I started reading Piers Anthony's Xanth series in junior high. The books are about a land called Xanth (pictured at right) that is shaped suspiciously like Florida, where everyone has magical powers. In fact, if you don't demonstrate any magical powers, you're evicted up north into Mundania, like Bink, the main character in the first book, A Spell for Chameleon. The series is notorious for being chock-full of bad puns: other books in the series have titles like Centaur Aisle, Crewel Lye, and Isle of View. I read maybe a half-dozen of the books until I tired of them, and was surprised to learn today that Anthony has written 31 novels set in Xanth.

You can imagine that a Hollywood studio looking for the next big Harry Potter-ish franchise would leap upon the Xanth series -- you could go on forever with that many books, or at least pick and choose the ones that sound most commercial, maybe even consolidate a few into one. Warner Brothers (which also has the Potter series) has bought the rights to A Spell for Chameleon and has just enlisted Chris Palmer to direct. Palmer is a director from the UK whose done a lot of commercial work -- he's yet to direct a feature film. (I couldn't even figure out which Chris Palmer listed on IMDb would correspond to this one.) However, you might remember him as the guy behind that British live-action version of the opening credits of The Simpsons. Obviously he has a sense of humor, which is going to be critical in figuring out how to make all those puns work onscreen. Wolfgang Petersen, who is not exactly known for working on young adult films, will produce under his Radiant Productions company.

Palmer intends to make "an adult-skewing family movie" out of the first Xanth novel. I'll be interested to see how Palmer and the as-yet-unnamed screenwriter will handle the plot twist involving a major female character, which I found even in junior high to be rather sexist, and which some people might find inappropriate in a family film. Looking up the film on IMDb, I saw that Tim McCanlies was credited as the writer and director; McCanlies adapted The Iron Giant, so I'm a little disappointed he's apparently uninvolved with this adaptation.

[Via ScreenGrab]