More Narnian Secrets Revealed
Narnia secrets revealed at expo
Three top crew members from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have shared their experiences for the first time about bringing the classic story to the screen.
Weta Workshop head Richard Taylor, visual effects supervisor Dean Wright and makeup expert Howard Berger talked to a crowd of about 200 people at the Armageddon Pulp Culture Expo in Wellington yesterday.
The trio were responsible for designing, making and adding computer effects to the fantastical world of Narnia, where the story is set.
Throughout the hour-long talk, they shared details about characters, technology and experiences on the set.
Some secrets about the film were revealed. Wright said early scenes set in war-torn London were expanded from those in C S Lewis’s book.
Taylor said the script, co-written by New Zealand director Andrew Adamson, added many visual details to the suggestive plot of the book. One key battle scene that was only two pages long in the book would be shot over three weeks in the South Island, he said.
The movie script had the same “exceptional visual style and added impact” as the Shrek series Adamson had been working on.
Taylor said they had to reach into many of the other books from the Narnia series to give a sense of the richness of the imaginary world.
One character that proved particularly challenging was the iconic lion, Aslan. His development was a combination of animatronics and computer generation, Berger said.
The physical model had only been recently completed, but it was something he was immensely proud of it. A scene with Aslan on a stone table was shot on Saturday and the child actors had been amazed by the model.
Berger, who recently worked on Kill Bill, said the movie was a nice change of pace. He had enlisted the help of his own children to get a more authentic reaction to the characters he had crafted.
Shooting for the movie finishes in December, then moves to the Czech Republic for a series of winter scenes. The film is expected to be released in time for Christmas 2005.
A spokesman for the film said the backer, Walden Media, would ideally like to make films from all seven of the Narnia books if the first one was a success.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. This wasn’t a “Show and Tell” with footage of big Jesus Lions or cold as ice Queens making all sorts of creatures hard as stone, but rather a chat with the key effects people involved (Howard Berger of KNB EFX, Richard Taylor from WETA and Dean Wright who was the Visual Effects Supervisor on LOTR and is the same on NARNIA) as well as some words from the key set media dude, who was essentially the face of Disney.
He announced that Disney started with THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE because it’s the most well known of the series, even if it isn’t the beginning of the story. The big news is that Disney is about to hire a screenwriter to begin work on second film in the NARNIA series, to be PRINCE CASPIAN. That’s really super cool, but he did make sure to stress that production on that won’t be greenlighted until Disney sees how the first film does. But the fact that Disney’s taking the step to hire a screenwriter while the first film is only half-way through production means that they want to hit the ground running, so to speak.
A question was asked about how they were going to make a full length film out of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE as it is one of the smaller stories in the NARNIA series. It seems that the beginning and the ending is going to be expanded. We are going to be seeing more of war-torn London at the beginning of the film, presumably before Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan are delivered unto Professor Digory Kirke. I’m actually a fan of that idea as a way to counter-balance the fantasy of Narnia.
The end battle for Narnia is also going to be expanded into quite a big battle, another expansion I’m a fan of. Richard Taylor made a comment about how he remembered reading THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE as a kid and how when he read the battle scene at the end… he felt like he finished a major tome, a hefty read… he felt like he accomplished something in getting through that epic battle. But then when he went back to read it as an adult it’s almost comical how he remembered the book as it’s only a few pages long.
Other tidbits: Aslan will be 99% CGI, with the only animatronic lion being used during the tied and bound Stone Table sequence. Apparently they’re also going to attempt to motion capture a real lion… hehe I don’t envy the poor *** that has to apply those little mo-cap balls onto the lion! Mr. and Mrs. Beaver will be 100% computer generated whereas Mr. Tumnus will be half and half. Half prosthetics (supposedly very much keeping the actor’s human characteristics with only some pointy ears, different nose and goatee… oh, and his red skin) and half computer (for the goat legs, which start being CG about mid-thigh).
Apparently, the actor playing Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) didn’t win over Howard Berger upon first glance. He thought the young actor was too young for the role, but when he was brought to KNB’s studios and saw the giant Aslan they had in the studio he immediately went wide-eyed and reverently approached it before dropping to his knees and saying, “My Lord!” So, yeah… he’s a geek for the material, which gives me some joy as Mr. Tumnus can really use someone with that excitement for the world and material.
Those were the big bits from the panel… Oh, Aslan’s voice has not been found yet… that, too! I should be getting a tour of Weta soon, so look for a write-up on that in the near future, and I’m also working with Disney to arrange a set visit while I’m in New Zealand. I’m happy with what I’ve heard from the effects whizes and I hope I get blown away by what I see in Auckland. While NARNIA is not as ageless as Tolkien’s LOTR series, this could make for a fantastic film series to be enjoyed by all ages for many, many decades.