Her books have sold over 600 million copies worldwide. She has been translated into nearly 90 languages, a record for a children’s author. Her characters – Noddy, the Famous Five, the folk of the Faraway Tree – are adored by children across the globe. Yet very few of Enid Blyton’s stories have been adapted for film or television; the BBC banned her work for over 30 years, while her outmoded attitudes towards race, gender and class have proved problematic for contemporary filmmakers.
This month the BFI is releasing two Famous Five adventure serials for the first time – Five on a Treasure Island (1957) and Five Have a Mystery to Solve (1964) – as the Mediatheque looks back on some of the rarely screened adaptations of her beloved stories, acclaimed biopics starring Maureen Lipman and Helena Bonham Carter, and documentaries on the author’s work, her inspiration, and her troubled relationship with her family. Still the subject of fierce debate over 40 years after her death, Toyland Tales and Happy Endings offers new perspectives on this fascinating writer and her work.
Ten to try
Five on a Treasure Island (1957)
The first episode of the Children’s Film Foundation adventure serial – Julian, Dick, Ann and Timmy the Dog meet tomboy George, and the Famous Five are born.
Five Have a Mystery to Solve (1964)
A cliff passage on Whispering Island promises adventure for the young sleuths.
Five Go Mad in Dorset (1982)
Lashings of satire and ginger beer – The Famous Five receive The Comic Strip treatment.
The Selling of Noddy (1988)
Can Noddy crack the notoriously tough American market?
First Reaction (1992)
A schoolgirl gives her verdict on the rewritten Blyton novels, which tone down the sexism of the originals.
Sunny Stories (1992)
Maureen Lipman portrays Blyton in an imaginative mix of drama, documentary and animation.
Books of the Century (1996)
Queen of the saucy blockbuster Jackie Collins reveals her favourite book – Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree.
Collector’s Lot (1997)
Gillian Blyton presents the doll collection that inspired her mother’s books.
Biopic exploring the writer’s difficult relationship with her husband and children, starring Helena Bonham Carter.
Noddy in Toyland (2009)
Computer animation brings Blyton’s most popular character up to date.