Though "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is generally billed as a Disney film, it was developed by a small production company called Walden Media. Walden was founded by two former college roommates, Micheal Flaherty and Cary Granat, with the mission of producing films, books and interactive programs that would be fun, high-quality, and educational. The company has made such films as "Holes," "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Because of Winn-Dixie." Flaherty spoke to Beliefnet from his Boston-area office.

Why Narnia, and why now?

We do something rather unique at our company. We go out and talk to teachers and librarians. They're basically the extension of our development group here. And we ask them what are the top books that you have that get kids excited about reading, that they're really passionate about. And that's where we get our entire development slate.

When we started the company about six years ago, we had a short list of properties that we wanted to develop, and Narnia was at the top of the list. The reason in terms of why now is that it took this long. But we lucked out in the sense that from the perspective of Andrew Adamson [the director], the movie couldn't have been made four years ago because the technology simply didn't exist.

What is it about Narnia that is so engaging for kids?

Fantasy is just a great door into reality. Kids love it because there's nothing better than that dream that at that age you can play such a huge and significant and historical role in your life. And what bigger role than defeating the White Witch and the forces of darkness?

What are the moral and spiritual lessons of the movie?

When we first talked to Andrew, we asked him what he thought the important ones were, and without flinching he said "Family and forgiveness." It's great that you have two brothers and two sisters who are really tight, and they learn to love one another. And in terms of their forgiveness for their brother, I don't think there are many more-powerful examples of forgiveness, and for me, my favorite books all deal with forgiveness. It's truly a forgotten virtue.

Did you try to play that up in the movie?

No, we wanted to be careful. The book is so expertly balanced, that the minute we started to embrace one theme over another theme or try to amplify one thing over another, we would have upset that delicate balance Lewis had achieved. So we wanted to make sure the film was a perfect mirror of everything that was in the book.

Christian audiences are particularly excited for the film. Did you give any specific care to how the production would come across to Christian audiences?

We always make sure the book is the North Star that everyone's following. So as long as you're true to the book and the characters and the key plot points and the themes, everything else will take care of itself. There's really no need to unpack why it's special and significant to different audiences. If everything is done in service to being faithful to the book, then it will all be in the film.

When making a movie from such an iconic book as "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," how do you proceed?

At first, we didn't know how to proceed. We started with a simple Google search. We found that the point person for the C.S. Lewis Company was a gentleman named Melvin Adams. So we did a further search for Melvin Adams, and the only one could turn up was a guy who used to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. So we didn't think it was him, but we had a guy on our staff who had also loved this book, and he--really full time--pursued finding out who had these rights and making sure we had a meeting with them to present our case to them.

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  • C.S. Lewis's estate and organization are very protective of who can do these sorts of things. How did you sell them on it?

    We just told them the whole purpose behind our company is to make faithful adaptations. And then right after we said that very proudly and nobly, they asked us what films we had released, and we answered, "Zero." [Laughs] "But we intend to make faithful adaptations!" At the time, we were making "Holes," and the author, Louis Sachar, was also the author of the screenplay, and he was on the set every day. So we told them this was the formula we wanted to continue on with for all of our films, to make sure we had complete fidelity to our source material. And since C.S. Lewis is no longer with us, we said the next best thing would be to work hand-in-hand with the people who know the property the best, Douglas Gresham [Lewis's stepson] and the people at the C.S. Lewis Company.
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