"Narnia" Producer Turns Cherished Literature Into Hit Movies
- Monday, December 05, 2005
Last week my three children were the envy of their classmates after bragging that they got to see a press screening of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The reactions went something like this: “You’re kidding me! Your mom gets PAID to watch movies? And, “You saw ‘Narnia?’ No way! That’s huge! That’s like … ‘Lord of the Rings’ huge!”
Indeed, anyone who has seen the breathtaking trailers for “Narnia” will probably note many similarities to “The Lord of the Rings,” including captivating fairy-tale characters and profound allegorical truths. A deeper study of the authors behind both films – C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – will also reveal that the two were contemporaries, good friends, and devoted Christians who wanted to influence their world through the arts.
Now, more than fifty years later, their works live on in the hearts of children – bigger, brighter, and in living Technicolor and Surround sound – largely through the efforts of artists who, like Lewis and Tolkien, greatly want to impact their culture. We caught up with “Narnia’s” producer, Micheal Flaherty of Walden Media, just as the movie’s buzz was swelling to a rumble – just days before its December 9 opening in U.S. theaters (the biggest in Disney’s history).
Crosswalk.com: Micheal, we’ve noticed that you’ve spent a lot of energy over the last decade focusing on entertaining and educating children through book-to-movie adaptations. My own kids have watched their “Holes” DVD about 7,000 times now. How did your career – and this passion for adaptations – begin?
Micheal Flaherty: One of my closest friends in college, Carey Granite, became president of Dimension Films and started wondering how he could use his filmmaking in the field of education. I just happened to be working for the senate in the area of educational legislation and looking for creative ways to combine education and entertainment. We also both had children, who were continually asking great questions like “How far’s the moon? What’s it made of?” We knew that the awful season would arrive when the children’s colossal curiosity would be tapering off, so we got together and wrote up a business plan that focused on feature films that would capture and keep kids excited about “the big questions.” The plan included adaptations of great books of fiction and history, and real-life, compelling applications of math and science – far removed from the boring, abstract visuals of the past.
CW: That was not being done too much before the '90s, was it?
Flaherty: No. Venture capitalists looked at us like we were crazy for combining entertainment and education. They said, “You mean you’re doing tuberculosis filmstrips?” It took some convincing, but we found some good backers who caught the vision.
CW: I know you also specialize in making “movies behind the movies,” like the IMAX film “Pulse” and “Ghosts of the Abyss.” Then came the ever-popular feature “Holes,” “Because of Winn Dixie,” and “I Am David.” My kids are also excited about your upcoming movies “The Giver,” “Bridge to Tarabithia,” and “Charlotte’s Web” with Dakota Fanning. How do you choose which books to turn into movies?
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