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Literature / James and the Giant Peach

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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's 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.

Roald Dahl's first children's novel, published in 1961, was made into a 1996 live-action/stop-motion animated film from Disney, directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton (the respective director and producer of The Nightmare Before Christmas), with music composed by Randy Newman. Unlike the book, which is ambiguously set contemporary to its publication, the film explicitly takes place in the summer of 1948. Despite doing poorly at the box office, the film is one of the better adaptations of Dahl's work, though it can be considered... trippy.

In 2013, the story was adapted into a musical, featuring all-new songs. The soundtrack can be downloaded for free here.

James and the Giant Peach provides examples of:

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    Tropes shared by book and film 
  • Abusive Parents: James's aunts, Spiker and Sponge (for a given definition of "parent").
  • Anthropomorphic Transformation: The crocodile tongues have the ability to transform normal bugs into giant anthropomorphized clothes-wearing versions of themselves. This is made even more obvious in the film, where we see Ms. Spider as both a normal realistic live-action spider and a giant stop-motion spider with a human-like face.
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up: While Aunts Spiker and Sponge are making money inviting hordes of visitors to see the giant peach, poor James is locked in his bedroom.
  • Artistic License – Biology: According to his backstory, James's parents were eaten alive by an escaped zoo rhinoceros. In real life, rhinos are herbivores (they are the largest extant perissodactyls, i.e. related to horses). The film adaptation averted this by changing said rhino from an actual rhinoceros to a large rhinoceros-shaped demon made entirely out of thunderclouds, but the beginning narration still claims they were eaten.
  • Automaton Horses: Or birds, as the case may be. James's plan to make the peach fly is based around lassoing hundreds of passing gulls with spider-silk nooses to lift it out of the water... after which they never give the birds another thought until it's time to start cutting them loose to descend, as they apparently all continue to fly mindlessly all the way to New York, rather than, say, getting tired from the endless flight and flying down to rest on top of the peach.
  • Balloonacy: James gets the idea for using seagulls to lift the peach by thinking of a balloon, and observes that a seagull has far more lifting power than a balloon.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Not really. While Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge are hideously ugly, with James (and his parents, the short time they appear) being notably easier on the eyes, the bugs are Ugly Cute at best.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The light inside the peach stone is provided by the glow-worm, who sometimes falls asleep with her light on, and has her bulb broken by the Cloud Men's hailstones in the book.
    James: Is that a glow-worm? It doesn't look like a worm of any sort to me.
    Centipede: Of course it's a glow-worm. At least that's what she calls herself.
  • Card-Carrying Jerkass: Centipede is proud of being a "pest"— this partly refers to his being a pest species, but also to his arrogant attitude. For instance, when the other bugs were talking about beneficial things their species do, Centipede gloats that his species does nothing good.
  • Carnivore Confusion: There's a bit of a disconnect with a spider and a centipede being among the other invertebrates. This is even lampshaded in the film, with Miss Spider noting how the peach tastes "better than ladybugs" (with Mrs. Ladybug getting understandably miffed). This makes some sense, since they all just recently gained their sentience and would presumably have behaved like normal invertebrates before the crocodile tongues came along.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • In the book, the flying peach is spotted by the crew of a ship during its flight over the ocean, though only the Captain has binoculars and can see it more clearly. When he starts talking about giant insects, the crew comment that he's "been at the whiskey again" and go fetch the ship's doctor.
    • In the movie, the New Yorkers initially don't believe James when he tells them about the bugs and about flying across the ocean. Spiker and Sponge try to work this by claiming he's a pathological liar.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: James's parents have a bridge dropped on them so suddenly that it could well be a parody of these tropes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Centipede, in both book and movie, is a loud one. In the movie, Miss Spider is a more subdued and genuinely deadpan one, leading to a few moments of Snark-to-Snark Combat between the two. In the book, the Earthworm has a more caustic edge and is the one who engages in Snark-to-Snark Combat with the Centipede.
  • The Eeyore: Earthworm, who predicts their death by starvation, and being eaten by sharks.
    "Poor Earthworm. He never smiles. He loves to make everything into a disaster. He's only happy when he's unhappy. Now, isn't that odd?"
  • Extreme Omnivore: In both versions of the story, when the group realize they can just eat the abundant flesh of their giant peach, they celebrate by singing a song about various impossible dishes they have tried and enjoyed. The lyrics differ somewhat between book and filmnote , but are all quite... exotic.
  • Fat and Skinny: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The book and the film clarify that James would've been better off killed alongside his parents than living with his evil aunts.
    Narrator: Their troubles, if they had any at all, were over in thirty-five seconds flat, but James's troubles were just beginning...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker come across this when they invite people to witness the giant peach...and then force James to clean up the mess they made.
  • Friendless Background: James was isolated while living with his aunts. In the film, Miss Spider also mentions that she never had any friends before meeting the other bugs.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider: There is a friendly spider appropriately named "Miss Spider". In the book, she is more of a grandmother-like figure, while in the film she is darker and more gothic, but still all around good.
  • Granny Classic: The Ladybug fills this role in both the movie and the book.
  • Greed: The aunts use the peach as a tourist trap, with tickets being one shilling. Only newborn babies (under six weeks old) are half-price, and those with cameras are charged double. There is a Kick the Dog moment in the film, where they kick a family out and refuse to refund them after a little girl asked if she can touch the peach, as well as arbitrarily charging a priest double.
  • Hate Sink: Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge serve as this, since there's not actually a Big Bad in the story.
  • Hey, You!: James gets called a number of names by Spiker and Sponge. According to the narrator, they never actually referred to him by name.
  • Idiot Ball: The entire crew thinks that they are going to starve and forgets that they are riding on a giant fruit.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How the peach lands; it gets speared on the spire of the Empire State Building.
  • Intentional Weight Gain: In the main characters' song about James's aunt Spiker, she's portrayed as wanting to be fatter (due to being "thin as a wire") and attempting to gain weight by eating more sugar.
  • Interspecies Romance: In the epilogue of the book, the Ladybug marries the (presumably human) head of the New York Fire Department. In the film, there are a couple of hints of a developing mutual attraction between the Centipede and Miss Spider, especially after the skeleton pirate fight.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: And he did. Apparently he made a movie, too.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Centipede. He's a boastful, selfish, sarcastic and inconsiderate guy who'll push other people's (and bugs') buttons just for the hell of it, but he's also affable and easygoing, and when it comes down to it, he's not actually a bad person.
  • Make a Wish: How James gets the crocodile tongues (and in a roundabout way, how he uses them).
  • Miles Gloriosus: Centipede. In the book, he's always going on about what a dangerous pest he is, but he's really pretty harmless. In the movie, he also brags about being a globetrotter, but his knowledge about navigation and geography are severely lacking. Turns out all his knowledge comes from the time when he lived between two pages of an old issue of the National Geographic magazine.
    "Very informative magazine, the National Geographic. Wonderful pictures."
  • Never Had Toys: While staying with his aunts, James wasn't given any toys to play with. All his aunts would do was make him work all the time.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Centipede gets the party into trouble more than once in both book and movie. In the movie he feels bad and tries to make things right — in the book he just laughs it off and goes off to cause another disaster.
  • Ode to Food: The song "Eating the Peach" (named in the movie but present in the book too) is sung by the protagonists when they're, well, eating the peach, about how they enjoy many (weird) dishes but none compare to the taste of the peach.
  • Parental Substitute: The bugs become this for James, particularly Miss Spider and the Grasshopper.
  • Police Are Useless: Are they ever. When James's aunts are outed for all the abuse they've done to James, they go after him with axes, while the Police and the Fire department play crowd control and leave James to fight off his aunts. Played with in the book as well, where the policemen and firemen spend most of their on-page time panicking upon seeing the bugs and naming the various kinds of monsters they think they're seeing. There's no actual danger involved here, since the bugs are all friendly.
  • Rhino Rampage: At the start, both of James's parents are killed by an escaped rhino.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Exactly what would have happened if James had not accidentally dropped the bag from the mysterious man, and had followed his directions about swallowing them in a glass of water with hairs added?
  • Step Servant: After an escaped rhino eats James' parents, James goes to live with his two cruel aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, who play this trope to its hilt.
  • Threatening Shark: The peach is attacked by sharks when floating on the sea, causing the frightened crew to escape by lifting the peach into the air with hundreds of seagulls. In the book, they are surprised to discover that the sharks have hardly damaged the peach at all, which is explained in the narrative about sharks having a mouth awkwardly set back under their long nose.
  • True Companions: In the film there's even a song about it.
  • Unconventional Food Usage: James and the giant bugs use said giant peach as a house and a vehicle. Also, prior to that, his aunts used it as a tourist attraction.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted. Centipede even repeats several times how he's proud to be a pest.
    "Time to go make a pest of myself, heh heh heh heh!"
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Both the book and film have them, the film presenting them by way of Spinning Paper. There are a couple of differences in how the bugs end up from book to film. The Grasshopper, Earthworm and Glowworm are the same, but the rest of them are different:
    • The Centipede, who in the book is borderline obsessed with his many boots, becomes the spokesperson for a high-class firm of boot and shoe manufacturers. In the film, where he only has one pair of boots (because most of his many legs are depicted as arms) he instead runs for Mayor of New York, promising "the Moon and then some" — with no clue provided as to whether he actually won the election or not.
    • Miss Spider, in the book, teams up with the Silkworm (who doesn't appear in the movie) and learns to produce nylon thread and sets up a factory that makes ropes for tightrope-walkers. In the film, she opens a saucy night club in New York called, appropriately, "Spider Club."
    • Mrs. Ladybug, in the book, marries the head of the New York City Fire Department thanks to a life-long fear that house was on fire and her children all gone. In the movie, she becomes a highly-respected obstetrician, with her headline declaring: "Dr. Ladybug Delivers 1,000th baby."
  • Weird World, Weird Food: The foods the bugs sing about in "Eating the Peach"—like curried slugs and plates of soil with engine oil.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Spiker and Sponge. Cruel as they are, it takes a special sort of cruel to even think of naming one's offspring that.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Spiker and Sponge beat James regularly while he was living with him for the most mundane reasons and try to axe him in the movie when he exposes their poor treatment of him to the New Yorkers.

    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.
  • And I Must Scream: At one point, the Centipede gets coated with paint that dries quickly, making him immobile and only able to communicate through muffled noises. Earthworm sees it as an improvement, and is very disappointed when the paint gets washed off.
    • Miss Spider tells the story of why she detests paint: when Aunt Spiker had painted the kitchen ceiling, Miss Spider's poor darling grandmother stepped into it by mistake while it was still wet, and there she stuck; and she remained so for six months—until Aunt Sponge killed her with a mop.
  • Animals Respect Nature: Miss Spider prides herself on catching flies (and is even puzzled that some humans are arachnophobic when spiders kill flies), the earthworm brags about helping the soil with his droppings, and the centipede is even proud of being a "pest".
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: The Rhinoceros, apparently.
  • Asshole Victim: James's aunts, who die when the giant peach crushes them.
  • Big Applesauce: Where the Peach heads to — and ends up getting speared on the spire of The Empire State Building.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: A-peach-as-vehicle pulled by seagulls. After the peach falls into the sea, it's attacked by sharks biting holes that could sink it. To escape, the heroes lure seagulls close with Earthworm as bait (he's very unhappy about this) then catch and tie them to the peach with silk from Miss Spider and the Silkworm. With an entire flock of seagulls towing them, the peach rises out of the sea and into the clouds.
  • 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's parents were killed by a rhinoceros that broke out of London Zoo.
  • Fear Song: When the adventure begins, the talking bugs sing a song that is partially about how they're nervous about all the creatures they might meet on their journey, such as a 49-headed creature, or a dilemma with literal horns.
  • Four Is Death: James Henry Trotter's parents were killed and eaten by an escaped rhinoceros when he was four years old.
  • Ghost Butler: There is a moment of this when James first enters the stone of the peach through a small door. Once he is inside and is terrified by his first sight of the giant insects, he considers fleeing, but the door has vanished behind him; this is never explained.
  • Heavy Sleeper: The Silkworm, who spends most of the book fast asleep. He's Adapted Out of the movie, and not much is lost.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: The peach gets caught up in a massive cloudburst, and a great solid mass of rainwater comes crashing down upon them, bouncing and smashing and sloshing and slashing and swashing and swirling and surging and whirling and gurgling and gushing and rushing and rushing.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Earthworm's proposal of what to do when the Centipede is immobilised from being covered from head to toe in hard and fast drying paint: the Centipede would stick out his tongue (even though he cannot open his mouth), and everybody would pull really hard, to turn him inside out so that he has a new skin.
  • 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.
  • Kill the Lights: The heroes inside the peach get their light from the glow-worm. When the peach makes its epic descent by rolling down a steep hill with the characters inside, something goes wrong with the glow-worm's light, making things doubly chaotic. Later, the glow-worm cannot provide light because the cloudmen have "broken her bulb" with giant hailstones.
  • Laborious Laces: When James has the task of removing the Centipede's forty-two boots, each one has laces which are tied in terrible complicated knots which have to be unpicked with fingernails; the task takes about two hours.
  • Long List: The main characters are often listed in the narrative.
    "The furniture went sliding across the room, and crashing into the wall. So did James and the Ladybird and the Old-Green-Grasshopper and the Earthworm and Miss Spider and also the Centipede, who had just come slithering quickly down the wall."
  • 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.)
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: When the heroes airlift the giant peach out of the shark-infested ocean using seagulls, they all play a part in this operation. The Earthworm is the bait to lure the seagulls; the Grasshopper and Ladybird pull him out of danger; James catches each seagull and tethers it to the peach stem; Miss Spider and the Silkworm spin the silk; the Glow-worm provides the light for them to work by; and the Centipede brings the silk to James.
  • Running Gag: The centipede's pride and joy: his hundred (actually only forty-two) boots.
    • It takes him so long to get them off by himself, that James has to help him.
    • He will not go outdoors with his boots off.
    • He will not swim with his boots on.
    • His precious boots are ruined when he falls into the ocean.
    • His boots are ruined when purple paint is poured over him.
    • Everyone must help him to polish his boots before they arrive in New York.
  • 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. The book also notes that sharks can't bite into the peach because it's akin to a dog trying to bite an oversized ball.
  • Single Tear: Twice, Miss Spider sheds a single tear: once when she tells of how Aunt Sponge flushed her father down the plughole in the bathtub, and again when she tells of how her grandmother got stuck in paint on Aunt Spiker's kitchen ceiling, and was killed six months later by Aunt Sponge.
  • So Long, Suckers!: After the peach has been surrounded by sharks while floating in the ocean, one of the party calls out "Goodbye, sharks!" when they succeed in their plan to airlift the peach out of the water with five hundred tethered seagulls.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The aunts meet their end because they decide it's a good idea to outrun the giant peach rolling towards them after it breaks free from its stem, instead of jumping out of the way and letting it pass. Granted, the book all but states that they were panicking.
  • "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.
  • Weather-Control Machine: The Cloudmen work their sinister magic on Earth, producing all the weather. The heroes witness hailstones being made from handfuls of cloud, a rainbow being painted and lowered to Earth, a snow machine, drums for making thunder; and in a case of When It Rains, It Pours, they become caught up in an absolutely massive cloudburst: following the command "On with the faucets!", the cloud literally bursts.

    Tropes exclusive to the film 
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Abomination: The rhinoceros which ate James's parents is really just an animal in the book. Here, it is a malevolent supernatural entity from beyond which manifests as a storm cloud shaped like a rhinoceros.
    • The sharks from the book are replaced by a single giant mechanical shark with a massive blender-mouth, which threatens to eat the peach and its passengers after launching a grappling harpoon from its mouth.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Miss Spider is described as having a "monstrous" face, to the point where several New Yorkers faint when they see her for the first time. In the film, Miss Spider is very much a Cute Monster Girl.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The rhino that killed James's parents was a normal rhino that ate them despite being an herbivore in the book. In the film, it's an Eldritch Abomination (which actually justifies how it ate James's parents, though as a Handwave).
    • Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge aren't flattened by the giant peach at all, they were chasing after him across the Atlantic itself arriving scarce minutes behind the boy who made it to New York City!
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • In the original book, the only major trouble in the journey is the confrontation with the Cloud People (who are not present here). In the movie, there's a mechanical shark, a trip to the North Pole with undead pirates and facing the Sky Rhinoceros.
    • In the book, it's just coincidence that they arrive in New York. The movie, on the other hand, makes it so that James has wanted to go to New York since before his parents were killed.
    • Just to make the peach a bit more interesting as a setpiece, it picks up a spiral of fence planks in its journey to the sea, which makes a "staircase" that allows the characters to move around the outside rather than confining them to the top of it.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • While the arthropods in the novel weren't villainous by any means, they were considerably snarkier and more self-absorbed than their film counterparts, falling very much into the Good Is Not Nice trope. Upon first meeting James in the book, they basically say "Hey there, you're one of us now, no time for a proper explanation - now make yourself useful and remove all one hundred of the centipede's boots for him."), whereas in the film they politely greet and calm down the terrified James when he first sees them. The Centipede is probably the best example. In the book, he just laughs off whatever trouble he caused - in the film, however, he's guilt-stricken when he realizes that everyone could die because of him, and immediately risks his life to try and make things right.
    • Also as a very, very minor example, instead of giving James just a board to sleep on, the aunts do give him a real bed.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: The film retains the basic personalities of all the characters from the novel, with the exception of Ms. Spider. Whereas in the novel, she was more of a Genki Girl (though not as much as Mrs. Ladybug), the film turns her into a snarky French chick who isn't one to be messed with.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The literal rhino that eats James's parents in the book is seen here as a storm whose cloud mass resembles a rhino.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Silkworm doesn't appear in the film. 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 noticeable.
    • The Cloud People don't appear in the film, having essentially been replaced with the skeleton pirates (though traits of them can be found in the film's version of the rhino).
  • Advertising by Association: The top of the 2010 Special Edition Blu-ray cover shrewdly reads, "From the creators of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and the acclaimed director of Alice in Wonderland".
  • Amphibious Automobile: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker's car can function underwater when driving to New York city to get James and the giant peach back to England.
  • Androcles' Lion: Because James risked a beating to rescue the spider that was hanging out in his room, Miss Spider is noticeably nicer to him. She remembers his name when introducing him to the bugs, and always provides moral as well as physical support to his ideas. When they talk at night, Miss Spider says that not many other beings are nice to her, and James was so kind when he had little to share.
  • And Starring: Paul Terry gets an "Introducing" in the opening credits. James ended up being his only film role, and he ultimately quit acting shortly afterwards. He now works as a mathematics professor.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After Centipede stays behind to fight the pirates and buy time for James and Miss Spider to escape and get the compass back to the others, Miss Spider is about to go back to help, only to fear the worst when his hat floats up to the surface. Of course, he's fine, but she definitely tears into him for worrying her.
    Miss Spider: Centipede, I do not know whether to kill you… (holds pirate sword up to his throat) or… (puts sword down and kisses him on the cheek) kiss you.
    Mr. Centipede: (blushes and smiles sheepishly)
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The people from New York at first laugh at James's tale of crossing the ocean with a group of giant bugs, this after he literally fell from the sky on a Giant Peach and landed on top of the Empire State building. Thankfully after the aunts try to hurt him in front of everyone and the bugs appear, the crowd comes off as much kinder towards him.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Done with Miss Spider to avoid awkwardness- instead of having biological spinnerets on her rear, her silk comes from a spool contraption normally hidden in a compartment on her back.
  • Art Shift:
    • In the film, 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.
  • A Truce While We Gawk: Spiker and Sponge completely forget that they're angry with James when they notice that the peach is growing, and they all marvel at the sight together. At one point Spiker can even be briefly seen with her hands on James's shoulders almost affectionately. Predictably they snap back to their usual nasty behavior once they recover from the initial surprise.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • After Mr. Centipede saves Miss Spider and James from a bunch of pirates, Miss Spider accepts her love for him by kissing him on the cheek.
    • After finding a compass, Mr. Centipede takes his task very seriously to a point where he fends off of sleep so they won't get off course like what happened earlier. As he tries so hard not to doze off, Mr. Grasshopper relieves Mr. Centipede by bringing him a chair and blanket and playing him off to sleep with his violin to make up for kicking him in the face earlier.
  • Ax-Crazy: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker try to kill James with axes, complete with a Slasher Smile!
  • Bag of Holding: Mrs. 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! How many things can Mrs. Ladybug carry in her bag? Who knows?
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: When James notes to Ms. Spider how kind she is to him, she replies that it's because he was kind to her first; she happens to be the spider on the window of James's bedroom, the one which he saved from his aunts.
  • Beta Couple: Debatable. Most fans of the film end up pairing Mr. Grasshopper and Mrs. Ladybug together for no reason other that they are simply there and single.
  • Big "NO!":
    • James and Miss Spider both yell "No!" when Centipede stays behind to fight off the pirates and buy them time to escape.
    • James yells "No!" just before he and the peach land on top of the Empire State Building.
  • Birthday Beginning: James celebrates his eighth Birthday with his parents in the beginning of the film. They surprise him to a trip to New York City. Unfortunately the rhino came along to spoil the fun.
  • Book Ends: The movie opens with James celebrating his 8th birthday with his parents. During the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, there's a news article of James happily celebrating his 9th birthday with his surrogate insect family.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Centipede in the adaptation, given he's played by native Brooklynite Richard Dreyfuss. The others even call him a "Yank", and at one point he even shouts, "I'm from Brooklyn!"
  • Calling the Old Woman Out: During the climax, James finally works up the courage to speak out against his aunts and their abusive nature in front of a crowd of New Yorkers. He even works up the courage to say that they're the ones who are nothing, not James.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Skeleton Pirates, who replace the Cloud People, did not appear in the book.
  • 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 Centipede, 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.
  • Composite Character: The rhino and the Cloud People have essentially been merged to create a sinister cloud rhino.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A relatively minor example, but early in the film when the aunts' giant peach business is in operation, a newspaper photographer takes a snapshot of the aunts for the newspaper, which they keep for themselves (and refuse to allow him to take photographs of the peach). When the aunts arrive in New York to claim James and the peach, the use this snapshot to do so for the latter.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The old man who gave James the crocodile tongues. He appears in the crowd in New York, and leads a chant of "Let the boy speak" when Aunt Sponge and Spiker try to claim custody of James as well as the peach. This turns the public opinion and gives James the courage to stand up to his aunts. You can tell he's a good guy, through and through.
  • Child Hater: The aunts hate James and spend every waking moment abusing him. But one early scene shows they might hate all children. Remember that little girl they kicked out (without refunding her family) just because she wanted to touch the peach!?
  • Cute Monster Girl: Miss Spider, who has a (deliberately) rather creepy and uncanny design compared to the others.
  • 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 noticeably 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!
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo:
    • 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 known origin. Though this may just be how James perceives it.
    • The mechanical shark has no explained origin. In the book, the peach was instead attacked by a group of normal sharks.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: The Glowworm is slightly deaf, unlike in the book.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A five year old girl wants to touch your peach? Leave your money here and Get Out!!
  • Divergent Character Evolution: In the book version, Miss Spider and Mrs. Ladybug shared similar personalities (though Miss Spider expressed her angst a bit more). In the film, Miss Spider, while still gentle and kind to James, became a introverted Deadpan Snarker that almost all the other bugs feared due to their concern that she would try to eat them.
  • Eat the Camera: Done on the Earthworm when he is chosen to be the bait to attract the seagulls; the mouth-zoom acts as a transition with the next shot of the Gilligan Cut being in his open mouth.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Rhino is presented as a malevolent supernatural being made of clouds.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The Earthworm takes his time wondering aloud where they’ll get bird bait in the middle of the ocean, but trails off when he realises the others have just surrounded him.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Invoked with Miss Spider, whose otherwise very humanoid face has two eyes per socket- she is a spider, after all! (Although spiders do run the gamut from zero to eight eyes, including a few two-eyed forms.)
  • Foreshadowing:
    • If you look closely in the first few minutes, 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!
    • When James first meets the insects, Miss Spider is the one who knows his name.
  • Friendship 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.
  • Gigantic Moon: The film has an extremely large moon riding the night sky.
  • Gilligan Cut: Done when Earthworm realizes the others want to use him as bait to attract the seagulls, with Earthworm wearing a cowbell to grab the birds' attention.
    Earthworm: Oh no... no, no... have you lost your minds?
    (They grab the Earthworm, whose Eat the Camera scream transitions us to the next shot with him wearing the bell...)
    Earthworm: They've lost their minds! Anything but birds!
  • Gonk: Spiker and Sponge are both made to look as grotesque as possible. This is especially noticeable in the case of the former, seeing as she is played by former model Joanna Lumley.
  • Goth: Miss Spider, who has a spooky design in mostly black-and-white colors, loves the night and darkness, has a reclusive nature, and squeezes some moments of creepiness into the cheery group songs. She's actually quite nice if you're nice to her.
  • Hairstyle Malfunction: As part of their Humiliation Conga at the end, Aunt Sponge and Spiker's red wigs come falling off, revealing their actual hair to be short, grey, and partially balding.
  • 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. James is more than happy to be part of their family.
  • Heroic Bystander: Naturally, the citizens of New York, including the cops, are bewildered that a giant orange, fuzzy thing spilling juice just appeared atop the Empire State Building. Then a girl with a telescope calls out to a police officer; she spotted a little boy on top of the thing, and he needs help! Thanks to her, rescue crew-workers get James down safely.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Centipede. He turns out to be alive, though.
  • 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, uttered by James when he confronts the rhinoceros.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: The Centipede, bragging about his (fake) experience in world travel, mentions the "five seas" and the "icy shores of Tripoli". The Grasshopper calls him out, pointing out that there are seven seas and Tripoli is in the sub-tropics.
  • "I Want" Song: "That's the Life For Me" for the bugs, and "My Name is James" for... James.
  • Kick the Dog: The aunts love this trope so much. There's never a minute where they don't abuse James, but one horrific moment is when they kick a family out because one child wanted to touch the peach. That's just plain cruel on so many levels.
  • Large Ham: Richard Dreyfuss as Centipede in the film should definitely count. "I'm from Brooklyn!!"
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The two aunts, after attempting to kill James, are frozen with fear when the bugs descend upon Manhattan. The bugs then proceed to wrap the two women up in Miss Spider's silk until they are practically mummified. Having seen them for the monsters they are, the police order them hauled away to an unknown fate.
  • Layman's Terms: The Grasshopper (along with the other bugs) chastise the Centipede for inadvertently steering the peach off-course, in a language the latter barely understands:
    Grasshopper: This is an outrage! You are a disgrace to your Phylum, Order, Class, Genus, and Spe—
    Centipede: Say it in English!
    Grasshopper: You, sir, are an ass!
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite the overall dark feel of the movie, it's considered a light adaptation 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.
  • Loose Floorboard Hiding Spot: James took out a box of crayons and a birthday candle under a loose floorboard in his room. He uses them to make a floating lantern out of a bread bag in order to contact help to get away from his abusive aunts.
  • Luminescent Blush: After Centipede gets the compass and helps Miss Spider and James escape the pirate ship, she gives him a kiss on the cheek, making his entire face go bright pink.
  • Mama Bear: Both Miss Spider and Mrs. Ladybug show shades of this in regards to James.
  • Meaningful Echo: At the start of the movie, while looking at different shapes in clouds with his parents, James can't find the one that looks like the Empire State Building, until his mother tells him to "try looking at it another way". James brings this up later when helping boost Earthworm's confidence in himself. It isn't until the climax of the film, when the very same Rhino that killed James' parents catches up to them, that Earthworm repeats this advice to help the boy gain the courage to face one of his biggest fears.
    Earthworm: Remember what your parents said, James! Try looking at it another way!
  • Meat-O-Vision: The Centipede starts seeing everything as food with increasing hunger.
  • Medium Blending: Live action at the beginning, stop motion animation through the middle, both at the end, as well as a brief cut-out animation segment in the movie.
  • Mood Whiplash: Right after the insects sing a song about how James is such a great person whose kept them alive this whole time and they're family and the group finally reaches New York City with joy is when the rhino, who James feared would attack him the entire time, finally decides to do so.
  • Morphic Resonance: Miss Spider is just as Burtonian before she gets anthropomorphized, and the markings help to broadcast that she's the same bug.
  • Multinational Team: While Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybug, Glowworm, and James are from different parts of Britain, Spider is French and Centipede is from Brooklyn. Miss Spider gives off Russian/Soviet vibes as well; her accent doesn't sound too French. Considering her vibe, this may be a downplay of Vampire Vords as well.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Centipede after getting the peach lost and overhearing the others talk about how they're going to die in the Arctic. It's this that encourages him to jump into the frozen waters in search of a compass.
    • Mr. Grasshopper has this when he and the other see Mr. Centipede deliberately dive into the Arctic Ocean to get a compass, fearing he's committed "pesticide" for berating him (and for kicking him in the face). Miss Spider tells them to knock it off, bemoaning the Centipede won't save him. She tethers herself to the peach and goes down with James to rescue Mr. Centipede. With that said, the bugs do briefly feel this again when James comes with a compass, saying Mr. Centipede risked his life to get one.
  • Narrator All Along: The old man who gives James the crocodile tongues turns out to be the narrator at the end of the film.
  • Nightmare Dreams: At one point in the film, James has a nightmare in which he's a caterpillar eating a peach, when suddenly his aunts arrive and spray a pesticide cloud at him... which subsequently transforms into the rhino and begins chasing him.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: James delivers this to the rhino, and then to his aunts.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Centipede is seen beginning to fend off hordes of pirate zombies underwater before James and Miss Spider pull away to the surface, along with the camera shot. Cue the Dead Hat Shot that indicates a Heroic Sacrifice...until Centipede also emerges from the water, completely alive and unscathed. He also stole the pirate's hat and outfit!
  • Ominous Clouds: When James and the bugs arrived at New York City at night, they saw dark, stormy clouds heading towards them. The stormy clouds indicate that the rhino, the same monster that killed James' parents earlier, is coming to get them.
  • One-Book Author: James was Paul Terry's only film role. He retired from acting after participating in the series Microsoap, and would later move on to become a mathematics teacher and novelist.
  • Only Sane Woman: Miss Spider doesn't get involved in the petty feuds and arguments that ensue atop the peach. Part of it is her reserved nature, but she knows how to keep a cool head during a mad situation.
  • Papa Wolf: Both Centipede and Mr. Grasshopper. Seriously, don't threaten James in front of them; you will regret it.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I said: NO! I'M! NOT!"
  • Police Are Useless: Zigzagged with the rescue crew. They at least get James down safely from the peach, though he had the sense to tether himself with the remaining silk threads before trying to explore where he landed. Mostly averted with the actual police; their chief is inexplicably skeptical of James' story, but when Spike and Sponge reveal they are James' guardians he is immediately suspicious of them and puts himself protectively in front of James, correctly suspecting what they are. When the aunts go nuts, the chief immediately whistles for his cops to protect James, only being stopped short by the bugs coming in to save James.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: James delivers a biting one to his aunts when they attempt to force him to return to England with them, outing them on their abuse in front of all of New York!
  • Riddle for the Ages: What was the rhino? Was it a manifestation of James's fear, an Eldritch Abomination, or... What?
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: The insects when they arrive at New York in the end. Selick initially wanted this for James while on the journey across the ocean with insects but ultimately decided that giving him a Toon Transformation would be cheaper and easier.
  • Satellite Family Member: In the film version, James had lived with his kind mother and father near the beach. On James' eighth birthday, his parents were planning on going to New York City. But an angry rhino came and killed James' parents, and he was forced to live with his two Aunts, Sponge and Spiker. With the death of his parents and the abuse from his aunts, James wanted to escape from his troubles and go to New York City.
  • Searching for the Lost Relative: A subject-inverted example, where Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker drive across the ocean, search for him, after the titular James flees them by way of a giant magical peach, James becoming the lost relative in this case.
    • Somewhat played straight offscreen. James is separated from his insect family when the peach first makes it to New York, though they manage to reunite with him. As such, it was likely that while James was being helped by the New York Police and had to confront Spiker and Sponge, the bugs were searching for a way to get back to New York and looking for James as well.
  • Shamed by a Mob: At the end of the story, the New York crowd is disquieted when two old British ladies that just showed up want to claim custody of the boy that the rescue workers just saved, as well as the peach. They can see he's frightened of them. Then the old man who gave James the crocodile tongues chants, "Let the boy speak," and soon everyone else takes it up. Aunt Sponge and Spiker are briefly stunned that an entire crowd of strangers would stand up to them; they quickly get over it when James calls them out, and grab the axes.
  • 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-skellington...? Jackpot!" Incidentally, they even sell action figures including that costume, though still under the banner of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
    • At one point, the earthworm says "I'm Wonder-Worm!".
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Centipede and Miss Spider, in the movie, though the slapping is mostly before they express interest in each other.
  • Slasher Smile:
  • 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.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Mr. Centipede shouts "Let's get out of here!!" through a megaphone when he goes stir crazy for being on the hill his whole life.
  • 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.
    • The aunts apparently managed to drive their car all the way across the Atlantic ocean floor for possibly several days, yet they show up in New York without even gasping for breath!
  • Suspender Snag: When the Centipede tries to steal the compass from the skeletal pirate captain, his suspenders get caught in the captain's grasp and he gets captured by the pirates.
    Centipede: Aah! I should've worn a belt!
  • Symbolism: In order to flee Sponge and Spiker, Centipede cuts the stem keeping the peach attached to the dried-up old tree in order to help James and the collective insects escape. This embodies the instant James' friends help him cut ties with his aunts.
  • Teeth Flying: Happens to the Centipede and the robot shark. (No fistfight, but teeth are still flying.)
  • Tempting Fate: Earthworm, wondering what kind of bait will be used to attract the seagulls.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The aunts try to escape in their car when the peach rolls free instead of simply stepping out of the way. In the book, it killed them, though, in the film, they survived, but are lucky their stupidity didn't get them killed.
  • Toon Transformation: After eating a crocodile tongue, James transforms into a stop-motion version of himself. At the end of the film, James changes back into his live-action form when he lands on the Empire State Building and coughs up the crocodile tongue.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the film, Spiker and Sponge come at James with axes, after he calls both of them out on their mistreatment.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The two aunts are deathly afraid of insects, and will fly into a panicked rage whenever they appear. This comes back to bite them in the ass hard when James's friends come to his aid, all of them as large as the humans around them.
  • 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.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • After they manage to escape the ocean using the seagulls and destroy the mechanical shark, James convinces the Earthworm to stop being so negative about how the latter handled the shark attack, calling him a hero.
    • James himself is also on the receiving end of one of these from Miss Spider. After learning that she was the very same spider he rescued the day the peach grew to its gigantic size, he can't help but think of Spiker and Sponge, and expresses fear over the possibility of his aunts catching them before they can even make it to New York City.
      James: You were my first friend. Well, since I went to live with my aunts. They hated me!
      Miss Spider: Shh. Do not think of them now.
      James: But what if they find us? What if we don't make it to New York? I'll die if I have to go back to the way I was! They can't make me…
      Miss Spider: No one can make you do anything, James… if you do not let them. You are a brave boy.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): James And The Giant Peach


Miss Spider

Miss Spider, who has a spooky design in mostly black-and-white colors, loves the night and darkness, has a reclusive nature, and squeezes some moments of creepiness into the cheery group songs. She's actually quite nice if you're nice to her.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / Goth

Media sources: