Saturday, January 3, 2009

Disney Abandons Ship On Narnia

Last Christmas Eve, visitors to were greeted with the news that Disney had opted out of making The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader", and Walden Media was looking for a new partner.

As long as Walden can find a new partner soon, I'm all right with this.

But honestly, Disney really screwed up the second installment of the Narnia series, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Trailers featured scenes from the grand scale finale battle, the frightening Werewolf and Hag were not hard to miss in the Super Bowl TV spot, making this not look like a family film. Also, many clips from the movie were shown on television and online, so much, about a month before the release, fans had already pieced together how the movie would adapt the story.

The movie hit theaters May 16, 2008, the release sandwiched between the releases of Iron Man and Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, two other summer action movies that were heavily anticipated. Between these two contenders, and although it had a built-in audience of thousands, if not millions, of dedicated fans, Prince Caspian didn't stand a chance.

It was also not a good idea to have the release over two years after the first movie. Even if the extended DVD version of the first film could be counted as the end of the buzz over the series, it was a whole year and a half before we got the next installment. In that time, we had the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Spider-Man 3, 300, Transformers, and many other movies to get excited about.

In addition, Prince Caspian's bloated budget didn't help. This story is considered by many fans to be the weakest of all seven of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. So, of course they made big changes to the plot line. Whether these were good or bad changes, and whether they improved the story or not, I can't definitely say, but it did make for a good movie, though.

Disney has mis-marketed a movie then declared it a flop after release before. It happened back in 1985 when Return to Oz, advertised as a fun family film, didn't do very well. (Today, Oz is a cult classic.)

In all, Prince Caspian made much more overseas than it did domestically, but apparently, this return wasn't good enough for Disney.

Fan rumors (fanned on by a reputable Disney news site) spread that Disney would gauge the DVD sales of Prince Caspian before deciding to greenlight The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader". While it remains unclear if Disney intended this or not, the fact is it took ten days to sell as many copies of Prince Caspian as it did to sell as many as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first Narnia film, sold on it's first day.

While many people must have bought the DVD for Christmas (I bought a copy of the 1-disc edition for a younger brother, and was given a copy of the 3-disc edition), the Christmas sales push is not a good time to put such stakes on a DVD. Even worse, much more so than in May, everyone was concerned over the United State's poor economy. (Here in Springfield, Missouri, many businesses have closed or made severe cutbacks, leaving many people unemployed.)

And now, Walden Media is trying to sell The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" to another studio. Many fans wish Disney had greenlit this one, and suspect that it will, if made, do much better than Prince Caspian, due to the story's popularity and being one of the fan favorites of the entire series.

Really, Dawn Treader is excellent film material. We have an ocean voyage, with a young king on a mighty quest, complete with enchantments, dragons, strange creatures, and even retired stars. Throw in three children from our world, and you've got a winner.

So, really, if another studio picks up Narnia, I have high hopes for Dawn Treader and the other memorable titles in the series.

Only question is, does another studio want Disney's leftovers?

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