This week started off, well, pretty peculiar if you want to know the truth. I was invited along with other media to attend a press event for MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, based on the best-selling novel by Ransom Riggs. Prior to the press event, I received an incredibly cool book with an in depth look with photos detailing the behind the scenes of the filming process. In all honesty, I had not heard of this series created by Ransom Riggs until I was invited to attend the event for PrimeTimeParenting. Once I had a chance to review the book over the weekend, I realized that some of my very own common interests and passions were included in this best-selling novel. I also was excited to introduce this series to my daughter, who has already read HARRY POTTER so many times the pages of her books are falling out.
When I look through this visual landscape of scenes, costumes, and photos, I thought about my own love of old photos from my own family. As a kid, my mom loved antique stores and estate sales, looking for unique items from an era she loved, the 1940s and 1950s. I had discovered my own interest in old postcards, loose photos, and the occasional photo album with a picture that had been left behind. Well, Riggs also had his own interest in photos. “I’ve always had a fascination with old photos,” says Riggs. “I had an idea for a story and the photographs became a kind of touchstone for the characters. For example, I’d have a really interesting photo of a boy covered in bees. So, I wondered, who is that boy” what’s his story?” This also reminds me of the cover of a photo album in my childhood home, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”. Well, Riggs definitely knew how to take that idea and create something really incredible.
A little bit about the movie which opens with a sunny beach scene in Florida. One might think that the next scene would be more people outside playing on the beach, yet the story goes in a totally different direction. One of the main characters Jake (Asa Butterfield) does not connect well with his classmates. However, he does have a close bond with his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp ). His grandfather shared stories with him about a school for peculiar children in Europe. These stories and the strong relationship between Jake and his grandpa make-up for his lack of friends and his unconcerned and distant parents. When Jake’s grandfather mysteriously dies, Jake takes a trip with his distant dad to the place his grandfather had always shared with him in his stories. It is there that Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. These children and Miss Peregrine had these time loops that eventually are reset through a series of peculiar events. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.
My thoughts on the movie (I saw it in 3D), having never read the book, are as follows. The sound and imagery are just fantastic and freaky, I even leaped out of my seat a few times. While this movie will draw a lot of fans of the book series, the movie will also introduce and bring fans to the book series. Your kids will want to see this move, however, please know that they may not be able to sleep so easily for a few nights afterwards. In true Tim Burton fashion, there are very ‘peculiar’ characters. Each family should use their own discretion.
Following the movie, we were invited to the Ritz Carlton Hotel to interview some of the cast and crew from the movie. There was a room set-up with a horse shoe table setting where we had the chance to interview Author Ransom Riggs, Costume Designer Colleen Atwood, and Actors Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Laura McCrostie, and Finlay MacMillan.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is based upon the debut novel by Ransom Riggs, published in 2011. It was an instant global hit and topped The New York Times best-seller list, where it remained for years. The book has sold more than 3.1 million copies. Riggs, a filmmaker in his own right and longtime Burton admirer, is effusive in his praise of the director tasked with bringing his novel to life on the big screen. “It’s not hard to let go of my book when Tim Burton is the surgeon performing the operation,” he states. As a child, Riggs had always been intrigued by doors to other worlds’ stories; C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Tolkien. Riggs, who has been writing since he was 12 years old, seems like a bit of an old soul. I was drawn to the connection between Jake (As Butterfield) and his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp). I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a personal story that Riggs had experienced with his own grandparents. During our interview, Riggs shared that his grandmother was an incredible story teller and was very dear to him. The character of Abe also resonates with Burton, who likens Abe to his grandmother. “She was very magical and special and the most important person in my life,” Burton relates. “So I really get the relationship between Jake and Abe. A connection with a grandparent is different from that with a parent or friend. It’s a unique situation”.
So, when do things start getting ‘peculiar’ in the movie? When Jake arrives at the home where Miss Peregrine lives with her ‘peculiar’ children, things get even more interesting. Firstly, I want to go into a bit about Jake’s character. In the first scene of the movie, Jake is bullied by his classmates while he is at work. It is obvious that he has an awkwardness and feels that he doesn’t fit in or connect with anyone except his grandfather. Suddenly, Jake’s grandfather mysteriously dies and Jake begins his journey of discovery. His parents try taking him to a psychologist, but nothing seems to help him break out of his sadness and depression. That is until his psychologist encourages him to travel to Wales to seek answers about his grandfather’s life—and the truth behind his stories. His very distant dad (Frank) Chris O’Dowd accompanies him on this journey.
Things start to get very ‘peculiar’ when Jake meets Miss Peregrine. Miss Peregrine’s peculiarity is being an ymbrine, meaning she can manipulate time and take the form of a bird. Miss Peregrine, along with other ymbrines, uses this ability to create a time “loop,” in which she and the children live within a single day that repeats over and over again. This protects them from the evils of the world that exist outside the loop. Each child has their own ‘peculiar’ peculiarity. They are loving, unique, and channel these qualities for to band together when they encounter danger. Within the confines of Miss Peregrine’s home, they are able to accept their differences and take pride in them. This theme resonated the most with the filmmakers. I can agree whole heartedly with this as well. As a mom, I can see how my own children have their differences, which are actually strengths. However, these differences are not always appreciated when they stand out in the crowd. Tim Burton clearly identifies with that idea. “As a child you never really forget those feelings of being different. They stay with you forever, “ he explains. I love this quote from Ella Purnell, who portrays Emma, a young woman who can control air: “We’re all surrounded by Twitter and Instagram and other kinds of social media, which make it so easy to compare yourself with others, and to think you’re not good enough or that you don’t belong. But what we should be celebrating is what makes you, you”. Yes! I TELL THIS TO MY CHILDREN ALL THE TIME!
The Peculiar Look: Costumes
Three-time Academy Award winner Colleen Atwood, who previously worked with Burton on Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks! Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in wonderland, Dark Shadows and Big Eyes, joins the director on MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. She is so sweet and incredibly talented.
The film is set in two time periods-2016 and 1943. When Atwood described Miss Peregrine’s costume, it is no surprise that it took on elements of a bird without having an actual bird design. “She has kind of pointy shoulders and clothes that flutter a bit,” says Atwood. “It has a quirkiness at the end of her sleeves-little details that look like they could take flight, in way.” I couldn’t help but notice the detail of Emma’s clothes and costumes, comprised of air-like material and colors. Atwood also designed many versions of leaded shoes, wanting them to look like “heavy, old irons that were modified for the character’s feet”.
Meeting the Actors
After our discussion with Colleen Atwood, actors Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Laura McCrostie, and Finlay MacMillan joined us. If you aren’t familiar with these talented young actors, here is a short bio for each of them.
As Butterfield (Jake) Previously, the actor starred as the title role in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, which earned him a Critics’ choice Award nomination for Best Young Actor and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Butterfield garnered critical acclaim for his starring role in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas opposite Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis, for which Butterfield received a nomination for Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards and Young British Performer of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards.
Ella Purnell (Emma) was born and raised in London. As a child Ella attended weekly classes at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and the Young Actors Theatre, Islington, where she studied acting, singing, and dance. Something my Disney film family was most happy about was that in 2014 Ella appeared as the Young Maleficent in the Disney epic Maleficent, directed by Robert Stromberg from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton. The film was a reimagined, live-action take on the Walt Disney 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, told from the perspective of the antagonist, Maleficent.
Finlay MacMillan (Enoch) is a rising star who has an exciting year ahead of him. In addition to MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, Finaly will be seen in the role of Donny in thriller The Dark Mile, also starring Paul Brannigan and Sheila Hancock.
Laura McCrostie (Olive) made her screen debut in 2014 as Gwen in Carol Morley’s dramatic thriller The Falling, alongside Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Mathew Baynton. The film is set in an English girls’ school in 1969, where traumatic incident provokes a mysterious fainting epidemic among the pupils, threatening the stability of their strict instruction.
This is a movie the entire family can see, just know that there are scary looking characters that might frighten your children. Use your own judgement there.
Seek the Peculiar. Get tickets to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, in theaters Friday fox.co/PeculiarTix
You can find these stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed By: Tim Burton Rated PG-13
Discloser: I was invited to preview the movie and interview the cast. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Photos and video assets provided by