Hollywood’s take on CS Lewis’s classic fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe retains a "seductive aura of magic, mystery and menace." That’s thanks to Aussie helmer Andrew Adamson who is an avid fan of the Narnia series. Following monster success with Shrek, he made his live action debut with this tale of four children who venture into a world filled with centaurs, satyrs and a talking lion. It went on to become one of the biggest box office hits of 2005.
Opt for the single-disc edition and you’ll be treated to an extras package comprising two audio commentaries, a trivia track and blooper reel. Adamson features in both commentaries, one with the production team and the other with the children. Georgie Henley (Lucy) babbles excitably in the latter while Skandar Keynes (Edmund) plays it cool and reckons his Dynasty-style fur coat makes him "look like a gangster." If it’s more nuts-and-bolts insight you’re after then the second commentary boasts plenty of that. The crew shed light on the complicated logistics of shooting some scenes on as many as three sets across three continents. Adamson also points out the continuity problems created by Skandar who grew 6-inches in height during the year-long shoot!
It’s worth shelling out for the 2-disc edition if you want probing behind-the-scenes access. Chronicles Of A Director is a 40-minute documentary that follows Adamson through the lavish sets and location shoot in New Zealand. He explains that he set about preserving the magic of the book by first writing down all of his memories of the story. It turned out to be a 20-page manifesto, but he follows through by getting involved in every aspect of production from casting to costume fittings. Tilda Swinton (who plays the White Witch) credits him with having a wildly vivid imagination and generally being a "boss of the virtual world".
Snow Place Like Home
In the featurette The Children’s Magical Journey, Adamson says that it wasn’t the scale of the project that daunted him, but the prospect of working with child actors. In the end though, he admits, "They gave me more energy than I put into them." Meanwhile the kids liken the experience of making the film to stepping through the wardrobe. Here they get to indulge in all sorts of fun activities pertaining to their roles e.g. archery, sword fighting and horse riding.
Apparently the children also had fun getting pelted with a tonne of falling water as seen in Anatomy Of A Scene. This featurette gets into the nitty-gritty of big-budget filmmaking, showing each stage in the execution of the ‘melting river’ sequence. Hydraulics, miniature models, a giant water tank and CGI all played part in this key bit of action. Of course visual effects were integral to almost every shot of the film and, most crucially, the realisation of Aslan the God lion. Under the Creating Creatures menu there are eleven featurettes revealing how Aslan and the rest of Narnia’s mythical critters were brought to life. Even Dawn French and Ray Winston get a look-in as Mr and Mrs Beaver.
The slightly less hairy folk at Weta workshop and the KNB Creature Shop get their share of the limelight in the Cinematic Storytellers section (made up of eight behind-the-scenes profiles). Elsewhere, tribute is paid to CS Lewis in a featurette briefly retracing his life and work. The remainder of the extras serve as a guide to Narnia with beautifully presented character profiles, an interactive map and a timeline of ‘historical’ events. For a little added intrigue you can traverse through different areas of the bonus disc using a magical wardrobe.
Unfortunately there’s no word from the screenwriters who were given the mammoth task of adapting Lewis’s classic tome, otherwise this two-disc edition of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe leaves the door wide open to a fascinating world of make-believe.
DISC TWO only