Filming Preparations Made Near Duntroon

Narnia takes shape amid the hills
By David Bruce

Oamaru: A support crew is busy in the hills near Duntroon, preparing for the filming of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe“.

But most of the activity is taking place in hidden, limestone outcropped valleys around the Anatini and Elephant Rocks fossil sites, overlooking the Maerewhenua River.

Yesterday, when the Otago Daily Times visited the area, photographs were not allowed on the farms of John Hore and Norman McKenzie, where filming of one of C.S. Lewis’ seven books from the Chronicles of Narnia is expected to start in November.

The only visible sign that there is something different to normal farming operations is a large marquee, about a dozen vehicles coming and going and shipping containers forming a base beside the Oamaru-Ngapara Rd.

But, if you take the time to look, down in pastured valleys among huge outcrops of limestone, crews are at work building sets and unloading items needed for filming.

Tracks have been put in and gravelled to provide access into areas where filming will take place. Lamp-Post Productions’ Ernie Malik, publicist for the film, said yesterday when contacted in Auckland, about 100 people would be involved when filming started. He was not sure how many were working on the site at present. The production, a joint venture between the Walt Disney Studios and Walden Media, is the first liveaction adaptation of Lewis’ book for the motion picture screen, and represents one of the biggest undertakings mounted by both companies. Shrek director Andrew Adamson is to direct the film. The Anatini and Elephant Rock sites are part of the Vanished World fossil trail, and have already been closed for the film. They are expected to remain closed until early December, when filming is due to be completed and the area returned to what it was before Hollywood arrived. The Narnia chronicles were written in the 1950s and rank alongside J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the story of four children who stumble into Narnia through a wardrobe, finding a snow-covered land ruled over by the cruel White Witch, Jadis. But a saviour emerges in the form of Aslan, the Lion. Filming is being done over five months, in North and South Island locations, including North Otago, north Canterbury and Queenstown. Already in the planning and pre-production stages for two years, the project is due for worldwide release in December next year, through the Walt Disney Studios distribution division of Buena Vista Releasing. The film crew is one of an increasing number coming to North Otago. The BBC is just completing filming on a television series, Kidnapped, using Oamaru’s historic Harbour St. That same area in June was the set for another film, Perfect Creature.

You can see this story at The Otago Daily Times. Just scroll to page 13 of their digital edition and look at the bottom of the page.