Monday, January 2, 2017

Is Narnia drifting from its Christian message?

The following is a news article I published for on New Year's Day, 2010. Although it is dated, it has some relevant facts (and personal opinion) which I think are worth preserving. (Examiner no longer is publishing to the web and has deleted all its content.)
Michael Apted Wikimedia

A New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2009) article in the Washington Times by Julia Duin expresses concerns by some in the Christian community about the direction the Narnia franchise is taking with its third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The article is rather confusing on several points.

The paragraph describing the various changes in dates for the release of Dawn Treader makes it sound like the delays only happened after Disney decided to pull out. Actually, some delays, due to the writers’ strike in 2008, and to the children’s schedules, had already been announced while Disney was involved. Problems with the drug wars in Mexico also prompted a change of filming venue to Australia.

That paragraph aside, the article causes further confusion by making certain unsubstantiated speculations.

First of all, Duin expresses doubt the “will and determination exist to finish the seven-part Narnia series.” This conclusion is reached from what she says are “weird remarks uttered by directors and producers of the first two films.” What remarks she is referencing are not specified.

On the contrary, since the success of the first movie, the filmmakers have continued to express that the series would continue to be produced as long as it received adequate support. The willingness of Walden to continue, even after Disney decided to discontinue its partnership in December of 2008, is also a strong indication of their intent.

The article goes on to reference C S Lewis step-son Douglas Gresham’s recent interview (citing a third-hand report) in which he is "ambivalent" to some changes made to the Dawn Treader script. (See "Douglas Gresham interview on Dawn Treader causes stir and discussions" on, and It seems doubtful that Douglas Gresham’s comments mean that he “caved” to intense studio pressure. He does not express any animosity toward the studio for the changes they made, and indicates the themes of the book are still well conveyed.

Duin then quotes from an interview with Michael Apted by a New Zealand Christian radio station. She fails to mention the interview was conducted in the summer of 2007, just after Apted had signed to be director for Dawn Treader. (Transcripts are available in the NarniaFans archives and at

Apted talks about the challenges of making a film that is directed at both the conservative Christian base and the public at large. She and some in the Christian community object to this “even-handedness,” and are also concerned about the activist stands of some involved the project.
The article concludes with a quote from Ted Baehr, the publisher of the Christian magazine Movieguide and president of the Christian Film and TV Commission. A former script advisor had reportedly told Baehr the movie “was drifting from its Christian vision… not expressing the intent of C.S. Lewis…”

She also claims Baehr told her that an early script of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had “veered in a bizarre direction” and Dick Cook (President of Disney at the time) had to keep things from getting out of hand. However, this all seems to contradict what Baehr said in an article for WorldNetDaily last January. In comments about Disney pulling out of the franchise, he concluded

The Associated Press took my words out of context in an interview on this subject to make Disney's decision look like one of the parties in Hollywood was concerned about the movie's faith content. The fact is neither Disney nor Walden has hesitated from including faith in their movies. The book "Dawn Treader" has the least amount of time with Aslan, who is the Jesus figure in the series by acclaimed Christian author C.S. Lewis. It is much more logical that the economics of the movie did not make sense than that there was a concern over the Christian content of the book.

As “secular” as Walden and the other parties involved in this project may be, they are not afraid of the Christian faith. In fact, they seem to show much less prejudice toward Christianity than some Christians show toward them.

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