If you think Snoopy is going to be the only beagle immortalised on the silver screen, then think again because Disney are in the primitive stages of making a film about explorer and naturalist Charles Darwin, focusing on his exploits whilst on board HMS Beagle.
It is aiming to put paid to the notion that the eminent scientist had always been an elderly, bearded gentleman, akin to Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – it turns out he was quite the rebel in his early years.
And that’s something that Disney have obviously seen potential in, as they are aiming to make this adventure in the mould of Indiana Jones or the alternative Sherlock Holmes escapades. In other words, this portrayal is going to be a far cry from the archetypal Victorian whom we think we know about and bring out a side of Darwin we never knew existed – that of a dashing young adventurer who thought nothing of sailing some pretty treacherous waters.
Whatever would the great man’s nearest and dearest have made of it all? Of course, we’ll never know, but we do have the next best thing, that being his great-great-great granddaughter Laura Keynes, who said: “A Disney Charles Darwin? The mind boggles. He was quite dashing in his younger years. I think this project is quite exciting, it sounds like fun.”
It’s looking certain that Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) will be writing as well as directing – Disney have already bagsied a draft script from the Oscar-winning screenwriter – and let’s hope he does this most extraordinary man’s story some justice, something that proved beyond 2009’s Creation, in which Paul Bettany took on the role. It didn’t even manage to hit the million-dollar mark worldwide, so it’s a pretty safe bet that Darwin himself would have been left choking on his cornflakes.
So, when this movie does get to see the light of day, let’s not dwell on whether Disney gets its history right or the creation-evolution debate; let’s just hope it’s something that adds to what is one hell of a legacy.