May 5, 2005


The wonderful world of 'Narnia' (Susan Wloszczyna, 5/02/05, USA TODAY)

The majestic lion doesn't pal around with wacky sidekicks.

The haughty White Witch doesn't cast a spell on a princess.

And the stately wardrobe, with a secret passageway that leads into an enchanted kingdom, doesn't break into a jaunty chorus of Be Our Guest.

When the first trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe makes its U.S. premiere Saturday night during ABC's showing of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets— airing at the same time in 30-plus countries — viewers are apt to gaze in wonder. And be taken aback.

The TV audience may feel as disoriented as the tale's four young siblings — curious Lucy, disgruntled Edmund, smart Susan and sensible Peter — after they enter the wooden closet and suddenly stumble into Narnia, a frozen paradise terrorized by a power-mad sorceress. Before their eyes, the snow-globe fantasy land of the most popular book in C.S. Lewis' treasured literary collection comes to swirling life with mythic beasts, snarling wolves and white vistas punctuated by a thunderous roar.

No cutesy creatures. No anachronistic wisecracks. What rushes by is like flipping through a picture book full of rich images. Those who catch the preview of the epic adventure due out Dec. 9, either on TV or when a longer version is attached to the May 19 arrival of the Star Wars finale Revenge of the Sith, may ask themselves, "Can this be Disney?"

It would be asking too much that they match the Lord of the Rings adaptation, but, please, let them not biff it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2005 12:01 AM

I had expectations of a bowdlerized story -- this is Disney after all. But it's starting to look like they are keeping it more or less faithful to Lewis' books. So we may see the Christian allegory that Lewis intended it to be. Or one can hope.

Posted by: Gideon at May 5, 2005 2:01 AM

Disney acquired the rights to "Narnia" soon after "Passion of the Christ" made a pile of money, and of course, well after the success of "Lord of the Rings" was evident.

I'll predict that the movies will be quite faithful to the books. For one thing, they almost certainly want to tap the "Passion" audience dynamic. For another, I don't think the Christian symbolism found in the books (except _The Last Battle_ ) is the sort that will offend anyone.

That said, I am with Orrin hoping they don't biff it. Disney laid off their hand-drawn animation division last year, and I am not impressed with most their computer animation efforts.

Posted by: Kevin Colwell at May 5, 2005 3:22 AM

They'll biff it because they don't understand it.

Posted by: jd watson at May 5, 2005 4:57 AM

The most important parts of the allegory are the parts that might get dropped, like Aslan's discussion with Jill Pole at the beginning of "The Silver Chair", or his words to the witch just prior to his 'death', or his words to the Tarkheena when she and the boy make it to Narnia.

If they biff it, they can do it one of two ways: either smear out the allegory, or warp it and make Aslan into some cultish animal god. Remove the gravity, as it were. Just a big lion with a loud voice.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 5, 2005 10:00 AM

My experience with these books is that most people, while understanding the good vs evil part, don't get caught up in the religous overtones. To most people it is a group of children's adventure stories. So I expect Disney to play it down the middle - tell the story without putting too much religous symbolism in (i.e. basking Aslan in golden light).

Posted by: AWW at May 5, 2005 10:06 AM

If I remember correctly, C.S.Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham is co-producer for the movie.

Posted by: Philip Schienbein at May 5, 2005 2:20 PM