Charles Darwin Movie in the Works at Disney

Jul 5, 2015

by Dave McNary

Disney has launched development on a Charles Darwin movie with Stephen Gaghan on board to direct from his own screenplay.

The studio acquired an untitled pitch from Gaghan, whose credits include writing the Oscar-winning “Traffic” and directing “Syriana” from his own script. Gaghan is in pre-production to direct Black Bear Pictures’ mining drama “Gold,” starring Matthew McConaughey.

Darwin, the English naturalist and geologist, established that all species of life have descended from common ancestors in his 1859 book “On the Origin of Species.”

Jeremy Thomas produced a Darwin movie, 2009’s “Creation,” starring real-life spouses Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany. That film, directed by Jon Amiel, focused on Darwin and his family as he struggled to finish “On the Origin of Species.”

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19 comments on “Charles Darwin Movie in the Works at Disney

  • The film Creation was appallingly bad; there was actually a scene with Charles and Emma in bed – naked!

    There is another Australian production, the title of which I can’t recall, but it had an excellent period feeling; and even had Emma dressed in a beautiful lapis lazuli blue gown.

    But Disney! God help us.

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  • To be fair to Disney and their customers, we are regularly told that some 40% of the US population think that the world was created within the last 10,000 years as it is today.

    By my humble maths, that leaves some 60% of the population who don’t believe that proposition. Am I being over optimistic ? Well when the USA wins the women’s football World Cup with a resounding victory, I don’t think so !

    I just hope Darwin is not “Bambified” too much. I hope the film will show the real mental struggle he went through to achieve his theory of evolution by natural selection. And he was not the only one to struggle at that time and he was never short of means or food and shelter, unlike many of the workers of the time, as Engels showed in his Condition of the English Working Class in 1844.

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  • 7
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    If it were National Geo, I wouldn’t have a problem.

    I wouldn’t be so sure personally. They’ve aired a number of pseudo-documentaries in the past about UFO’s and so-called paranormal events, etc… They do air good documentaries on nature but nothing’s a slam dunk with them anymore, their standards are somewhat lower than they used to be.

    Anyway, this is a chance for a major studio to contribute in educating the public about a very important issue in the US. I just hope Disney doesn’t screw up.

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  • I think it might turn out quite well. The voyage of the “Beagle” had a lot of exciting and colorful events. I assume that they will concentrate on this period of Darwin’s life. It would be hard not to like the young naturalist on a voyage of discovery that could be compared to today’s space program.

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  • Hmm. animated singing barnacles? The Christians modeled after the Sea Witch. a pack of talking dogs.

    An animation of Charles’ disturbed digestive tract. Wife Emma bawling him out in the manner of the Mozart Queen of the Night aria.

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  • 11
    jedzok says:

    Well, there is no accounting for taste – it is actually one of my favorite movies 🙂 Maybe it’s a bit slow-paced, but I found it informative, touching and thought-provoking. Plus – the acting was just superb.

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  • My fear would be that Disney will sculpt the film to maximize profit, instead of maintaining the scientific integrity of Darwin’s work. I don’t know the Director / Screen play writer. Does anyone know his work and whether it is above the normal Hollywood shoot’em up big hair girl buff boy stuff.

    I would like to see the observation phase during the Beagle voyage well managed showing good examples of evolutionary diversification, particularly the tortoises of the Galapagas. I would also like it to include the internal debate Darwin must have had as his ideas formed and the consequences those ideas would have on himself, family and the rest of the world. The conversations with his Christian wife. I think it needs to include the correspondence with Wallace, who came up with the same theory, but was beaten to publication by Darwin. Did Darwin anguish over this.

    And it must not throw a bone to the irrational. No, “It might have been God afterall” type innuendo at the end, to suck in the Xtian box office.

    I got a chance to stand in Darwin’s house in Terra Del Fuego in the wilderness. I hope the photography captures the grandeur of territory covered in the voyage of the Beagle.


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  • Best I think to have very low expectations. It is unlikely to be a scientific documentary, so what aspect with they focus on? Charlie’s early life as a cockney street urchin, his escape from a prison hulk on the way to a penal colony, his love affair with a rich princess who turns out to be his long lost cousin, his friendship with the fun-loving Bishop Wilberforce, his impossibly cute, dentally braced daughter who insists on calling her mother “mommee”?
    I recall their nauseating “The Magnificent Rebel” a film about young punk Luddy van B, but that didn’t put me off his music so I doubt their twist on Darwin will have the slightest effect either. On reflection I think a cartoon version would be best, at least no one would be expected to take it seriously.

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  • Good news then, I have managed to get hold of Stephen Gaghan’s original treatment which Disney gave the green light to and, from my memory of Darwin’s life story, it seems to be pretty accurate:

    During Darwin’s first winter, his mother is shot and killed by a hunter while trying to help her son find food, leaving the little boy mournful and alone. He then has to go and live with his wicked vain stepmother who forces Darwin to engage in menial labor, fearing that one day his beauty might become greater than her own. After many years, the Queen’s magic mirror confirms Charles Darwin as being the “fittest of them all”, which causes the Queen to cast him out and send a huntsman to compete with him. When he refuses to do so, the huntsman helps Darwin escape into the forest. Darwin stumbles upon the home of the seven beagles who sail away with him looking for adventure. He then teams up with eccentric pirate Captain Jack Wallace to save the Galápagos Islands from undead pirates led by Jack’s former mutinous first mate, Captain ‘Hook’ Owen. During the course of this adventure he notices how salt water crocodiles have different types of teeth depending on whether they prey on pirates or clocks. Before he can consider this further they run aground in the jungle and he hears King Louie singing:

    ” Ooh-bi-doobie-doobie -doo,
    I wan’na be different to you in small but heritable ways”

    Further into the Jungle Charles sees a lion in the distance lift his cub in the air and begin to sing:

    “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
    Sithi uhm ingonyama! Ingonyama!
    From the day life arose on the planet
    And blinking, stepped into the sun
    There was more for simple eyes to see than can ever be seen
    More niches to develop into to do than can ever be explored
    All the animals in the forest join in:

    “In the process of evolution
    It’s the accumulation of genes
    It’s the gradual natural selection of characteristics
    It’s the band of scientists
    Till we find our place
    On the path unwinding and spreading
    In the process, the process of evolution!”

    And Charles takes up his pen and begins to write…

    So nothing to fear from ‘Darwin, Gaghan-style’, then.
    I really do have more important things I should be doing!

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  • Easy to imagine the horrors that might ensure under the Disney banner, greatest among which would be the insertion of the mythical deathbed confession. However, Stephen Gaghan, writing and directing, doesn’t exactly have a “family friendly” track record so it may have some edge to it.

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  • 18
    Pinball1970 says:

    Headswapboy 7/7@4.01” Ooh-bi-doobie-doobie -doo,
    I wan’na be different to you in small but heritable ways”


    As long as they do not wind the film up with the, “But of course that’s just a theory children” song.

    Or even worse the, “show me the evidence!” number sang by Wendy Wright.

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  • Pinball1970
    Jul 9, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Or even worse the, “show me the evidence!” number sang by Wendy Wright.

    For evidence viewing; –
    Surgical removal of blinkers is required for certain types!!!!

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