Chicago-based Albert Whitman Media, a division of publishing house Albert Whitman & Company, has tapped Leonardo DiCaprio’s LA-based Appian Way Productions (The Wolf of Wall Street) to co-produce The Boxcar Children. This live-action kids and family series is inspired by Gertrude Chandler Warner’s popular children’s books that have sold 80 million copies worldwide.
Scripted by Abram Makowka’s team at Bureau of Magic (Lost in Oz) and directed by Miguel Arteta (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), The Boxcar Children will be executive produced by Jennifer Davisson for Appian Way and Attila Gazdag for Albert Whitman.
Though it features modern settings and contemporary themes, the series will stay true to the books’ characters—four orphaned siblings who solve mysteries out of an abandoned railroad car they call home.
Albert Whitman and Appian Way are aiming for cinematic visuals and longer serialized episodes around 45 minutes long to make the series look and feel more like a movie, says Gazdag. The project is currently being pitched to broadcasters, streamers and distributors, and will head into production once a series order is secured.
First published in 1924 as The Box-Car Children, the book series spans nearly 200 titles. This adaptation marks the IP’s first expansion into TV, but a same-name animated movie produced by Warner Bros. and Hammerhead Productions was released theatrically in 2014, followed by sequel The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island from producer Daniel Chuba in 2018.
The Boxcar TV series is Appian Way’s second project for kids—and the first one, Amazon animated series Pete the Cat, was also a book adaptation. The prodco is best known for producing a raft of book-based DiCaprio movies, including 2015′s The Revenant, 2013′s The Wolf of Wall Street and 2004′s The Aviator.
Gazdag says Appian Way’s track record with literary adaptations, coupled with a genuine passion for the Boxcar material, are what attracted Albert Whitman to the partnership.
The studio is also producing a 40 x half-hour podcast series in partnership with Verité Entertainment designed to expand the origin story of the Boxcar siblings for the first time. These self-contained radio plays will also introduce a new narrator, played by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise). The Boxcar Children podcast will debut in 2022 on platforms including iTunes, Google and Spotify.
Since launching in May, Albert Whitman Media has been quick to fill up its kids content slate by cherry-picking from the publishing house’s 1,000-plus book library. Earlier this month, the prodco revealed that its first projects would be 2D-animated adaptations of two book series—Zapato Power by author Jacqueline Jules and the as-yet-unpublished Wish Library range from author/creator Christine Evans. Both series will be co-developed and co-produced with WarnerMedia’s Rooster Teeth.
Additionally, Albert Whitman and New York’s Baboon Animation are adapting writer Gary Urey’s popular children’s book series Super Schnoz as a 2D-animated adventure-comedy series for six- to 11-year-olds. It’s in advanced discussions with Canadian producer/distributor Bejuba! to represent the series globally and serve as an executive producer.