Charlotte's Web is a 2006 American live-action/computer-animated feature film, based off the novel as written by E. B. White and also based off the 1973 theatrical cartoon film of the same name. It is directed by Gary Winick and produced by Paramount Pictures, Walden Media, The K Entertainment Company and Nickelodeon Movies. The screenplay was written by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on White's book.
One spring on a Maine farm, Fern Arable (Dakota Fanning) learns that her father plans to kill a newborn pig litter's runt. She successfully begs him to spare its life. He gives it to her, who names him Wilbur and raises him as her pet. To her regret, when he grows into an adult pig, she is forced to take him to the Zuckerman farm, where he is to be prepared as dinner in due time.
Charlotte (Julia Roberts), a spider, lives in the space above Wilbur's sty in the Zuckermans' barn; she befriends him and decides to help prevent him from being eaten. With the help of the other barn animals, including a rat named Templeton (Steve Buscemi), she convinces the Zuckerman family that Wilbur is actually quite special, by spelling out descriptions of him in her web: "Some pig", "Terrific", "Radiant" and "Humble". She gives her full name as Charlotte A. Cavatica, revealing her as a barn spider.
The Arables, Zuckermans, Wilbur, Charlotte, and Templeton go to a fair, where Wilbur is entered in a contest. While there, Charlotte produces an egg sac. She cannot return home because she is dying. Wilbur tearfully says goodbye to her but manages to take her egg sac home, where hundreds of offspring emerge. Most of the young spiders soon leave, but three, named Joy, Aranea, and Nellie, stay and become Wilbur's friends.
- Dakota Fanning (Fern Arable)
- Kevin Anderson (John Arable, Fern’s father)
- Beau Bridges (Dr. Dorian)
- Louis Corbett (Avery Arable)
- Essie Davis (Mrs. Arable, Fern's mother)
- Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Edith Zuckerman)
- Gary Basaraba (Homer Zuckerman)
- Nate Mooney (Lurvy Zuckerman)
- Dominic Scott Kay (Wilbur the Pig)
- Julia Roberts (Charlotte the Spider)
- Steve Buscemi (Templeton the Rat)
- Oprah Winfrey (Gussie the Goose)
- Cedric the Entertainer (Golly the Goose)
- Kathy Bates (Bitsy the Cow)
- Reba McEntire (Betsy the Cow)
- Robert Redford (Ike the Horse)
- John Cleese (Samuel the Sheep)
- Thomas Haden Church and André Benjamin (Brooks & Elwyn the Crows)
- Abraham Benrubi (Uncle the Pig)
Major shooting was completed in May 2005. It was filmed on location in Greendale, Victoria and suburbs in Melbourne, Australia. The fair scene in the story was filmed in Heidelbergin Melbourne, Australia at Heidelberg West Football Club's football ground. The school scenes were filmed at Spotswood Primary School.
The talking-animal visual effects were done by various visual effect studios such as Rising Sun Pictures, Fuel International, Proof, Rhythm and Hues Studios (which also animated 1999's Stuart Little, another film based on an E. B. White book, as well as its 2002 sequel Stuart Little 2), Digital Pictures Iloura and Tippett Studio. The visual effects supervisor for the film was John Berton, who noted that a live-action version of Charlotte's Web has become much more practical in recent years due to advances in technology. Winick "was adamant" that Charlotte and Templeton (the film's two entirely computer-generated characters) should be realistic and not stylized, although they did give Charlotte almond-shaped eyes. John Dietz, visual effects supervisor for Rising Sun Pictures, notes that there was a debate over whether to give her a mouth and that in the end, they decided to have her chelicerae move in what he describes as being almost like a veil as if there were a mouth behind it.
The three geese which appeared in the movie were procured local to the Nillumbik Shire, Victoria from the Burford Family Farm in Hurstbridge. These were hand raised by the Burford Family, before being sold to the producers for the princely sum of $50AUD and euthanized in order to allow the movie's taxidermist to prepare the geese for filming. This arrangement led to controversy following the release of the film after one of the breeders was accused of deliberately conducting a "ram-raid" of the local ANZ.
The film was at one time intended for a June 2006 release, but was pushed back to December 2006 to avoid competition with two other Nickelodeon movies - Nacho Libre and Barnyard - as well DreamWorks' Over the Hedge and Pixar's Cars among other films. It was released in Australia on December 7, 2006 and in the United States and Canada on December 15, 2006. The DVD was released on April 3, 2007 in the United States and Canada.
Reviews were generally positive, especially with respect to Dakota Fanning's portrayal of Fern. Michael Medved gave Charlotte's Web three and a half stars (out of four) calling it "irresistible" and "glowing with goodness". Medved also said that Dakota Fanning's performance was "delightfully spunky". Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman complains that the film is "a bit noisy" but applauds the director for putting "the book, in all its glorious tall-tale reverence, right up on screen." He goes on to say that "What hooks you from the start is Dakota Fanning's unfussy passion as Fern."
- This was Nickelodeon's last film to receive a G rating until PAW Patrol: The Movie.
- It was also Nickelodeon's first (and, to date, only) live-action film to receive a G rating from the MPAA.
- The original book was also seen in Barnyard.
- This is the second time Nickelodeon has contributed to the Charlotte's Web franchise. The first was Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure, a direct-to-video sequel to the Hanna-Barbera version.
- 47 piglets were used on set for the role of Wilbur due to the piglets' fast aging.
- For security reasons, early prints of the film were shipped under the title "Bacon".
- Tim Burton was originally the director, but he later turned down.
- Walden Media, the film's co-production company, is also a family production company.
- This is the second film from Nickelodeon to feature music by Danny Elfman, following Nacho Libre.
- The spider introduces herself as "Charlotte A. Cavatica," which refers to the barn spider's scientific name, Araneus cavaticus. The old scientific name was feminine - Aranea cavatica.
- Danny Elfman dropped out of Spider-Man 3 to score this film.
Differences between the book and movie
- In the book, Fern saves Wilber at daylight; in the movie, she saves him late at night during a rainstorm.
- Fern sneaks Wilbur into school with her in the movie; in the book, she does not.
- In the book, Wilbur was taken to the Zuckerman Farm by truck; in the movie, Fern brings him there.
- Templeton is shown going to his mouse hole lair.
- Brooks and Elwyn were created for the movie; they did not appear in the book.
- The goslings don't have major roles throughout the movie like they did in the book. They also don't speak.
- In the book, the old sheep was the one who gives Wilbur the bad news that he's going to be killed at Christmas; in the movie, it's Templeton.
- In the book, the rotten egg breaks after Wilbur's bad news; in the movie, it's before.
- In the book, the rotten egg breaks under Wilbur's trough; in the movie, it breaks in Templeton's lair.
- The talk at home was moved to outside the church.
- Fern wasn't present at the barn meeting.
- In the book, on the first day of the fair, Fern wears a fancy dress; in the movie, she wears her overalls, and wears the dress next day.
- Mr. Zuckerman and Charlotte weren't present during the scene Wilbur gets a buttermilk bath.
- In the book, Mrs. Arable gives Fern and Avery money to spend at the fair -- two quarters and two dimes for Fern, and five dimes and four nickels for Avery. In the movie, she gives each of them ten tickets.
- Wilbur doesn't faint during his medal ceremony.
- In the book, Charlotte presents her egg sac before Wilbur gets his medal; in the movie, it's after.
- In the book, Charlotte says she's "languishing" before Wilbur gets his medal; in the movie, it's after.
- In the book, the baby spiders spend several days before leaving; in the movie, they leave the same day they hatch.
- In the book, Templeton emerges gluttonous from Wilbur's slop before the baby spiders hatch; in the movie, it's after.
- Doyle, Audrey (December 2006). "Web Design: A realistic CG Charlotte and Templeton act alongside a real barnyard cast in the latest iteration of Charlotte's Web". Computer Graphics World. 29: 26–32.
- "Charlotte's Web". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
- Medved, Michael (2006-12-15). Charlotte's Web. Michael Medved's Eye on Entertainment. MichaelMedved.com. Retrieved on 2006-12-18.
- Gleiberman, Owen (2006-12-15). Movie Review: Charlotte's Web. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2006-12-18.