Even though Goosebumps was the pinnacle of popular books for kids in the 1990s, the Animorphs series wasn’t too far behind. The sci-fi series from author K.A. Applegate focused on five teens and an alien who have the ability to transform into any animal they touch. Using their powers of transformation, they battle a secret alien invasion of Earth by a parasitic, slug-like race of aliens called Yeerks who can control living creatures by merging with their brain through the ear canal. That battle will be brought to the big screen with an Animorphs movie now in development.
The Hollywood Reporter has news on the Animorphs movie heading into development. The project doesn’t have a studio home, but producer Erik Feig and his Picturestart production banner will be adapting the books for the big screen. Funnily enough, there was a recent surge in discussion about Animorphs on social media as a viable alternative to the Harry Potter series after J.K. Rowling came under fire for transphobic views.
The Animorphs series consists of 54 books published from 1996 through 2001. The primary focus is five teens Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias, and an alien called Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill (nicknamed Ax), whose race known as the Andalites created the transformation technology that allows them to turn into animals. The Yeerks believe the teens are a strike force working with the Andalites to stop them from conquering Earth, so they live up to that reputation and fight them at every turn.
Each of the six main characters narrate the stories from their own perspectives, and the books have been praised for providing authentic and harrowing depictions of war, dehumanization, morality, leadership, family, and more. Without giving anything away, the end of the series does not provide a typical resolution for our heroes, and it will be interesting to see if Hollywood will change it to be more palatable for general audiences or if they’ll stay true to the source material. There was a TV series that ran for two seasons from 1998 to 2000, but it wasn’t able to reach the end of the story.
Speaking of which, Animorphs will get some more time in the spotlight as the movie develops because Scholastic will be launching a graphic novel adaptation of the series starting on October 6. Eisner Award-nominated writer Chris Gine is adapting the first book, The Invasion, and the series will continue after that. Plus, the first six books in the Animorphs series will be getting re-released in a Retro Box Tin, complete with their original cover artwork from the 90s.
Picturestart has a partnership with Scholastic to bring their established intellectual property to life, and the Animorphs movie falls under that agreement. They’ll have Erik Feig and Lucy Kitada produce along with Scholastic Entertainment’s Iole Lucchese and Caitlin Friedman. Meanwhile, Friedman will also oversee development of the script with Royce Reeves Darby from Picturestart, though no writer has been announced yet. Lucchese said in an official statement:
“The central themes of Animorphs have resonated strongly with kids for more than two decades, and the time is right for a feature film that takes this captivating sci-fi adventure to another level for audiences today. Picturestart has an incredible track record of success, and Erik and his team are the perfect partners to help bring this exciting new series based on the adventure-packed books to movie screens.”
Meanwhile, Feig added to the traditional publicity fluff by saying:
“We couldn’t be more excited to work with Scholastic to adapt Animorphs, an iconic book series with a wildly unique combination of exciting, witty, outlandish and grounded elements that feel all too relevant for our times. We know these books have a deservedly deep bench of passionate fans — ourselves included— and we hope to make Katherine Applegate and her co-author, Michael Grant, proud as we bring Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias to life for a new generation.”
Nostalgic adaptations of properties from the 1990s have mostly proven to be fruitful for studios, but that doesn’t inherently mean they’ve turned out to be quality productions. Personally, I found the latest Goosebumps movies to be a mess, and since Picturestart was behind that franchise, I’m a little concerned about an Animorphs movie living up to the legacy of the book series for both the kids who grew up on them and a new generation of fans. We’ll find out soon enough.
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