Adaptations of Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick is an 1851 novel by Herman Melville which describes the voyage of the whaleship Pequod, led by Captain Ahab, who leads his crew on a hunt for the whale Moby-Dick. The novel has been adapted a number of times in various media.



  • A 1926 silent movie, The Sea Beast, starring John Barrymore as a heroic Ahab with a fiancée and an evil brother, loosely based on the novel.[1] Remade as Moby Dick in 1930,[2] a version in which Ahab kills the whale and returns home to the woman he loves (played by Joan Bennett).
  • Moby Dick Rehearsed, a "play within a play" directed by Orson Welles. A performance of the play was filmed in 1955, but is now considered lost.[3]
  • Moby Dick, a 1956 film directed by John Huston and starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, with screenplay by Ray Bradbury.
  • Woody Woodpecker: Dopey Dick the Pink Whale was directed by Paul J. Smith and released in 1957. Woody is shanghaied onto the Peapod by Dapper Denver Dooley to go after the whale that bit him.
  • Tom and Jerry: Dicky Moe was directed by Gene Deitch and released in 1962. The peg-legged but unnamed Ahab-like captain of the Komquot is maniacally obsessed with hunting the great white whale Dicky Moe. When his crew desert, he shanghais Tom and makes him do the work of the whole crew while seamouse Jerry bedevils him. When Dicky Moe is finally sighted, the captain fires a harpoon gun but the rope attached to the harpoon is also looped around Tom's leg and drags the cat off the ship. The whale swims off with Tom lashed to its side and the captain screaming, "Come back with my whale!"
  • Moby Dick, an unfinished 1971 film featuring readings from the book by Orson Welles. The footage was unedited in Welles' lifetime, but was posthumously compiled in 1999 by the Munich Film Museum.
  • Moby Dick, featuring Jack Aranson as Captain Ahab, was filmed in 1978 and released in November 2005 on DVD. The director was Paul Stanley.[4]
  • The 1984 animated film Samson & Sally:Song of the Whales involves a young white whale named Samson who searches for Moby-Dick after hearing a legend that Moby-Dick would one day return to save all the whales. The sinking of the Pequod is shown as the young whale's mother tells him the story of Moby Dick. The film was alternately titled "The Secret of Moby Dick" in some other countries.
  • The 1986 animated film Dot and the Whale involves the character Dot embarking on a search for Moby-Dick in hope of helping a beached whale.
  • In 1999, a 25-minute paint-on-glass-animated adaptation was made by the Russian studio Man and Time, directed by Natalya Orlova. [1] It was made for the British market, and so was in English. [2] Rod Steiger was the voice of Captain Ahab. The film came in third place at the 5th Open Russian Festival of Animated Film. It is currently sold on DVD as part of the "World Literary Classics" series.
  • Capitaine Achab a 2004 French movie directed by Philippe Ramos, with Valérie Crunchant and Frédéric Bonpart.[5]
  • Moby Dick, a 2010 film adaptation starring Barry Bostwick as Ahab and made by The Asylum.[6]


  • A 1964 episode of Mr. Magoo saw Ishmael Quincey Magoo hunting the great white whale.[7]
  • A 1964 episode of The Flintstones called Adobe Dick saw Fred and the gang encounter the great "whaleasaurus" during a Lodge fishing trip. This episode also mixed in aspects of Mutiny on the Bounty by sailing on the HMS Bountystone commanded by Captain Blah.
  • In 1967, the Hanna-Barbera series Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor featured the whale in adventures with two boys he had rescued.
  • A 1991 episode of the cartoon series Beetlejuice titled "Moby Richard" had Beetlejuice and Lydia putting on 'Disasterpiece Theatre,' and deciding to do Moby Dick as their first episode. But Moby "Richard" refuses to change the classic to suit Beetlejuice's notions of what a classic should be, and quits - but not without insulting BJ first. BJ lets the character of Captain Ahab take him over, and leads the others on a dangerous mission through Sandworm Land to get revenge on the whale.[8]
  • A Japanese animated adaptation of Moby-Dick, called Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick, was produced in 1997.
  • Moby Dick, a 1998 television movie starring Patrick Stewart as Ahab and Gregory Peck as Father Mapple (a Golden Globe-winning performance)[9]
  • Moby Dick et le Secret de Mu, a 2005 Luxembourgian/French animated series produced by Benoît Petit.[10]
  • Moby Dick, a 2011 television mini series directed by Mike Barker, starring William Hurt as Ahab and Ethan Hawke as Starbuck.[11]
  • Age of the Dragons is a 2011 made-for-television fantasy film. It was directed by Ryan Little and adapts the Moby-Dick story to a fantasy setting with a white dragon.[12]
  • On the April 29, 2011 broadcast of Phineas and Ferb, in the episode "Belly of the Beast", the boys create a giant mechanical shark for the annual Danville Harbor celebrations. Candace and her friend Stacy join a peg-legged Ahab-like captain aboard his ship The Pea-quad in chasing the giant shark, hurling harpoons made of toilet plungers. When the captain is supposedly devoured by the shark, Candace assumes command and an Ahab-like personality, even paraphrasing Ahab's curse: "From Danville Harbor I stab at thee; for bustings' sake I spit my last spit at thee!". The rope attached to one of the plunger harpoons fired from the cannon gets looped around her ankle and she becomes lashed to the side of the shark in Ahab-fashion.
  • "Möbius Dick" is a sixth-season episode of the series Futurama that first aired on August 4, 2011. Leela becomes obsessed with hunting a four-dimensional space whale.
  • "Ramlak Rising" is a first-season episode of the 2011 ThunderCats series that first aired on August 5, 2011. The captain of a ship obsessively hunts a creature called a Ramlak.
  • One_piece manga Yonkou Whitebeard's ship is named Moby Dick



Featured: Martin Epstein as Ahab and Michael Berry as Starbuck in Works Productions' Moby Dick.
  • Moby Dick Rehearsed, a "play within a play" directed by Orson Welles. Welles starred in the original London production, while Rod Steiger starred in the original Broadway production.
  • Writer Julian Rad and Director Hilary Adams created a bare stage adaptation of Moby Dick that premiered in New York City in 2003. The Off-Off Broadway "play with music" was nominated for three 2004 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Play (Julian Rad, writer/Works Productions, producer), Outstanding Director of a Play (Hilary Adams) and Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Michael Berry as Starbuck). Moby Dick was the first Off-Off Broadway production to ever be nominated in the Play and Director categories in the 50 year history of the Drama Desk Award.[13]
  • Moby Dick! The Musical, a 1990s West End musical about a girls' boarding school production of the classic tale
  • In the late 1990s, performance artist Laurie Anderson produced the multimedia stage presentation Songs and Stories From Moby Dick. Several songs from this project were included on her 2001 in music CD, Life on a String.
  • In 2000, Jim Burke's adaptation of Moby Dick toured the UK aboard Walk-the-Plank's theatre ship, the Fitzcarraldo, in a co-production with Liverpool company Kaboodle. It won Best New Play and Best Fringe Production in the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards.
  • In 2008, a production of Moby Dick was commissioned by and performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. The adaptation was written and directed by Morris Panych and was unique, among other things, for being performed on a revolving stage, for stage movement that was more like ballet, and for having no dialogue actually spoken by the cast (all narration/speech was pre-recorded and played over the action) until the very end when Ishmael is rescued by the Rachel; holding Queequeg's little idol close to him, he speaks aloud "Call me Ishmael." The production was performed at the Studio Theater from July 22 to October 18, 2008 and starred David Ferry as "Captain Ahab", Shaun Smyth as "Ishmael", Eddie Glen as "Flask", Marcus Nance as "Queequeg" and Kelly Grainger, Alison Jantzie, and Lynda Sing as "The Sirens/Whale".
  • Composer Jake Heggie composed Moby Dick for the Dallas Opera's inaugural season in the Winspear Opera House. It premiered on April 30, 2010 with Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab.


  • Moby Dick, a cantata for male soloists, chorus and orchestra, written in 1938 by the composer Bernard Herrmann, and dedicated to Charles Ives. Sir John Barbirolli conducted the New York Philharmonic in its premiere.
  • Led Zeppelin's eighth track from the Led Zeppelin II album was also known by other names throughout the years ("Pat's Delight" and "Over the Top") but is most well-known as carrying the title of the Herman Melville's novel.
  • W. Francis McBeth composed a five-movement suite for wind band named Of Sailors and Whales which is based on scenes from the book Moby-Dick. The bombastic suite begins with the quiet "Ishmael", which builds to a heavy climax. "Queequeg" follows with a flitting melody and ends with bleak chords and finally a quick note at the end. The middle movement "Father Mapple" is supposed to be a hymn that an imaginary man sings during the voyage. This movement is actually sung by the band, and begins very wearily but has a rather strong ending. The next movement is "Ahab" which readily depicts the captain. The same is true of "The White Whale", the final movement of the suite and by far one of the most fearsome pieces composed for a wind band. Each movement is preceded by some text supposed to be read to give an indication of the movement.
  • Composer Peter Westergaard has composed Moby Dick: Scenes From an Imaginary Opera, an operatic work for five soloists, chorus and chamber orchestra entitled The work was premiered in October 2004 in Princeton, New Jersey. Its libretto draws on the parts of the novel that deal with Ahab's obsession with the whale.
  • Progressive metal band Mastodon released Leviathan in 2004. The album is loosely based on the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick.

Comics and graphic novels

Early Classic Comics version
  • In 1956 Dell Comics adapted the story in Four Color #717[14]
  • In 1965 Adventure Comics #332 featured "The Super-Moby Dick of Space" with the Legion of Super-Heroes' Lightning Lad in a role analogous to that of Captain Ahab, after he has to have a robotic arm replace his own due to the Creature making his lightning bolts reflect back at him, and concussion from a crash gives him a more aggressive personality. However, instead of killing the creature he shrinks it down to its original size; it is revealed to be a metal-eating creature that was accidentally grown to gigantic size by a Scientist.
  • In 1976 Marvel Comics adapted the story in Marvel Classics Comics #8.[15]
  • In 1977 King Features adapted the story in King Classics #3.[16]
  • A 1990 Classics Illustrated graphic novel by artist Bill Sienkiewicz and writer D.G. Chichester
Cover of Classics Illustrated graphic novel done by Bill Sienkiewicz
  • Also in 1990, Pendulum Press adapted the story in issue #1 of Pendulum's Illustrated Stories.[17]
  • A 1998 graphic novel by artist Will Eisner
  • 2000AD's series A.H.A.B. borrows the storyline and the names of several characters from Moby Dick.
  • A French BD from 2005 takes a sci-fi approach similar to Bradbury's, below.
  • In 2008 Marvel Comics released Marvel Illustrated: Moby Dick, a six-issue adaptation.[18]


  • Speed-talking actor John Moschitta, Jr., as part of his audio tape, Ten Classics in Ten Minutes, read a rapid-fire one-minute summarization of the lengthy novel, concluding with the line "And everybody dies... but the fish... and Ish."
  • On June 5, 1966 the BBC radio series Round the Horne broadcast a parody of the story entitled Moby Duck ("the great white Peking Duck ... eighty foot long it be with a two hundred foot wingspan and they do say as how when it lays an egg in the China Seas there be tidal waves at Scarborough!") starring Kenneth Horne as the Ishmael-like hero "Ebenezer Cuckpowder" (Kenneth Williams: "This fine stripling with his apple cheeks and his long blond hair, aye and his ... cor', you don't half have to use your imagination!") who is shanghaied in Portsmouth aboard Captain Ahab's ship The Golden Help-Glub-Glub ("the woman who was launching it fell off the rostrum and drowned!"). Kenneth Williams played "Captain Ahab", who after the great duck is sighted has himself stuffed into the harpoon gun and fired at his prey (Betty Marsden: "Oh, congratulations! A direct hit!" Kenneth Horne: "Where?" Betty: "Well, I can't actually say, but if Captain Ahab was an orange ..."). At the end of the story, Kenneth Horne stated that "Hugh Paddick played the part of the duck ... it was the part that most people throw away."
  • In 1973, a simplified version of the novel by Robert James Dixson was published by Regents Pub. Co.
  • In 1982, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was essentially Moby Dick in space, with Khan taking the Ahab role (the whale and object of his revenge obsession obviously being Admiral Kirk)' Khan even quotes Ahab extensively throughout the film, right up to his last lines: "From Hell's heart...I stab at thee!!!"
  • MC Lars' 2006 album The Graduate contains the track "Ahab", in which Lars raps the story of Moby-Dick.
  • In 2004, the heavy metal band Mastodon released Leviathan, a concept album based on Moby-Dick.
  • In 2006 The funeral doom metal band Ahab released an album titled The Call of the Wretched Sea, adapting the novel.
  • The music video for the song "Into the Ocean", from the "Foiled" album released April 4 of 2006 by the band Blue October, depicts an outdoor theater in which the band plays said song and also acts out a rendition of Moby Dick in which the lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld, plays the part of Captain Ahab.
  • The Demons & Wizards song "Beneath These Waves" is based on Moby-Dick.
  • The novella Leviathan '99 (2007) by Ray Bradbury is a direct spin-off of Moby-Dick set in the year 2099. The whale is replaced by a comet, the sailing ship by a space ship, and the character names are either the same or nearly the same.[19] In 1968, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a ninety-minute adaptation starring Christopher Lee.
  • Philip Jose Farmer wrote a sequel called The Wind Whales of Ishmael in which Ishmael is transported to the far-future where flying whales are hunted from aircraft.
  • A parody exists in the 2010 Chick-fil-A calendar "Great Works of Cow Literature" in July where the novel is referred to as Mooby Dick.
  • In 2010, the band Glass Wave recorded a song entitled "Moby Dick." The song recounts the story from the perspective of the mariners and of the whale itself after the decimation of the ship.
  • In 2011, The illustrator Seumas Doherty created a redesign of the story as if it were a Scifi video game titled "Moby Dick: A Space Odyssey".

Significant deviations from the novel

Elijah: The vague and uncertain prophet of the text, ambivalent about religion, is replaced in both the 1956, 1998 and 2010 movie adaptations with a prescient Elijah who foretells the fate of the Pequod with confident precision. The 1956 film has Elijah waving his lame arm in pantomime foretelling Ahab's demise, and Ahab (played by Gregory Peck) moves his own arm in fulfillment of Elijah's prophecy.[20] In the 1998 television adaptation, Elijah warns that captain and crew shall all perish except one, and that by signing on they have effectively signed away their souls; Queequeg asks Ishmael what a soul is, to which Ishmael responds by leading Queequeg to a Christian church where Father Mapple (played by Gregory Peck) preaches the story of Jonah.[21] (In the text, the Jonah sermon occurs before Ishmael meets Elijah, and Queequeg leaves the chapel "before the benediction some time."[22]) The 2011 television miniseries has Elijah confront Ahab's wife (played by Gillian Anderson) as she leaves the church where Father Mapple has just preached his sermon, to openly reveal to her that on this voyage Ahab will die, and that he knows it. When she haughtily demands to know the reason for this prophecy, all he tells her is that he would never sail with Ahab again. [23]

Ahab's wife: Described by Ahab as his "girl-wife" in the text, we know no more about her, as she has no name. In the 2011 television mini-series, her name is Elizabeth and she and Ahab's son are used to show his home life and lay the foundation of his obsession with seeking the whale. Shown as a loving wife, she begs her husband to come to church with her, and Ahab refuses, stating he has no belief that God exists.[24]


  1. ^ IMDb link
  2. ^ IMDb link
  3. ^ IMDb link
  4. ^ IMDb link
  5. ^ IMDb link
  6. ^ 2010: Moby Dick at the IMDB
  7. ^ The Famous Adventures of Mister Magoo Cartoon Guide
  8. ^ link
  9. ^ Moby Dick TV movie on IMDb
  10. ^ Moby Dick et le Secret de Mu at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Moby Dick at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ Preview at Quiet Earth
  13. ^ For more information see the company website (Works Productions) and the director's website (Hilary Adams).
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Weekend Preview: Marvel Illustrated: Moby Dick #1
  19. ^ Write-up on Ray Badbury's web site about the collection that contains this novella.
  20. ^ "Moby Dick (1956)". Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  21. ^ "Moby Dick (1998) (TV) - Full cast and crew". Imdb. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  22. ^ "Chapter x - A BOSOM FRIEND". Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  23. ^ "Moby Dick (2011) (TV) - Full cast and crew". Imdb. Retrieved 2011-8-11. 
  24. ^ "Moby Dick (2011) (TV) - Full cast and crew". Imdb. Retrieved 2011-8-11. 

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