It has been 11 years since the movie “Bridge to Terabithia” first came out (insert obligatory pause to let that sink in here) and inspired many kids and kids at heart to let their imaginations run wild.
It also made us cry buckets of tears every time we saw it and possibly scarred us for life, but what’s a little childhood trauma, right?
The story follows Jess Aarons (played by Josh Hutcherson) and Leslie Burke (played by AnnaSophia Robb), two bullied kids who met and became bestfriends despite differences in their upbringing. Together, they created Terabithia, an imagined world they could escape to and where they are a king and queen instead of just neighbourhood kids. Bridge to Terabithia is a story of friendship, imagination, and loss that has touched so many people’s lives.
Take a look back on the timeless tale with these six interesting facts:
1. The story is actually 41 years old.
Although the movie came out 11 years ago, the story is actually older. Bridge to Terabithia is a classic children’s novel written by Katherine Paterson in 1977. Katherine Paterson has also written other children’s books like “The Great Gilly Hopkins“, “Jacob Have I Loved“, and “The Day of the Pelican“.
2. It was written to help a grieving boy cope with the death of a friend.
The incident that inspired Katherine Paterson to write the book is just as heartbreaking as the Jess and Leslie’s story. She wrote it to help her son, David, who was 8 years old at the time, to cope with the death of his friend, Lisa Hill, who was struck by lightning. Thirty years after its first publication, David took his mother’s novel and turned it into the screenplay of the Disney movie—a project he said took him nearly 17 years to get right.
Although many critics have questioned whether the themes of the story might be too heavy for children, Katherine Paterson has stated that the books we read in childhood are a rehearsal for experiences later in life. She hoped Bridge to Terabithia will teach kids not only to use their imagination to escape reality but to make sense of the world around them.
3. AnnaSophia Robb wanted the role of Leslie so much that she actually wrote to the director and producer.
Imagine being a young girl whose favorite book is about to become a movie and whose favorite character is a part you can actually play—of course you’d want the role! AnnaSophia Robb probably felt the same way when she heard Bridge to Terabithia is becoming a movie. In fact, she wanted the role of Leslie so much that she wrote to director Gábor Csupó and to producer Lauren Levine about why she wanted to be in the film.
AnnaSophia not only landed the role; she also got to sing the song “Keep Your Mind Wide Open” that played during the closing credits.
4. Bailee Madison had a huge crush on Josh Hutcherson when they were filming as brother and sister.
Bailee Madison, the girl who portrayed Jess’s feisty little sister May Belle, admitted to MTV that she had a huge crush on Josh Hutcherson while they were filming. She even wrote him a love letter with the help of AnnaSophia Robb. She didn’t think he would ever see it, but he did—and so did their whole crew!
“He was so sweet, he just hugged me. He took such good care of me. I love him with all my heart,” Madison said.
5. There is a Leslie Burke-inspired song.
A rock band from Texas called “The Sour Notes” was inspired by the story to write a song. Entitled “Leslie Burke”, the song is part of the band’s debut EP “The Meat of the Fruit” that was released in 2008. You can listen to the song here.
6. Despite being linked to each other after the film was released, Josh and AnnaSophia were just really good friends.
When they were pointedly asked by a film critic after the movie’s release if there was any attraction between the two of them, Josh and AnnaSophia both replied that they were really good friends. They also pointed out that the movie shows how girls and boys can be best friends without it being automatically romantic.
“Their relationship is so special because they’re such good friends and they’re not uncomfortable around each other,” AnnaSophia answered.
“That was what was so great about the movie,” Josh added. “It was on the edge between friendship and love, but not a boyfriend-girlfriend love, more like a best friend love. I think it was great how we showed that in the film.”
Bridge to Terabithia is one of those stories that we would want to go back to no matter how many years pass and how old we get. For many of us who grew up loving the movie and/or the book, it was one of our first encounters with what it means to lose a loved one. It helped prepare us for such inescapable events and taught us that even though it is difficult, we can make sense of these tragedies and eventually learn how to cope with it. It taught us that more than just being a way to escape, our imagination can help us arrive at truths about life. Like Leslie Burke said, all we need to do is to close our eyes and keep our minds wide open.