"Magic Tree House" film premieres in Japan

Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:56am EDT
 
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By Chris Gallagher

TOKYO (Reuters) - The "Magic Tree House" books have whisked millions of readers on adventures to everywhere from ancient Egypt to feudal Japan. Now, the children's time-travel series is embarking on a new destination: the movie theater.

The Japanese animated adaptation, which premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival, comes to the cinema about two decades after author Mary Pope Osborne was walking past an old tree house and got the idea for the series that has sold nearly 100 million books worldwide.

Osborne had previously opposed selling the adaptation rights to the books, known for their value for teaching reading, history and geography, because she wanted to keep the stories in children's imaginations.

But she was impressed with the vision of the Japanese filmmakers, who visited Osborne and her husband in the United States to show them the script and illustrations for the movie, and felt confident they would make a good film.

"We thought they totally captured the spirit of the brother and sister in the story," Osborne told Reuters at the premiere of "Magic Tree House" on Sunday, the festival's second day.

"The heart of the story was so intact that to me, it was just perfect in that way."

The film, produced by Media Factory and set to be released in Japan in January, follows Jack and his little sister Annie, who discover a tree house filled with books in fictional Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. In the early books, Jack is eight years old and Annie seven.

When Jack points to a picture in a book on dinosaurs and the siblings are suddenly transported to prehistoric times, they realize that the tree house is magical and can take them to any time and place in history they wish to visit.   Continued...