The Colour of Magic (TV film)

The Colour of Magic (TV film)

Infobox Television Film
name = Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic

caption = "The Colour of Magic" series logo.
format = Fantasy, comedy
picture_format = 1080i (HDTV)
runtime = 189 min.
creator = Terry Pratchett
developer = Vadim Jean
producer = Rod Brown, Ian Sharples
director = Vadim Jean
starring = David Jason
Sean Astin
Tim Curry
Christopher Lee (voice)
narrated = Brian Cox
distributor = RHI Entertainment
music = Paul Francis
David Hughes
country = United Kingdom
network = Sky One
released = 23 March 2008
num_episodes = 2
website =
imdb_id = 1079959
preceded_by = "Terry Pratchett's Hogfather"
followed_by = "Terry Pratchett's Going Postal"

The Colour of Magic is a two-part television adaptation of the bestselling novels "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" by Terry Pratchett. The fantasy film was produced for Sky One by The Mob, a small British studio, starring David Jason, Sean Astin, Tim Curry and Christopher Lee as the voice of Death. Vadim Jean both adapted the screenplay from Pratchett's original novels, and served as director.

"The Colour of Magic" was broadcast on Sky One, and in High Definition on Sky One HD, on Easter Sunday (23 March) and 24 March 2008. The first part drew audiences of 1.5 million, with the second part attracting up to 1.1 million viewers. The film was well received by fans, but drew mixed reviews from critics, who generally praised the acting talent of the all-star cast, but criticised the film's script and direction.

The production is the second adaptation of Pratchett's novels as a live-action film, following the successful release of "Hogfather" on Sky One over Christmas 2006. Further adaptations by The Mob are planned, starting with "Going Postal" for release in 2009.


The plot of the adaptation largely follows the plot of the first two "Discworld" novels, "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic". The story primarily follows the exploits of Rincewind, a wizard who is expelled from Unseen University after spending 40 years failing to learn even the most basic magic. In fact, Rincewind's head holds one of the eight spells from the Octavo, the most powerful spellbook in the Discworld, and he has been unable to learn others because "they were afraid to be in the same head" as the Octavo spell. Rincewind is forced to act as a local guide for Twoflower, a property insurance salesman and the Discworld's first tourist, who is visiting Ankh-Morpork, and Twoflower's luggage, which is made from sapient pearwood and can run on its own legs.

After a misunderstanding over an insurance policy causes the owner of the inn where Twoflower and Rincewind are staying to commit arson, the pair flee the city. They proceed across the disc, encountering a variety of mythical creatures, most of which lead to near-death experiences. Fortunately for Rincewind, the Octavo spell in his head precludes him from actually dying, resulting in several comic encounters with Death. Meanwhile, a significant power struggle is occurring within Unseen University, which does not feature in the literary version of "The Colour of Magic" (but is described in "The Light Fantastic"). Narrator Brian Cox explains that "in the competitive world of wizardry, the way to the top is via dead men's pointy shoes... even if you have to empty them yourself". The power-hungry wizard Ymper Trymon plays out a battle for supremacy with the Unseen University's other senior staff members in a bid to become Archchancellor; Trymon assassinates several faculty members but is thwarted by the incumbent Archchancellor, Galder Weatherwax, and his superior magical knowledge of the Octavo: Trymon knows that there is no point in deposing the Archchancellor until he learns how to control the Octavo, which is growing increasingly restless as Rincewind (and the spell in his head) moves away from Ankh-Morpork and into greater danger.

Rincewind and Twoflower are eventually washed rimwards, and reach the kingdom of Krull, which lies on the very rim of the disc, where they are taken prisoner. The astronomers and "astrozoologists" of Krull have for many years attempted to determine the sex of Great A'Tuin, and are on the verge of launching a space vehicle to carry a pair of "cosmo" on a new mission over the rim of the disc. Unaware of this destination, Rincewind and Twoflower take the place of the two cosmonauts and 'escape' to the spacecraft, which they accidentally launch, catapulting them off the rim. The prospect of losing the eighth spell in this fashion prompts the Octavo to act, causing A'Tuin to perform a barrel roll to recapture Rincewind, landing the pair near the centre of the disc. Watching the Octavo's action, the Archchancellor reveals his intention to use the Rite of AshkEnte to ask Death about the Octavo and also about a large red star that has recently appeared in the sky. Now knowing all he needs, Trymon throws Weatherwax from the Tower of Art and becomes Archchancellor in his place.

The red star grows steadily larger, and the people of Ankh-Morpork become worried, and mob the Unseen University because the wizards appear unable to save the disc from it. Trymon learns from Death that all eight spells of the Octavo must be said together at the solstice to save the disc from destruction. Trymon dispatches a group of mercenaries, led by Herrena, to capture Rincewind and retrieve the eighth spell, along with a force of wizards. Meanwhile Rincewind and Twoflower encounter Cohen the Barbarian (87 years old, retired), and Twoflower rescues Bethan, a human sacrifice in a druid ritual. A battle between the wizards and Rincewind leaves Twoflower in a coma; Rincewind rescues him from Death's door, and Cohen in turn rescues Rincewind and Twoflower from Herrena and the mercenaries.

The four take a ferry to Ankh-Morpork, where the populace is rioting against the wizards of the Unseen University because the star is now larger than the disc's own sun. Trymon assembles the senior wizards of the University, and orders them to unchain the Octavo. When they release the spellbook, Trymon steals it and locks the wizards in its chamber. Rincewind releases them and they follow Trymon to the top of the Tower of Art, afraid that he will attempt to say the spells and that they will destroy his mind (and the rest of the world). Trymon, however, says the spells successfully and gains near-ultimate power, and turns the wizards to stone. Rincewind fights Trymon, who is eventually killed, returning the spells to the Octavo. Rincewind expunges the eighth spell from his head, completing the set, and reads the entire spellbook.

The star is finally revealed as a world-turtle breeding ground: the Octavo spells prompt several eggs orbiting the star to hatch into juvenile discworlds, which follow Great A'Tuin as it returns to deep space. The narrator tidies up a few loose ends: the Octavo is eaten by the luggage, which Twoflower donates to Rincewind. Rincewind himself re-enrolls at Unseen University, while Twoflower returns to the Counterweight Continent.

Differences from original texts

Although the film generally remains true to the original novels, several scenes and characters were removed or merged with others to bring the script to a reasonable length. Noting that "there wasn't time for everything", the producers cut completely the scene in the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth and the associated plotline about the significance of the number eight; Director Vadim Jean defended the decision, saying "we could have gone there, but we went to the Wyrmberg instead. There [were] time constraints and we could have gone one way or the other, so we went the whole hog on just one." The scenes in the Wyrmberg were themselves shortened and simplified, losing the characters of Li!ort, K!sdra, Greicha and Hrun. The inter-wizard rivalry at Unseen University, by contrast, was expanded and spread out throughout the film, while in the novels the sequences are short and mainly found in "The Light Fantastic". This established Trymon as a more easily-recognisable antagonist.cite web|title=Cast Interviews – David Jason|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|pages=Behind the Scenes → Cast and Crew Interviews → Tim Curry|] To avoid the necessity of explaining the deus ex machina in detail, the Octavo in the film simply causes A'Tuin to roll to recapture Rincewind, whereas in the literary original, a complicated 'change spell' returns him to the disc. The creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions which invade reality at the end of "The Light Fantastic", and Rincewind's fight in the Dungeon Dimensions themselves, are completely omitted, and Trymon is simply driven mad by reading the Octavo spells at the end of the film version.


The adaptation was produced by The Mob,cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=The Colour of Magic|publisher=Pinewood Studios] with Rod Brown, Ian Sharples, Elaine Pyke and Sarah Conroy credited as producers. Vadim Jean continued his involvement with the film as director.cite web|title=Production Notes|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|pages=Behind the Scenes → Production Notes|]


"The Colour of Magic" is the second live-action adaptation of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series, following the highly successful "Hogfather", which was broadcast over Christmas 2006 to an audience of 2.6 million.cite news|publisher="The Times"|first=Ed|last=Potton|title=David Jason stars in Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic|url=|accessdate=2008-04-06|date=2008-03-22] After the success of "Hogfather", Pratchett was easily persuaded to release the rights for "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic". Vadim Jean was employed to adapt the two literary works into a three-hour, two-part screenplay. While Pratchett was given "carte blanche" to "turn up whenever [he] wanted",cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Terry's Take|publisher=Sky Magazine] he was happy to see a more liberal interpretation of his first two works than he had been for "Hogfather". Speaking to Sky Magazine, Pratchett said that, "There [was] not so much emotional baggage... riding on The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. It was just this book of mine that suddenly started selling incredibly well". Jean's main challenge was to streamline the plot and remove the many irrelevant, but highly amusing, tangents that are an iconic feature of Pratchett's work,cite video|month2=March|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Behind the Magic|url=|location=Video → Behind the magic → Introduction|medium=documentary||accessdate=2008-04-07] without destroying the appeal of the books. Jean said that "there [was] a real danger, with this story, that one could strip out the 'Pratchett-ness'... I had to fight to keep [it] in". Pratchett was pleased with the final script,cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Producing a masterpiece|] saying "it wasn't the slaughter job I thought it would have to be", and " [we've managed] to keep the soul... it's still recognisably [the same] book".


Filming took place at Pinewood Studios for the interior scenes of the Wyrmberg, the Octavo room in the Unseen University, and for exterior shots of Ankh-Morpork and the Broken Drum. Pinewood's exterior water tank, the largest in Europe, was also employed for the scenes where Rincewind and Twoflower are washed towards the edge of the world. These sequences, as well as being the most challenging to film, were also one of the most physically exhausting for the cast. Background shots of Niagara Falls were also taken, and digitally merged with the bluescreen film shot at Pinewood, location shots taken on a river in Wales, and CGI sequences of A'Tuin and the Discworld. Digitally combining all this material together in a believable fashion was, according to Jean, "the toughest week of the shoot". All the digital effects and CGI for the film were provided by Fluid Pictures, a small digital effects group based in Soho. [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Official Website|publisher=Fluid Pictures]

Jean, who had adapted and directed "Hogfather" in 2006, was keen to return to some of the locations used in that film to provide continuity. The scenes in the Great Hall of the Unseen University were filmed in the crypt of the Guildhall in the City of London, and the same Victorian country home was used for Death's house as had been seen in "Hogfather". This time around, Jean was able to film more extensive panoramic shots in the latter location, thanks to "The Colour of Magic's" larger budget. Other filming locations included Anglesey and Snowdonia for exterior shots,cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Filming locations for The Colour of Magic|publisher=IMDb] Gloucester docks as the docks of Ankh-Morpork, [cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Tall ship on first visit to city|publisher=BBC news|date=2007-09-18] and the Royal Courts of Justice as the Patrician's Palace.


When choreographing the various fight sequences in the film, Jean sought to maintain the atmosphere and humour of the Discworld while still creating an exciting action sequence. Jean explained that "the tone of all these fights is the tone of Discworld... it has a kind of chaos to it... there are very few set pieces, it's more about the chaos and the humour".cite video|month2=March|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Behind the Magic|url=|location=Video → Behind the magic → Walloping Wizards|medium=documentary||accessdate=2008-04-07] Although all the fight sequences were carefully controlled for safety, some were choreographed to be more haphazard than others; each fighter was also given their own style for variety and humour. Liz May Brice (Herrena) noted the contrast in the ferry fight sequence, saying "the way we've done the fight, he [Cohen the Barbarian] is almost [winning] by mistake... it's sort of fun, whereas [Herrena] is very deliberate".

The inverted fight between Rincewind and Liessa in the Wyrmberg, by contrast, was the most meticulously choreographed sequence in the film. In addition to the need to add CGI backdrops to every shot, hanging upside down from wires whilst fighting proved to be what David Jason described as "a nauseous experience".cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=The Colour of Magic|publisher=Sky Magazine] The sequence had to be filmed in very short bursts as "all of the actors and stunt people could only manage around four to five minutes before they wanted to [vomit] ". Karen David, who played Liessa, pulled several stomach muscles during the filming, [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Issue 132|publisher=Discworld Monthly|month=April|year=2008] and Jason described the experience as like "being hung upside-down like the last chicken at Sainsbury's... I wouldn't do that again in a hurry".cite web|title=Cast Interviews – David Jason|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|pages=Behind the Scenes → Cast and Crew Interviews → David Jason|]


David Jason was the first actor to be cast for the production, as it had always been his desire to play Rincewind in a film adaptation of "The Colour of Magic". Jason had mentioned in an interview some fifteen years previously that, of all the parts available, the character of Rincewind was the one he coveted the most.cite video|month2=March|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Behind the Magic|url=|location=Video → Behind the magic → Sir David Jason|medium=documentary|publisher=British Sky Broadcasting|accessdate=2008-04-07] Jason describes the wizard as "just such an amusing, endearing character... I always kept this idea in my head that one day I [would] play Rincewind". Jason's appointment to the role, announced in April 2007,cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Jason agrees to second Pratchett TV adaptation|publisher="The Stage"|date=2007-04-23|first=Matthew|last=Hemley] drew mixed reactions, with comments ranging from "terrible choice" to "brilliant". [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Sir David Jason to star in new Sky Pratchett adaptation||date=2007-04-27] cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=David Jason as Rincewind???|publisher=Digital Spy|date=2007-04-25] A common criticism was that Jason, at 68, was too old to play a character who is, according to the books, middle-aged.

From the day Jason was cast, rumours began to fly that a major American actor would be cast alongside him to bolster the film's international appeal. On 31 July 2007 it was revealed that Sean Astin, world-famous for his part in the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, had been signed for the role. [cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|title=Producers reunite for 'Magic' act|publisher="The Hollywood Reporter"|date=2007-07-31|language=requires subscription] The casting of Tim Curry as Trymon and Christopher Lee as the voice of Death was revealed at the same time. The choice of Astin as Twoflower was widely criticised by fans, who had anticipated that the tourist would be of Asian ethnicity. Pratchett responded to this criticism in an open letter, where he noted that he had only ever described Twoflower as "exotically foreign", and hoped that fans would enjoy the film nonetheless. [cite web|title=Pratchett's Thoughts|url=|accessdate=2008-04-07|pages=The Magic → Pratchett's Thoughts|] The choice of Lee to replace Ian Richardson, who had voiced Death in "Hogfather", was more widely accepted; Lee had previously voiced the part in the animated adaptations of "Soul Music" and "Wyrd Sisters".

The part of the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Havelock Vetinari, was not revealed until the premiere of "The Colour of Magic", where Jeremy Irons, billed as a "guest star", was revealed to have played the role. [cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Jeremy Irons to make a guest appearance in a Terry Pratchett adaptation|publisher="The Mirror"|date=2008-03-04|first=Mark|last=Jefferies] A small number of Pratchett fans were invited to participate as extras in the mob scenes towards the end of the film, and the bar fight in the Mended Drum.cite web | url = | title = Colour of Magic Cast | work = Paul Kidby official website | date = 31 July | year = 2007 ]

Several members of the cast previously had roles in Sky One's previous adaptation of Pratchett's novel "Hogfather", including David Jason as Albert, Nigel Planer as Mr. Sideney, and Stephen Marcus as Banjo. Pratchett himself had also made a cameo in "Hogfather" as The Toymaker.

Principal cast

* David Jason as Rincewind, a failed wizard and the main protagonist.
* Sean Astin as Twoflower, the discworld's first tourist.
* Tim Curry as Trymon, the power-hungry senior wizard at the Unseen University.
* Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.
* Jeremy Irons as Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.
* David Bradley as Cohen the Barbarian, the most famous barbarian in the discworld, now 'retired'.
* Laura Haddock as Bethan, a druid sacrifice, who falls in love with Cohen.
* James Cosmo as Galder Weatherwax, the incumbent Archchancellor of the Unseen University.
* Nicolas Tennant as Head Librarian of the Unseen University, who is turned into an orangutan during the events of the film.
* Karen David as Liessa, a dragonlady from the Wyrmberg.
* Liz May Brice as Herrena, a mercenary who is employed to capture Rincewind.
* Nigel Planer as the Arch-Astronomer of Krull.
* Richard Da Costa as The Luggage.
* Miles Richardson as Zlorf, the leader of the Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild.
* Stephen Marcus as Boardman, the bartender at the Broken Drum.

Terry Pratchett appears in a cameo role, playing Astrozoologist #2 in the opening and closing scenes of the film. Richard Woolfe, the director of programming at Sky One, also appears as the Alchemist.

Release and reception

A teaser trailer, released in late February 2008, [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=The Colour of Magic Teaser Trailer|publisher=Truveo|date=2008-02-29] [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Colour of Magic Teaser|publisher=Forumopolis|date=2008-02-28] featured principal cast members, including Rincewind, Twoflower, Trymon and the Arch-Astronomer of Krull, attempting to describe octarine, the 'colour of magic'. [cite video|month2=February|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Teaser trailer|url=|location=The film → Trailer|medium=teaser trailer||accessdate=2008-04-07] The teaser concludes with the film's tagline: "a pigment of your imagination". [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=The Colour of Magic (2008)(TV)|publisher=IMDb] Two more trailers were released in March 2008, containing a more complete synopsis, with narration by Brian Cox. [cite video|month2=March|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Trailer|url=|location=The film → Trailer 2|medium=theatrical trailer||accessdate=2008-04-07] [cite video|month2=March|year2=2008|title=Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic – Trailer|url=|location=The film → Trailer 3|medium=theatrical trailer||accessdate=2008-04-07] The trailers formed part of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in partnership with and Borders Books.cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Sky starts major push for Pratchett dramatisation|publisher="Marketing Week"|date=2008-03-13] In addition to conventional adverts in national newspapers and banner ads on sites including and Yahoo!.com, Sky launched a viral marketing campaign, [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08||title=Sky begins major advertising for The Colour of Magic|date=2008-03-18] and established a bluetooth hotspot at Victoria station, London, where fans could download video clips and ringtones to mobile phones.

The film was premiered at the Curzon Cinema, London, on 3 March 2008; the event was covered in several major newspapers after David Jason, somewhat inebriated, got into the wrong limousine by mistake when departing from the premiere. [cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=A tipsy Sir David Jason gets into wrong car after premiere|publisher="The Mirror"|date=2008-03-05|first=Mark|last=Jefferies]

The film was released in two parts, breaking at roughly the same place as the literary versions of "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic", although some scenes (such as Trymon's murder of the Archchancellor) were moved across the break for dramatic effect. The first part, concluding with Rincewind and Twoflower falling off the edge of the disk in the Krullian spaceship, was broadcast on Easter Sunday (23 March 2008), at 6pm GMT on Sky One and Sky One HD. [cite web|url=$1213374.htm|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=On the box||date=2008-03-27] The second part was broadcast on the same channels at 6pm the following day (Easter Monday). [cite news|url=|title=Square Eyes: Easter Sunday - Easter Monday|publisher="The Stage"|date=2008-03-22|accessdate=2008-04-08|first=Mark|last=Wright] Viewing audience for the first part reached 1.5 million, 8% of the viewing total.cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Pratchett works magic for Sky One|publisher="The Guardian"|date=2008-03-25|first=Leigh|last=Holmwood] The second part of the film attracted an average audience of 967,000, peaking at 1.1 million during the 15 minute block from 7:15 pm.

The film was generally well received by critics, with "The Times" believing it to be "better than Sky's previous Discworld adaptation ["Hogfather"] ".cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|date=2008-03-25|first=Andrew|last=Billen|title=The Frost Report is Back!; Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic|publisher="The Times"] "The Scotsman" admitted that it was a "good-looking production that proper fans probably appreciated",cite news|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Far, far away - and yet strangely familiar|publisher="The Scotsman"|date=2008-03-25|first=Paul|last=Whitelaw] but criticised the film for being "far too long... with leaden direction and script". "The Times" agreed, saying that "It looked good, in an over-glossy, Hallmark Productions kind of way, although every now and again the budget... looked stretched".

Pratchett himself said he was "very pleased" with the casting and production of the film, although he admitted that seeing his literary work adapted for the screen was "very bad for me: it's like I'm wandering around on the inside of my own head". [cite video|url=|accessdate=2008-04-08|title=Pratchett on latest adaptation|publisher=BBC news]


External links

* [ "The Colour of Magic" official site] at

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