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James and the Giant Peach is a book by renowned children's author Roald Dahl, and one of his best-known.
The book is about James Henry Trotter, a young boy who lived a happy life with his parents, until they were eaten by a rhinoceros (yes, really). Afterwards, he is sent to live with his abusive aunts, Spiker and Sponge. One day, James meets a strange old man who gives him a bag of magic "crocodile tongues", which can make James' life better. James accidentally drops the bag on his way home, which causes the contents to sink into the ground. Soon, a nearby peach tree starts to bear fruit, namely, the titular giant peach, which grows to about twice the size of the tree. One night, James crawls into a hole in the peach, and discovers a group of huge, talking insects (another result of the "crocodile tongues"), who befriend James, and they all decide to travel to New York City in the peach (initially by floating the peach on the Atlantic Ocean, then by flying through attaching seagulls to it) to start their lives anew.
The book was made into a 1996 live-action/stop-motion animated film from Disney, directed by Henry Selick (who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas), and with songs written by Randy Newman. Despite doing poorly at the box office, and getting lukewarm reveiws upon release, it has since become a cult-classic and is one of the better adaptations of Dahl's work, though it can be considered... trippy.
The book and film contain examples of:
- Abusive Parents: James' aunts, Spiker and Sponge (for a given definition of "parent").
- Adaptation Expansion: In the original book, the only major trouble in the journey is the confrontation with the Cloud People. In the movie, there's a mechanical shark, a trip to the North Pole with undead pirates and facing the Sky Rhinoceros.
- Alien Lunch: The foods the bugs sing about in "Eating the Peach"--like curried slugs and plates of soil with engine oil. Justified because they're, well, bugs.
- Art Shift: In the movie, James has a Disney Acid Sequence dream about his aunts finding him. The art shifts from stop-motion to cutout animation, kind of like Slow Bob In The Lower Dimension, a short directed by Henry Selick.
- More obviously, the style changes significantly after James enters the peach.
- Ascended Extra: The Rhinoceros gets this treatment in the film. Being originally just a normal rhinoceros escaped from the zoo, it is here a supernatural beast made of cloud and lightning.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: The Rhinoceros, apparently.
- Ax Crazy: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker try to kill James with axes, complete with a Slasher Smile!
- Bag of Holding: Ms. Ladybug pulls out a hand mirror (Which is about half her size), a megaphone, three bouquets of fully bloomed flowers, not to mention Grasshopper's top hat and cane!
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Not really. While Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge are hideously ugly, with James (and his parents, the short time they appear) being notably easier on the eyes, the bugs are Ugly Cute at best.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: When James notes to Ms. Spider how kind she is with him she replies that its because he was kind to her first; she happens to be the spider on the window of James' bedroom, the one which he saved from his aunts.
- Beta Couple: Debatable. Most fans of James and the Giant Peach movie end up pairing Mr. Grasshopper and Ms. (?) Ladybug together for no reason other that they are simply there and single.
- Big No: James does this in the movie version when he is falling into the peach while the peach is falling onto the empire state building.
- Brooklyn Rage: Centipede in the movie. The others even call him "The Yank," and at one point he even shouts "I'm from Brooklyn!"
- Carnivore Confusion: There's a bit of a disconnect with a spider and a centipede being amongst the other invertebrates. This is even lampshaded in the film, with Ms. Spider noting how the peach tastes "better than ladybugs" (with Mrs. Ladybug getting understandibly miffed).
- This can be justified since just recently they got conscience.
- Conveniently an Orphan / Death By Origin Story: James' parents have a bridge dropped on them so suddenly that it could well be a parody of these tropes.
- Cute Monster Girl: Miss Spider in the film. She's really more of a Drider with a beret and French accent.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Miss Spider in the film. Although she is naturally solitary and mysterious and the other bugs seem to have some fear of her, she is at heart a good-natured and hospitable character, especially to James. He did save her life in the beginning, after all.
- Dead Hat Shot: Seems to be Centipede's fate, but he survives.
- Deadpan Snarker: Centipede, in both book and movie, is a loud one. In the movie, Miss Spider is a more subdued and genuinely deadpan one, leading to a few moments of Snark to Snark Combat between the two.
- Dem Bones: Centipede, James, and Spider face undead skeleton pirates in a shipwreck underwater.
- The Determinator: Say what anyone will about the aunts' Complete Monster status, but in the film, those two are REALLY determined to get "their" peach back, driving even through the frigid waters of the NORTH POLE!
- Early-Bird Cameo: The book contains references to Vermicious Knids, Whangdoodles, Snozzwangers and Hornswogglers, all creatures later mentioned in other Roald Dahl books.
- The Eeyore: The Earthworm.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Rhino in the film.
- Fat and Skinny: Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge.
- Foreshadowing: If you look closely in the first few minutes of The Movie, you can see the various insects and bugs that will have a larger role later on in the film. Hell, even the Empire State Building is seen as a cloud!
- Five-Man Band:
- Friendless Background: James was pretty much isolated while living with his aunts. Miss Spider also mentions that she never had any friends before meeting the other bugs.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "HOLY SHIPWRECK!!!"
- To make matters worse it kinda sounds like "Holy shit brick".
- Also, Grasshopper provides this little gem:
Grasshopper: You are a disgrace to your order, class, phylum--
- Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: While the rhino from the book was a real rhino that escaped from the zoo, the rhino in the film is a supernatural being with no origin.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In the film, Centipede. He turns out to be alive, though.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Aunt Spiker is barely restraining herself from calling James a "bitch troll from Hell."
- Roland Tembo gave James the crocodile tongues, during which he even points out that James' parents' "troubles are over".
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The Centipede is gonna need a bigger peach.
- Maybe it's a good thing Earthworm can't see the full moon.
- Dammit, Miss Spider, I love you!
- The man who gave the crocodile tongues to James must be in the habit of giving powerful substances to young people; he gave Romeo and Juliet their drugs in Romeo + Juliet.
- Or rather, Fischer Sr clearly passed on to his son a love for powerful hallucinogens...
- High-Class Glass: Worn by Grasshopper in the film.
- I'm Not Afraid of You: The Trope Namer.
- I Should Write a Book About This
- "I Want" Song: "That's the Life For Me" for the bugs, and I guess "My Name is James" for James, as it talks about his desire to live in the city but how reaching it is hopeless.
- Karmic Death: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in the novel.
- Averted in the film, though they both still get a great Humiliation Conga at the end.
- Large Ham: Richard Dreyfuss as Centipede in the film should definitely count. "I'm from Brooklyn!!"
- Make a Wish: How he gets the crocodile tongues (and in a roundabout way, how he uses them)
- Meat-O-Vision: Centipede, in the film.
- Medium Blending: Live action, stop motion animation, as well as cut-out animation in the movie.
- Miles Gloriosus: Centipede. In the book, he's always going on about what a dangerous pest he is, but he's really pretty harmless. In the movie, he also brags about being a globetrotter, but his knowledge about navigation and geography are severely lacking. Turns out all his knowledge comes from the time when he lived between two pages of an old issue of the National Geographic magazine.
"Very informative magazine, the National Geographic. Wonderful pictures."
- Multinational Team: Movie version-only. While Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybug, Glowworm and James are from different parts of Britain, Spider is French and Centipede is from Brooklyn.
- Not Afraid of You Anymore: James has one of these moments with the rhino in the film.
- One-Scene Wonder: In the film, Pete Postlethwaite as the man who gives James the crocodile tongues. He shows up briefly at the end as well.
- Parental Substitute: The bugs become this for James, particularly Miss Spider and the Grasshopper.
- Police Are Useless: Are they ever. When James's aunts are outed for all the abuse they've done to James, they go after him with axes, while the Police and the Fire department play crowd control and leave James to fight off his aunts.
- Played with in the book as well, where the policemen and firemen spend most of their on-page time panicking upon seeing the bugs and naming the various kinds of monsters they think they're seeing. Of course, there's no actual danger involved here, since the bugs are all friendly.
- Rhino Rampage: At the start, both of James' parents are killed by an escaped rhino.
- Shout-Out: Look for the Donald Duck and Jack Skellington cameo in the film! The Jack cameo is made especially evident because of the Centipede's dialogue: "A s-skelington...? Jackpot!"
- Incidentally, they even sell action figures including that costume, though still under the banner of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Centipede and Miss Spider, in the movie.
- Slasher Smile: Both Mrs. Ladybug and Miss Spider pull one off in the movie, when they both meet James. Subverted in that they were actually smiling normally, but the lighting and James' terror made their smiles look more sinister.
- Someone's Touching My Butt: When the lights are out and everyone's fallen on each other, the Centipede tries to pinch Miss Spider but instead pinches the Earthworm. Then the Spider tries to smack the Centipede and ends up hitting the Grasshopper.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Spiker and Sponge are squashed flat by the peach early in the book. In the movie they survive and show up for a final confrontation where James gets to stand up to them.
- The Stinger: A pretty odd one in the movie. It's a mechanical arcade game called "Spike the Aunts", where figures of the aunts are butted by a rhino.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Two humanoid bugs and a human child fight undead pirates underwater... and speak underwater... and in the North Pole... but it could be an effect of the magic crocodile tongues.
- Teeth Flying: Happened to Centipede in the movie version. Also, to the robot shark. (No fistfight, but teeth are still flying.)
- Tempting Fate/Why Are You Looking At Me Like That?: Earthworm, wondering what kind of bait will be used to attract the seagulls.
- True Companions: In the film there's even a song about it.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted. Centipede even repeats several times how he's proud to be a pest.
"Time to go make a pest of myself, heh heh heh heh!"