Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe by Adamson

In 1950, the scholar, critic and writer C.S. Lewis published “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the first of his seven-volume series, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and established a modern legend.

A long-time fan of what he called “fantasy stories,” Lewis had set out to write a series of fantasy tales for children, but his creation turned out to be much larger and grander than even he had foreseen. Critics were impressed with Lewis' rare ability to forge a completely believable imaginary world, one with its own history, geography, culture and myths that nevertheless reflected the struggles, hopes and moral dilemmas of our own world.

Profoundly affecting its fans, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” went on to develop an enduring worldwide readership and to become a staple of family libraries. The “Chronicles of Narnia” series includes “Prince Caspian,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” The Silver Chair,” “The Horse and His Boy,” The Magician's Nephew,” and “The Last Battle.”

The books took the publishing industry by storm, eventually selling over 85 million books in 29 different languages, making it second only to J.K. Rowling's “Harry Potter” tomes as the most popular book series ever. Rowling has cited C.S. Lewis' “Narnia” as one of the inspirations to her own contemporary stories of magic and adventure.

The new movie is the live-action debut of New Zealander Andrew Adamson, best known (until now) for the Oscar-winning animations “Shrek” and “Shrek 2.” Adamson co-wrote the screenplay with Emmy winners Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely.

The Challenge

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has taken millions of young minds into realms of fantasy, so the enormous challenge as a filmmaker was to try to recreate those worlds in a way that might live up to and even exceed people's imaginations, that could truly transport you to another time and place.

Technology

You couldn't have made this film five years ago. You couldn't have made a photo-realistic lion like Aslan five years ago, or joined animal legs unto a human body realistically as we did with centaurs and minotaurs five years ago. Now is the right time to be making this story.

C.S. Lewis and Tolkien

Lewis and Tolkien were friends and colleagues. They read each other's stories. But unlike Tolkien, who was very specific, Lewis left a lot to your imagination. So we had the enormous challenge of not only creating Narnia, but of trying to fulfill people's expectations, to bring the film up to the level of their own dreams and fantasies.

Memories as a Boy

My excitement was inspired by my own memories of being an eight-year-old boy who was whisked into Narnia and was never quite the same again. I read all seven books continuously over a period of a year or two, just read them over and over. I basically existed in this world of Narnia for a time. I remembered it as this huge, vivid story with a massive battle between good and evil and a whole menagerie of mythological creatures, and I wanted the chance to bring that world to the screen.

What Is Narnia

I started from the premise that Narnia had to come off as 100 percent real, no matter what it would take cinematically to achieve. I don't see Narnia as just a figment of the children's imaginations, a place that they retreat to in their minds to escape World War II. Rather, I believe in Narnia as a true alternate universe. There are many parallels to our world and there are many differences, but the main point is that it is real.

Approach to the Movie

My approach to the movie was that it's not quite like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Peter Pan,” where you realize in the end that the story all happened in someone's imagination. When Lucy goes through that wardrobe and steps into a world, I wanted that world to be completely believable, as if it was another country you might visit. It had to be a whole Narnian reality unto itself.

The Film's Themes

We approached it as a story that is very much about themes of betrayal, forgiveness, and loyalty. It's about a family that feels disempowered by the terror of World War II and then finds its power again in Narnia. It's a story about four kids who enter this land where theyre not only empowered, but where theyre ultimately the only solution to the war in that land. And it's only through unity as a family that they can actually triumph. And that's where we began.

Writing the Screenplay

I remembered it as an epic story. So the first thing that I did was to write everything that I remembered from reading it as a childhow I imagined the battles, how the mythological creatures might fight with each other, who the characters are, right down to the color schemes. I put down a stream-of-consciousness of everything I thought the movie should be and extrapolated from there.

The Source Material

The ideas were all sparked directly by the writing itself, by Lewis' endlessly imaginative frame. All the themes, all the messages that were important to C.S. Lewis are present in the movie, and it is, I hope, a faithful envisioning of what Lewis was imagining when he wrote the book. It's both an epic story of a battle between good and evil, and an intimate family drama about a fractured family that has to mend itself.

Shooting in Sequence

I chose to shoot the film entirely in chronological order, so that each new scene brought the young actors deeper into their characters and further into the discovery of Narnia. I wanted to create a strong family dynamics, but I couldn't have hoped for it to go as well as it did.

Filming in New Zealand

Im sure a part of what developed between them was because they were all so far away from home that they kind of glommed onto each other. Part of it was the mix of personalities that I picked. Yet it was almost magical how they began to seem like a real family of siblings during the production.