Charlotte's Web is a live-action/computer-animated feature film, based on the popular book of the same name by E.B. White. It is directed by Gary Winick and produced by Paramount Pictures, Walden Media, The Kerner Entertainment Company, and Nickelodeon Movies. The screenplay is by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on White's book.
It is the second film adaptation of White's book, preceded by a 1973 cel-animated version produced by Hanna-Barbera for Paramount Pictures. It was distributed in Switzerland, Spain, and Netherlands by Universal Pictures.
One spring, on a farm
, Fern Arable (Dakota Fanning
) learns that her father plans to kill the runt of a litter of newborn pigs. She successfully begs him to spare the piglet's life. The farmer gives the tiny pig to Fern, who names him Wilbur and raises him as her pet. To Fern's regret, when Wilbur grows into an adult pig, Fern is forced to take him to the Zuckerman farm, where he is to be prepared as dinner in due time.
Charlotte (Julia Roberts), a spider, lives in the space above Wilbur's sty in the Zuckermans' barn; she befriends Wilbur and decides to help prevent him from being eaten. With the help of the other barn animals, including a rat named Templeton (Steve Buscemi), she convinces the Zuckerman family that Wilbur is actually quite special, by spelling out descriptions of him in her web: "Some pig", "Terrific", "Radiant" and "Humble". Charlotte gives her full name as "Charlotte A. Cavatica", revealing her as a barn spider, an orb-weaver spider with the scientific name Araneus cavaticus.
The farm family, Wilbur, Charlotte, and Templeton go to a fair, where Wilbur is entered in a contest. While there, Charlotte produces an egg sac. She cannot return home with Wilbur because she is dying. Wilbur tearfully says goodbye to Charlotte but manages to take her egg sac home, where hundreds of offspring emerge. Most of the young spiders soon leave, but three, named Joy, Aranea and Nellie, stay and become Wilbur's friends.
This was Thomas Haden Church
's second family film to be released by Paramount Pictures
. In 2006, the first being Over the Hedge
, which was made by DreamWorks Animation
. Paramount had distributed the film as a result of its acquisition of DreamWorks
, whose animation division became its own company
in late 2004.
This was the first film based on a book by E. B. White since 2001's The Trumpet of the Swan.
This was the second film where Julia Roberts voices an arthropod, the first being The Ant Bully where she voices an ant.
Charlotte's Web was produced without any involvement from E.B. White's estate.
Major shooting was completed in May 2006. It was filmed on location in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and suburbs in Melbourne, Australia. The fair scene in the story was filmed in Heidelberg in Melbourne, Australia at Heidelberg West Football Club's football ground.
Visual effects are by Rising Sun Pictures, Fuel International, Proof, Rhythm and Hues Studios, Digital Pictures Iloura and Tippett Studio. The visual effects supervisor for the film as a whole was John Berton, who noted that a live action version of Charlotte's Web has become much more practical in recent years due to advances in technology. Winick "was adamant" that Charlotte and Templeton (the film's two entirely computer-generated characters) should be realistic and not stylized, although they did give Charlotte almond-shaped eyes. John Dietz, visual effects supervisor for Rising Sun Pictures, notes that there was a debate over whether to give her a mouth, and that in the end they decided to have her chelicerae move in what he describes as being almost like a veil, as if there were a mouth behind it.
The film was at one time intended for a June 2006 release, but was pushed back to December 2006 to avoid competition with two other films from Nickelodeon Movies
- Nacho Libre
- as well as Over the Hedge
among other films. It was released in Australia
on December 7
and in the United States
on December 15
. The U.S. and Canadian release date matches that of 20th Century Fox
, another film with fantasy elements and a young protagonist. The scheduled release date in the UK is February 9
. The DVD was released on April 3, 2007 in the United States
and was released on DVD in the United Kingdom
on May 28.
In the United States, the film was Paramount's first theatrical film to be rated "G" by the Motion Picture Association of America since the company's 2001's film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
Reviews were generally positive, especially with respect to Dakota Fanning's portrayal of Fern. Michael Medved
gave Charlotte's Web
three and a half stars (out of four) calling it "irresistible" and "glowing with goodness". Medved also said that Dakota Fanning's performance was "delightfully spunky". Entertainment Weekly
's Owen Gleiberman
complains that the film is "a bit noisy" but applauds the director for putting "the book, in all its glorious tall-tale reverence, right up on screen." He goes on to say that "What hooks you from the start is Dakota Fanning's unfussy passion as Fern.
The film was awarded a 2006 Critics' Choice Award for Best Family Film in the live-action category.
A soundtrack CD, Charlotte's Web: Music from the Motion Picture
, was released by Sony Classical
on December 5, 2006. In addition to the instrumental score by Danny Elfman
, the soundtrack includes a song by Sarah McLachlan
. A CD compilation of "Music Inspired by the Motion Picture" was issued on December 12, [006.
A video game
of the movie, developed by Backbone Entertainment
and published by THQ
, was released on December 12
for the GBA
, Nintendo DS