M G Leonard has revealed the details of her Beetle trilogy TV series, promising “live action drama combined with CGI beetles”.
The middle grade author revealed that she is researching similar programmes which combine real people and animals with computer graphics, such as the Harry Potter franchise and “Paddington”. The television adaptation of her award-winning Chicken House series was announced in June, with Leonard taking on screenwriting duties for the project with London-based indie production company Nevision.
She will share insights from the adaptation with the project’s executive producer and Nevision director Nigel Pickard at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference at County Hall on 24th September.
“The Beetle trilogy adaptation will be live action drama combined with CGI beetles,” Leonard told The Bookseller. “This will be the biggest influence on the script, as the central relationship in the book is between a boy and his rhinoceros beetle. It must feel real. There is also a lot of physical humour in the books around the buffoonish characters Pickering and Humphrey. This can be tricky to get right on screen...Writing funny is one of the hardest things to do.”
She also believes that characterisation can help a story make a successful leap from book to screen and hopes that her series about a boy's friendship with a beetle will help form part of a "transmedia" movement.
“A story has to be strong yet versatile to translate across mediums, and I think this is to do with the central characters,” she said. “Get your characters right and anything is possible. My sons loved reading the Horrid Henry books by Francesca Simon with me, but equally enjoy the TV animation and the movie.
"I’m particularly interested in the dynamics of successful family shows such as “Outnumbered”, as well as transmedia projects such as Neil Patrick Harris’s production of the “Lemony Snicket, Series of Unfortunate Events”... I think we are seeing a variety of projects such as Guillermo Del Toro’s “Trollhunters” [computer-animated fantasy television series created for Netflix] which explore that [type of transmedia].
"I would expect more of these type of projects in the future, and would love to be part of the genesis of a fully transmedia project."
Leonard also described how shows such "The Chronicles of Narnia", "Doctor Who", "Robin of Sherwood" and "The Muppets" inspired her writing.
“Now there are so many incredible TV shows and films available,” she said. “I consume as much as I can with the aim of creating a vocabulary of what I think works or doesn’t. When possible, I watch TV shows with my children to gauge their reactions."
She added: “The big TV I am desperately waiting for is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s The Good Omens. I’m always aware of what Neil Gaiman is doing, because it’s always interesting.” It was revealed last year that Gaiman's TV adaptation had been picked up by Amazon Studios and is currently slated for 2019.
Previously a digital media officer for the National Theatre, Leonard’s Beetle Boy books have now been sold in 37 countries. The trilogy comprises Beetle Boy (published in 2016), Beetle Queen (2017) and Battle of the Beetles (2018). Beetle Boy scooped the Branford Boase award in 2017.
For more information on The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on 24th September, or to book tickets, visit the conference website.
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