The BFG is a 1987 British animated movie based on the 1982 book with the same name by Roald Dahl. It was first shown on Christmas Day 1989 on ITV in the UK. It also aired during the premiere of Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit and 8 days after the premiere of Matt Groening's The Simpsons. The film first premiered in Cannon Cinemas across the UK on November 5, 1987. It was Cosgrove Hall Films' first and only full-length film.
The film was dedicated to animator George Jackson, who had worked on numerous Cosgrove Hall productions before his death in 1986. This film is also the last role of Ballard Berkeley, who died in 1988. From the creators of Danger Mouse and The Wind in the Willows.
One night when young orphan Sophie cannot sleep, she looks out of the window of her dormitory and sees a cloaked giant blowing something into a bedroom window down the street. The giant sees her, and although she tries to hide in her bed, he reaches through the window and carries her away to his home.
Fortunately for Sophie, she has been abducted by the world's only good giant, the Big Friendly Giant (or BFG for short). Operating in the strictest secrecy, the BFG catches dreams (which manifest themselves in Dream Country as floating semi-fluid sparkler-like objects) and at night, he blows his bottled dreams into the bedrooms of children. The other, larger giants are vicious, cannibalistic monsters; they go out into the world to steal and eat humans, mostly children, since there is little else for them to eat where they live. Because the BFG refuses to eat people, he must survive on a revolting vegetable known as a snozzcumber, and thus the other giants regard him with contempt. Sophie and the BFG form a quick bond, and the BFG develops a paternal sentiment for her. However, Sophie's life is put in danger by the sudden arrival of the Bloodbottler Giant, one of the fearsome, flesh-eating giants who live in the wastes outside the BFG's house. The giant demands to know who the BFG is talking to, but the BFG lies telling him he is talking to himself. The Bloodbottler (correctly) assumes the BFG is talking to a human and begins searching for Sophie so he can eat her.
Sophie hides in the snozzcumber, unknown to the BFG, and the BFG offers the snozzcumber to the Bloodbottler, hoping that its foul taste will send the giant hollering out of the cave and leave him in peace. The Bloodbottler crunches up the snozzcumber, but luckily spits Sophie out. In a rage, the beast destroys the cave and storms out. The BFG helps Sophie recover, makes her a new dress and treats her to a strange, but delicious fizzy drink called frobscottle. It is rather unusual in that the bubbles in the drink travel downwards and therefore cause the drinker to break into loud flatulence instead of burping: this is known as a Whizzpopper, which cause the drinker of the frobscottle to fly. After this the BFG takes Sophie to Dream Country to catch more dreams he calls Phizzwizards, but is tormented by the other giants along the way, notably their leader, the Fleshlumpeater, the largest and most fearsome giant of all. After escaping them and arriving in Dream Country, the BFG demonstrates his dream-catching skills to Sophie, but is unlucky enough to catch a Trogglehumper, which is essentially a particularly horrific nightmare.
Back at the BFG's cave, he shows Sophie the huge storeroom where he keeps all the dreams he has captured over the years. He even takes Sophie with him to watch him on his dream-blowing duties, but this is cut short when they spot the Fleshlumpeater about to feast upon one of the children that the BFG had blown a dream to. Sophie cries out, attracting the Fleshlumpeater's attention and forcing the BFG to flee.
Sophie persuades the BFG that something must be done to defeat the evil giants, even if it means getting the word out. At first, the BFG is reluctant to do so, since he views all adult humans as bad people, but Sophie manages to convince him otherwise. Together, they develop a plan to get Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom to help them. Using dreams from his collection, the BFG mixes up a terrible nightmare which will show the Queen what the giants do. They set off for Buckingham Palace and blow the dream into the Queen's bedroom. The BFG then leaves Sophie on the Queen's windowsill and retreats into the palace gardens.
When the Queen awakens, Sophie convinces her that all of her dream was true. Because the dream included the knowledge that Sophie would be there when she woke up, the Queen believes her, and she speaks with the BFG. After considerable effort by the palace staff, the BFG is given a lavish breakfast and the Queen summons the Head of the Army and the Marshall of the Air Force to begin work on neutralizing the evil giants.
Eventually a huge fleet of RAF Chinook helicopters follows the BFG to the giants' homeland. While the child-eating giants are asleep, the Army ties them up, planning to hang them under several helicopters each, and transport them to London, where a special large pit has been constructed from which they will not be able to escape. However the giants are disturbed and begin to wake up, causing chaos and several soldiers to be injured. Eventually the giants attempt to free themselves from the chains that bind them, resulting in them being knocked out, and peace is momentarily restored. The only one who escapes being trapped is the Fleshlumpeater, who immediately goes after the BFG, who decides to face the Fleshlumpeater despite knowing he will stand no chance against him. Infuriated at being betrayed, the Fleshlumpeater is about to kill the BFG when Sophie screams out. Hearing this, the Fleshlumpeater drops the BFG and prepares to eat Sophie alive, but after a long struggle he is finally subdued with the nightmare-inducing Trogglehumper BFG caught earlier, and is carried with the rest. The BFG mentions that the Trogglehumper was a dream about a legendary giant killer named Jack (a character from the Fairy Tale of Jack and the Beanstalk)
As a punishment for their lifetimes of people-eating, the giants are placed in the pit and forced to eat Snozzcumbers for the rest of their lives, fed to them by the awful Mrs Clonkers who ran the orphanage Sophie lived in, resulting in its closure. Afterwards, the Queen offers Sophie a place to stay in her palace along with all the other girls in the orphanage, but she decides to stay with the BFG and accompany him in his dream catching. Together they fly back to Giant Country.
- David Jason as the BFG
- Amanda Root as Sophie
- Angela Thorne as Queen Elizabeth II
- Don Henderson as the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater and the Sergeant
- Frank Thornton as Mr. Tibbs
- Mollie Sugden as Mary
- Michael Knowles as Head of Air Force
- Ballard Berkeley as Head of Army
- Myfanwy Talog as Mrs. Clonkers
- Jimmy Hibbert as Additional voices
According to Brian Cosgrove, the director and producer of the film, Roald Dahl was very supportive to the studio in production. The film was completed in 1987, and premiered in the same year in Cannon Cinemas across the UK.
I painted a watercolour of how we saw him. I got a lovely note back from Dahl saying it was perfect, he was right behind it, and to just get on and do it. Sophie, the little girl who befriends the BFG, was easy. I had read that Dahl based her on his granddaughter, Sophie Dahl. At the time she wore John Lennon glasses, so we took it from there.
Possible deleted scene
Following its release, various children's books based on the film were published, one being a short narrative that featured printed still-shots of scenes from the film. However, two pages consisted of some from a scene which was not featured in the original cut.
Taking place before the BFG and Sophie arrive at his Dream Cave, the two are on their way back from Dream Country when they again approach the other giant's domain. Sophie is somehow separated and placed in peril when she accidentally sits upon a giant Dragonfly that flies off and drops her amongst the sleeping giants, who begin to stir from her scent. The BFG rescues her before they awake and begin scouring the land, convinced there is a human present.
The shot of the giants departing is later reused in the film as part of the Queen's nightmare of them and their heinous acts. As of yet though, no home video release has ever featured this supposed deleted scene.
The film currently has a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 3.3 out of 5.
Writing in The Sunday Times before its broadcast, Patrick Stoddart called it a "delight", and wrote that it "puts its already celebrated British animators, Cosgrove Hall, into the Disney class". It has since gone on to be a cult classic.
In 2012, Louisa Mellor, of the Den of Geek website, stated that "Cosgrove Hall's twenty-seven year old animated feature may be less of a technical feat than the latter and was certainly made for a fraction of the budget, but that doesn't make it any less a whoppsy-whiffling, razztwizzling tribute to a terrific story."
Roald Dahl's reaction
This film was one of the few adaptations of Dahl's works to get praise from the author himself. Cosgrove said that after Dahl sat through a screening of the film at the Cannon Cinema in Soho on 5 November 1987, he stood up and applauded in delight.
When we finished, we ran a screening in Soho, and Dahl and his family came along. They were sitting at the back, and when the film finished they stood up and applauded. He could be quite vocal, Dahl, if he didn't like something. He didn't like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at all, the 1971 Gene Wilder one. So it was a real relief that he liked our film.
The theatrical run ran from November 1987 to April 1988.
The film was first released on VHS by Video Collection International in 1990 (with Thorn EMI's Thames Video), and again in 1995 and 1997 in the United Kingdom.
Roadshow Home Video and ABC Video released the film on VHS in Australia in 1992, while its first video release in the United States was by Celebrity Home Entertainment in 1995.
Other releases followed in 2008 by Fremantle Home Entertainment's release. The American DVD release was distributed by Celebrity Home Entertainment in 1999 and A&E Home Video in 2006.
In 2012, Fremantle Home Entertainment released a digitally restored DVD and Blu-ray Disc in widescreen; although premiering in 1.33:1 format on television, the film was originally made in 1.85:1. It was also released in NTSC and the runtime was 91 minutes.
In 2016, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment UK released the film on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Keith Hopwood's and Malcolm Rowe's original score to The BFG was completed by Pluto Music Limited in 1987 and released in 2016 by Pluto Music Limited and FremantleMedia. The album contains the entire score as heard in the film in chronological order. Keith Hopwood gave an interview in June 2016 in which he told the story on how the score was composed and stylized:
"Early in 1986 Malcolm Rowe and I were asked by Cosgrove Hall to compose the score for Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which they were about to produce as an animated feature. We had a good relationship with Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove, having just completed the feature and several series of The Wind in the Willows.
This was an exciting project, scoring the world of Giant Country, home of Frobscottle, Snozzcumbers and Whizzpoppers, with of course the Big Friendly Giant and his new friend Sophie. The score production was an intentional mix of very synthesized pieces, and large orchestral sections for the action sequences."
- The Vortex & Arrival 0:43
- The Owl’s Flight 1:34
- Giant in the Street 1:49
- The Getaway 1:29
- Journey through Giantland 1:41
- You Snitched Me 1:41
- Bloodbottler in the Cave 2:01
- Sophie’s Bath 1:36
- Whizzpopping! (sung by David Jason) 2:40
- Dusk to Dawn 0:51
- Dream Country 3:29
- Sometimes Secretly 1:54
- Insects! Part 1 0:43
- Insects! Part 2 1:13
- The Dream Cave 1:39
- The Fishing Village 1:53
- The Boy’s Dream 1:12
- Flight to Buckingham Palace 0:58
- The Queen’s Dream 1:13
- This is The BFG 0:33
- Helicopter Flight to Vortex 2:45
- Vortex to Landing 1:00
- Giant Round Up 1:40
- Giant Awake 2:02
- Still Loose 0:48
- Fleshlumpeater 1 1:15
- Fleshlumpeater 2 2:52
- Choppers Return 1:52
- The End 2:48
- Two Worlds (Vocals Paul Young and Sharon Campbell) 3:38
- Mirror Mirror (Sophie’s Theme) (Vocals by Sharon Campbell) 3:47
- Sometimes Secretly (Full Length Version) (Vocals by Sharon Campbell) 3:03
Awards and nominations
|1990||BAFTA Awards||Best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama)||Brian Cosgrove & Mark Hall|
- The BFG, the 2016 live action feature.