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Fantasy fanatics--making their presence known at the box office--pelted theaters in droves to track down Middle Earth's one ring, watch Darth Vader's fall to the Dark Side, and enroll in Transfiguration 101 at Hogwarts. Therefore, after a rich succession of sci-fi flicks, many figured this genre would run dry--after all, it would take a lot of nerve to drop in on this wave. But that's exactly what Walden Media did. A relative newcomer to educational films, the company's first move was to secure the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis--all seven books.
The first film in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was a commercial success and even won an Oscar--for best make-up. The world of Narnia drew upon the talents of the special effects powerhouses that were behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars prequels, as well as previous Oscar winners in the industry for makeup, hair, prosthetics, full suits, mechanical heads, and puppets of phenomenal proportions. A force to be reckoned with, Aslan the Lion was two years in the making at Weta Workshop. The 68 races of Narnia creatures are realistic and fantastical all at once, half real and half computer generated, often based on theology, sometimes mythology, but usually an original mix of both. Having 23 different species physically on set, hundreds of actors were transformed into monsters daily. Some of the most intricate prosthetics for the film were done on the faun, Mr. Tumnus, a human with the ears, horns, tail, and legs of a goat. One of the 42 make-up artists on set joked, "Lord of the Rings was like shooting a commercial compared to this."
Although it is common knowledge that the late C. S. Lewis, Oxford professor and author of The Chronicles of Narnia, once said any attempt to film the animals of Narnia would surely "turn into buffoonery or nightmare," it is perhaps the case that, in 1950, when The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published, he imagined a film version would include the God-like character of Aslan as a plump man in a lion suit. In a quest to stay true to the original spirit of this children's classic, the film was co-produced by C. S. Lewis' stepson, who is now 60 years old. Due to the success of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the box office, the next installment--Prince Caspian--is already underway. If you missed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in theaters, don't worry. The DVD has just been released.
Copyright 2006© Stephanie Sullivan Lytle
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