Netflix‘s involvement in the controversial censorship of Roald Dahl’s novels has been clarified. Dahl is an iconic children’s book author whose works – which have been frequently adapted into films, often more than once – include James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Recently, it was announced that new editions of the late author’s work would alter certain passages to make them less offensive, including removing the word “fat” from descriptions of Chocolate Factory character Augustus Gloop, which caused furor online from people decrying such censorship.
IndieWire reported on who was exactly at fault for these changes, as blame has fallen on Netflix, who acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company in 2021, releasing 2021’s Matilda the Musical as part of this deal. However, it was revealed that the streaming service is minimally involved with the publications or their new editions. According to a Roald Dahl Story Company representative, those decisions, which were first made in 2020 “before Dahl was acquired by Netflix,” came from the company and their publisher Puffin Books in cooperation with the literary inclusivity organization Inclusive Minds. Read the rep’s full quote below:
We want to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today. When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout. Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered.As part of our process to review the language used we worked in partnership with Inclusive Minds, a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature. The current review began in 2020, before Dahl was acquired by Netflix. It was led by Puffin and Roald Dahl Story Company together.
Netflix’s Roald Dahl Deal Explained
Part of the reason blame for the censorship of Roald Dahl’s iconic novels fell on Netflix was the fact that they made their first deal with The Roald Dahl Story Company in 2018. However, this deal was merely a licensing agreement for the company to develop new adaptations. The streaming giant didn’t acquire the company itself until 2021, making the timeline somewhat complicated.
The projects announced as part of this collaboration include two animated series adapted from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. With heavy writing and directing involvement from Thor: Love and Thunder‘s Taika Waititi, one series will follow Charlie’s adventures and the other is set to explore the Oompa Loompas. Neither project is related to the upcoming origin story film Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet.
Netflix‘s overall deal with the company has so far only produced Matilda the Musical. However, other upcoming projects also include a limited series that will be the first to adapt his novel The Twits and a Wes Anderson adaptation of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. With so much on the horizon, it seems likely that the company is eager to separate themselves from this controversy as much as possible.
More: Matilda The Musical’s Biggest Differences To Roald Dahl’s Book