Coco Writer: Good or Bad Choice to Helm Netflix’s Narnia? | Talking Beasts

Podcast Discussion

The buzz is still fresh from last week’s announcement that Matthew Aldrich, co-writer of Pixar’s Coco, will be the “creative architect” of Netflix’s The Chronicles of Narnia movies and series. Listen to our reactions and then post your own!

Podcasters: Rilian, Glumpuddle

Listen:

26 Responses

  1. Yes, every studio wants their Cinematic Universe. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU) is the most successful one. It is very popular and has made Disney billions of dollars. However, I think that is because they are indeed good quality movies. There has been some misses (for example, Thor 2) but there has been a majority of good ones. So in my mind, it is possible for a studio-run cinematic universe to also tell excellent stories through fine films. So I agree with Glumpuddle that there is still a lot of good potential for these adaptations. I understand his concerns at the same time.

    There is something that you guys didn’t discuss which is that Coco was a Pixar film, and Pixar are great at telling good stories. I don’t know what Matthew Aldrich’s history with Pixar has been but it is possible that he has been developed or trained by them. I would be interested to find out if this is the case. But at least we know he has worked with a strong talent base at Pixar and has cowritten a very good story in Coco.

    It should be noted that animated movies often have a “story team” made up of storyboard artists who contribute a great deal to the details and flow of the story. And of course there are other filmmakers like the director who have huge influence too.

    By Aslan’s mane, I hope you can have Matthew Aldrich on the podcast – or at least be able to ask him a question or two or three via an online webcast or something.

  2. narnia fan 7 says:

    All things considered, I think this news ended up making me even more pessimistic then I already was about Netflix Narnia. None of that really has anything to do with Aldrich himself, I don’t know enough about him to say weather or not I think his involvement is good or bad.

    But as you guys sort of touched on, I kind of get the feeling that the heads of the people producing this are in the wrong place. It seems like the motivation behind this isn’t just an earnest attempt to bring the Narnia books to life. But to simply cash in on the latest Hollywood trends, to make the next fantasy epic like Game of Thrones, the next cinematic universe (cause that always works out) and they only pick Narnia because it’s what they could get they’re hands on.

    I don’t think it’s impossible that Netflix could just be adapting the books and doing some as films and others as a miniseries, but I agree with Rilian that I think that’s unlikely. Doing spin-offs of larger franchise has been all the rage over the last 4-5 years. Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and now Lord of The Rings have all done it, and since it looks Netflix wants to hop on those trends, I expect that’s what they want to do with Narnia. But I really hope I’m wrong.

  3. Col Klink says:

    Yeah, I’m with the podcasters. Aldrich sounds like a fine choice. Who knows? Maybe better than fine. But the direction Netflix is going-“a wide range of stories across the Narnia universe”-sounds very fanfiction-y. Some fans might enjoy that but not myself.

    Since I wasn’t a fan of the idea of a Netflix series, I’m not as disappointed about that as some fans. But I’m still somewhat disappointed, mainly because there haven’t been that many mainstream adaptations of the Narnia books, especially the later ones. If there were a lot of really good versions of “The Horse and his Boy” or “The Magician’s Nephew” I wouldn’t care that much about a big fanfiction-y cinematic universe. As it is, I feel like an opportunity for more good adaptations has been wasted.

    To be fair though, when you think about it, the books are kind of “a wide range of stories across the Narnia universe.” (Kind of.) There’s MN that takes place at the beginning of Narnia and LB which takes place at the end. VODT takes place in uncharted oceans. HHB takes place in non-Narnian countries. The Silver Chair takes place in Ettinsmoor. So maybe this could be more faithful to the source than the wording sounds.

  4. Cleander says:

    Immortal quotes from Talking Beasts:
    ” It could be good, it could be bad.”
    Spot on, Glumpuddle. You should forecast the weather.
    “I’ve had inklings.”
    Who else laughed? I don’t think Rilian even realized the C.S. Lewis pun there when he said it…
    I totally agree, you guys need to see if you can interview Aldrich sometime. Otherwise we’re pretty much limited to saying ” this could be good, this could be bad.”
    Hoping for more news this summer! Now is not the time to give up hope!

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      “It could be good, could be bad.” Sounds like an accurate description of life in general 😛

  5. You know who had a vision? C. S. Lewis. Regarding showrunners and adaptations, my belief is that Game of Thrones’ earlier seasons were solid because they followed the intricate plotting and dialogue of the books. It became very noticeable when they ran out of book material. The way characters talked was more generic, for one thing. Plotlines were rushed. Benioff and Weiss, to their credit, were very competent curators or editors. They did a great job cutting the bloat and ordering the events in each episode, figuring which characters to focus on. They were doing a lot of pruning, and they did it well. In later seasons, when they were writing it completely without source material, the show dropped in quality (and stopped making sense, in a lot of areas).

    Regarding Narnia—it has no bloat. It’s made up of seven unique stories, all of which are shorter than the average novel. The story’s all there, the dialogue’s there, the characters are there.

    On the business end of things, you definitely need a showrunner to manage the production of the series/movies. Personally, when it comes to film adaptations I’m always more interested in the visual choices, film being a visual medium. I look forward to seeing the look and feel of this series, the score, the cinematography, the editing, the performances. That’s where we need artists and visionaries and auters to bring the story to life. But the story’s already been written.

    And yeah, it worries my little purist heart to keep hearing about cinematic universes and neverending prequel series. Narnia isn’t a good world for that, mainly because the books tell you what happens from its creation to its armageddon. But it’s seeming more than likely we’re going to get series about the adventures of Reepicheep, or Queen Swanwhite’s reign. I used to be somewhat open to the idea of drawing from Narnian history within the books, showing things like King Gale fighting the dragon in the Lone Islands, but really, I wish they’d just adapt the seven chronicles. There’s so much there already, if you’d just have a little faith in Lewis’ skill as a storyteller and world-builder.

    All I can think of are the Hobbit films or the later seasons of Game of Thrones, all suffer from tonal whiplash and artless, fan-fiction-esque dialogue. The Hobbit films specifically, trying to bridge the gap to LotR (wholly unnecessary, too), which ultimately took away from the initial promise of a story about Bilbo Baggins, who fades into the background of his own tale (taking three movies to drag the whole thing out).

  6. JFG II says:

    There’s reason to be pessimistic about Pixar alumni Aldrich:

    Two of Pixar’s best directors – Brad Bird & Andrew Stanton – stumbled in their live-action debuts.

    However, I think it has to do with the source material being strong, rather than the directors struggling to transition between animated films and live-action films.

    DreamWorks’ alumni Andrew Adamson made Shrek into a very different story than the book it was based on. His Narnia debut was much more faithful to its source, if also a little choppy.

    I’m glad Narnia has a counter-cultural creative architect behind it. Except counter-cultural in this day and age includes emotional earnestness – something DreamWorks rarely has, and something Pixar has always had.

    • icarus says:

      Brad Bird’s live action debut was Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol – an absolutely stonkingly brilliant movie! Sure the production didn’t go entirely smoothly, and from what I’ve heard Chris McQuarrie deserves a lot of credit for a few last minute script changes that really elevated things to the next level, but I don’t think you can take that movie away from Brad Bird. It is a flat out brilliant cinematic achievement from start to finish.

      As for Andrew Stanton’s live action debut (John Carter of Mars), yeah… hard to defend that… and I didn’t actually mind it that much!

      • JFG II says:

        Maybe I should have been more clear and said FAMILY FILMS. That’s kind of the central subject of the post.
        You have a point. I forgot about MI4, because I’ve never seen that film.
        Tomorrowland wasn’t great, if I remember it at all.

  7. Monty Jose says:

    Honestly hearing this news doesn’t do much for me other make me hopeful for keeping this family friendly. I can’t hope for any particular degree of quality in production or storytelling or faithfulness to the source material.

    If I heard about Andrew Adamson as potential director alongside Michael Apted as another potential direction only knowing them for Shrek and Amazing Grace respectively, than I would have asked for Apted. As it turns out, I like Adamson’s adaptations more.

    As for a studio standpoint, I don’t have much of an opinion. I’ve seen a mix of good and bad from Netflix. A lot of this hangs on Aldrich I think. Netflix has been successful with allowing creators do their thing, so why would they change their approach now? Just because Gordon used GoT as part of his pitch and that’s what he decided to emphasize, that doesn’t mean Netflix is taking as much stock in that as he did. We only have his word to go of off, really.

  8. fantasia says:

    I went a very different direction from Gp on why on earth someone like Aldrich was chosen. The only thing I could come up with was…. Passion for the project!

    I’m hoping that companies like Netflix are realizing that the adaptations that are the most successful (or at least start off that way) are the ones that capture the spirit of the book the most. I would like to think that at least the book to movie/series adaptations will be spot on.

    I’m with Rilian on the idea that each of the seven books will likely get their own movie and the series is going to be a spin-off. We’ll see.

    • Christopher says:

      I’m still curious to know what exactly happened between Douglas Gresham, Entertainment One and the Sony/Tristar/Joe Johnston deal on The Silver Chair theatrical movie, and what prompted Gresham to switch to Netflix in the first place. I still think there’s a missing piece of this puzzle on Douglas Gresham’s side of things that has not been divulged yet. Not that it would change anything to have an answer, but at the very least, I think some sort of explanation to the fans as to exactly why the deal with Tristar fell through would be in good order.

      • The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

        My general thought is that Sony/TriStar cooled on the idea that a Silver Chair film was going to be a profitable blockbuster. After Joe Johnston came on board, the words “big budget” were thrown around a few times and I think that (especially after Nutcracker and the Four Realms flopped) Sony/TriStar got cold feet on footing the bill. They may have also realized that randomly reviving the series with SC after a decade just didn’t make much sense, but didn’t feel like the world was ready for a remake of LWW. (Hannah Minghella, president of TriStar, said as much.)

      • Coracle says:

        I doubt we will ever be told that story. Even Aslan only tells us our own story.

    • The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

      I’m with you on why Aldrich was hired, Fantasia. I definitely don’t see it as a signal that they are trying to follow in GoT’s footsteps; there’s nothing in his resume that suggests epic fantasy blockbuster. (Joe Johnston, on the other hand…) He appears to be more creatively driven, and the stories that he’s told throughout his career seem a lot more intimate and personal and character-focused. (That said, I’ve only actually seen one of ’em. ;)) He’s also spent many years involved with Pixar at this point, working on several projects there as a writer and as a consultant, and epic run-of-the-mill blockbusters just isn’t Pixar’s schtick. So if this is the path the Netflix execs have sketched out for Narnia, I think they may have picked the wrong guy for the job.

      • Christopher says:

        My own general thought on the Sony/Tristar dilemma (if I had to take a wild guess) is that Douglas Gresham was probably told by Tristar that they would not commit to a “trilogy” (in Joe Johnston’s own words, which presumably, would have meant The Silver Chair, The Last Battle – Part 1, and The Last Battle – Part 2), until The Silver Chair had come out in theatres, and that a theatrical film of The Silver Chair would HAVE to be nothing short of wild blockbuster success in order for Tristar to even consider co-financing another Narnia movie.

        I do recall reading that Douglas Gresham said he ultimately hoped the rest of the Narnia books get made into films during his lifetime. Unfortunately, he still had 4 whole films to go in seeing that dream come true, so I’m guessing when push came to shove, Gresham found himself caught between a rock and a hard place on the Sony/Tristar front regarding the future of The Chronicles of Narnia as a whole.

        A part of me thinks that, technically (for the sake of argument), if Douglas Gresham’s sole concern was seeing The Silver Chair – and ONLY The Silver Chair – reach the big screen, and if that was his final, be-all, end-all goal in life, he probably could have entered some last-resort negotiating (nigh on pleading) with Sony/Tristar to bite the bullet and commit to co-financing The Silver Chair movie – sink or swim – to ensure once and for all that it made it to theatres for audiences, but it might have meant potentially – if not permanently – sacrificing the 3 remaining Narnia movies’ chances of ever seeing the light of day. Gresham probably realized that if The Silver Chair did poorly at the box office, it would be final nail in the coffin on Narnia’s journey to screen.

        In my opinion, that’s the only logical explanation.

  9. Coracle says:

    As regards the ‘movies and tv series’ description, I am imagining the use of good editors who use the same material to create full-length movies and tv serials that are filmed in the same time period, using the same actors and sets. Think of the ‘movies’ that BBC fashioned out of its 6×30 minute tv serials (screened 1988, 1989 and 1990). Some people know those productions Only as movies, but there are exciting cliff-hangers to show where an episode ended.
    Another thought I have is that there could be short pieces taken out of the filming, giving a little part of the story, rather like the ‘young reader’ books published by HarperCollins when LWW and PC movies came out. Perhaps a 10-minute short showing a part of Edmund’s story, or Lucy’s, or even Caspian’s as a boy. And if they film HHB to follow LWW, some pieces of Shasta’s or Aravis’s tale?
    Another short film style could be like the backgrounders we got with some of the DVD’s, introducing some of the characters and locations.

  10. I have no idea who this Aldrich guy is, but I hope he’s a huge fan of the Narnia books. That, in my opinion, is what Netflix needs to do Narnia right. All the things we worry about – it losing the main themes/message, it getting politically corrected, or it being dull like the BBC version, or whatever… a real fan won’t let those things happen.

    Look what happened to Star Wars! They got a leadership team that was more interested in shoe-horning their favorite agendas into the story than just making a great story. That’s not what fans want – they wanted Star Wars, just like we want Narnia! But they didn’t get that, and IMO that’s because they didn’t have a serious fan running the show. I don’t care what else this guy has done – I just hope he loves Narnia like we all do.

    Honestly, the whole universe thing doesn’t bother me as much as it may others. Just look at the Magician’s Nephew: every pool in the Wood between the Worlds is a literal universe. Some people (i.e. MatPat from Film Theory) would even call it a “multiverse”. Is Netflix trying to cash in on the trend to make everything a universe? Sure, most companies are. Do they want Narnia to be this big powerful beast that they can control? Maybe, but I don’t think Douglas Gresham and others would let it fly too far off-book (and personally, I wouldn’t be upset by a little off-book content, as long as it’s consistent with Lewis’ themes, but that’s a bit off-topic). Cuz to me, the bottom line is, who’s running the show? Is it someone who actually cares about the story, or is it just some guy thinking with his wallet or his agenda? Only time will tell.

    PS: Congrats to Glumpuddle for your “stump question” – I remember Zarina, Lady of the Night but I didn’t know Azaroth or which book those names appeared in. Way to go! 🙂

    • Christopher says:

      The sagas of Star Wars and Narnia share one huge thing in common: Their respective chronological 1st chapters have yet to be realized on film. Yet both of the book versions to these beginning chapters sit peacefully in my personal home library, and I know both books very well, and have since I was a teenager. I’ve read them both more than once, and thoroughly enjoy them.

  11. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    I just remembered that back in March, someone posted in the Talking Beasts facebook group saying that they had heard Gresham speak at a conference in Texas where he said that they were still in the negotiation stage with Netflix but that “in the past few weeks I have heard some rather wonderful ideas brought to the table” — I wonder if this was when Matthew Aldrich entered the picture?

    • Col Klink says:

      Yeah, I remembered seeing that in the Facebook group too. Because of it, I didn’t share Glumpuddle’s fears that they hired Aldrich just to be a yes-man for the studio. Since Netflix and the C. S. Lewis Estate apparently didn’t have to go begging for people with interesting ideas for a new Narnia franchise, this might mean that Aldrich’s ideas were especially good. But I wasn’t sure if I should mention it since it was heard through the grape vine and might not be that reliable.

  12. Larry W. says:

    I still wonder if they aren’t making to many versions of Narnia without finishing them. So far the only version that features all seven books is the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Now it looks like the movie of The Silver Chair may not be completed in the near future if it will even be made at all. Will this Netflix series be dropped after adapting only one or two of the original books?

    • Christopher says:

      I’d give anything if the Netflix thing could fall through and Andrew Adamson would get back on the saddle and finish up the 4 remaining Narnia movies in the way he originally talked about when making The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (it’s in the Official Illustrated Movie Companion Book).

      The world is getting cheated BIG-time with The Silver Chair not getting the theatrical film treatment, and in an industry climate so pathologically obsessed with reboots of already-successful films (like Disney’s animated movies constantly getting a live-action reboot that nobody truly wants in the first place), I personally think a theatrical film of The Silver Chair would be a wonderful change of pace for moviegoers. I recently rewatched my DVD of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s really not as bad as people think or remember – and having the Explorer Pack DVD does help clarify much of the history of the Dawn Treader.

      I personally wish that Warner Bros. would acquire the Narnia film rights, seeing as they have an excellent track record on the Fantasy/Action Adventure genre with Harry Potter and Middle-Earth. Now, Fantastic Beasts as well.

      • Col Klink says:

        Hi. Can you tell me the info on the explorer pack about the history of the Dawn Treader? I only have the normal DVD. I don’t think it would either raise or lower the movie in my esteem but it might be fun to read.

      • Christopher says:

        THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER – EXPLORER PACK DVD MENU:

        1) DAWN TREADER
        – KING CASPIAN’S GUIDE TO THE DAWN TREADER (Narrated by King Caspian)
        – Play All
        – Main Deck
        – State Room
        – Poop Deck
        – Map Room
        – Oar Room

        ANIMATED SHORT – SECRETS OF THE ISLANDS: UNTOLD ADVENTURES OF THE DAWN TREADER (Narrated by King Caspian)

        FOX CHANNEL PRESENTS FEATURETTES:
        In Character With:
        1) Liam Neeson as Aslan
        2) Georgie Henley and Will Poulter as Lucy Pevensie and
        Eustace
        3) Direct Effect with Michael Apted
        4) Making A Scene: The Flooding Bedroom

        2) THE LONE ISLANDS
        – Explore Narrowhaven
        – Minotaur Discovery
        – The Epic Continues

        3) MAGICIAN’S ISLAND
        – Explore Magician’s Island
        – Dufflepud Discovery

        4) GOLDWATER ISLAND
        – Explore Goldwater Island
        – Dragon Discovery
        – Theatrical Trailer

        5) THE DARK ISLAND
        – Explore the Dark Island
        – White Witch Discovery
        – Serpent Discovery

        6) RAMANDU’S ISLAND
        – Explore Ramandu’s Island
        – Reepicheep Discovery
        – Aslan Discovery
        – Liliandil Discovery

        DVD GAME:
        SEARCH FOR THE 7 SWORDS MATCH GAME (Object: Try to memorize the locations and colors of the 7 swords in 15 seconds. You get 2 life hearts. Choose all 7 correct to win.)

  13. Larry W. says:

    I don’t think I would subscribe to Netflix even to get the new Narnia series. I might watch it if it is available for free somewhere else. If there were reviews of it saying it was really good I might want to try watching it. I am really only moderately pleased that they are making that series. It might have been better if they had finished the big screen movies, although now that doesn’t seem very likely.