Micheal Flaherty on the future of the Narnia movies
Movies | Marvin Olasky
The current print issue of WORLD includes an interview with Micheal Flaherty, president of Walden Media, that we stopped at our usual two pages (see also “Micheal Flaherty on naming a company, fighting for educational justice,” Dec. 5, and "Micheal Flaherty on homeschooling and movies themes"). Here’s one worthwhile segment that had to be left on the cutting-room floor:
Did you read to your children The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before they saw the movie? Yes, but because we made it with Disney I got to get a Disney ID with a picture of Mickey Mouse. There was a Disney Store at the mall near our house and with that ID I would get a 30 percent discount, and that always led to a conversation: What’s your connection to Disney? So I went in once and the trailer for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was playing. The trailer was pretty scary and it was the first time my son had ever seen it because he was so young: He screamed and ran out of the store. They asked, “What movies are you making?” I said, “The one that just scared my son half to death.”
As if you were filming Scream 11, or something like that. Yeah, exactly. But he’s learned to love them and they’re now at the age where we all got to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader together.
With dragons and other scary creatures? You Patrick Henry [College] students have all read Dawn Treader, and you know that in it God’s grace is a strong theme. You know that Eustace becomes a dragon because, Lewis writes, he gave in to his own dragonish thoughts. So we’re talking with the screenwriter and director and someone says, “Before Eustace gets un-dragoned, let’s have him fight another dragon, and as a reward for him fighting that other dragon and beating him, Aslan will un-dragon him.” I knew there was no way we could talk these guys out of having another dragon in the movie, so I said, “Why don’t we do it another way? Why don’t we have that fight and have Eustace do something incredibly cowardly—retreat, leave everyone in danger—and then Aslan will un-dragon him.” They looked at me as if I had said the craziest thing in the world, and they asked, “Why would anybody give somebody something they didn’t deserve? And that’s when I realized the opportunity for stories and how much work we have ahead of us as believers—to explain grace and to explain that undeserved favor that we get from the Lord.
An economic question: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe did well at the box office. Prince Caspian did not do so well, and Dawn Treader did worse—both tracking closely the sales pattern of the book. Yeah, almost identical.
So, with revenue going down and production costs remaining high, so what’s next for the Narnia movie series? There are multiple opinions on all this and a lot of different players: The C.S. Lewis estate, the studio, our company—and we’re not all of one mind. I would love to find a way where the economics work, acknowledging the decline. I’d like to do The Magician’s Nephew. Other people want to do The Silver Chair, and there’s disagreement about the economics and the overall vision of where the franchise should go next. My hope is that we may all become of one mind, but unless something providential happens there, I’m focusing on a number of other stories.
So, at this moment, no deal? Nope.
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