Roald Dahl’s children’s classic James and the Giant Peach is heading from the page to the screen in support of a major global health initiative’s work to combat the new coronavirus. The Roald Dahl Story Company has tapped Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi to create a 10-episode YouTube reading of the book featuring dozens of actors, musicians, and designers, from Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, and Lupita Nyong’o, to Ryan Reynolds and Nick Kroll.
James and the Giant Peach, with Taika and Friends will raise funds for Partners in Health, the Boston-based global health nonprofit, and the Dahl Story Company has committed to matching up to $1 million in donations from viewers. The first two installments of the reading have been posted to the Roald Dahl YouTube Channel and the remaining episodes will be released each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 p.m. ET.
“We know from experience that the impact of this virus will be felt most by vulnerable communities around the world. But with more than three decades experience in community-based health care, including responses to epidemics and outbreaks such as Ebola, cholera, and tuberculosis, we know how to fight this,” said Dahl’s daughter Ophelia, who is both a co-founder of Partners in Health and the dedicatee of James and the Giant Peach, which was published in 1961 when she was six.
“Roald was one of our earliest and most enthusiastic supporters and never let me leave for Haiti [where PIH’s work began] without stuffing a massive wad of cash in my hand to put towards the next project,” she said. “You can see from his stories that he always supported the most vulnerable and those excluded from opportunity. Partners in Health was the perfect match.”
In addition to his work with James and the Giant Peach, Academy Award winner Waititi has also been tapped to be the executive producer and director of two forthcoming animated series for Netflix based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Being an adult child myself and having read James and the Giant Peach to my girls multiple times, I’m excited to be able to partner with my friends, the Dahl team and Partners in Health and re-tell this story to help those most in need right now,” Waititi said in a statement.
For Ophelia Dahl, bringing her father’s work together with her own is an opportunity to create hope during such a difficult time. “My dad instilled in us as kids the notion that imagination will spark a chain reaction of possibilities,” she said. “We can dream endlessly about ideas and make them real.”