C.S. Lewis' work in production by Walt Disney Pictures

( [email protected] ) Mar 24, 2004 11:29 AM EST

The movie industry responds with another work to the recent rising trend of faith-encouraging films. Film companies and directors of all kinds are bringing Biblical thematic films onto the screen. Mel Gibson's blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" is considered as one of the biggest outreaches in evangelism for many Christians and church-goers. Now, the renown Walt Disney Co. is planning to co-finance and distribute the C.S. Lewis children's classic "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

According to a Hollywood Reporter, Disney is collaborating with Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz' Walden Media on the $100 million production. The director of "Shrek" will film the work this summer. The premiere is expected to be in the year 2005, and futher considerations of continuing the Narnia series will be made by Walt Disney Pictures.

"It's a very, very ambitious production and one that we believe could be very important to the studio," said Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook. "The story and the characters are so inviting that audiences around the world will be excited for the franchise."

The novel series was first written by the late C.S. Lewis, who was also an Oxford professor, regarded as one of the 20th century's pre-eminent Christian intellectuals.

Lewis' seven-book "Chronicles of Narnia" series tells the adventures of four siblings in World War II England who enter the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe. Written in 1950, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" also includes the prequel "The Magician's Nephew" and the sequels "The Horse and His Boy," "Prince Caspian," "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," "The Silver Chair" and "The Last Battle."

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" opens the series in a fantasy world where the young main characters meet talking beasts, dwarfs and giants who have become frozen under the spell of an evil White Witch. The children cooperate with a lion Aslan, in many ways a resemblance of a Christ-like figure, to overcome the control of evil forces.

Walden Media CEO Cary Granat said that Lewis' work "has unbelievably great scenes for families, with four kids who leave a world consumed by war that they have no control over only to enter a world where a war is raging in which their actions are crucial to the outcome. It says a lot about empowerment and fractured families coming together."

Anschutz Walden was noted by Christianity Today newspaper in December 2001 as a billionaire Christian who owned one-fifth of America's movie screens. An article in Fortune of an issue in September 1999 said he was "working deliberately and diligently" to do "something significant in American Christianity."

Walden Media head Cary Granat, who formerly ran Disney-owned Dimension Films, told Variety in 2001 the C.S. Lewis Co. "saw eye-to-eye with us on exactly how to make this film."

Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham told the Hollywood Reporter at the time, "It has been our dream for many years not simply to make a live-action version of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,' but to do so while remaining faithful to the novel."

"We are delighted to make this film with Walden Media, which we are confident will create the adaptation that my stepfather would have wanted," Gresham said.

Combining efforts, these instutions will put another strong hit in the movie industry for the sake of revealing the world of Christianity to America.