ⓘ James and the Giant Peach (film)


ⓘ James and the Giant Peach (film)

James and the Giant Peach is a 1996 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, 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 Jamess aunts in the live-action segments, and Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, David Thewlis, and Margolyes voiced his insect friends in the animation sequences.


1. Plot

James Henry Trotter is a young orphan whose parents were gobbled up by a tempestuous cloud rhinoceros, forcing him to move in with his two cruel and domineering aunts, Spiker and Sponge, who treat him like a slave and use the rhino to extort James into obedience. James dreams of seeing New York City and visiting the Empire State Building, as his parents had wanted to do. One day, after rescuing a spider from his hysterical aunts, James meets a mysterious old man who gives him a bag of magical "crocodile tongues" before disappearing without a trace. On his way back inside, James stumbles and drops the crocodile tongues near an old peach tree. A colossal peach grows on the tree, and Spiker and Sponge exploit the peach as a tourist attraction. At night, as James picks up litter, he enters the peachs interior through a large hole that forms when he takes a chunk from a peach to eat it. Within the pit, he encounters and befriends a group of human-sized anthropomorphic insects: Mr. Grasshopper, Mr. Centipede, Ms. Spider, Mr. Earthworm, Mrs. Ladybug, and the Glowworm. As they hear Spiker and Sponge searching for James, Centipede cuts the stem connecting the peach to the tree and the peach rolls away to the Atlantic Ocean.

Remembering his dream to visit New York City, James and the insects decide to go there. Centipede claims to be an experienced traveler and takes on the duty of steering the peach. Miss Spiders silk is used to capture and tie a hundred seagulls to the peach stem as the group fends off a giant mechanical shark. After the group staves off hunger by drawing sustenance from the peach, Miss Spider reveals to James that she was the spider he saved from Spiker and Sponge. The next morning, James and his friends find themselves in the cold Arctic; Centipede has fallen asleep at the helm, and his exploratory credentials are exposed as fraudulent. After Grasshopper determines that a compass is required to escape the frozen wasteland, a remorseful Centipede plunges into the icy water below to retrieve one from one of the many sunken galleons, but is captured and taken prisoner by undead skeletal pirates. James and Miss Spider rescue him with the compass at hand.

As the group finally arrives at New York City, they are suddenly attacked by the rhino that killed James parents. James, though frightened, confronts the rhino and gets his friends to safety before the rhino strikes the peach with lightning; James and the peach fall to the city below, landing on top of the Empire State Building. After he is rescued by firefighters, Spiker and Sponge arrive and attempt to claim James and the peach. James tells the crowd of his fantastical adventure and exposes his aunts mistreatment. Enraged at James betrayal, Spiker and Sponge attempt to hack James with stolen fire axes, but are stopped by the insects and arrested by the police. James introduces his friends to the New Yorkers and allows the children to eat up the peach. The peach pit is made into a cottage in Central Park, where James lives happily with the bugs, who form his new family and also find success and fame in the city. James celebrates his ninth birthday with his new family and friends.


2. Cast

  • Susan Turner-Cray as James Mother
  • Joanna Lumley as Aunt Spiker
  • Miriam Margolyes as Aunt Sponge
  • Steven Culp as James Father
  • Paul Terry as James Henry Trotter
  • Mike Starr as Beat Cop
  • Pete Postlethwaite as Narrator/the Magic Man


  • Jeff Bennett as Mr. Centipede singing voice
  • Simon Callow as Mr. Grasshopper
  • Richard Dreyfuss as Mr. Centipede
  • Susan Sarandon as Miss Spider
  • Miriam Margolyes as Glowworm
  • Jane Leeves as Mrs. Ladybug
  • David Thewlis as Earthworm

3. Production

Walt Disney Pictures acquired the film rights to the book from the Dahl estate in 1992. The film begins with 20 minutes of normal live-action, 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. Unlike the novel, James aunts are not killed by the rolling peach though his parents deaths occur as in the novel but follow him to New York.


4. Reception

Though Roald Dahl refused 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."

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 91% based on reviews from 74 critics, with an average score of 7.16/10. The websites critical consensus states: "The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment".

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, praising the animated part, but calling the live-action segments "crude." 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."


4.1. Reception Awards and nominations

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.