Popcorn and a Book (27): Epic / The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs


The Book: 1996

The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs written and illustrated by William Joyce (HarperCollins)

The Film: 2013

Epic directed by Chris Wedge (Twentieth Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios)

I had never heard of The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce before the trailers for Epic started rolling out, but I was very excited to learn that this animated feature about leaf warriors is based on a picture book. Although, having seen the film, ‘based’ might be too strong of a word unless preceded by ‘very loosely’. I don’t think it is entirely fair to compare the book to the film as the two stories are extremely different—but I’m going to do it anyway.

The picture book tells the story of an elderly woman whose life seems to be connected to the life of her garden, specifically her beloved rose bushes. In order to save the garden (and the grandmother) the insects must rally the Leaf Men to fight off the evil Spider Queen. It is an enchanting read, though very bittersweet.

I find it quite interesting how this story evolved into a queen (who represents the life of the forest) passing her power onto another by means of transferring her power into a water lily bud. This magic must be performed by the summer solstice when the moon is at its highest, but evil creatures called Boggans, who want to spread decay, are trying to steal the magic for themselves. It is up to the forest’s guardians, the Leaf Men, to stop it. This story is then combined with that of a girl who, after the death of her mother, must return to living with her hair-brained father who believes in little forest folk.

As different as these stories may be, they have one thing in common: there is more going on in nature than meets the eye. There is a whole world out there that we are unaware of, and it is a truly beautiful world if you look really, really closely.

Whether shown through William Joyce’s unique illustrations or the incredible animation of the film, the world beneath our feet and above our heads is breathtaking. I opted to see the film in 2D (I loathe 3D!) and I was so thrilled that the movie had a powerful storyline—that it wasn’t a 3D film first and a story second. It was funny, lovely and even a little sad.

If you are even the littlest bit intrigued by the mysteries of the forest, do yourself a favour and read The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs and watch Epic. Just don’t go into it hoping to find them telling the same story. Or think of Epic as a continuation of the story started in The Leaf Men—another story in the Leaf Men’s long legacy. Do that and I promise you will discover a new world of things to marvel at. And maybe, just maybe, you will take a moment to pause on your next stroll beneath the boughs and look close. Who knows what you will see if you do.

“Popcorn and a Book” is a monthly meme where I compare a book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.

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