Behind the Scenes: Focus on the Family’s Narnia Radio Dramas

Posted October 10, 2010 10:16 pm by Glumpuddle

The latest “Adventures in Odyssey” podcast on Whitsendblog.org is a small behind-the-scenes look at the making of Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s Narnia adaptations (order here). Writer/Director Paul McCusker and Executive Producer Dave Arnold are interviewed. Radio Theater is now back on the air, and they started with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Here are a couple highlights:

Q: Guys, why are we kicking off with VDT?
Arnold: “Well, I think most people in our audience are aware of the fact that, coming up in December, the next Chronicles of Narnia film is being released. Number three, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And so, it felt like the perfect tie-in to sort of lead up to the film. They can hear the more…accurate version [laughs] before they watch the film. Then they’ll know the things they got wrong [laughs].”

On creating sounds for the VDT radio drama:
Arnold: “I remember one of the most difficult portions of Dawn Treader that I had to create was the sequence where Eustace goes into the cave and becomes a dragon, and then eventually he tears the skin off so that he can be a boy again.  I went out and bought big rows of ribs and started ripping the skin off of the ribs. Sometimes it sounded right and sometimes it sounded disgusting.”

Sound designer Nathan Jones reveals how they create armor and sword sound effects.

View the video here. (October 5)

36 Comments For This Story

  • glumPuddle says:

    I’ve listened to these many times. This set is a must-have for die-hard fans. Just about everything is brilliantly done. The voices, the music, the sound… all top notch.

    I don’t think I can recommend these enough.

    Each story also includes a 2-3 minute intro from Douglas Gresham.

    • Prince Norin says:

      I agree completely… my family owns all seven and they are fantastic!

    • Warrior 4 Jesus says:

      You’re correct. There are a few annoyances eg. Aslan’s voice but overall, it’s a very good product.
      Has anyone been able to transfer their CoN FotF CDs to an mp3 player successfully in correct order? I’ve tried and the chapters were mixed up. Thanks

      • Caspian says:

        Are you kidding? I LOVE Aslan’s voice in the Audio Dramas. David Suchet SO beats Liam Neeson in royal-ness and power. And wildness. 🙂

        When I upload the audio dramas, I label them PC 01 and then the chapter name. So PC 01 would be the first chapter of Prince Caspian.

        So cool. I’ll have to check this podcast out…the FotF versions are absolutely my favorite incarnation of the Narnia series…except the books, of course. But these Audio Dramas come close to being as good as the book. Very close.

      • aragorn2 says:

        I put them on the computer and organized them there and then on my MP3, though i had to delete them and start over once because it was a mess

      • Warrior 4 Jesus says:

        Thanks for the mp3 player advice, and that aligns the chapters into the correct order?
        As for Aslan. David Suchet’s voice lent a great texture to it but the way he over-annunciated Aslan’s lines? I felt it was ridiculous. "Luuuucy!" You know what I mean. 🙂

      • glumPuddle says:

        Yeah I don’t like Aslan’s voice. Heee draaagggsss ouuutttt hissss seeennnttenceees. Overly-dramatic.

        Bringing to mind a quote from Treebeard: "We never say anything … unless it is worth taking … a long time to say."

      • Justin says:

        David Suchet ranges in quality from really awful to decent. The best ones were the ones he was in the least…like VDT.

      • Bother Eustace says:

        I put VDT onto my Zune; they were out of order at first, but I re-organized them in the Zune software on my computer, and then when I synced they organized correctly on my Zune as well. I don’t know what sort of MP3 player your working with, but I hope this helps.

    • Twinimage says:

      I Agree 1000%!

    • Starlily says:

      Radio Theater is how I got introduced to Narnia. 🙂 I cried when Aslan died, until my dad explained what it meant. After the whole series came out, my family would listen to them in the car whenever we took a trip. I’ve probably heard each of them more than ten times (except for LB).
      And I don’t mind Aslan’s voice. I grew up with it, so to me, that’s Aslan. Actually, the only voice that bothers me a little is Puddleglum. I think it should be deeper. That’s why I really hope they get Puddleglum right in the Silver Chair–if they make it.

    • Bother Eustace says:

      I totally agree. Some of the voices I think are not quite right, but its still a really quality production. I love listening to them!

    • Laura Elizabeth says:

      I sort of grew up with the FotF LWW and MN, and I’ve always loved them. About two years ago, I got the whole set (I’d checked some of them out from the library before that) for my birthday. I still love them. Aslan is almost always perfect.
      The only one that I don’t listen to a lot is The Horse and His Boy, because I think they did the least good job on that. For one thing, in the plot between the prince, the Tisroc (may he live forever), and the Grand Vizier, they leave the Grand Vizier out!
      And, in the best part of the whole story, where Rabadash gets caught on a hook in the wall as he cries, "The bolt of Tash falls from above!", they don’t explain it enough, making it much less funny, which means that, when he is brought to trial later on, and says, "The bolt of Tash falls from above, they leave out the part where Corin says, "Does it get caught on a hook halfway?"
      Another thing is that Aravis sounds quite a bit older than she should (her voice, not how she talks), and Shasta sounds a bit too young. The people who played Bree and Hwin also didn’t fit their parts, I don’t think. Especially Bree.
      But as for the rest of the adaptations, I think they were done superbly. Thumbs up for the REAL Narnia stories.

    • Pepper Darcy says:

      Ditto, these sets are *amazing*! We’ve worn out our copy of The Last Battle and had to get it off of my dad’s computer because we had uploaded it as an MP3 there.

  • Movie Aristotle says:

    I’m currently listening to VDT. How nice that this video has come out now.

  • narnian resident says:

    its so cool that "Gollum" is playing Screwtape 😀

  • Lala says:

    Susan is a bad sound person in the radio drama

  • aragorn2 says:

    They are really well done, I’ve listened to them a hundred times

  • Clive Staples Sibelius says:

    Aslan’s voice gets a little weird sometimes in these productions, but yes, there is very little to complain about and so much to celebrate. I bought the complete set earlier this year, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. That and Robert Ingliss’ reading of The Lord of the Rings.

    • Justin says:

      OT: Love that Rob Inglis set of LOTR. A good narrator can be as engaging as drama. I make a habit of listening to his "The Hobbit" probably close to once a year.

      • Clive Staples Sibelius says:

        I don’t have The Hobbit yet, but I’m looking to get it soon! Indeed, a good narrator can do as well a job as a whole cast if you get the right person. Derek Jacobi reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is superb is you haven’t heard it. He ocassionaly slips up on Reepicheep’s voice because he reads it at such a high pitch. Other than that, it’s flawless. Jeremy Northam reads The Silver Chair which is the best of that audio series. Alex Jennings (he played Prince Charles superbly in "The Queen") reads The Horse And His Boy. It’s great. The others do a great job as well. I can’t recommend them enough: Kenneth Branagh for The Magician’s Nephew; Michael York for The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe; Patrick Stewart (Picard!) for The Last Battle, which he nails perfectly.

      • Justin says:

        The Hobbit is well worth it.

        I have the set on Narnia that you refer to. I haven’t yet finished it. Based on your review, I’ll probably go to Silver Chair next. So far I’ve only heard VDT (which was good) and HaHB (which was excellent). Alex Jennings was the only one of the readers I’d never heard of, but he’s my favorite so far. His voice for Rabadash is fabulous.

  • Liberty Hoffman says:

    I got this whole set for my birthday last year! they are amazing! I must have for all Narnia fans!

  • Justin says:

    The biggest failure in this series was Aslan’s voice. Particularly in LWW, he was very poor. VDT he wasn’t in that much, and I seem to recall VDT being my favorite dramatization that FotF RT performed.

    • elanor says:

      I used to think that too. I HATED Aslan’s voice; it drove me crazy as a little kid.

      Then I got older and read the books. Now I realize that David Suchet really captured a wildness, an un-tameness that C.S. Lewis portrayed in Aslan in the chronicles. (I mean he was a lion…) He talks so often about how his presence terrified those new to him. How he was awesome, but horrible. Added to that, David Suchet made Aslan not a human voice, but what you could almost imagine a lion’s voice would sound like–if one could actually talk…growls, snarls and all! 🙂

      • Justin says:

        He certainly gets props for creativity. However, I’ve heard an awful lot of audio stuff. Both old stuff from the 30’s-50’s and more recent stuff like BBC dramas or FotF’s radio dramas. And I’ve never once heard a characterization that bizarre…at least not of a major character. That kind of take on a character seems more appropriate for a comic character, not a majestic character worthy of awe. The reading just comes across as really jarring to me. I think Suchet would’ve been better off forgetting about how a lion might talk and just focused on sounding more traditional.

        From what I’ve observed, His take on the character is either loved or hated. I personally fall more to the latter side. It was hard for me to enjoy the sections he was in. Which was kind of a bummer, because the series was very well done aside from that.

  • Mark Sommer says:

    Good to hear they have gotten the series back out of mothballs.
    I did a series of articles about the Radio Theatre dramas, and the lesser-known BBC Radio shows on Hollywood Jesus. Here is a link to the review of the Dawn Treader radio plays if anyone is interested: http://live.hollywoodjesus.com/?p=5562

  • Emily says:

    In the video, the sound effects part, you can see a Prince Caspian poster on the wall. 🙂

  • Queen Susan the Gentle says:

    Wow, these sound really neat; I think we need to go buy some!

  • Louloudi the Centaur says:

    I have heard parts of this on YouTube I think. It rocks!

  • 220chrisTian / AslansLily says:

    Focus on the Family has something else for VDT promotion this fall: an essay contest to win a trip to the world premiere on November 30! It’s called "Focus on Christmas." Check this out! http://www.focusonchristmas.com/

  • HighQueenofNarnia says:

    Lol, "They can hear the more…accurate version [laughs] before they watch the film. Then they’ll know the things they got wrong [laughs].” =)) =))
    Too true, too true. 🙂

  • SavedByGrace says:

    I think it’s cool that Douglas Gresham does the intro for the series! He has done a great job making sure people get to hear his stepfather’s work.

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