Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Disney's Challenge: "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe"

The New York Times Sunday had a feature on the upcoming mega-movie Disney is doing based on C.S. Lewis's classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is due in December. They're wrestling with how to make a mainstream film of the level of the Lord of the Rings (which was also written by a Christian apologist) that is a blatant Christian allegory. And it's good to know they intend to keep it that way. Some excerpts:

But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.

That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.

Disney executives say their aim is to capture the largest possible audience by remaining true to Lewis's work. "We're lucky that there are millions of devoted fans, who probably cross four generations," said Dennis Rice, the studio's senior vice president of publicity. "We want to reach all of those devoted fans."

To do that, Mr. Rice said, the studio plans to reach out to middle schools, boys' clubs, girls' clubs, fantasy fans and, where appropriate, religious groups. Mr. Rice said the company's message would be: "We are trying to make this movie to be as faithful to the book as possible. And if you connect to the book, we think you will connect to the movie."

I love this story, and have a special fondness for the 1976 animated version produced by Bill Melendez for Children's Television Workshop and Episcopal Media Center. I am looking forward to this new version, which looks spectacular in every way.


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