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'Narnia' – not Nirvana for Disney

Posted By Ted Baehr On 01/08/2009 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The big news in the world of faith-based literature and film is that Walt Disney Company has dropped the third “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Even though the Associated Press sent out a release making this look like a faith-based issue, the fact of the matter is this was an economic decision.

The Associated Press took my words out of context in an interview on this subject to make Disney’s decision look like one of the parties in Hollywood was concerned about the movie’s faith content. The fact is neither Disney nor Walden has hesitated from including faith in their movies. The book “Dawn Treader” has the least amount of time with Aslan, who is the Jesus figure in the series by acclaimed Christian author C.S. Lewis. It is much more logical that the economics of the movie did not make sense than that there was a concern over the Christian content of the book.

“Prince Caspian,” the most recent “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, exceeded its budget and ultimately cost $200 million to produce. A movie has to produce two and a half times its costs to break even, which means it would have to earn $500 million at the box office. In fact, it only made $418.8 worldwide. In terms of videos and DVDs, the markup is much higher, so “Prince Caspian” would have to make much more money to make its money back in the DVD market. Neither Walden nor Disney could have been happy about this economic straitjacket.

Although “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is one of the most beloved books in the series, it is more of a travelogue than a well-structured movie. Most books turned into movies bomb at the box office. Movies require very strong, carefully plotted storylines. Most books meander. Some of the biggest, best-selling books, such as “Bonfire of the Vanities” and “Name of the Rose,” bomb at the box office. Of all the “Narnia” books, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the most cinematic. So, from an economic point of view, paying more for “Dawn Treader” does not make sense.

It is true that the faith community is gigantic. And, they responded to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in a big way. However, the remaining “Narnia” books do not have the same degree of enthusiastic fans. And, the faith community includes everyone from Catholics to fundamentalists. Movies that appeal to them must appeal to them across the board, and must be marketed properly.

With “Prince Caspian,” the faith community probably was not prepared for the replotting of the storyline. To make the movie work, the filmmakers had to change it from flashbacks and meandering walks up and down the gorge to a straight-ahead, exciting plot. The filmmakers should have made a greater effort to tell the faith community why the plot was adjusted to make it more of a movie. That said, director Andrew Adamson, among others, did tell that to Movieguide® in our television interviews. The faith community could have taken more time to find out by looking at sites such as Movieguide® that give a clear indication of what to expect when going to the movie.

A movie cannot succeed with just one part of the faith community supporting it. It needs to get all of the faith community that goes to church on a regular basis. These people want movies they can trust. The studios can reach those people through review services they can trust, and the most trustworthy is Movieguide®.


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