Netflix Buys Willy Wonka, 'Matilda' and the Rest of Roald Dahl's Works

Netflix struck a deal with Roald Dahl Story Company to bring new adaptations of the author's beloved works to life on the small screen. The streamer announced the deal on Sept. 22, sharing a CGI animation of a Willy Wonka chocolate bar being unwrapped to reveal a golden ticket with the Netflix logo on it. The first major projects announced under the deal are a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation from Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi and a film version of the Matilda stage musical.

Before Netflix's announcement, sources told Bloomberg on Sept. 21 that Netflix was in talks to buy the Roald Dahl Story Company (RDSC), expanding on a previous agreement to create animated shows based on Dahl's work. It is a rare move for the company, since Netflix rarely acquires outside properties. Usually, Netflix will sign a big deal with living filmmakers and producers to create completely original works for the company. The financial terms of the deal were not announced, but the previous deal for the animated shows was estimated to be worth $500 million to $1 billion.

Two new projects are in the works, based on two of Dahl's most well-known books. Waititi's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is billed as an event series that will have a "wholly original take on the Oompa-Loompas," referring to the controversial characters Willy Wonka employs at his chocolate factory. The second project is the Matilda film, starring Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch and newcomer Alisha Weir in the title role. The 2022 film is based on the critically acclaimed Matilda the Musical by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly, which was staged on Broadway in 2013.

Dahl, who died in November 1990 at age 74, remains one of the best-selling novelists in the world, and is best known for his children's books. His other work includes James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches, The Twits, and The BFG. In recent years, he has become a controversial figure due to ant-semitic remarks in multiple interviews. In December 2020, the RDSC apologized for his remarks. "Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl's stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations," the company said in a statement at the time. "We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words."


Despite Netflix's deal to buy RDSC, Warner Bros. is now working on Wonka, a movie about a young Willy Wonka starring Timothee Chalamet in the title role. The film will be directed by Paul King (Paddington) and written by Simon Farnaby. Warner Bros., which also released Tim Burton's 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plan to release Wonka on March 17, 2023.