Danny, the Champion of the World
UK DVD cover
Based onDanny, the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl
Screenplay byJohn Goldsmith
Directed byGavin Millar
Music byStanley Myers
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom[1]
  • United States[1]
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerEric Abraham
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Running time96 minutes
Production companies
Budget$3 million[2]
Original release
  • The Disney Channel (United States)
  • ITV (United Kingdom)
Release29 April 1989 (1989-04-29)

Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World, or simply Danny, the Champion of the World, is a 1989 comedy drama television film directed by Gavin Millar from a screenplay by John Goldsmith, based on the 1975 novel Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. The film stars Jeremy Irons, with his son, Samuel, in the title role. It tells of a father and son who conspire to thwart a local businessman's plans to buy their land by poaching his game pheasants. It was filmed on location in Oxfordshire, with Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames, being a prominent feature in the film.

Danny, the Champion of the World debuted in the United States on 29 April 1989, on The Disney Channel.[3] In the United Kingdom, the film premiered at the Odeon West End in London on 27 July[4] and received a theatrical release on 28 July, by Portobello Productions, before being exhibited on television on 26 December, on ITV.[5]


In 1955, in the English Countryside, impoverished widower William Smith lives with his nine-year-old son Danny in an old vardo behind the garage and filling station they operate together. Wealthy local profiteer Victor Hazell, who has bought all of the surrounding land, tries to convince the Smiths to sell as well, but William refuses to budge.

In response, Hazell sends in a string of inspectors to harass William, claiming the Smiths are selling inferior gasoline. When this fails, Hazell suggests to local Child Welfare agents that William may be an unfit parent and that he provides an unfit home for his son. However, after noticing how well William keeps the vardo and the shop, and watching Danny fix their rattling old car, the agents agree not to investigate further. One agent tips off William that Hazell sent them, and advises him to “hang in” to the piece of land that he owns.

Meanwhile, Danny starts a new term at school. Delivering a car repair bill to his kindly headmaster, Mr. Snoddy, Danny accidentally discovers Mr. Snoddy is a heavy gin drinker, and agrees to keep the secret. Delivering the bill causes Danny to be late for class; his harsh new teacher, Captain Lancaster, gives him a warning. When Danny is late a second time after helping a rabbit escape a snare, Lancaster gives him 1,000 lines to write.

One night, William sneaks out of the vardo. Discovering this, Danny stays up waiting for him until he returns. William explains that he had been attempting to poach some of Hazell's pheasants as a playful revenge, using raisins as bait; William and his late father poached birds this way before, when they were starving during the Great Depression. Relieved, Danny tells William he can go out poaching again any time he likes, so long as he lets Danny know where he's going.

William goes out again some days later, but Danny wakes after midnight to find that he has not returned. Danny’s father has been repairing an old Austin 7, and Danny sets out in it to search for him. He crosses paths with a police car, who take pursuit after realising that the driver is too young to be driving, but Danny manages to escape them by veering down a track which leads to the woodland belonging to Hazell.

Danny creeps into the woods and spots two gamekeepers in the distance, and overhears them talking to a poacher who has fallen into an illegal pit trap. After they leave to fetch Hazell, Danny reaches William, who has suffered a broken ankle, and helps him out of the pit and drives him back home to be seen by Doc Spencer. Suspecting the trapped poacher was William, Hazell sends local Police Sergeant Enoch Samways to question him; however, Samways, who dislikes Hazell, falsifies the report to say William fell down the vardo stairs. Doc Spencer approves, as William could have been killed by the trap.

When Captain Lancaster mistakenly believes he has caught Danny cheating on a test, he canes Danny's hand. Mr. Snoddy immediately intervenes and threatens to fire Lancaster, as corporal punishment is not allowed in the school. Later, Danny and William learn that Mr. Hazell will be holding a huge pheasant shoot on his property to impress some of the local aristocracy. The Smiths decide to poach all of Hazell's pheasants beforehand, to humiliate him. Danny realizes they can use the sedative Doc Spencer prescribed William; he and William stay up late to crush the pills and stuff the raisins with the powder. Danny falls asleep in class the next day, and Lancaster makes him run laps of the playground as punishment after school. Danny escapes the schoolyard, and Lancaster attempts to follow, ripping his trousers. Frustrated, he resigns his position, much to Mr. Snoddy's delight.

The night before the shoot, Danny and William manage to drug and capture hundreds of pheasants, hiding them in the garage. The next morning, after being laughed at by his guests, who had nothing to shoot at except a sparrow, Hazell sends Rabbets and Springer to search the surrounding countryside for pheasants. The birds wake earlier than expected and start drunkenly flying around the Smith's garage.

Soon Hazell, his gamekeepers, his guests, and most of the villagers have gathered to see the spectacle. Hazell wants William arrested, but Sergeant Samways reminds Hazell that live game birds legally belong to whoever owns the land they are sitting on. Hearing that William still owns his land, Mr. Tallon, a developer, steps forward. It turns out William's refusal to sell has saved the village; without William's centrally-located property, Hazell couldn't go ahead with his secret plan to tear down the village and build a newer and bigger town in its place. Danny lets all the birds go as an act of mercy, and the village celebrates the happy ending together as a furious and humiliated Hazell drives away.

Main cast

Actor Role
Jeremy Irons William Smith
Robbie Coltrane Victor Hazell
Samuel Irons Danny Smith
Cyril Cusack Doc Spencer
Michael Hordern Lord Claybury
Lionel Jeffries Mr. Snoddy (Headmaster)
Jean Marsh Miss Hunter (Social Worker)
John Grillo Mr Parker (Social Worker)
Jimmy Nail Rabbetts (Head Gamekeeper)
William Armstrong Springer (Gamekeeper)
Ronald Pickup Captain Lancaster
John Woodvine Tallon

DVD release

A Region 2 DVD was released in 2005 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. It includes a documentary feature titled Danny and the Dirty Dog (referring to Victor Hazell, who is described as a "dirty dog" by Roald Dahl), which features interviews with Roald Dahl, Jeremy Irons, and Robbie Coltrane (in character as Victor Hazell).


The film had a mostly positive reviews.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b "This page no longer exists". Archived from the original on 3 October 2018.
  2. ^ Billington, Michael (27 November 1988). "FILM; when Three Generations Go on Location". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Danny, the Champion of the World (Television)".
  4. ^ "Roald Dahl's 'generous spirit' uncovered by auction find – his prized school trophy gifted to a little boy". March 2022.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Danny the Champion of the World". Empire. January 2000.
  7. ^ "Danny the Champion of the World Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". 7 June 2011. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011.