“A rumbling sound, then 3 sharp knocks—ba BA-ba DOOK! DOOK! DOOK!” goes the disturbing pop-up book Amelia reads her son Samuel in the Australian psychological horror film The Babadook. Once you become aware of the evil Babadook’s existence, the story reads, the monster torments you and cannot be put to rest. As foretold, the evil entity begins to stalk Samuel, and strange events haunt Amelia. Her efforts to destroy the book and put an end to their trauma are futile—the more you try to deny his existence, asserts Mister Babadook, the stronger he’ll get, steadily growing inside of you.
Since its premiere at Sundance in January 2014, the film’s fans quickly rallied for the production of the pop-up book seen on screen. “We didn’t know how the film would do,” says illustrator Alexander Juhasz. “So when I made the book for the film, we were joking about how if it became a big hit, people might want the book in their home.” To date, the film has grossed nearly $7 million (a respectable profit considering its $2 million budget) and received rave reviews, with an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score of 98%. And requests to get the book made—bordering on demands—were heard loud and clear.
Following a successful crowdfunding campaign last spring, Insight Editions was chosen to produce a limited edition run of 6,000 books. Insight has extensive experience producing pop-ups—last year they released the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. "The book will be a really nice, high quality art book. We want to honor the people who supported the project from the beginning," says Juhasz.
The creation of the original Babadook character was a joint effort between the illustrator and writer/director Jennifer Kent. "When somebody tells you what it looks like in their mind, interpreting that into actual physical form is a leap. It had to work with the style of the film, which obviously wasn't shot yet," comments Juhasz. "Stylistically we got along really well and we were speaking the same language, which was more of an emotional language—how it makes you feel, rather than just what it looks like. Once the character was in place, it established style guidelines for the rest of the book."
Once it came time to prepare the limited edition book for production, the team brought on paper engineer Simon Arizpe. Juhasz had to recreate all of the original artwork and reverse engineer much of what was made for the film. "We had to rethink a lot of stuff for the design and format to work. In the film, the book ends abruptly, so we had to add some content. But we wanted to keep the integrity of the original—all of images that are in the movie are in the book, except maybe for one, I think," explains Juhasz. Arizpe adds: "Between the three of us, we figured out what we wanted each page to do. Alex gave me his art and I would mess around with it to make it move." Once the prototype was completed, it was sent off to the printing house, where the paper is die cut, then folded and glued by hand.
The Baba-Book is expected to be released towards the end of fall. All 6,000 copies are already spoken for, so it seems latecomers will have to wait for a second edition—“too bad, so sad,” says Mister Babadook on Facebook.