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Feature: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe

Something inside…

The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe is about to hit the big screen – and producer Mark Johnson tells Xposé how he’s bringing the world of CS Lewis to life!

Half a century after the author CS Lewis began his Fantasy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with the innocuous words, ‘Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids,’ his stories are finally heading to the big screen, starting with a lavish $150 million adaptation from Disney and Walden Media. Directed by Shrek’s Andrew Adamson, making his live action début, it’s the first in a proposed series of Narnia films that will almost certainly be produced if The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a box-office success in the coming months.

With just a few weeks to go before the film’s December release, producer Mark Johnson is feeling the pressure. Just hours after returning from an early UK screening, Johnson went right back to an LA mixing stage, where he spent the better part of his evening. And even with the film’s elaborate computer-generated FX work divided up between several major post-production houses, there are several hundred FX shots still to be finished.

Even so, Johnson appears remarkably low-key as he takes a break to discuss the film that has occupied much of the last two-and-a-half years. “I’m getting tired of hearing myself tell people how good it is,” he chuckles. “Right now, I just want to show it to everybody, because if I was you, I wouldn’t believe a producer anyway. Not that we’re necessarily liars, but to hear a producer say that his film is good; gee, how often do you hear that?”

The first published book in the Chronicles of Narnia series – a prequel, The Magician’s Nephew was released several years later – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe follows the four Pevensie children, as they’re bundled off to the English countryside to escape the London bombings. Sent to live with a reclusive professor in his big house, they discover an old wardrobe that acts as a gateway to Narnia, a magical land once ruled by the benevolent lion Aslan. But, as the children discover, Narnia has been plunged into eternal winter by an evil witch, and only they can help restore the balance.

An Oscar-winning producer of numerous films, Johnson came into the world of Narnia as a relative newcomer to big-budget genre blockbusters [see sidebar]. “I think this is the first movie I’ve ever been involved in that has a video game,” he jokes. “So yes, it was a total revelation, and quite frankly (and selfishly) it’s one of the reasons that I wanted to do this movie, because I had never done anything like it before and I wanted to learn. It’s interesting, because I think Andrew taught me a lot and I taught him a lot. I’ve done a lot of live-action movies where characters and dialogue were the most important elements of the movie, and he showed me a lot about animation and how to effectively shoot visual FX shots.”

by Joe Nazzaro

Read the full interview in
Xposé #97

Photo © Buena Vista Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Xposé #97
December 2005
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