Netflix buys works of ‘Matilda,' ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox' writer Roald Dahl

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Netflix will most likely face backlash due to Roald Dahl’s anti-Semitic statements. Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Netflix announced Wednesday that it’s bought Roald Dahl Story Co., acquiring the rights to all of the works by the children’s author, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda.”

The streaming giant said it plans to use the catalog to create “a unique universe” that includes animated and live-action films and TV shows, as well as games, live theater and consumer products.

The company declined to share how much it paid for the titles, which also include “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and “The Twits.”

The deal comes three years after Netflix agreed to create a slate of animated TV series based on some of Dahl’s works, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda.”

Shares of Netflix rose slightly on the news and traded 0.3 percent higher at nearly $575 per share in pre-market trading.

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Along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Netflix also acquired the rights to “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

Netflix

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Netflix announced the acquisition on September 22,2021.

Netflix

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Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” was written in 1961.

Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Netflix, though, may have to grapple with the complicated legacy of self-proclaimed anti-Semite Dahl, who died at age 74 in 1990.

“There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere,” Dahl said in a 1983 interview with The New Statesman. “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

In 1990, Dahl told The Independent: “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism.”

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Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” has been already adapted into a Broadway musical and film.

Alamy Stock Photo

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A scene from the 1996 movie “Matilda” with Embeth Davidtz (left) and Mara Wilson (right).

TriStar / courtesy Everett Collection

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A version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp was released in 2005.

Warner Brothers / Courtesy Everett Collection

Last year, Dahl’s family apologized for the offensive remarks.

In its Wednesday announcement of the deal, Netflix did not comment on the controversy, instead trumpeting that Dahl’s collection of titles have already demonstrated broad and intergenerational appeal.

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Gene Wilder starred as Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in 1971.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

“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.”

The deal is a major content grab for Netflix in the critical children’s entertainment sector, setting it up to compete with rival Disney+, which has increasingly proven to be a formidable streaming competitor.

While Netflix remains the largest streaming service, with over 209 million global subscribers, growth is slowing while Disney+ has made strides. Disney most recently reported that its streaming service has 116 million subscribers.

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