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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

"Some Pig" Comes To The Big Screen
"When kids read the book, it becomes their introduction to the cycle of life,” says Dakota Fanning, who stars on-screen in the live-action adaptation of Charlotte's Web. "There are so many messages to the book and the movie. I'm honored that I got to bring Fern to life.”

"I remember my old hardcover edition of the book, with the etching of Fern and Wilbur on the cover,” says Julia Roberts, who brings voice to Charlotte, the spider that saves Wilbur's life. "It's a classic story and I'm excited to bring it to a new generation in this way.”

"Charlotte's Web” began its journey to the screen when producer Jordan Kerner, previously the producer of such hits as "Fried Green Tomatoes,” "The Mighty Ducks,” "George of the Jungle,” "Inspector Gadget,” and many others, read E.B. White's book to his young daughters. Kerner's mother had read the book to him as a child, and he remembered it fondly.

While reading it to his children, "One of my daughters asked me, ‘Why did Fern leave Wilbur at the fair before she knew he was going to be safe?'” Kerner recollects. "That's when I knew that this was a movie that had to be made. All of the questions that flood into us when we're three or four years old – questions of life and death, how long we're going to live, and what's going to happen to those we love – stay with us and resonate even more strongly as we age and have children of our own.”

Moreover, the story champions the kind of bedrock values that appeal to audiences of all kinds: young and old, individuals and families. "The story is enduring because of its ideas – selflessness, friendship, and the creation of family where there was none before,” says Kerner, noting that these are issues anyone, young or old, can relate to. "We really wanted to make this movie for all audiences, not just families,” he says.

Kerner wrote a 28-page outline with executive producer and Kerner Entertainment production head Paul Neesan. In addition to finding inspiration from the book, Kerner and Neesan spent a great deal of time researching E.B. White at the English department of Cornell University, from which White graduated and where his papers and other personal archives are kept. As a result, says Kerner, "throughout the movie there are many references to E.B. White's life, and we've used much of his own dialogue,” says Kerner.

One example of a change from the book that is drawn from Kerner's and Neesan's research is the opening. White had labored over eight different drafts of the book; in his final version, he decides upon opening the morning after the pigs are born. Fern is setting the table for breakfast with her mother when she asks, "Where's Papa going with that ax?” 

The filmmakers chose an earlier draft for its cinematic and dramatic qualities: John Arable, Fern's father, is in the barn and sees that his sow has given birth and that there are too many piglets for the mother to feed. Fern also wakes to the noise and runs out to the barn; seeing her father with the ax, she stops him from killing Wilbur.

With their story in place, the filmmakers' focus turned to the script. The producers knew that they wanted to stay fundamentally true to White's novel. Kerner had admired the work of screenwriter Susannah Grant, specifically "Erin Brockovich,” which earned Grant an Oscar nomination. "She wrote a beautiful screenplay,” he says.

To add a little humor and edge to the characters, the producers turned to Karey Kirkpatrick, who has contributed to such films as "Chicken Run,” "James and the Giant Peach,” and "Over the Hedge.” "Karey gave tremendous life to the barnyard characters, and also added the comedic touch,” praises Kerner.

Achieving the right balance of comedic elements was essential. "We knew we couldn't make the humor cultural or topical, but we wanted to make it smart. Yet we had to appeal to the young kids, while still preser

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