As reported exclusively by The Hollywood Reporter, Disney is in talks to pick up the film rights to Newbery Medal-winning children’s book The One and Only Ivan. Written by Katherine Applegate (Animorphs) and illustrated by Patricia Castelao, the story revolves around a silverback gorilla named Ivan who lives in a shopping mall with an elephant and a stray dog. When a baby elephant is added to the habitat, Ivan begins to remember his life before he ended up at the mall and plots an escape from his abusive owner. The book has been on The New York Times Best Sellers List (Children’s Middle Grade) for 60 weeks.
The One and Only Ivan is based on the life story of an actual gorilla named Ivan who lived in a cramped cage in a Tacoma, Washington department store for 27 years. While he had many fans, he lived alone and was not allowed to go outside. Thanks in part to fan outcry when the department store owners were facing bankruptcy, Ivan ended up at Zoo Atlanta in 1994. After adapting to life with sunlight, space, and other gorillas; he became very popular with zoo-goers. Ivan died in 2012.
It is not currently known how Disney plans to adapt The One and Only Ivan if they secure the rights. Given the book’s lush illustrations and Disney’s long history of making award-winning animated films, an animated feature may be the best fit. But only time will tell how and when the acclaimed children’s book will hit the big screen.