Sunday, February 20, 2005

'Narnia' proving tricky indeed for Disney

Did you hear? Disney's doing a live-action/CGI hybrid production of CS Lewis' beloved The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe...and if it's a success, they're thinking of taking on the entire seven-book series. The New York Times has an interesting article today on the inherent difficulties Disney faces with such a project, mostly centered around the fact that the 'Narnia' books push a not-so-subtle Christian agenda. Should Disney embrace this inherent Christian metaphor, and risk pissing off every single audience member who's not a conservative Christian? Or should they omit all references to Christian mysticism (thereby effectively rewriting the entire end of the book), and risk pissing off not only Christians but also the millions of obsessive fans of the book who already exist? And most importantly, do we really want to see Disney take yet another classic piece of literature and wrangle it into a sugary-sweet mess, just to have the Disney version become so popular that the original version is eventually forgotten?

The NYT rightly points out that this wouldn't be nearly as big an issue for a traditional movie company; it's that Disney uses these movies as a springboard for hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of merchandise that makes it especially tricky in this particular case. And let's not forget, we're only talking about the first book here, which has some of the subtlest Christian references of the entire series. What happens when Disney gets to the seventh Narnia book, The Last Battle, which pushes an Apocalyptic Christian agenda so overtly that it even made the 12-year-old me uncomfortable when I first read it? It'd be the equivalent of doing a cuddly, cartoon-infested, musical version of Left Behind...which, by any opinion you want to take, would not be good for Disney at all.