Edmund, played by Skandar Keynes, in a scene from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

Producers of the highly anticipated Hollywood production of the C.S. Lewis children’s classic “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” have released the film’s first trailer.

The Walt Disney Co. is co-financing and distributing the production with Walden Media, headed by Philip Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire Christian.

The budget is estimated to be between $150 million and $230 million.

Walden Media, launched in May 2001, sees its purpose as “marrying popular entertainment and education.”

Walt Disney Pictures expects a Dec. 9 release and will retain the option to release future films in the series.

The project began in Los Angeles then moved to New Zealand after eight months, where the production team behind “Lord of the Rings,” Weta, went to work.

“It’s bigger than ‘The Lord of the Rings,'” special effects designer Howard Berger said in a story in the Malaysia Star. “Lord of the Rings had orcs and trolls … this has 23 (different) species.”

Director Andrew Adamson, who directed “Shrek,” says he read the Narnia series when he was between eight and 10 years old.

“And it was as if I lived in that world, the magical world of Narnia,” he said in the Star report. “And it expanded my imagination.”

Producer Mark Johnson, who was behind “Rain Man,” said Adamson offered a 20-page memorandum outlining his vision when he approached him about directing the film.

“It was incredible in every way,” Johnson said. “He really is the artistic and spiritual leader of this film.”

The vast number of original and mythical characters and creatures — a mixture of live action and computer generation — have added a full-year of post-production work to the six-month shoot.

“The sheer size of this movie is mind-blowing,” said Johnson, “and there’s so much to wrap your head around.”

Young actor Skandar Keynes, who plays Edmund, said he found it hard not to grin through a scene the first time he was on set.

“I had to try really hard not to smile because the set is just amazing. It really is magical,” he said.

C.S. Lewis

The late Lewis, who was an Oxford professor, is regarded as one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent Christian thinkers.

His seven-book “Chronicles of Narnia” series tells the adventures of four siblings in World War II England who enter the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe. In Narnia, the children discover talking beasts, dwarfs and giants who have become frozen under the spell of an evil White Witch. The children cooperate with the lion Aslan to overcome evil.

Aslan is seen by many enthusiasts of the series as a Christ figure.

Lewis began the series in 1950 with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” followed by the prequel “The Magician’s Nephew” and the sequels “The Horse and His Boy,” “Prince Caspian,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “The Silver Chair” and “The Last Battle.”

Walden Media head Cary Granat, who formerly ran Disney-owned Dimension Films, told Variety in 2001 the C.S. Lewis Co. “saw eye-to-eye with us on exactly how to make this film.”

Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham told the Hollywood Reporter at the time, “It has been our dream for many years not simply to make a live-action version of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ but to do so while remaining faithful to the novel.”

“We are delighted to make this film with Walden Media, which we are confident will create the adaptation that my stepfather would have wanted,” Gresham said.

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