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James and the Giant Peach (film)

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James and the Giant Peach
James and the giant peach.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by Denise Di Novi
Tim Burton
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick
Jonathan Roberts
Steve Bloom
Based on James and the Giant Peach 
by Roald Dahl
Starring Paul Terry
Simon Callow
Richard Dreyfuss
Susan Sarandon
Jane Leeves
Miriam Margolyes
David Thewlis
Joanna Lumley
Narrated by Pete Postlethwaite
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Pete Kozachik
Hiro Narita
Edited by Stan Webb
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • April 12, 1996 (1996-04-12) (United States)
  • August 2, 1996 (1996-08-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
76 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $38 million
Box office $37,734,758[citation needed]

James and the Giant Peach is a 1996 British-American musical fantasy film directed by Henry Selick, based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was produced by Tim Burton and Denise Di Novi, directed by Henry Selick, and starred Paul Terry as James. The film is a combination of live action and stop-motion animation. Co-stars Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes played James's aunts in the live-action segments, and Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, and David Thewlis voiced his insect friends in the animation sequences.


In the 1930s, protagonist James Henry Trotter lives with his parents by the sea in the United Kingdom, who plan to go to New York City and visit the Empire State Building; but his parents are killed by a ghostly rhinoceros. As a result, James is forced to live with his two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge, near the White Cliffs of Dover. For three years, James is treated as a drudge, beaten for no reason, improperly fed, and forced to sleep on bare floorboards in the attic. One summer afternoon, after some of this mistreatment, James stumbles across a strange old man, who gives him the recipe of a magic potion which, when drunk, will bring him happiness and great adventures. On the way to the house, James spills the principal ingredients onto a barren peach tree, which then produces a single peach as large as a house. The aunts then sell tickets to neighbors for a sight thereof. When night comes, the aunts send James to collect rubbish discarded by the crowd; but he discovers a secret room inside the peach's seed, inhabited by a rag-tag band of human-sized, talking invertebrates (a grasshopper, centipede, earthworm, spider, ladybug, and glow-worm), also transformed by the magic given him earlier. As they hear the aunts search for James, the Centipede cuts the stem connecting the giant peach to the tree and the peach rolls into the Atlantic Ocean with James and his friends inside it.

Remembering his ambition to visit New York City, James and the insects decide to go there, with the Centipede steering, and use Miss Spider's silk to capture and tie a hundred seagulls to the peach stem, to escape a giant robotic shark. That night, Miss Spider identifies herself as the spider saved from Spiker and Sponge. James then has a nightmare of himself as a caterpillar attacked by Spiker, Sponge, and a spray that resembles the ghostly rhinoceros. When he wakes, he and his friends are lost in The Arctic. Upon hearing the Grasshoper wishing for a compass, the Centipede searches a sunken ship for a compass but is taken prisoner by a group of skeletal pirates. James and Miss Spider rescue him and the journey continues. Near New York City, they are attacked by the ghostly rhinoceros; but James defies it until the strings keeping the seagulls attached to the peach break, whereupon his companions escape on the strings and the peach is impaled upon the Empire State Building. There, James is rescued by police officers and firefighters, and Spiker and Sponge attempt to claim James and the peach; but they are captured by James' companions. James is then celebrated by the locals, and the peach is consumed by the city's children. The peach's pit is made into a house in Central Park, where James lives with his companions, who establish careers in the city. In a post-credits scene, a new arcade game called "Spike the Aunts" is shown, featuring the rhino.




  • My Name Is James - Paul Terry
  • That's the Life For Me - Jeff Bennett, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow, and David Thewlis
  • Eating the Peach - Jeff Bennett, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow, David Thewlis, and Paul Terry
  • Family - Simon Callow, Jeff Bennett, Jane Leeves, David Thewlis, Susan Sarandon, Miriam Margolyes, and Paul Terry
  • Good News - Randy Newman


The film begins with normal live-action for the first 20 minutes,[1] but becomes stop-motion animation after James enters the peach, and then live-action when James enters New York City (although the arthropod characters remained in stop-motion). Selick had originally planned James to be a real actor through the entire film, then later considered doing the whole film in stop-motion; but ultimately settled on entirely live-action and entirely stop-motion sequences, to keep lower costs.[2] Unlike the novel, James' aunts are not killed by the rolling peach (though his parents' deaths also occur like the novel) but follow him to New York.[1]


Though Roald Dahl declined numerous offers to have a film version of James and the Giant Peach produced during his lifetime, his widow, Liccy, approved an offer to have a live action version produced. She thinks Roald "would have been delighted with what they did with James. It is a wonderful film."[3]

James and the Giant Peach received near-universal acclaim from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 93% based on reviews from 69 critics, with a "Certified Fresh" rating and an average score of 7.2/10. The site's consensus states: "The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment".[4]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, praising the animated part, but calling the live-action segments "crude."[5] Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film "a technological marvel, arch and innovative with a daringly offbeat visual conception" and "a strenuously artful film with a macabre edge."[6]


The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score, by Randy Newman. It won Best Animated Feature Film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Home media

A digitally restored Blu-ray/DVD combo pack was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on August 3, 2010 in the United States.[7]


  1. ^ a b Nichols, Peter M. (2003). The New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies. New York: Henry Holt and Company. pp. 134–136. ISBN 0-8050-7198-9. 
  2. ^ Evans, Noah Wolfgram. "Layers: A Look at Henry Selick". Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  3. ^ Roberts, Chloe; Darren Horne. "Roald Dahl: From Page to Screen". Retrieved December 9, 2008. 
  4. ^ James and the Giant Peach at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 19, 1996). "James and the Giant Peach (1996) review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 27, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  6. ^ Maslin review
  7. ^ Foster, Dave (May 19, 2010). "James and the Giant Peach (US BD) in August". The Digital Fix. Archived from the original on June 27, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 

External links