New Anne of Green Gables TV movie introduces younger Anne Shirley

13-year-old Ella Ballentine will play one of literature's most beloved Canadian characters in an upcoming Anne of Green Gables TV movie slated to air on YTV in 2016.

2-hour movie is made in partnership with Lucy Maud Montgomery's granddaughter

CBC's Jelena Adzic with more on the new adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novels 2:53

One of literature's most beloved Canadian characters is coming back to life in the upcoming TV movie Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.

The 2-hour movie, based on Montgomery's eight classic Anne of Green Gables novels, is slated to air on YTV in early 2016.

It's the first television adaptation of the books made in close partnership with the author's family, producers say.

Lucy Maud Montgomery's granddaughter, Kate MacDonald Butler, is serving as an executive producer on the project, which is being produced by Breakthrough Entertainment.

"It's like having Anne come home," said Peter Williamson, executive producer on the project and partner at Breakthrough Entertainment. "It is a little different when you are working with somebody who is in the family," he told CBC News.

Prince Edward Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery's most enduring work is Anne of Green Gables. (National Archives of Canada/Canadian Press)
The script also references Before Green Gables, a prequel commissioned by Montgomery's estate, which tells the story of Anne as an orphan before she arrived at Green Gables.

MacDonald Butler, who had a hand developing the script, said her grandmother would be have approved.

"From the inspired casting, the tender script and its eloquent adherence to the story of Anne Shirley, my family is so proud to be associated with bringing Breakthrough's film adaptation to a new generation of viewers," MacDonald Butler said in a statement.

A cross-country search unearthed the young Canadian talent who will star as the charismatic title character, Anne Shirley.

The spunky red head will by played by 13-year-old Ella Ballentine. 

Williamson says there was something about the Toronto-born actress that really shone through.

"She just lights up the screen," he said. "She is a younger Anne ... but closer to the character's age in the book, so that works well and gives Anne a fresh childlike quality."

Movie fans might recognize Ballentine for her supporting work with Susan Sarandon in 2014's The Calling. She's also played Young Cosette and Young Eponine in the 2013/2014 Mirvish production of Les Misérables.

Production on Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables is currently underway in Ontario and P.E.I.


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