old man definitely being Lighter and Softer than in the book, the movie has a noticably darker tone and feel than the book does; probably because James is more anxious and more visibly affected by his aunts' abuse of him.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Miss Spider. Although she is naturally solitary and mysterious and the other bugs seem to have some fear of her, she is at heart a good-natured and hospitable character, especially to James. He did save her life in the beginning, after all.
- Dead Hat Shot: Seems to be Centipede's fate, but he survives.
- Dem Bones: Centipede, James, and Spider face undead skeleton pirates in a shipwreck underwater.
- The Determinator: Say what anyone will about the aunts, but in the film, those two are REALLY determined to get "their" peach back, driving even through the frigid waters of the NORTH POLE!
- Eldritch Abomination: The Rhino in the film.
- Foreshadowing: If you look closely in the first few minutes of The Movie, you can see the various insects and bugs that will have a larger role later on in the film. Even the Empire State Building is seen as a cloud!
- Friendship Song: The Film has the song "Family". A song about how the denizens of the peach have come so far together because of James, and that they care for him just like family.
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: Modern day viewers will hear Grasshopper's infamous "You, sir, are an ass!" line and think he means "ass" as in "asshole." When the movie was made, "ass" was more commonly used to refer to someone who was particularly stubborn.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "HOLY SHIPWRECK!!!"
- To make matters worse it kinda sounds like "Holy shit brick".
- Also, Grasshopper provides this little gem:
Grasshopper: You are a disgrace to your order, class, phylum, genus, and species!
Centipede: Say it in English!
Grasshopper: You, sir, are an ass!
- In "That's the Life for Me," Centipede talks about being a ladykiller. Grasshopper talks about "intellectual stimulation," to which the Centipede responds, "Yeah, maybe for you."
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: While the rhino from the book was a real rhino that escaped from the zoo, the rhino in the film is a supernatural being with no origin.
- Gospel Revival Number: "Good News".
- Happily Adopted: James. At the end of the film, it's made clear the bugs adopted him and care for him as their own son. It's clear that James is more than happy to be part of their family.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In the film, Centipede. He turns out to be alive, though.
- High-Class Glass: Worn by Grasshopper in the film.
- Humiliation Conga: Since Sponge and Spiker are Spared by the Adaptation, they go through one of these, courtesy of the bugs, at the end.
- I'm Not Afraid of You: The Trope Namer.
- "I Want" Song: "That's the Life For Me" for the bugs, and "My Name is James" for... James.
- Large Ham: Richard Dreyfuss as Centipede in the film should definitely count. "I'm from Brooklyn!!"
- Lighter and Softer: Despite the overall Darker and Edgier feel of the book, it's Lighter and Softer in two very notable aspects: First, the fact that Spiker and Sponge survive. Second, the old man with the crocodile tongues has been softened up considerably. In the book he seems unhinged and vaguely predatory, and you genuinely wonder if it wasn't a good thing that James accidentally lost the tongues — the movie version, while still mysterious and weird, is a lot milder and more obviously a good guy.
- Little "No": James at the end when the aunts show up in New York.
- Meat-O-Vision: Centipede, in the film.
- Medium Blending: Live action, stop motion animation, as well as cut-out animation in the movie.
- Multinational Team: Movie version-only. While Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybug, Glowworm and James are from different parts of Britain, Spider is French and Centipede is from Brooklyn.
- Not Afraid of You Anymore: James delivers this the rhino, and then to his aunts.
- Panty Shot: Ladybug gets a few upskirt shots in the film, usually when she's spinning or laying down.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I said: NO! I'M! NOT!"
- Riddle for the Ages: What was the rhino? Was it a manifestation of James's fear, an Eldritch Abomination, or... What?
- Second Person Attack: At the end of one song, with peach goo.
- Shout-Out: Look for the Donald Duck and Jack Skellington cameo in the film! The Jack cameo is made especially evident because of the Centipede's dialogue: "A s-skelington...? Jackpot!"
- Incidentally, they even sell action figures including that costume, though still under the banner of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Centipede and Miss Spider, in the movie.
- Slasher Smile: Mrs. Ladybug and Miss Spider pull one off in the movie, when they both meet James. Subverted in that they were actually smiling normally, but the lighting and James' terror made their smiles look more sinister.
- Someone's Touching My Butt: When the lights are out and everyone's fallen on each other, the Centipede tries to pinch Miss Spider but instead pinches the Earthworm. Then the Spider tries to smack the Centipede and ends up hitting the Grasshopper.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Spiker and Sponge are squashed flat by the peach early in the book. In the movie they survive and show up for a final confrontation where James gets to stand up to them.
- The Stinger: A pretty odd one in the movie. It's a mechanical arcade game called "Spike the Aunts", where figures of the aunts are butted by a rhino.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Two humanoid bugs and a human child fight undead pirates underwater... and speak underwater... and in the North Pole... but it could be an effect of the magic crocodile tongues.
- Teeth Flying: Happened to Centipede in the movie version. Also, to the robot shark. (No fistfight, but teeth are still flying.)
- Tempting Fate/Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?: Earthworm, wondering what kind of bait will be used to attract the seagulls.
- Villainous Breakdown: In the film, Spiker and Sponge come at James with axes after he calls both of them out.
- Worrying for the Wrong Reason: After the giant peach has fallen into the ocean:
Earthworm: Great! We're stuck here until we shrivel up and die.
Grasshopper: Highly improbable.
Ladybug: That's a relief...
Grasshopper: We're far more likely to drown.