"The Chronicles of Narnia" - Will Disney Get It Right?
- Wednesday, October 26, 2005
In a recent interview on Faith Radio, Bob Crittenden asked me what has come to be the defining question on the upcoming film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe": Can Christians trust Disney to faithfully deliver C.S.Lewis' book to the silver screen?
It is not hard to understand the persistence of that question. On the one hand, Christians are intensely protective of "The Chronicle of Narnia" – a beloved series shared by generations of readers. On the other, Disney has a habit of taking famous fairy tales and twisting them into crowd-pleasing films – often by eviscerating them of their original intent or infusing them with modern sensibilities foreign to their creators. One need only read "The Little Mermaid," by Hans Christian Andersen, or look at the tales of "Hercules" or "Tarzan" and compare them with the films to recognize the difference. Few would deny that the Disney brand has a long history of making family-friendly blockbusters, but strict faithfulness to the text has not always been high on their priority list.
Still, I have great hope that the version of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" will ring true to the novel because of the production company behind it, the promises being made, and the sheer folly of getting it wrong.
The Walden Connection
Much is made of the Disney label attached to Narnia. Fortunately, the answer to the "trust" question does not have to rely on Disney, but on the production company, Walden Media. With the exception of "Around the World in Eighty Days" (a fun, but unfaithful romp), Walden Media enjoys, and deserves, its outstanding reputation for its adaptations of children's books.
It is nearly impossible to reproduce a novel on the screen. Some things cannot be imaged – a character's thought processes, for example, are notoriously difficult – and often the complexity of the text overwhelms the 90-120 minute time constraints of the cinema. Nevertheless, if you saw "Because of Winn-Dixie" earlier this year, you witnessed how fully Walden Media can put a book on the screen. Walden wants to make films that cause children to read books – it is their stated aim. If they could not get the story right, their credibility with the target audience of their mission statement – educators – would be at risk. They will do their best to deliver.
When I initially became aware of Walden's involvement with the Narnia project, I spoke with Micheal Flaherty, president of Walden Media. He was the first person to assure me that everything I expected from the book would be in the film. Anyone seeing the trailers knows that there will be some deviation, but all of it seems designed to drive the plot forward in a way complementary to the book. For example, I am expecting "Lord of the Rings"-style battles that rage longer than the descriptions Lewis provided – but it is elaboration rather than departure. That first assurance has been followed by many others.
Beginning with a "faith community" event on the Disney lot early in the year, and continuing with the Narnia regional "sneak peek" I attended last week in Atlanta, everyone involved is falling all over themselves to reassure Lewis lovers that this film will be true to the text of the novel. On the Disney lot we were treated to a brief appearance by director Andrew Adamson. No stranger to film fantasy, Adamson clearly knows how to put magic up on the screen – he directed the wildly successful "Shrek" and "Shrek 2." At the Disney event, he recounted his love of the "Chronicles." He appealed to the audience to trust him – that he would never violate a book he cherished in his youth. This is a promise that Adamson has repeated in the "Making Of ..." promotional films found on the Narnia site.
Recently on Movie Features
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content