Harold and the Purple Crayon
First edition, designed by Crockett Johnson
AuthorCrockett Johnson
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherHarper & Brothers
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
[E] 22
LC ClassMLCS 2006/43120 (P)

Harold and the Purple Crayon is a 1955 children's picture book written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson. Published by HarperCollins Publishers, it is Johnson's most popular book, and has led to a series of other related books, as well as many adaptations. The story is written in third-person point-of-view, and follows a young boy on an imaginative adventure through the night.[1]


The protagonist, Harold, is a curious four-year-old[2] boy who, with his magic purple crayon, has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it.

Harold wants to go for a walk in the moonlight, but there is no moon, so he draws one. He has nowhere to walk, so he draws a path. Using his purple crayon, he goes on many adventures including encountering a dragon, boating through deep waters, eating a picnic consisting only of nine flavors of pies, and flying in a hot-air balloon that saves him from a fall. Eventually Harold grows tired, and searches for his bedroom window in order to go to bed. He draws many windows, drawing an entire city, yet none is his. Finally, Harold remembers where his window is situated and constructs his own room and bed, and nods off to sleep.[1]

Book series


The original story was adapted by Weston Woods Studios and Brandon Films[citation needed] into a seven-minute short film in 1959, directed by David Piel and narrated by Norman Rose.[3][4] In 1971, Gene Deitch directed an animation of A Picture for Harold's Room, and in 1974 an animation of Harold's Fairy Tale. In 1993, these three animations were packaged with a documentary, and sold as the Harold and the Purple Crayon and Other Harold Stories set. These stories were featured on the popular CBS children's television show Captain Kangaroo, which ran for 29 years on the network. There have also been theater adaptations.[5][6]

In 2011, the story was adapted as an interactive book for the iPad by Trilogy Studios.[7]

Television series

Harold and the Purple Crayon
Developed byCarin Greenberg Baker
Jeff Kline
Voices ofConnor Matheus
Narrated bySharon Stone
ComposersVan Dyke Parks
Kevin Kiner
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Executive producerJeff Kline
ProducerBob Hathcock
Running time23 minutes
Production companiesAdelaide Productions
Columbia TriStar Television
Original release
NetworkHBO Family
ReleaseDecember 1, 2001 (2001-12-01) –
March 23, 2002 (2002-03-23)

In 2001, the stories were adapted by Adelaide Productions into a 13-episode television series for HBO narrated by Sharon Stone and featuring Connor Matheus as the voice of Harold.[8] The series won a Daytime Emmy Award for "Main Title Design", and was nominated for an Annie Award and Humanitas Prize.[9][10] The show was also released on VHS and DVD.

The series focuses on Harold using his purple crayon to explore a new world. Each episode has Harold focusing on life lessons throughout his journeys.


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Harold and the Purple Crayon"Tom ElleryCarin Greenberg BakerDecember 1, 2001 (2001-12-01)
Harold can't sleep and uses his purple crayon to create a fantastic world.
2"Blame It on the Rain"Tom ElleryEric WeinerJanuary 5, 2002 (2002-01-05)
Harold wants to know where rain comes from.
3"Fly Away Home"Sean SongDon GilliesJanuary 12, 2002 (2002-01-12)
Harold learns that no matter how small he is, he can accomplish big things.
4"A Dog's Tale"Andy ThomCarin Greenberg BakerJanuary 19, 2002 (2002-01-19)
Harold's stuffed toy comes to life.
5"One Crayon Band"Sean SongJan StrnadJanuary 26, 2002 (2002-01-26)
Harold learns about music.
6"I Remember Goldie"Tom ElleryCarin Greenberg BakerFebruary 2, 2002 (2002-02-02)
Harold's goldfish dies, so a mermaid helps him understand the meaning of death.
7"Harold's Birthday Gift"Andy ThomMelody FoxFebruary 9, 2002 (2002-02-09)
Harold celebrates his birthday and learns that the true birthday gift is friendship.
8"A Blast from the Past"Tom ElleryDon GilliesFebruary 16, 2002 (2002-02-16)
Harold uses his imagination to travel back to prehistoric times.
9"Harold the Artiste"Chuck DrostStu KriegerFebruary 23, 2002 (2002-02-23)
Harold can't draw a perfect circle, so he uses his purple crayon to visit a museum and later learns to appreciate his drawings, no matter the perfection.
10"Harold's Walk on the Wild Side"Tom ElleryDon GilliesMarch 2, 2002 (2002-03-02)
Harold imagines what would it be like if he was an animal.
11"Harold in the Dark"Andy ThomStu KriegerMarch 9, 2002 (2002-03-09)
Harold wonders where the moon is gone to.
12"Future Clock"Sean SongThomas HartMarch 16, 2002 (2002-03-16)
Harold wonders what would it be like if he's a grown-up.
13"Cowboy Harold"Chap YaepStu KriegerMarch 23, 2002 (2002-03-23)
Harold refuses to eat squash and imagines if he was a cowboy.


Main article: Harold and the Purple Crayon (film)

In February 2010, it was reported that Columbia Pictures was developing a live-action film adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon, to be produced by Will Smith and James Lassiter, and written by Josh Klausner.[11] In December 2016, it was reported that the film would also be written by Dallas Clayton.[12]

On February 1, 2021, it was reported that Zachary Levi would star in the film, later revealed to be portraying Harold as a grown man.[13] It was also announced that David Guion and Michael Handelman replaced Klausner and Clayton as screenwriters, with John Davis producing.[14] While Zooey Deschanel was added in the cast, it was announced that Carlos Saldanha is attached to direct the new film.[15] The film was originally scheduled to be released on January 27, 2023,[16] but was pushed back to June 30, 2023,[17] and later August 2, 2024.[18] It will also be Saldanha’s first feature film since working on Blue Sky Studios' Ferdinand in 2017.

Broadway musical

On March 11, 2022, a Broadway musical adaptation was announced. It will feature an original score by Jack and Ryan Met from the band AJR and will focus on an adult version of Harold facing challenges in everyday life without his magical purple crayon.[19]

In popular culture

Harold and the Purple Crayon has consistently been well regarded as a children's literature favorite and has been praised for its combination of themes of childhood imagination and reality. A series of 9 titles followed.[20] Remaining popular amongst children's teachers, it ranked in the National Education Association's "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children," and ranked 16th among School Library Journal's "Top 100 Picture Books" in its 2012 survey.[21]

The book has been used frequently in children's and art education lesson plans, as well as referenced in other children's literature.[22] One of the protagonists in Captain Underpants, Harold Hutchins, is named after the protagonist in the book, with its author, Dav Pilkey, insisting on naming his main characters after his "childhood literary loves."[23] In the book This Thing Called Life: Prince's Odyssey, On and Off the Record by the author Neal Karlen, Prince's mother Mattie Shaw confirmed that his favorite book as a child was Harold and the Purple Crayon and was the reason for Prince's love of the color purple. Karlen, Neal (October 2, 2020). This Thing Called Life: Prince's Odyssey, On and Off the Record. USA: Macmillan USA. p. 43. ISBN 978-1250135247.

The story has also been referenced in TV and cinema. In Rob Reiner's 1999 romantic comedy The Story of Us, Kate (Michelle Pfeiffer) says that Harold and the Purple Crayon is one of her favorite books and an allegory for her marriage with Ben (Bruce Willis). She later explains that Ben just wouldn't "share the crayon", and that she feels she has been living in his world rather than one she had helped create. In Episode 3 of the third season of Legion ("Chapter 22"), Gabrielle Haller reads the book to her infant son, David, who will grow up to be the series' central protagonist.

In the couch gag for The Simpsons episode "The Bob Next Door", Harold is shown drawing the Simpson family living room during the regular title sequence. Homer also asks Harold to draw him a can of Duff Beer after he finishes with the living room. In the episode "Bartless", Bart encourages a group of younger children to draw on the library books, and Ralph does so with a purple crayon, drawing off the page and onto the wall, creating a doorway with stairs which he walks through. In an after-credits scene, his father, Chief Wiggum, is seen talking through the doorway, encouraging him to come out and not draw a boat and sail away on it, as he doesn't know where the river it is on goes.

In 2019 on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Jimmy Kimmel presented a parody, Donald and the Magic Sharpie.

The book is spoofed in the Robot Chicken episode "Bugs Keith in: I Can't Call Heaven, Doug".

The book inspired programmer Petri Purho to create the computer game Crayon Physics Deluxe.[24][25]


  1. ^ a b Harold and the Purple Crayon (1959)[dead link] at The Big Cartoon DataBase
  2. ^ Trilogy Studios (August 8, 2011). "Harold and The Purple Crayon Climbs to #1 in iPad Book App Chart in First Week of Release" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved April 24, 2014. This timeless classic by Crockett Johnson is about the world a curious four-year-old boy creates by simply drawing it with a purple crayon.
  3. ^ "Crockett Johnson Homepage: Film and Video". Ksu.ksu.edu. 2005-08-03. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  4. ^ Harold and the Purple Crayon (1959) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ "Harold and the Purple Crayon". DC Theatre Scene. 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  6. ^ [1] Archived February 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "iTunes Store". itunes.apple.com. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  8. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 267. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  9. ^ "Sony Pictures | The Best in Movies, TV Shows, Games & Apps". Haroldandthepurplecrayontv.com. Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  10. ^ Harold and the Purple Crayon (2002) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  11. ^ Rowles, Dustin (February 25, 2010). "Exclusive: Harold and the Purple Crayon Headed to the Big Screen". Pajiba. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  12. ^ Tracking Board [@MyTrackingBoard] (December 7, 2016). ".@dallasclayton tapped to write adaptation of "Harold and the Purple Crayon" for Sony Animation (EXCLUSIVE) https://t.co/4TCmjXGD45 https://t.co/OLNUGitm1n" (Tweet). Retrieved April 17, 2022 – via Twitter.
  13. ^ "Harold is All Grown up in the First Posters for 'Harold and the Purple Crayon'". Collider. 13 March 2024.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (February 1, 2021). "Zachary Levi to Star in Sony's Live-Action 'Harold and the Purple Crayon' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Zooey Deschanel Joins Sony's Live-Action 'Harold and the Purple Crayon' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 9 February 2022.
  16. ^ Pedersen, Erik (September 9, 2021). "Sony Sets Dates For Whitney Houston & George Foreman Biopics, Two Others; 'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' On The Move". Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  17. ^ Grobar, Matt (October 20, 2022). "'Harold And The Purple Crayon' Release Date Pushed Back By Sony". Deadline. Retrieved May 15, 2023.
  18. ^ Grobar, Matt (2023-05-16). "Sony Pushes 'Harold And The Purple Crayon' And 'They Listen' To 2024, Sets Dates For 'My Ex-Friend's Wedding,' 'Horrorscope' And 'Psycho-Pass: Providence'". Deadline. Retrieved 2023-05-17.
  19. ^ AJR [@AJRBrothers] (March 11, 2022). "Been waiting to announce this for a minute now. Big Broadway dreams slowly coming true 🖍 https://t.co/emjOCV0OaX" (Tweet). Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022 – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "Search results for "crockett johnson" (showing 1-20 of 141 books)". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2023-12-04.
  21. ^ comments, Betsy Bird 4 (2012-06-14). "Top 100 Children's Novels #16: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson". A Fuse #8 Production. Retrieved 2023-12-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ [2] Archived February 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "'Captain Underpants' author Dav Pilkey finds bottomless humor in underwear". The Seattle Times. 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2023-12-04.
  24. ^ "Computer Game A Mash-Up Of Crayons, Physics". NPR. 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  25. ^ "Crayon Physics Deluxe Interview". Binary Joy. 24 November 2007. Retrieved 2015-10-26.