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The Big Inspirations for the Tiny Creatures of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’

Aron Eli Coleite shares his creative vision for the boggarts, unicorns, and fairies inhabiting the magical world of his new series, now streaming on Roku.

From shows like Euphoria to Southeast Asian tarsier monkeys, it may surprise viewers to know the wide range of inspirations creator Aron Eli Coleite drew from for his 2024 series, The Spiderwick Chronicles, now streaming on Roku. 

Based on Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s children’s fantasy book series of the same name, The Spiderwick Chronicles, produced by Paramount Television Studios and 20th Television, follows the Grace Family - twin brothers Jared (Lyon Daniels) and Simon (Noah Cottrell), sister Mallory (Mychala Lee), and their mother Helen (Joy Bryant) - as they move into their ancestral home and unravel a dark mystery about their great-great Uncle who discovered the secret fairy world parallel to their own. When Jared discovers the boggart named Thimbletack (Jack Dylan Grazer) and realizes that magical creatures are real, the only one who believes him is his great-aunt Lucinda, who implores Jared to find the pages of her father's field guide to magical creatures and protect them from the murderous Ogre, Mulgarath.

The field guide, originally illustrated by DiTerlizzi, is extensive and when it came to choosing which characters to include in the series, Coleite admits it was a painful process narrowing the selection down. 

“Initially, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs,” he says. “I wanted to put in everything, of course. And we wrote the series really big, and I think we captured a lot of the epic feel of the book. But a budget is a budget and we tried to push that budget as far as we could. But, when it came down to it, we had to sacrifice some creatures for other creatures.”

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Choosing between the hobgoblin Hogsqueal and Thimbletack was one such sacrifice. 

“They are two very prominent creatures that are roughly the same size,” notes Coleite, “Even though we wanted to have them both, early on we realized we had to pick a lane. And we obviously chose Thimbletack.”

Thimbletack is a boggart, or “house brownie,” who lives in the attic of the Spiderwick Estate. In DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s book, like all brownies, Thimbletack is helpful and kind but can be aggressive towards intruders, such as Hogsqueal. 

In the series, Thimbletack looks like a small bunny mixed with a mouse and spider monkey, as opposed to the 2008 film adaptation which gave him more human features. 

“For Thimbletack’s design, we wanted to go with something that was slightly unique to the show versus the film, but more so we really wanted to dig in with Tony and his original field guide and get his take on it,” explains Coleite. “One of his initial sources had these boggart brownies as more impish, much more feral and creature-esque. That’s the route we took. He embodies a lot of different animals. The nose is very cat-like. The ears are very bat-like. His hands are from a tarsier monkey, which was a huge source of inspiration. So, it was Tony working with our team to really hone it in. When the design started to come together, we started adding the costume.”

And in haste. 

“When this creature is naked, it's very difficult to get your head around him,” Coleite says with a laugh. “It all doesn’t quite fit together and it is a bit disturbing.”

Thimbletack’s wardrobe consists of a tiny blue coat, fur hat, worn striped pants and a sash covered in an assortment of nick-nacks.

“Much to the animator’s chagrin,” adds Coleite, “they were not pleased with us about that belt. But they did a beautiful and amazing job. We also have to give props to Ann Foley, our amazing costume designer. She really dug into the fact that this was a creature who had been living here alone for decades. And she did all this research on dolls from the 70s because his pants and hunter cap are from dolls. And he’s got this pair of sewing scissors that looks like a bird. All the details are so beautiful but also functional.”

Coleite continues, “But Thimbletack’s wardrobe also begins to tell the story because all the gadgets that he has on him are held on this bolero bracelet, which is part of a friendship bracelet that he shares with Lucinda, who’s wearing the complementary one.”

Though the friendship bracelet idea wasn’t one taken from the original books, it does emphasize the sweet, interconnected nature of the human and fairy characters in the world DiTerlizzi and Black created 20 years ago. 

“We didn’t want to ruin Tony and Holly’s creation,” Coleite emphasizes. “It was important that this series felt like an extension of the books. It is different, but we wanted to make it great. And one of the major driving principles with the creature creation was we wanted it grounded. We want people to believe that these creatures could exist.”

“Grounded” is a very good word since some of these creatures look like they sprung straight up from the earth. The “Deep-Forest Sprites,” as they are called in the books, are dazzling in color and about the size of large bugs. In fact, they are often confused with exotic insects or flowers at first glance.

“We have a beautiful moth fairy who, when she transforms, looks like she was wearing this amazing fur coat,” shares Coleite. “It’s very fashion-forward. And that was a driving force. We talked about the grounded and real side of things, that if you're going to survive as a fairy, you need to be able to blend into your surroundings and hide as part of this natural world. But the other part driving us was the idea of a contemporary fairy. I have two teenage girls who watch a lot of Euphoria. Understanding the makeup trends coming out of that show was a critical piece because we wanted a fairy that's going to speak to today's teenagers or even today’s young adults. We're not doing Tinkerbell. We want a fairy that resonates with everyone around the world.”

The look of these fairies is striking enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to see a rendition of their character design on a celebrity dress for LA Fashion Week. 

“We wanted the look to be runway,” agrees Coleite. “But also like it came right out of the forest. That also played into Lucinda’s peony dress, which feels couture but also organic.”

For the fairies, insects like moths and even caterpillars were an inspiration for the character designs, as well as distinguished flowers like orchids and more common wildflowers like dandelions. Regardless of the origins – flower or insect – each fairy’s coloring had to pop.

“When they are in hiding, their color is duller, but when they transform and really present themselves, they can illuminate from the inside,” says Coleite, who notes that, when it came to the transformations, the team wanted more chameleon and less Mystique from X-Men

“In the pilot,” he continues, “Simon catches a fairy, and it notices that he’s a Spiderwick, it gets excited and transforms in front of him and starts to glow. Transitioning from one look to the other was some of the hardest things to figure out, because it’s not only the body transformation, but the color transformation as well. Elegance was the guiding principle.”

But not every creature is so dazzling. Some, like Thimbletack, are simply wild. And the unicorns in the series look more like speckled Connemara ponies.

“There are wild Appaloosa stallions roaming the countryside that just exist,” explains Coleite. “We wanted to capture that wild feeling and take people away from what they expect: a glowing, perfectly white unicorn. We’ve seen it before, and it is lovely. Believe me, I love Legend. I love The Last Unicorn. But it’s been done. And we had to ask ourselves, ‘What’s our version?’ We turned the dial a little bit to get something slightly unique but utterly familiar.”

The whole series has many similar flavors to Netflix’s Lock & Key, which Coleite wrote and executive produced alongside Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill. The Netflix series is also about a family which, following a big move, learns about the more sinister magic haunting their new home and neighboring town. But despite the grandiose nature of stories like Lock & Key and Spiderwick, Coleite has managed to find a way to get viewers to buy into the fantastical by daring to be different in both story and creature designs. 

“I like to say the niche I’ve occupied, and something I’m apparently very good at, is families moving to Victorian mansions and finding out that magic exists,” Coleite says with a laugh. “Spiderwick is certainly a very different and, at the same time, similar extension on Lock & Key. I’m excited to see how people react to our vision of this world.”

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Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at