Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters is a book illustrated and written by Alan Snow that inspired the animated film, The Boxtrolls. The book is a rambling grab-bag of fun ideas, seemingly every idea that Alan Snow ever had up till that point. It is a very enjoyable read, but presented a problem to adapt into a 90 minute movie. There was so much material that the biggest job was to edit it. If you made a 90 minute movie of the Bible (almost as thick as Alan Snow’s book) would you try to sketch out the entire narrative? And what would that be? Or would you just show one particular part?


Most of my work on the film was in the early period, focusing on storyboards, but occasionally I’d attempt a design, such as these guys above; the Laundry Pirates, whose captain was a dashing rat. The book was full of such whimsical characters; such as the Rabbit Women, the Trotting Badgers, The Cabbage Heads, and weird little sentient cheeses that ran about the town, or were chased through the countryside by gentlemen on horseback (as in a fox hunt).

HBM_TrollHive HBM_cross-section

This project was full of many lovely ideas that had to be cut, as there is only so much that you can show in only 90 minutes. Alan Snow’s book is brimming with eccentric characters and whimsical scenarios and has enough material for a TV mini-series, but with a film adaptation, there was bound to be some aspect of the book that was someone’s favourite part, but that had to go.


I had a lot of fun wandering about in Alan Snow’s kooky world. Working on the development of any movie is a fun phase to be involved in, although you do have to be philosophical about the possibility of up to 100% of your work being grist for the exploratory mill, and being deleted.


25 thoughts on “Here Be Monsters”

  1. Yes James you should teach. I go to a Sudanese refugee centre each week and help teach sewing. It is good for my “spirit/mind/soul”. I’m not sure if either of those is the right word. You probably remember I was never a words person. I am still ok at numbers though!

    • Jamie – Wyatt and I read Here Be Monsters when he was about 8 and we both LOVED it. Wyatt will do anything to avoid putting pencil to paper, but he even wrote a review for the town library for the summer reading program, which they displayed in the library. We’re big fans of the book, the new movie, and now your character designs! :)

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