The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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Dec 7, 2005 ... The Witch, and The Wardrobe becomes the first in the series to join the ... When it came time to choose a director to helm the project, Disney ...

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe By M. Elizabeth Pryor

An Analysis on a Current, In-Release Film

December 7, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe

Figure 1: Still from the current film of Lucy Pevensie entering the wardrobe (“Chronicles”, 2005).

It has finally happened; one of the most beloved children’s books will be released on the big screen, to the masses, on December 9, 2005. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series is long overdue for big screen success, and on the aforementioned date, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe becomes the first in the series to join the ever-growing legion of children’s fantasy books brought to life with cutting edge special effects. While this book has been translated to film before, created twice as made-for-TV movies and one short-lived television series, it is the vast improvement in digital effect technology that this film will be remembered for (“Lion”, 1988). For the first time, the technology is available to visually conceptualize the story as C.S. Lewis pictured. The film will have the rare honor of being both visually and intellectually stimulating, and with that combination, the film is sure to be a success.

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With such a promising future ahead for the heralded series, it is important to note that this was not always the case. At one point, back when the rights to the film were held by a different film company, the story was to be re-adapted into a modern day setting. Instead of being set in England during World War II, it was to be set in Los Angeles after a major earthquake; Edmond’s bribe was to be hamburgers and hot dogs instead of Turkish Delight. Adding insult to injury, there was a time where Janet Jackson was set to be cast as the White Witch, according to Perry Moore, the film’s executive producer (Bamigboye, 2005). It was about this time that Moore stepped in, in an attempt to rescue the books and maintain their integrity. When it came time to choose a director to helm the project, Disney and Walden turned to Andrew Adamson. Adamson directed both of the Shrek films (“Andrew”, 2004). It was a concern early on that the special effects would drive the film. One of the reasons that Adamson was approached was because of his experience with other films that relied heavily on computer generated effects; Shrek succeeded in the box office because of its strong storyline in addition to its special effects. Only time will tell if Disney and Walden made the right choice. C.S. Lewis’s famous series revolves around the magical happenings of the four Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy. In The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, the first book Lewis wrote in the series, the children are sent off to live with a reclusive, elderly professor in the English countryside. The chaos and fear caused by the second World War is the reason behind the move. Their temporary home seemingly goes on forever, with the house itself comprised of more than one hundred rooms. Due to their ward’s eccentricities, the children where forced to entertain themselves. On one

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particularly rainy day, the children begin a game of “hide and seek” which changes their lives forever (“Facts”, 2005). Young Lucy enters a spare room that holds only an old wardrobe and the wardrobe quickly becomes her hiding place of choice. Once inside the wardrobe, she feels something wet on her hands. Upon further examination, she realizes she is no longer inside the wardrobe, but rather wandering around a snow-covered forest. She has found the land of Narnia. This is where the true adventures begin. Lucy’s older siblings eventually make their way into wardrobe and then into the magical land as well. Their time there quickly turns into a race to rescue Lucy’s faun friend, Mr. Tumnus (in Narnia, a faun is a half human, half goat creature). Along the way, the children encounter an evil White Witch, Jadis, who is unwilling to relinquish her oppressive reign regardless of the prophecy foretelling her removal by two “sons of Adam” and two “daughters of Eve”. Not everyone is evil however, and they soon befriend a pair of beavers, and several other creatures of the forest, including the majestic lion Aslan (“Facts”, 2005).

Figure 2: Jadis, the White Witch from the current film (“Chronicles”, 2005).

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With mighty Aslan’s help, the children declare war on the White Witch and her minions. A great battle ensues, which results in the removal of the White Witch from power, and rescues her many prisoners from their cold, statuesque cells. Somewhere along the way, the children mature: Peter becomes man, Susan becomes confident, Edmond learns about loyalty, and Lucy realizes that is important to remain a child at heart. The children reign the land of Narnia for many years before eventually returning through the wardrobe, only to find that merely seconds have past in the real world. The door in the back of the wardrobe closes to the land of Narnia. On the advice of the great professor, the children realize there will be other doors; the children just have to discover them.

Figure 3: Aslan from the current film (“Chronicles”, 2005).

While a classic, C.S. Lewis’ story is heavily religious in nature. The story’s climax is a crucifixion scene; Aslan gives himself so as to save not only the children, but all the creatures of Narnia. His eventual resurrection fulfills the prophecy and places the children in power over the “evil” White Witch. A major studio concern was whether the

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religious undertones would alienate a large percentage of the audience (Giles, 2005). Society has changed since the days of C.S. Lewis, in particular, views on pushing one’s religion on other groups. This fact caused the film company to question whether the religious aspects of the story should or should not be omitted in the film version. After much consideration, the film was given the go-ahead to remain faithful to the way Lewis wrote the story. The decision to move forward with production was not one entered into lightly. For the past several years, Disney Corporation has been searching for a movie franchise that would continually bring money in to the company (“Lion”, 2005). "Disney doesn't have that predictable film like a Harry Potter that you know will do great business at the box office and sell a ton of DVDs," says former Columbia Pictures executive Peter Sealey, a marketing professor at the University of California at Berkeley (“Lion”, 2005). The decision was a risky proposition for Disney since production costs have already soared upwards of $200 million just to make and market the first installment. And while Disney and Walden Media, the group who holds the rights to the books, are splitting the cost 50/50, there is still no guarantee that the film will ever “catch fire” (“Lion”, 2005). The extreme risk of the decision is only compounded by the fact that Disney’s movie unit lost an estimated $300 million this past summer and has yet to secure a deal with animation powerhouse, Pixar Animation Studios. To try and ensure the success of the movie, Disney has developed a marketing campaign comparable to that of the marketing muscle used for its 1994 animated film The Lion King (“Lion”, 2005). But in order to create a successful marketing campaign, a balance must be struck between Christians, video game players, and Disney's traditional

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target audience of family and kids. To solve this, Disney hired Motive Marketing. Motive Marketing was the media mastermind behind the Passion of the Christ marketing campaign; and has green-lighted advanced showings of the film at various churches across the country. Disney and Walden Media also shipped more than 100,000 teachers’ editions of the books to schools in an effort to generate more awareness in students (“Lion”, 2005). To exploit as many avenues for marketing as possible, Disney has partnered up with other corporate “heavyweights” such as McDonald’s and General Mills. These companies, along with a couple others, have contributed an estimated $150 million in promotional support. Even shopping malls have been exploited; Taubman Centers Inc. has set up winter tableaux from the film at eleven of their high-end malls around the country (“Sneak”, 2005).

Figure 4: Edmond wandering around in the White Witch’s prison (Giles, 2005).

Disney and Walden Media are not sitting back and waiting for their film to be released to the public. The success of the movie will undoubtedly green-light film versions of the remaining stories in the series onto the big screen. True to point, PRYOR 7

everything is in place to begin shooting Prince Caspian, the next book in the series. A script has been approved, and the children are all on standby pending the success of the first film.

Prince Caspian also stars the four children and according to executive

producer Perry Moore, “We want the kids back before they get too old to do it again (Bamigboye, 2005).” When it came to casting, director Andrew Adamson, of Shrek fame, spent upwards of two years finding the just right actors and actresses to play the titular Pevensie roles. William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, and Georgie Henly were finally chosen to play Peter, Susan, and Lucy respectively. Just days before shooting was set to begin, Skandar Keynes was discovered and given the role of turncoat Edmund Pevensie. At one point, Michelle Pfeiffer was offered the role of the White Witch. She declined, citing family reasons, and was the only major Hollywood star contacted to be involved with the production (“Trivia”, 2005). Brian Cox was originally set to be the voice of Aslan, but also had to withdraw from filming; Liam Neeson was then signed as the voice of the poignant ruler. Douglas Gresham, stepson of author C.S. Lewis, co-produced the film (“Trivia”, 2005). The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe exemplifies one of the many seemingly “kids movies” whose big-screen prowess has generated a lot of industry hype. Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, Nemo, and Shrek are all characters who have endeared themselves recently not only to their targeted audience, but also to their target audience’s older siblings and parents. And while only time will tell if the fantastical story of the four Pevensie children will join that category, at this point there does not seem to be anything to stop it.

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REFERENCES “Andrew Adamson”. (2004). Retrieved December 4, 2005 from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0011470/. Bamigboye, B. (2005). Back in the wardrobe kids! Daily Mail. Retrieved November 28, 2005, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/bazbamigboye.html?in_ar ticle_id=366863&in_page_id=1794&in_a_source. “Chronicles of the Next Big Thing”. (2005). Retrieved November 30, 2005, from http://movies.aol.com/feature/galleries/chronicles_of_narnia_movie Giles, J. (2005). Next Stop: Narnia. Newsweek November 7th Issue. Retrieved November 28, 2005 from http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9863780/site/newsweek/. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”. (2005) Retrieved November 28, 2005, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363771/. “The Facts”. (2005) Retrieved November 30, 2005, from http://www.countingdown.com/movies/1463. “The Lion, The Witch, And The Franchise”. (2005). BusinessWeek Online. Retrieved November 30, 2005, from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_45/b3958075.htm. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. (1988). Retrieved November 28, 2005, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094500/. “Trivia for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. (2005). Retrieved December 4, 2005 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363771/trivia. “Sneak Peek Into Narnia: Costumes, Props and 300 Pounds of Snow”. (2005).

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NarniaWeb.com. Retrieved November 30, 2005 from http://www.narniaweb.com/news.asp?id=550&dl=5876750.

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