The mastermind behind “Jumanji” gives his take on the updated film version | Michigan Radio
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The mastermind behind “Jumanji” gives his take on the updated film version

Feb 28, 2018

Chris Van Allsburg
Credit Courtesy of Chris Van Allsburg

The film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and many more names. It was inspired by the work of Chris Van Allsburg, the renowned writer and illustrator of children's books. He's won two Caldecott Medals for his illustrations for The Polar Express and Jumanji, which was published in 1981.

Van Allsburg grew up in Grand Rapids, and he joined Stateside to talk about the original Jumanji and this new take on the story.

*Stateside originally aired this story on Dec. 18, 2017, just before the Michigan premiere of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

On where the original idea for Jumanji came from

“I wrote the story as an adult but had recollections of feeling kind of a disappointment when I played board games when I was a kid.

"I had a decent imagination, but there was still something vaguely disappointing about playing Monopoly and not having real money, that sort of thing, and so I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was such a thing as a board game which did not require the imagination of the players, because everything that happened on the board game actually came to life – happened in real life.

"So that was the, kind of, starting point. And then I thought about different kinds of games and I sort of hit on a jungle game, because I thought the combination of jungle perils inside your house would be a provocative combination.”

On where the word “Jumanji” came from

“When I was just sort of, you know, casting around for a name… I was set on finding something that was slightly exotic – didn’t sound like it was a word from the English language. And I think maybe the ‘J’ attracted me because it sort of suggested jungle. And, I don’t know, it just sort of at that point sprang into my head – ‘Jumanji.’”

On what Van Allsburg likes about the new film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

“It’s updated. It’s no longer a board game. It’s a video game, and I think maybe the most interesting thing about it is the use of a convention in video game design which is that when people play it, they can choose an avatar.

"So when they actually play the game, they’re playing sort of through the identity of this avatar of a character in the video game. So this is actually what happens to the four teenagers who play this game. They all end up drawn into this video game, but when they arrive in the videogame, they do not arrive in their own bodies. They now inhabit their avatars.”

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