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Ghosts with gusto … The Canterville Ghost.

The Canterville Ghost review – spooky Halloween animation reunites Fry and Laurie

Oscar Wilde’s short story is the basis for this energetic family cartoon, with a spirited ghost voiced by Stephen Fry and a brief visit from confrere Hugh Laurie

H ere is a sprightly and good-natured pre-Halloween animation, based on the 1887 short story by Oscar Wilde; in vocal terms it reunites Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie , though not for a double-act exactly – and it should be said right away that Laurie really isn’t in it much. (I’d have liked to hear him as the gormlessly romantic Duke of Cheshire, although Freddie Highmore does a perfectly good job in that role.)

At the end of the 19th century, wealthy American Hiram Otis (David Harewood) and his family take possession of an English stately home: Canterville Chase, hoping to install a new-fangled thing called “electricity”. They’ve got it for a bargain price, because all the other owners have been scared away by the resident ghost, Sir Simon Canterville, played with genial aplomb by Fry. He now turns the frighteners on these wretched colonials, only to find that their eldest daughter Virginia (Emily Carey) is entirely unafraid of him – and the same goes for her cheeky kid brothers who startle him with their pranks and greet his alarm with the disrespectful question: “What kind of ghost is afraid of ghosts?”

A kind of meet-cute odd-couple friendship develops between the ghost and Virginia – an ectoplasmance? – while Virginia also finds herself falling for next door’s dishy, if clueless duke (Highmore), with whose family Sir Simon has a centuries-old beef. Sir Simon is wrongly supposed to have murdered his wife but he can only be free from his endless purgatory on Earth with a disproof of this calumny and a gesture of love, the location for which is here a very Wildean walled garden. The visuals are not exactly cutting edge but the storytelling has bounce and there’s gusto in the vocal talents.

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INTERVIEW: “The Canterville Ghost” Adapts A Classic Into Animation

the canterville ghost cartoon 2001

Oscar Wilde’s legendary short story The Canterville Ghost becomes an animated feature, with a couple of surprises up its sleeves. It opens in theaters this Friday October 20th. Co-Director Robert Chandler joins me for this spooky good Animation Scoop Q&A. (This interview was edited for length and clarity.)

Jackson Murphy: Oscar Wilde is an icon. What do you love about his writing — and incorporating that into this movie?

Robert Chandler: Oscar Wilde is a favorite writer, I have to say. There’s so much warmth and wit. He understands people. He mocks people without ever being truly cruel about it. When you read him, you can tell he loves his characters. In “The Canterville Ghost”, he puts an American family into this big, old English house at the turn of the century, in 1900. It would be quite easy for an English person, or an Irish person, to mock the Americans in quite a hard way. But he doesn’t. He loves the Americans. And similarly with the aristocracy, he understood fundamentally the desires and the heartbreaks of being an aristocrat. He was able to put these two cultures and values together. The American family representing modernity and the English aristocratic people and the house representing the values of old. And he made them collide… in a ghost story for children. How cool is that?

Robert Chandler: And at the center you have this ghost who’s been dead for 300 years, cursed, meeting a teenage girl from Boston. Our film really tells the story of that friendship. Initially they’re at odds with each other but they form a friendship. It’s what drew me to this story and all of [Wilde’s] writing — his characters and his warmth, and the fact that he has something to say.

JM : Virginia is not scared by Sir Simon, which is sort of a twist on many interpretations of a ghost story that we’ve seen on screen over the years. She’s a strong lead character, and you’re right: the dynamic between the two of them is very interesting as the movie goes on.

RC: It is. Sometimes you do a test between your two leads in a romantic comedy and make sure there’s a sizzle there — a chemistry test. In ours, we had it three ways. We had Virginia and Henry, with whom she falls in love with and he falls in love with her (smitten quite quickly). And Virginia and Sir Simon, who loathes Henry because of what he represents. So we had to make that triangle work. That was really about casting. Emily Carey gives a brilliant performance as Virginia. She gets her vulnerability, as well as her steeliness. And you’re right: she’s completely unimpressed. Sir Simon is so used to scaring people and them running away that when this family simply refuses to be impressed by him, it actually forces him to undergo a crisis of identity, and thus the story starts.

If they had run away, he would’ve just carried on as normal and wouldn’t have solved his essential problem, which is, “How does he get back to his wife, who he hasn’t seen in 300 years?” And then we [put] Henry into that. It’s not a love triangle. It’s a triangle of friendships. Virginia and Henry eventually do see how different they are, and in a way, that’s a perfect recipe for love. Yes, it’s a haunted house story. But essentially it’s a love story.

JM : Henry is voiced by Freddie Highmore, who has such spirit to him. And Stephen Fry voices Sir Simon. Fry recently voiced Leonardo Da Vinci in “The Inventor”, another great animated movie. I know Fry played Oscar Wilde in a 1997 movie. Was that part of his interest for wanting to get involved in “The Canterville Ghost”?

RC : Jackson, that’s exactly right. When we started this, Stephen wasn’t part of it. It was myself and the director, Kim [Burdon], and the screenwriters. We fashioned our screenplay, Kim did some beautiful drawings, and then we approached Stephen Fry. Yes, he played Oscar Wilde, but it’s more than that. He’s sort of an ambassador for Oscar Wilde’s work. We sent him the screenplay, just as a voice for hire job, and he came back with Gina Carter, who’s his producing/business partner and they said, “We want to do more than just give Stephen’s voice to this. We love this. Can we be your partners on this?” That was right at the front of the process. My company and Gina’s company produced it together.

Stephen loves Oscar Wilde, but for me, The Canterville Ghost is sort of Wilde’s King Lear in literature. It’s this older character who’s got a lot to lose and a lot of experience. Stephen brought that lovely depth to the role. I think he gives a superb voice performance. And Freddie came in with this youthful energy of being a very privileged, landowning English aristocrat. I can understand why Virginia’s rejecting him. But you see his heart. He’s a genuine person. And she sees that.

JM: Sir Simon longs to be with his wife, and part of that is that he, as the ghost, cannot leave the property. As you were making this over the past few years during the pandemic, there were a lot of times where families could not leave their house. Were there parallels as far as this longing to be somewhere else — to be with other people — as you were making this?

RC : I love that. I hadn’t noticed that. And now that you say that… there it is! There’s a theme. Jackson, brilliant. We made this film during the pandemic. I was directing it from my place in Hampshire in England. I would say it’s a bit like Canterville. It isn’t. It’s much smaller. But it was built in 1600, so it has its share of ghosts. We were storyboarding in New Zealand, animating in India, post-production picture in Ireland. I did all the voice recordings in London. Most of that was done by the pandemic via Zoom. I hadn’t picked up on that housebound thing, but now that you say it, yes, of course. He is trapped. Being released for him is much more significant than just returning to his wife. It’s letting go and being able to walk out of the house effectively.

JM: We get to the third act, and the film takes a shift that I think is very powerful and very effective. It involves Hugh Laurie’s character. As you were making this third act that really makes you think, how did you want to approach it — with the tone and the content?

RC: Thank you for saying that. The third act for me was the real reason for making the film. If you read the short story, Oscar doesn’t go into any detail at all about what happens in that walled garden. We know the before and the after. But he doesn’t tell us what goes on. He spends all his time with the family racing around the countryside looking for Virginia, and he mines that for comedy. But I read it and thought, “What goes on inside that walled garden? What happened?” We made a point of showing that. We spent as much time on that sequence as on the rest of the movie. We were planning it in advance. It has its own color palette. The set turns. This is the Grim Reaper… Hugh Laurie’s… turf. Simon and Virginia enter that. It costs a lot for them to enter that. It’s drama. Great sacrifices have to be made. We wanted that to look different — to feel like it was part of Canterville but through a different lens. It was all painted as if they were in a theater. We went for it. Hugh Laurie really brought his A-game. I thought he did it brilliantly.

Robert Chandler

RC : I hope so. “Do not waste your time. Time is precious.” We made sure these messages were an intrinsic part of that battle and ending. Thank you for saying that. I think children will also respond to those messages. I think film should always have something to say, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to say in our film.

JM: What are your plans for Halloween time?

RC : It’s no surprise I love monsters. I’m surrounded by them with posters in my office! Halloween is like 365 days a year for me, when I come into my office. I love it. This very year it’s nice because we have a special screening of “The Canterville Ghost” in Marlborough, which is not unlike Canterville, and I’m going to be introducing the film there to families. I hope they can get something from it. I love Halloween. Who doesn’t?

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An American family receives an inheritance a century English castle with its gardens and furniture includes a real ghost, that of Simon de Canterville. The ghost, which aims to continue to enjoy peace of mind several hundred years, using their best techniques to get rid of the spooky family upset.

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The Canterville Ghost (1997-12-26 Ghostly, Family, Comedy)

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The Canterville Ghost Review: A Banner Animated Adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Classic Story

Sir Simon's (Stephen Fry) ghost fails to scare an American family from his English estate, but gains an invaluable friend (Virginia Otis).

Oscar Wilde's classic short story gets a banner animated adaptation with an all-star voice cast of venerated British actors. The Canterville Ghost will have children and adults delighted from the first frame. I was literally laughing out loud within minutes. A few tweaks to the story adds depth, heart, and a thrilling climax that resonates. The film wows the eyes with beautiful backgrounds and settings. There are also a sprinkle of slightly scary moments to give the youngest tykes a welcome fright. The tale of a 300-year-old apparition comically failing to scare an American family out of his treasured home has never been better.

The Otis family arrives from Boston to a late 1880s English countryside estate with vastly different expectations. Hiram (David Harewood) and his wife, Lucretia (Meera Syal), are ecstatic to have gotten such a deal on the elegant property. They couldn't have cared less about rumors of a ghost or the fact that previous owners had been driven mad. The upstart Yankees plan to show the stuffy Brits the marvels of modern technology. Their hellion twin sons, Louis (Jakey Schiff) and Kent (Bennett Miller), can't wait to start trouble. But teenage daughter Virginia (Emily Carey) still stews from the move. What's she going to do in the middle of nowhere?

Sir Simon de Canterville (Stephen Fry) lurks behind the walls ready to terrify. He was cursed to roam Canterville Chase for eternity and made quick work of those who dared to enter his abode. Sir Simon's trademark wails, screams, and near translucent appearance doesn't get the expected response to say the least. He flees nearly traumatized from his first taste of Louis and Kent's antics. Sir Simon's efforts with their parents are equally frustrating. He's scolded and admonished before being shooed away with medicinal tonics.

Stephen Fry as Sir Simon

Virginia is the only Otis genuinely intrigued by Sir Simon. She finds a book about the history of Canterville Chase and the tragic circumstances that doomed him. He's also fascinated by the upstart girl who wears "pantaloons," can expertly fence, and rides horses like a cavalry soldier. They become unlikely friends until a hated neighbor enters the equation.

Virginia heroically saves the Duke of Cheshire (Freddie Highmore) from plunging off a cliff. The shy and sweet nobleman becomes enamored with the young American beauty. This thrills Virginia's parents who crave to be a part of snobby British society. But the nascent romance infuriates Sir Simon who hates the Cheshire family for what they did to him. He redoubles his efforts to evict the interlopers.

Fry and Laurie Reunite in Trailer for The Canterville Ghost Horror Comedy

The Canterville Ghost accentuates an already clever narrative with smart additions. Virginia's demeanor, dialogue, and actions show her refusal for complacency. She craves a world of excitement and adventure, not debutante balls. But every tough nut cracks sooner or later under the right circumstances. The Duke of Cheshire isn't just a handsome face with a title. He proves to be kind and courageous, and embraces Virginia's rebellious streak. Their romance becomes integral in a tense third act.

New story elements also include a hilarious riff on Ghostbusters . The Reverend Chasuble (Toby Jones) has a specter-chasing wife (Miranda Hart) obsessed with capturing Sir Simon. She straps on a proton pack wannabe that would give Egon Spengler (RIP Harold Ramis) a raised eyebrow. Her gadgets are just a tip of the iceberg. Hiram fancies himself an inventor with plans to electrify Canterville Chase. The theme of modern life overtaking dated customs and thinking is present throughout.

A Sweet Romance

Stephen Fry reunites with his sketch show partner Hugh Laurie as the most formidable of adversaries. He portrays Death as a gardener who clips our stems when the mortal coil ceases. Virginia's investigation of a mysterious proverb to free Sir Simon brings our gallant heroine to Death's doorstep. Let's just say those fencing lessons were worth every penny. There's surprising angst to an ending that's easily the darkest part of the film. The Canterville Ghost isn't all giggles when lives and destiny are at stake.

The 12 Best Animated Movies of 2022, Ranked

Directors Kim Burton ( Fireman Sam ) and Robert Chandler ( The Amazing Maurice, The Deep ) pay incredible attention to small details. The film's backgrounds are amazing. Everything from the rural landscape to the Canterville Chase interiors are noticeably distinct. They also change animation styles when giving important background information to frame Sir Simon's dilemma. His exposition is told in brilliant 2D cut-outs like a puppet show. This varies how you see the film, so the following scenes seem even bolder. The Canterville Ghost gives behemoth competitors like Pixar a run for the creative money. It's visually breathtaking. It's obvious that significant artistry was involved in the production.

The Canterville Ghost is a production of Align, Melmoth Films, Space Age Films, and Sprout Pictures. It will be released theatrically on October 20th from Blue Fox Entertainment and Shout! Studios .

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The Canterville Ghost

Adapted from the classic Oscar Wilde short story, the Canterville Ghost is the tale of an American family who inherit an English castle, and with it, the castle ghost! The ghost of Simon de Canterville uses his best ghostly scare tactics to get rid of the pesky family. A story complete with scares and laughter, a headless ghost, gypsies and true love. A riotous adventure - with a surprise ending.

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The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost (2021)

Follows a tech billionaire who buys Canterville Chase, unaware that the contents include a malevolent family ghost, who has been haunting the premises for centuries. Follows a tech billionaire who buys Canterville Chase, unaware that the contents include a malevolent family ghost, who has been haunting the premises for centuries. Follows a tech billionaire who buys Canterville Chase, unaware that the contents include a malevolent family ghost, who has been haunting the premises for centuries.

  • Caroline Catz
  • 25 User reviews
  • 1 Critic review

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  • Theodore Otis
  • Franklin Otis

Caroline Catz

  • Virginia Otis

Anthony Head

  • Sir Simon de Canterville

James Lance

  • Princess Caroline

Jack Bardoe

  • The Honorable Cecil Canterville

Cathy Tyson

  • Masilda Lovell

Haydn Gwynne

  • Lady Deborah de Canterville
  • Mrs. Watkins

Carolyn Pickles

  • Patience Lovell
  • Charity Lovell

Lewis Conway

  • Django Lovell
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  • Trivia This is filmed in Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire, UK. Where the 1986 version with John Gielgud was also filmed.

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COMMENTS

  1. The Canterville Ghost (TV Movie 2001)

    The Canterville Ghost TV Movie 2001 Not Rated 50m IMDb RATING 6.3 /10 47 YOUR RATING Rate Animation Adventure Comedy Adapted from the classic Oscar Wilde short story, the Canterville Ghost is the tale of an American family who inherit an English castle, and with it, the castle ghost!

  2. 'The Canterville Ghost' Review: A Spirited Tale of Hauntings and

    'The Canterville Ghost' is a delightful adaptation of Oscar Wilde's famed short story, transformed into a vibrant animated film that speaks both to younger audiences and adults alike. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the modern and technologically forward Otis family finds themselves in the midst of a haunted English home, Canterville Chase.

  3. The Canterville Ghost [English] 1/2

    0:00 / 8:26 The Canterville Ghost [English] 1/2 Karla 8.75K subscribers Subscribe Subscribed 2K Share 394K views 11 years ago The Canterville Ghost part 1 of 2. From the 1996 VHS "Classic...

  4. The Canterville Ghost review

    The Canterville Ghost. Photograph: Signature Entertainment Movies The Canterville Ghost review - spooky Halloween animation reunites Fry and Laurie Oscar Wilde's short story is the basis...

  5. Watch The Canterville Ghost

    The Canterville Ghost For 300 years, Sir Simon de Canterville has been haunting his ancestral home, Canterville Chase, and loving it! But everything changes when an American family buys the estate and moves in… 1 h 28 min 2023 X-Ray PG Comedy · Animation · Kids Available to rent or buy Rent HD $5.99 Buy HD $14.99 More purchase options

  6. The Canterville Ghost

    " The Canterville Ghost" is a humorous short story by Oscar Wilde. It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in two parts in The Court and Society Review, 23 February and 2 March 1887. [1]

  7. The Canterville Ghost (TV Movie 1996)

    1h 32m IMDb RATING 6.2 /10 2.8K YOUR RATING Rate Family Drama Fantasy When an American family moves into a haunted mansion in England, the family's teenage daughter could be the key in fulfilling a prophecy and finally set the house's ghost free. Director Syd Macartney Writers Oscar Wilde Robert Benedetti Stars Patrick Stewart Neve Campbell

  8. INTERVIEW: "The Canterville Ghost" Adapts A Classic Into Animation

    Robert Chandler: And at the center you have this ghost who's been dead for 300 years, cursed, meeting a teenage girl from Boston. Our film really tells the story of that friendship. Initially they're at odds with each other but they form a friendship.

  9. The Canterville Ghost (2001)

    Overview. An American family receives an inheritance a century English castle with its gardens and furniture includes a real ghost, that of Simon de Canterville. The ghost, which aims to continue to enjoy peace of mind several hundred years, using their best techniques to get rid of the spooky family upset.

  10. The Canterville Ghost (animation movie, 2001)

    Adapted from the classic Oscar Wilde short story, the Canterville Ghost is the tale of an American family who inherit an English castle, and with it, the castle ghost! The ghost of Simon de Canterville uses his best ghostly scare tactics to get rid of the pesky family. A story complete with scares and laughter, a headless ghost, gypsies and true love. A riotous adventure - with a surprise ...

  11. The Canterville Ghost (TV Movie 1988)

    24m IMDb RATING 6.7 /10 19 YOUR RATING Rate Animation The poor ghost of Sir Simon Canterville has been roaming his castle searching in vain for a brave descendant who will release him from the Canterville curse by performing a brave deed. An American family moves in and finds the ghost amusing, but a young girl in the family can rel... Read all

  12. The Canterville Ghost streaming: where to watch online?

    Synopsis. An American family receives an inheritance a century English castle with its gardens and furniture includes a real ghost, that of Simon de Canterville. The ghost, which aims to continue to enjoy peace of mind several hundred years, using their best techniques to get rid of the spooky family upset.

  13. The Canterville Ghost (1997-12-26 Ghostly, Family, Comedy)

    (July 14, 2001 by FISHCAKE): I have seen 4 of the "manifestations" of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, and this one comes closest to Wilde's satirical comedy novelette. Even here, though, the production team has seen fit to emend and amend, but not to excess. The ages of the young and old are correct, and so is the ghost's "crime".

  14. The Canterville Ghost (1988 Animation)

    Animated by Calabash ProductionsProduced by Orkin-Flaum ProductionsOriginally shown as a Halloween special on CBS. Shown in the early 90's on the USA Network...

  15. The Canterville Ghost Review

    Movie and TV Reviews The Canterville Ghost Review: A Banner Animated Adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Classic Story By Julian Roman Published Oct 19, 2023 Sir Simon's (Stephen Fry) ghost fails to...

  16. The Canterville Ghost (2001) Movie

    Adapted from the classic Oscar Wilde short story, the Canterville Ghost is the tale of an American family who inherit an English castle, and with it, the castle ghost! The ghost of Simon de Canterville uses his best ghostly scare tactics to get rid of the pesky family. A story complete with scares and laughter, a headless ghost, gypsies and true love. A riotous adventure - with a surprise ending.

  17. Watch The Canterville Ghost

    Season 1. Sir Simon de Canterville is the premier ghost in the British Isles, and exquisitely proud of his dastardly reputation. So when the Otis family leave America and move into the Canterville's abandoned family estate, Sir Simon prepares to give them the fright of their life. There's just one problem. The Otises aren't scared of ghosts.

  18. The Canterville Ghost

    The Canterville Ghost. Emmy Award-winner: A British ghost seeks redemption with aid from unlikely allies. Play Discover Episodes Details Extras You May Also Enjoy View All Start Watching Now View All Spring. Episode 1. 54m. The Otises move into a castle and discover a paranormal resident. ...

  19. The Canterville Ghost

    Now playing in theaters!A Stephen Fry-led reimagining of the same-name short story by Oscar Wilde that screened as an Official Selection of the 2023 Annecy A...

  20. The Canterville Ghost (2023)

    1h 29m IMDb RATING 7.3 /10 727 YOUR RATING Rate Play trailer 1:56 2 Videos 19 Photos Animation Comedy An American family moves into Canterville Chase, a stately countryside mansion that has been haunted by the ghost of Sir Simon De Canterville for 300 years. Directors Kim Burdon Robert Chandler Writers Cory Edwards Giles New Keiron Self Stars

  21. The Canterville Ghost Episode 1

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