The First Dawn Treader Footage
Walden Media and Twentieth Century Fox hosted a Narnia event for Christian leaders this weekend in Los Angeles. My wife and I were privileged to be able to attend and to represent NarniaWeb. On Friday night, we attended a panel discussion moderated by Hugh Hewitt with the filmmakers and were able to see a few minutes of Dawn Treader. I’ll share with you some initial thoughts and information gleaned from the event, but I don’t want to spoil too much for our readers. I’ll tell you, though, to start off that I absolutely loved what I saw of the film and loved what Michael Apted had to say about his vision for the film.
Narnia Panel Discussion
The first group in the Narnia discussion panel was Professor Devin Brown of Asbury College (and author of Inside Narnia), Walden Media President Micheal Flaherty, and Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis. They told the story of how Walden got the franchise in the first place and about how this film came to be. Gresham also shared some anecdotes about life with Jack (C.S. Lewis).
The next panel was made up of David Weil (CEO of Anschutz Film Group) and Elizabeth Gabler (President of Fox 2000 Pictures). David told the story of moving the production from Disney to Fox and Elizabeth shared that she had flown to New York to try to secure the rights to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the same time that Walden was doing so. She was disappointed not to secure the rights to make the films so when the opportunity came up to work on Dawn Treader she jumped at it.
Next, Michael Apted and Mark Johnson were interviewed. He shared that this is a very character-driven film and that it is not going to be a film that has special effects without any real content. He said this movie is about temptation and learning how to overcome it, wrapped in an adventure story. Michael then took us through a 20-minute presentation with concept art and a few still frames to give us the basic outline of the movie. He described the five islands, where we’ll see them, and what will happen on each one. He also pointed out how each island will have a different and unique look to it.
I’m not going to go into a lot of depth here or share a lot of spoilers, but I will tell you that the concept art looks very good. Some of the still shots in particular show the tremendous work of cinematographer Dante Spinotti. There were shots of Goldwater and the sailing Dawn Treader which blew me away. Just the concept art that we were shown of Aslan at the end of the film made my heart catch in my throat.
Apted’s description of the movie’s storyline made a lot of sense. I can now see the storyline complete with changes that they’ve made and the rough outlook seems like it will work really well.
A Super Trailer
Finally, we were treated to about five minutes of the film. The format was that of a trailer, with small 5-20 second scenes one after another. There were some shots that weren’t complete yet and still needed the full CGI treatment. Toward the end of the presentation it began to feel a bit more like a trailer with quick shots and cuts back and forth. I’d say the whole piece together could be described as a super-trailer.
Without giving away too much, I will mention a few things about the footage we saw. There were shots of the transition into Narnia and some shots onboard the Dawn Treader with Eustace (quite funny). We saw some interaction between Lucy and Gael and quite a lot of shots of Lucy in the magician’s house. There were a few finished shots of Reepicheep, several “beauty shots” of the Dawn Treader sailing, and some incredible shots of the entrance to Aslan’s Country from the end of the film. Liam Neeson’s lines have been recorded so we heard Aslan several times throughout the footage.
Can’t Wait For This Film
As you can imagine, it was intensely exciting getting to see these first images from the film. My first impressions are that Michael Apted’s Narnia “feels” like the same Narnia that we’ve seen on film so far. The new director has brought a new energy and vision to the project, but the continuity between the previous films is vastly encouraging. The visuals are completely stunning. As good as we thought the Dawn Treader looked during filming, it looks much better on screen and sailing on the water–just absolutely phenomenal! All the footage that I have seen tells me that this is going to be a very well-built, well-paced film with a lot of attention to detail and character.
I’d like to thank to Walden Media, Twentieth Century Fox, and Grace Hill Media (event hosts) for the invitation this weekend. I came away more excited than ever for this film. I was really encouraged by what I saw on all fronts: directing, cinematography, and storyline. Fans: you are going to love what you see when you see it!
My colleague Paul Martin of NarniaFans was at the event as well. I’d encourage you to check out his report posted here.