Disney's Artemis Fowl movie: Release date, plot, trailers, cast, poster, director, rumors

It looks like Disney has changed up what was originally a twisted fairy tale about a 12-year-old genius kidnapping a police officer from the underground world of mythical beings.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
Expertise News | Mobile | Broadband | 5G | Home tech | Streaming services | Entertainment | AI | Policy | Business | Politics Credentials
  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
6 min read

The Artemis Fowl books are getting a movie.


Disney is finally making an Artemis Fowl movie based on the beloved children's book series, almost 20 years after its original publish date. The story's got everything from centaurs to criminal masterminds, and Dame Judi Dench is in the cast. Buckle up for a twisted fairy tale.

Release date: When can I see it? 

Originally slated to release Aug. 9, the movie was later pushed back to May 29, 2020. However, due to the spread of coronavirus across the globe, the movie will now debut on Disney Plus. The movie is slated to land on the subscription streaming service on June 12 in the US, Australia, Canada, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Netherlands and Italy.

"Due to uncertain times, cocooned fans will join together for the movie's release on Disney Plus," Eoin Colfer tweeted April 3. "Streaming to millions of homes is prob how Arty would have wanted it. Release date TBC, stay tuned."

The plot: What's it all about?


Haven City, capital of the underground fairy world.


Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old genius who lives in a mansion in Ireland with his bodyguard. Before the story begins, his crime lord father has gone missing along with the Fowl family's millions, and his mother has become detached from reality as a result.

For some time, Artemis has been tracking down the existence of the underground fairy world, getting his hands on a copy of its Book of the People through an alcoholic sprite in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He translates the gnommish runes and uses the information to kidnap Lower Elements Police (LEP) elite officer and fairy Holly Short, holding her to ransom in his family's manor.


Fowl Manor in Ireland.


The hostage situation sees Artemis match wits -- and his bodyguard, Butler, match physical strength -- with a bunch of other characters from the fairy world, including LEPrecon Commander Julius Root, tech genius centaur Foaly and criminal kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Diggums.

The first of the eight-book Artemis Fowl series, written by Irish author Eoin Colfer, was released almost two decades ago, in 2001 (and boy does that make me feel old).

Kenneth Branagh, the film's director, said it's taken a while because translating Colfer's book to screen was "challenging."

"It's taken quite some time to find the balance between humor and emotion and magic and the contemporary world," Branagh told ET Online in November. "You're talking about the many kinds of fairies, elves, sprits, trolls [and] goblins that live under the Earth and at the same time, you're looking to have a very sort of contemporary feeling modern world that embraces technology."

Branagh said he's also trying to keep the movie to a 90-minute runtime, because he wants the film, like the books, to be "very rapid, very punchy and pacy."

The trailer: What's it going to look like?

The first Artemis Fowl teaser trailer was released on Nov. 27 and shows glimpses of Fowl Manor in Ireland, Haven City underground and the fight between Butler and the fairies, as well as the familiar written gnommish.

"Our world has never been in more danger," Dench narrates. "Human greed is what drove us underground all those years ago -- to escape from your rapacious appetite."

Disney dropped its full-length Artemis Fowl trailer on March 2, revealing Colin Farrell will be playing the father who goes missing at the start of the story. A departure from the books, Farrell's Artemis Fowl Senior is shown training his young son in combat and intelligence -- and Artemis knowing nothing about the fairy world until his father's work is revealed to him by bodyguard Butler.

It's the first time Farrell has appeared in any Artemis Fowl materials, with the movie's delay possibly linked to reshoots with the Irish actor. 

Cast and crew: Who's in it?


Dame Judi Dench as Commander Root in Artemis Fowl.


There are some pretty big names attached to this movie, with Dench starring as a reimagined female version of Commander Root and Branagh directing. Branagh said the decision to cast Dench was an "uninformed hunch" that she would be great in such a different role.

Disney favorite Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Frozen and Frozen 2 as well as shining as LeFou in 2017's live-action Beauty and the Beast, will fill the role of Mulch Diggims.

Nonso Anozie, who you might recognize as Xaro Xhoan Daxos from the second season of Game of Thrones -- and whose Disney resume includes playing the captain of the guards in 2015's live-action Cinderella remake, also directed by Branagh, will play Artemis' bodyguard and confidante, Butler.

The two main character roles, Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, will be filled by newcomers. Fowl will be played by young Irish actor Ferdia Shaw, and Short will be played by Lara McDonnell, who's held small roles in various UK dramas.

Music will be by Patrick Doyle, who for Disney has also written the scores for the Cinderella remake, Pixar's Brave and Marvel's Thor.

According to IMDb, the cast includes:

Colfer in mid-December confirmed a report by The Observer that he would have a walk-on cameo in the movie.

"I walked across a field with a lot of other people," he told The Observer. It wasn't too taxing, although I did manage to get it wrong a few times. The only direction they gave was: 'Walk across the field and don't look at the camera.' I must have looked at the camera about 20 times. I have a new respect for actors." 

Rumors : What will change from the books?


Ferdia Shaw plays Artemis Fowl.


"My great idea was to copy Eoin Colfer and to not get in the way," Branagh said last year. However, he said he added "a couple of things" to the movie, but he reassures that Colfer has not only liked the ideas but also said they may even be added to the reissue of the books.

But the new trailer released March 2020 shows a number of big changes to the story -- including Artemis only discovering the fairy world when Butler shows him Artemis Fowl Senior's secret collection of artifacts.

"I had enough strength of character to resist meddling," Colfer told Publishers Weekly in an interview published Oct. 22, 2019. "I did not offer any suggestions unless I was asked to. It helped that the screenplay was written by a friend, Conor McPherson, who is a brilliant playwright."

With several characters reimagined, Holly Short -- who didn't even appear in the teaser trailer, but introduced herself as Artemis' "ally" in the full-length trailer -- will of course no longer be the first female member of the LEPrecon, thanks to the leadership of Dench's Commander Root, the switch of Trouble Kelp to a female character and the casting of other female LEPrecon officers.

It's also been rumored that we'll see a little family history about Holly, given the casting of a character named Beachwood Short.

We finally got our first look at both Holly and Mulch Diggums in pictures of the Artemis Fowl 2020 calendar on Oct. 12.

If you're looking for your Fowl fix sooner, fear not: Colfer just released the first book in a new series called The Fowl Twins. It's based on Artemis' younger brothers Myles and Beckett, who become entangled in the fairy world at age 11. The book is came out on Nov. 5 and was published by Disney Books.

Originally published Aug. 21.
Update, Oct. 17: adds more info on cast, pictures from calendar; Nov. 4: adds comment from Colfer about the film being written by McPherson; Dec. 16: adds info about Colfer's cameo; March 2, 2020: Adds new trailer and details of story being flipped from the books; April 3: Movie set to skip theaters and release on Disney Plus; April 17: Adds Disney Plus release date. 

2019 movies to geek out over

See all photos