I have to admit I was skeptical when I heard they were making a live-action movie version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The cartoons, so simple, so expressive, really are the heart of the book. How would it be possible to visualize Greg Heffley without them? My skepticism was only deepened by the fact that I had recently listened to the audiobook for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which had failed to impress.
I had been planning on skipping listening to the audiobook altogether. How could you put such a visual presentation into audio? I was encouraged, however, by Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I'd scoffed (as many did) that it'd be an impossible task to translate that unique Caldecott-winning book into a different format, and was very pleasantly surprised to see that music had been used to skillfully create atmosphere in the story. So, I approached the audiobook of Diary of a Wimpy Kid with an open mind. Sadly, it failed to deliver. The narrator simply read the story. Naturally, without the cartoons, many of the sight gags simply fell flat.
I was understandably cautious when I went to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid but ended up delighted by the film. The movie used just enough of the cartoons to give the flavor of the books. It was true to the story, and honestly hilarious.
Any big fan of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (and these days, what middle-schooler isn't a fan of the enormously popular series?) will definitely want to take a look at the Movie Diary. It's chock-full of behind-the-scenes info and tidbits about the child actors who play Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley, including baby pictures and some of the first sketches of Greg that Kinney produced. Many kids have a vague idea of how a movie gets made, but the book really breaks down the process step-by-step. For example, in the scene where Greg and Rowley are sledding, it's not real snow, of course. And it wasn't actually that cold on the day of shooting. The book talks about how make-up artists painted the boys' cheeks red to simulate the look of being out in cold weather. That's a little detail that might have escaped the average movie viewer.
Another interesting detail is how the location scouting was done. When the school was selected, an army of designers and set dressers came up with a school mascot, and created hundreds of items that might be found in the school, including flyers on the bulletin boards.
I enjoyed reading about the thought process behind the design of several of the main character's bedrooms. Rowley's room is supposed to reflect that his family is very well-off, that his rocket ship bed, and other stuff is really, really cool... but also a bit babyish for a typical middle-schooler. The designers had the idea that Greg is the kind of kid who pursues hobbies with a passion and then drops them. They figured that he had just finished a big "pirates" craze, which is why you see so many pirate-themed items in his room. But before that, he went through a "sports" craze, which is why his bedsheets and some items he's had longer are sports-themed. For Fregley, the designers decided that his parents must be older. They created a more old-fashioned looking room, with vintage floral wallpaper and clothes and bedding for him that look like they came from a thrift store. It's interesting to see how the designers take a few kernels of information from the book, and really run with it.
With plenty of photos from the set, original drawings by Kinney, and large hand-lettered type, this book will be a blazingly fast read for most, although I anticipate some readers will want to read and re-read this while they are waiting for the fifth book in the series, due out next fall.
Check out the Monday round-up of non-fiction reviews
at Charlotte's Library.
I blogged this during the 48-Hour Book Challenge.
I borrowed this book.