Gulliver's Travels (miniseries)

Last updated
Gulliver's Travels
Gullivers travels dvd cover.jpg
DVD cover (special edition)
Based on
Written by Simon Moore
Directed by Charles Sturridge
Starring Ted Danson
Mary Steenburgen
James Fox
Omar Sharif
Peter O'Toole
Alfre Woodard
Kristin Scott Thomas
John Gielgud
Voices of Isabelle Huppert
Narrated by Ted Danson
Composer(s) Trevor Jones
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2
Executive producer(s)Robert Halmi Sr.
Brian Henson
Producer(s) Duncan Kenworthy
Production location(s)England
Running time186 minutes
Original network NBC
Original releaseFebruary 4 
5, 1996

Gulliver's Travels is a British/American TV miniseries based on Jonathan Swift's 1726 satirical novel of the same name, produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment. This miniseries is notable for being one of the very few adaptations of Swift's novel to feature all four voyages. The miniseries aired in the United Kingdom on Channel 4, and in the United States on NBC in February 1996. The miniseries stars Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud, Omar Sharif, Isabelle Huppert, Geraldine Chaplin, Shashi Kapoor, Warwick Davis, Kristin Scott Thomas, Alfre Woodard, Kate Maberly, Tom Sturridge, Richard Wilson and Nicholas Lyndhurst.


The series won five Emmy Awards including in the Outstanding Miniseries category.


In this version, Dr. Gulliver has returned to his family after a long absence. The action shifts back and forth between flashbacks of his travels and the present where he is telling the story of his travels and has been committed to an insane asylum (the flashback framework and the incarceration in the asylum are not in the novel). While the miniseries remains faithful to the novel, the ending has been changed to have a more upbeat conclusion. In the book, Gulliver is so impressed with the Utopian country of the Houyhnhnms that when he returns to England he eventually chooses to live out his life among the horses in his barn, rather than with his family. In the miniseries, he recovers from this obsession and returns to his wife and child.


It took years to find the financial backing for the miniseries. The project required a good deal of Special Effects work. Producer Duncan Kenworthy said that, "It [Gulliver's Travels] was something I'd been developing while Jim was still alive. ... We wanted to do the whole book, and that was what interested Jim." [1] Jim Henson's Creature Shop created several CGI wasps and some prosthetic make-up for the Yahoos. The animals seen in this film were provided by A1 Animals.

It was shot in England and Portugal.


Part 1

The story begins on the night that Lemuel Gulliver (Ted Danson) arrives back at home. Gulliver imagines for a moment that he is back on the shipwreck that started his travels. Meanwhile, Gulliver is found by his wife Mary (Mary Steenburgen) and son Tom (Tom Sturridge) in the horse stable the next day. He then proceeds to tell his story (which is narrated in flashbacks as Gulliver begins telling his tale) starting back to the day of the shipwreck and the famous arrival of Gulliver to Lilliput, an island consisting of tiny people.

Gulliver continues to explain the strange customs of Lilliput, such as the naming of officials by doing rituals such as the jumping over and going under a stick held by the Emperor of Lilliput (Peter O'Toole). Gulliver is then presented to the Empress of Lilliput (Phoebe Nicholls) and is asked to fight a war against the enemy country of Blefuscu. Gulliver then accepts and wins the war in order to show gratitude towards the Lilliputians. After some time, they ask him to eliminate Blefuscu further which Gulliver refuses. He asks how the war started and one of the locals explains that many generations ago, the rulers of both kingdoms disagreed over which end of an egg was the right way to crack one and they have been fighting over it for so long that most of the citizens can't even remember what they're fighting over. A fire occurs at the palace which Gulliver puts out with his urine enough to end up soaking the trapped Empress. The Empress demands that her husband have Gulliver executed. After fleeing from the Emperor's army, Gulliver ends up on the run. Gulliver's new Lilliputian friends help him by hiding him, reciprocating Gulliver's help towards them to obtain the highest office. He then flees from Lilliput and ends up in the sea after making a raft with thousands of trees to escape.

Meanwhile, Gulliver's wife Mary asks for the help of Dr. Bates (James Fox), a member of the mental institution in London who appears to help Gulliver, but is actually plotting how to get rid of him. He pretends to send Mary's letters to Gulliver in the institution, but actually intercepts them, saving them in a book shelf. Meanwhile, Gulliver is sent to a mental institution, and he is allowed to tell his tale to everyone present. He also appears to show signs of dementia, although these are just memories of his travels. Tom later discovers a small Lilliputian sheep (which he tries to retrieve towards the end of the series).

Gulliver later lands in the land of Brobdingnag which consists of Giants. He is shown as an exhibition by Farmer Grultrud (Ned Beatty) and his daughter Glumdalclitch (Kate Maberly) who discover him. He is sold to a lady of the royal court, who presents him to the Queen of Brobdingnag (Alfre Woodard). He is examined by the doctors who ridicule him for his size, and discusses the politics of Brobdingnag, which are different from the traditional politics of the normal kingdom of England. He eventually gains the despise of the court dwarf Grildrig (Warwick Davis), who is envious of not being considered the "smallest man in the kingdom". The dwarf sends him some giant wasps to kill Gulliver, but Gulliver is swift enough to kill them. He then extracts a wasp's sting and makes a dagger from it. Meanwhile, Glumdalclitch eventually falls in love with Gulliver and wishes to marry him. Gulliver softly rejects her advances and asks her to free him. So, she took him to the Brobdingnag beaches where Gulliver searched for ships on the horizon. Sadly, there wasn't one to be seen. Glumdalclitch knows she'll missed Gulliver very much as he himself comforted her spirits. The wind was cold, and Gulliver requested Glumdalclitch to be put back in his box. She did, as Glumdalclitch gave him a loving kiss, and hug, puts Gulliver in, and left for a walk. Although, at one point, it subsequently gets snatched up into the air by a giant eagle!

Part 2

Gulliver sees the flying land of Laputa and signals them to pick him up. They do so and he immediately befriends the Rajah (Shashi Kapoor) and Prince Munodi (Navin Chowdhry) where Prince Munodi is considered an idiot. He converses with two astronomers and learns of the way to speak to them when they get into a thinking state. Gulliver later learns the tricks of these men and they share their knowledge of math and astronomy among other things. After getting ready for the "End of the World Ball," Gulliver participates in a battle in which the kingdom of the prince's mother Empress Munodi (Geraldine Chaplin) is attacked. Gulliver falls from the hole (which is under a magnet that sustains the island above the ground) into a bed under the palace. He then converses with Empress Munodi of the place called "the Academy," where he questions several English customs while looking for the Room of Answers (on how to get back to England). After leaving the Academy, he encounters a magician (Omar Sharif) in Glubbdubdrib and stays at his house with the promise of being taken to a port to go to England. While the days pass, Gulliver wonders when will this be as the magician only says his servants are looking for two horses that escaped and that they'll "go tomorrow." Gulliver later discovers the magician is drugging him and using his blood to summon the ghosts of great figures such as Alexander the Great (Ian Dunn) and Julius Caesar. Gulliver later summons more spirits by his own will. After summoning many spirits, he abandons the place realizing everything's an illusion when he goes through two standing guardians. He later meets the Struldbrugs where he gives his wasp-sting dagger to the Immortal Gatekeeper (Kristin Scott Thomas) to enter, later rejecting their offer to gain immortality by drinking their water (because it also causes blindness). Gulliver makes it to a port where the ship's captain agrees to take him back to England.

Following an undepicted mutiny, due to plague aboard the ship, Gulliver arrives on the island of the Houyhnhnm horses (where he is enchanted by their intelligence and grace) and also encounters the Yahoos. Gulliver begins to get disgusted by the Yahoos and prefers the company of the Houyhnhnms. He talks to the Houyhnhnm Mistress (voiced by Isabelle Huppert) and explains his costumes and lifestyle, and begins to admire more their culture. After being attacked by Yahoos and saved by the Houyhnhnm Mistress, Gulliver begins to despise more and more the Yahoo lifestyle. He studies their customs and decides to prove the Houyhnhnms that he's more like them. He even rejects the diamonds he finds in a quarry. The Houyhnhnms, even though they recognize his virtues, form a council and decide that Gulliver must leave the island. With sadness, Gulliver then departs the island and is rescued by a Portuguese ship against his will.

He then is in the moment amongst doctors in an evaluation. His wife is then asked if she believes his story. She answers that she believes in him and later questions Bates's motives to leave him in the institution. He answers he does it since it is his "Christian duty". She responds that his motives are "everything but Christian" and reveals his hideous plan of hiding the letters which had been discovered by Tom earlier in the film. After reassuring his tale once more, Gulliver's son enters the court room showing the small Lilliputian sheep Gulliver took care of. Gulliver is then released and he lives with his family. He still struggles to cope with them after receiving so much disgust of being a Yahoo, but has learned to be a better person and is dedicated to his new horses and family, whom he talks to again. It was mentioned by Lemuel in the narration that Dr. Bates went abroad soon afterwards and was never seen again. The film ends in a scene of Gulliver and his family, whom he has grown to love once more, and shares what he is now as a person.


Main role

Guest stars


The miniseries was generally well received by critics. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote that, "Everything about this production is surprising, from its choice of Gulliver—Cheers' Ted Danson in an excellent wig—to its startling fidelity to Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel," and called it "a big, gaudy, funny production that feels free to give full reign to Swift's blithe vulgarity." [2]

Related Research Articles

Yahoo (<i>Gullivers Travels</i>) fictional race from Gullivers Travels

Yahoos are legendary beings in the 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels written by Jonathan Swift. Their behaviour and character representation is meant to comment on the state of Europe from Swift's point of view. The word "yahoo" was coined by Jonathan Swift in the fourth section of Gulliver's Travels and has since entered the English language more broadly.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> 1726 novel by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a prose satire of 1726 by the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, satirising both human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre. It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver's Travels "to vex the world rather than divert it".

Houyhnhnm fictional race in Gullivers Travels

Houyhnhnms are a fictional race of intelligent horses described in the last part of Jonathan Swift's satirical 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels. The name is pronounced either or. Swift apparently intended all words of the Houyhnhnm language to echo the neighing of horses.

Mary Steenburgen American actress

Mary Nell Steenburgen is an American actress, singer, and songwriter. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for playing the role of Lynda Dummar in Jonathan Demme's 1980 film Melvin and Howard.

Ted Danson American comedian and actor

Edward Bridge Danson III is an American actor and producer who played the lead character Sam Malone on the NBC sitcom Cheers, Jack Holden in the films Three Men and a Baby and Three Men and a Little Lady, and Dr. John Becker on the CBS sitcom Becker. He also starred in the CBS dramas CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Cyber as D.B. Russell. Additionally, he plays a recurring role on Larry David's HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, starred alongside Glenn Close in legal drama Damages, and was a regular on the HBO comedy series Bored to Death. In 2015 he starred as Hank Larsson in the second season of FX's black comedy-crime drama anthology Fargo. From 2016 to 2020, he played the afterlife architect Michael in the NBC sitcom The Good Place.

Lilliput and Blefuscu fictional island states

Lilliput and Blefuscu are two fictional island nations that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The two islands are neighbours in the South Indian Ocean, separated by a channel 800 yards (730 m) wide. Both are inhabited by tiny people who are about one-twelfth the height of ordinary human beings. Both kingdoms are empires, i.e. realms ruled by a self-styled emperor. The capital of Lilliput is Mildendo. In some pictures, the islands are arranged like an egg, as a reference to their egg-dominated histories and cultures.

Brobdingnag fictional monarchy in North America

Brobdingnag is a fictional land in Jonathan Swift's 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels occupied by giants. Lemuel Gulliver visits the land after the ship on which he is travelling is blown off course and he is separated from a party exploring the unknown land. In the second preface to the book, Gulliver laments that this is a misspelling introduced by the publisher and the land is actually called Brobdingrag.

Lemuel Gulliver fictional character

Lemuel Gulliver is the fictional protagonist and narrator of Gulliver's Travels, a novel written by Jonathan Swift, first published in 1726.


Glumdalclitch is the name Gulliver gives his "nurse" in Book II of Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels. In Book I, Gulliver travels to the land of Lilliput. Leaving there, he travels to the land of Brobdingnag. In Lilliput, Gulliver was a giant, and in Brobdingnag, he is a dwarf, with the proportions reversed.

Kate Elizabeth Cameron Maberly is an English actress, director, writer, producer, and musician. She has appeared in film, television, radio and theatre.

<i>The Adventures of Gulliver</i> television series

The Adventures of Gulliver is a 1968 television cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The show is based on the 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The show aired Saturday mornings on ABC-TV and lasted for one season in its original broadcast.

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver is a 1960 Eastmancolor Columbia Pictures fantasy film loosely based upon the 1726 Irish novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The film stars Kerwin Mathews as the title character, June Thorburn as his fiancée Elizabeth, and child actress Sherry Alberoni as Glumdalclitch.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> (1939 film) 1939 film by Max Fleischer, Dave Fleischer, Willard Bowsky

Gulliver's Travels is a 1939 American cel-animated Technicolor feature film produced by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer for Fleischer Studios. Released to cinemas in the United States on December 22, 1939 by Paramount Pictures, the story is a very loose adaptation of Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel of the same name, specifically the first part which tells the story of Lilliput and Blefuscu, and centers around an explorer who helps a small kingdom who declared war after an argument over a wedding song. The film was the Fleischer Studios' first feature-length animated film, as well as the second animated feature film produced by an American studio after Walt Disney Productions' Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as Paramount had commissioned the feature in response to the success of that film. The sequences for the film were directed by Seymour Kneitel, Willard Bowsky, Tom Palmer, Grim Natwick, William Henning, Roland Crandall, Thomas Johnson, Robert Leffingwell, Frank Kelling, Winfield Hoskins, and Orestes Calpini.

<i>Mistress Mashams Repose</i> book by T. H. White

Mistress Masham's Repose (1946) is a novel by T. H. White that describes the adventures of a girl who discovers a group of Lilliputians, a race of tiny people from Jonathan Swift's satirical classic Gulliver's Travels. The story is set in Northamptonshire, England, just after the Second World War ; in one chapter Maria plays at being General Eisenhower greeting grateful subject peoples. Yet there is also a strong flavour of the 18th century, both the fictional land of Lilliput and the British Empire of Swift, Gibbon, and Pope. Imperialism, and the need for self-governance, is a major theme in the novel.

<i>Gullivers Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants</i> 1902 film by Georges Méliès

Le Voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les Géants, released in the United States as Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants and in the United Kingdom as Gulliver's Travels—In the land of the Lilliputians and the Giants, is a 1902 French short silent film directed by Georges Méliès, based on Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels.

Gulliver's Travels is a book by Jonathan Swift.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> (1977 film) 1977 film by Peter R. Hunt

Gulliver's Travels is a 1977 British-Belgian film based on the 1726 novel of the same name by Jonathan Swift. It mixed live action and animation, and starred Richard Harris in the title role.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> (2010 film) 2010 film by Rob Letterman

Gulliver's Travels is a 2010 American fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Rob Letterman, produced by John Davis and Gregory Goodman, written by Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller with music by Henry Jackman. It is very loosely based on Part One of the 1726 novel of the same name by Jonathan Swift, though the film takes place in the modern day. It stars Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, T.J. Miller, Chris O'Dowd, James Corden and Catherine Tate, and is exclusively distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Saban’s Gulliver’s Travels is a French/American animated series created by Saban Entertainment and Saban International Paris. It was aired from September 8, 1992 to June 29, 1993. It is an adaptation of the 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, and spanned a total of 26 episodes.

Cultural influence of <i>Gullivers Travels</i>

The cultural influence of Gulliver's Travels has spanned centuries.


  1. Bacon, Matt (1997). No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson's Creature Shop . Macmillan. pp.  150–151. ISBN   0-02-862008-9.
  2. Tucker, Ken (1996-02-02). "A Man for all Sizes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-06-25.