‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’: What Did the Disney+ Series Change From the Book?

The Mysterious Benedict Society is coming to Disney+. Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi adapted Trenton Lee Stewart’s books into a show. Of course, no adaptation can be 100% faithful, not even Lord of the Rings. Some of Hay and Manfredi’s changes end up being additions and embellishments.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Mysterious Benedict Society.]

Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict reads a book outside a tent
Tony Hale | Diyah Pera/Disney

Hay and Manfredi spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by Zoom about The Mysterious Benedict Society. Here’s what they had to change for the Disney+ series. 

Disney+ gives you more ‘Mysterious Benedict Society’

Stewart’s first book is 485 pages in many printings. Remarkably, Manfredi said they still added more to the series. 

“We loved the book so much that the goal was, to what we were inventing, what we were adding, what we were changing was always within the spirit and tone of what we think Trenton was going for,” Manfredi said. “There’s invention to be done, there’s some things from the book that we can’t get into. There are some things we want to explain further. But I think again, we came to this project loving the book and wanting to do it justice as opposed to the opposite.”

These ‘Mysterious Benedict Society’ characters have more to do on Disney+

Manfredi elaborated on which characters they embellished for The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Mysterious Benedict Society: Maameyaa Boafo stands in front of a bulletin board
Maameyaa Boafo | Diyah Pera/Disney

“I think one of the main changes was keeping the storyline and inventing some more storylines for the adults,” Manfredi said. “In the book, once the kids get to the institute, you’re kind of focused on that. We wanted to have a parallel storyline with the adults to kind of take us through the series as well. Things crop up along the way.”

This character is the most different from the book

Tony Hale plays two characters in the book. He is Mr. Benedict, and his twin brother Curtain, who runs a rival institution. Hay said Curtain takes the most liberties with his literary iteration.

If you’re a fan of the book, you will absolutely see in essence and in specifics those characters that you love. The one that is different in presentation is Curtain. He’s the most different in terms of how we portray him just because we found something about him very specific that we felt a guru type educational free thinker kind of clicked with the scenes and clicked in a slightly different presentation of this amazing character from the book.

Mysterious Benedict Society: Tony Hale as Curtain
Tony Hale | Diyah Pera/Disney

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Hay cited other characters who are faithful to a tee.

“If you look at Milligan in our version, Milligan as you’d imagine in the book,” Hay said. “It’s like he walked out of a dream of the book right into the show for example.”

Future seasons of ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ might take more liberties

Season 1 of the Disney+ series is a fairly literal adaptation of the book. Hay said the future seasons of The Mysterious Benedict Society might use scenes from different books out of order. 

Disney+ series The Mysterious Benedict Society cast gathers at Mr. Benedict's Institute
L-R: Ryan Hurst, Emmy Deoliveira, Mystic Inscho, Seth Carr and Marta Timofeeva | Diyah Pera/Disney

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“The first book really truly lent itself almost perfectly in scope and dynamic to a season that was contained,” Hay said. “But the subsequent books, we’ll see if we’re lucky enough to get another season, I think there’ll be a lot of harvesting to do from different areas of those books but we haven’t figured it out yet. There’s some incredible stuff from the second book. We still haven’t conceptualized it completely. The first book is very much portrayed in terms of the story in this season. It makes for a very proper season I think.”