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Netflix buys Roald Dahl catalog

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Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket on the set of the fantasy film ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’

Silver Screen Collection | Getty Images

LONDON — Netflix has acquired the entire catalog of Roald Dahl, the beloved children’s author known for works including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda.”

The U.S. streaming giant announced Wednesday it has bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to the British novelist’s characters and stories. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Excited to announce that the Roald Dahl Story Company (RDSC) and Netflix are joining forces to bring some of the world’s most loved stories to current and future fans in creative new ways,” Netflix said in a tweet, which featured a chocolate bar being unwrapped to reveal a golden ticket, in reference to the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

It comes three years after Netflix signed a deal to create a slate of new animated productions based on the works of Dahl, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “The BFG.”

Several of Dahl’s works have already been adapted into movies that received global acclaim, from 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder to 2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a remake of the classic film starring Johnny Depp, was a huge box office success, grossing $475 million.

Netflix, which had already been working on a series based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and an adaptation of “Matilda The Musical,” said “these projects opened our eyes to a much more ambitious venture — the creation of a unique universe across animated and live action.”

“Roald Dahl’s books have been translated into 63 languages and sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, with characters like Matilda, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Willy Wonka and The Twits delighting generations of children and adults,” Netflix said in a statement Wednesday. “These stories and their messages of the power and possibility of young people have never felt more pertinent.”

“As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we’re committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic to the mix.”

It marks one of the biggest content grabs for Netflix, which has been investing heavily into original content and intellectual property in a bid to maintain its lead over legacy media companies.

Disney has proven a formidable competitor to Netflix, with 116 million people now subscribed to its Disney+ streaming service. Netflix remains the largest player, with over 209 million paid members globally.

While Dahl is one of Britain’s most celebrated authors, his works have come to be viewed in a different light more recently amid concerns over his anti-Semitic views. Dahl has also been criticized for misogynistic and racist portrayals of some of his characters.

In 2018, the U.K.’s Royal Mint rejected plans to celebrate the life of Dahl with a commemorative coin due to his association with anti-Semitism.

Last year, the Roald Dahl Story Company issued an apology over the writer’s history of anti-Semitic statements.

“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations,” the company said at the time.

“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”

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