Who Is Matthew Aldrich? All About the Creative Architect for Netflix’s Narnia

Welcome to the Narnia family, Matthew!

Last week, it was announced that screenwriter Matthew Aldrich has been chosen as “Creative Architect” for Netflix’s adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. Many are familiar with Pixar’s Coco, the international hit co-written by Aldrich, but Narnia fans everywhere want to learn more about the man tasked with developing C.S. Lewis’s beloved books into films and series on Netflix.

Here’s what we know so far.

Early Career

Matthew Aldrich’s career as a writer started with crafting stageplays for a traveling children’s theatre company. After graduating from UCLA where he initially pursued acting, his work in film began at the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes independent filmmakers. His time there took him to Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil, laying the groundwork for his later work at Pixar.

“How I was introduced to the movie business and my sensibilities was through working at the Sundance Institute,” Aldrich shared in an interview in 2018. “Sundance, especially the international programs, is all about supporting people who don’t traditionally have voices and trying to help those people help their stories reach international audiences, and so from my very first introduction to the movie business it was all about who’s not being listened to and how can we help them get listened to.”

Coco with Disney/Pixar

Aldrich first began working at Pixar on a film centered around the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in 2012, co-writing the screenplay and developing the story that would later become known as Coco. After the film’s November release in 2017, it earned $807 million at box offices worldwide — and the praise of critics:

Coco [feels] like an honest attempt by a major studio at honoring a significant cultural tradition, and in 2017, that can read as something of an act of defiance. Making Coco without the input of its consultants would have been easy, though the result would almost invariably have been embarrassing at best, insulting at worst. Making Coco in its present form takes considerably more work, but the result of that work speaks for itself: Not only does Coco succeed as a film, it succeeds as a commemoration of its subject matter.

Andy Crump of The Hollywood Reporter

Coco is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Creative Contributions to Pixar

Besides his credits on Pixar’s Coco, Matthew Aldrich’s name also appears in the credits for Finding Dory with special thanks, and his creative involvement with the company over the years has been wide-ranging:

Sometimes we come on as consultants that write, and consultants who don’t write. So while I wrote on Coco, I also did consulting on some of the other projects that were in development [at Pixar] but I was not doing writing services on them. So I would sit in story meetings and help the other directors and writers work through their ideas and just generally be another voice in the room.

Matthew Aldrich

Following his work on Coco, Aldrich shared in early 2018 that he had also been involved at Pixar for the past year developing an unnamed film with another director. This project is still unknown.

Other Screenplays

His first work to appear in theaters was the Samuel L. Jackson movie Cleaner released in 2008. A few years later his speculative screenplay, crime drama Father Daughter Time, sparked an intense bidding war that caught the attention of Matt Damon. Father Daughter Time is still in development, along with Aldrich’s subsequent script The Ballad of Pablo Escobar. Both scripts earned coveted spots on The Black List, an annual survey of the “most liked” motion picture screenplays not yet produced.

In more recent years, Aldrich adapted a screenplay for the Reese Witherspoon project Opening Belle, while in 2018, his screenplay Spinning Man arrived to the silver screen starring Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, and Minnie Driver.

Check out an interview where Matthew discusses Spinning Man below:

Now that you know a little more about Matthew Aldrich, how do you feel about him taking the reins as the Creative Architect for Netflix’s Narnia? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

21 Responses

  1. Cleander says:

    Well, he sounds like less of an ”establishment” guy, and more like a true storyteller. If his focus is really on giving a voice to untold stories or unheard people, then I’d say I feel for now like he’s a good choice. (Right now he has 3 “untold” Narnia stories to tend to, so….)Only his underperformance with Narnia can change that.
    I want to give this series a chance to get started before I go judging it. After a long wait, I’m sure we’ll all be at least a little happy, and maybe even grateful, for whatever comes out. Unless they announce that they have decided to make it modern, or American, or take out Aslan, or add zombies, I think I’ll wait a bit before I start worrying.

  2. JFG II says:

    Thanks, Rose-Tree Dryad!

    After watching Aldrich’s interview, I must say: This man reminds me of Joe Johnston: A sturdy, reserved American film-guy (who may like Narnia) who says exactly what I expect these West-Coast film guys to say. That’s not a wrong: Movies may require anything to be changed from the source material, otherwise it won’t work as a movie. I get that. We have lots of examples of good movies changing the book. But it’s frustrating to think that Narnia may ONCE AGAIN be altered to fit the typical mold of a movie or TV series. I hope that mold is broken at some point.

    Narnia should dictate the adaptation, not the other way around.

    • Frodo Lives says:

      Aldrich doesn’t seem reserved. Maybe he reminds you of JJ because he was the last filmmaker on NarniaWeb to talk about adapting books to screen. I don’t think don’t they’re similar, outside of some of their words. Aldrich seems much more open, and to be honest, less world-weary. May JJ have a nice retirement.

    • The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

      No problem, JFG II… we scour the internet so you guys don’t have to. 😉

      I do agree with Frodo Lives on Matthew Aldrich vs. Joe Johnston — I’ve watched every interview I could find of Aldrich and I think he seems a lot warmer than Johnston. Much quicker to smile or crack a joke. It’s still early and at this point I really just want to get some comments from him on his new job with Narnia-Netflix, but so far I’m liking the guy.

  3. Lord Argoz says:

    Pixar just announced their next film. It’s titled ‘Soul’ and is set to release in a year’s time. Could this be the ‘unnamed Pixar film’ that Matthew Aldrich mentioned he was working on in 2018? Who knows, but I thought I’d give a head’s up.
    Great article on Matthew Aldrich by the way. Thanks!

    • The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

      I noticed that as well! I’m a big fan of the director Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) so I would be really excited if Narnia’s new “Creative Architect” has teamed up with him on a movie. I’ll be keeping close tabs on Soul news to see if this is the case… if any of you see anything indicating that, please send in a spy report! 🙂

  4. Col Klink says:

    Like JFGII, I’d like to thank Rose-Tree Dryad for compiling this information. The initial press release only mentioned two movies that Aldrich worked on. It’s nice to know more about what he’s done.

    I’m still sort of neutral-ish on him as the “creative architect” for a new Narnia franchise. Very little of what he’s done sounds similar to the Narnia books and the things he’s interested in (character based mysteries, giving less famous cultures the spotlight, etc) don’t sound particularly Narnian to me either. But it’s certainly not impossible for someone with Aldrich’s background, talents and interests to make a good Narnia adaptation. We’ll have to get an interview with him in which he specifically discusses the franchise before I can say anything else.

  5. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    Glad you guys are finding the article informative! 🙂

    Every time I learn more about Aldrich’s involvement at Pixar, I get a little more hopeful. Maybe that hope is misplaced, but for years I’ve thought that Narnia filmmakers need to take a page out of Pixar’s book when it comes to adapting the series.

    For one, Pixar developed a reputation (somewhat tarnished by their reliance on sequels in recent years) for telling really good stories. It didn’t matter if the new movie was completely different from the last, with new settings and new characters spanning from monsters to superheroes to robots; you knew it was going to be a good movie because it was Pixar. I want people to have the same reaction to the Narnia franchise: it doesn’t matter if the setting is entirely new or if the main characters are different — it’s a Narnia story and there’s Aslan and that means it’s worth watching.

    There’s also something else about Pixar that in some roundabout way reminds me of Narnia. It’s been hard for me to put my finger on, but an article I was reading earlier had this line: “They make beautiful, familiar, old-fashioned stories about relationships that happen to use monsters, toys and fish for characters.” You could also say that C.S. Lewis made beautiful, familiar, old-fashioned stories that happened to use talking animals, trees and mythological creatures as characters. I think there’s a certain balance between the fantastical and the homespun that you find in both Pixar’s best films and C.S. Lewis’s wonderful world of Narnia, and that’s a rare quality in art.

    So I’m afraid he had me at Pixar… but we’ll see what happens.

    • Col Klink says:

      I actually feel that some of Pixar’s older movies, like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, are overrated. (I also feel like some of Pixar’s more recent movies, like Brave, perhaps as a reaction, are underrated. I admire that movie because, similar to what Rilian said about Coco, it has a message which people don’t really want to hear, mainly that pride is destructive and people need to admit they’re wrong. I know I hate admitting that myself and I imagine most people feel the same. Kudos to them for guts.)

      That being said, Ratatouille, a Pixar movie, is actually my favorite movie. And there aren’t Pixar movies I can think of which I hate or anything. (Then again there are several Pixar movies I haven’t seen.)

      • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

        Incredibles overrated? GASP! How dare you? JK JK

        In all seriousness, I think the reason Brave isn’t given as much love is because when something is branded a Disney Princess, audiences expect romance and killer songs. While lack of romance is generally fine by me (especially after watching some of the OG Disney Princess movies while I was the characters’ ages) I think the lack of music would have been impossible to sell to my past self, who probably would’ve rewatched The Little Mermaid or Mulan instead. Or I could be totally wrong:)

      • Roger says:

        I agree that Brave is underrated. You have to remember though that one of the directors was a woman, Brenda Chapman. Mark Andrews did the battle scenes. Pixar is very male dominated. This is a gross generalization, but women tend to focus on story more than action. I say this as a man. Hollywood is having a tough time bring women into leadership positions. These sensitivities could affect the Narnia films or series. Is Aldrich a story person or a battle person. Thank you for addressing this in the latest podcast. There are many people on both sides of this debate. I would like to know the general direction of these productions. There is no right answer only opinions.

      • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

        Sorry, I’m a bit confused. Did you mean that Brave was more heavily criticized because the director was female? Which is totally fine if that’s what you mean, I just wasn’t sure if you meant that, or if you meant that it isn’t as popular because it has bad action scenes, or like something completely else. (In other words, this isn’t an attack or something, I just hoped for some clarification)

        Although I don’t necessarily agree that female directors focus on story more than male directors do, in my limited experience I have noticed some difference between the fight scene direction that you mentioned. Which makes me sad, because I don’t want some sort of stereotype to keep any great directors from being hired for action heavy movies (like superhero)

  6. John says:

    Guys, this is slightly off topic, but I’m almost sure I’ve got the Netflix plan for Narnia figured out! It will be:

    First Year:
    Silver Chair film.
    Series Season 1: Magicians Nephew

    Second Year:
    Series Season 2: Lion Witch and Wardrobe

    Third Year:
    Series Season 3: The Horse and His Boy
    Last Battle Film

    Fourth Year:
    Series Season 4: Prince Caspian

    Fifth Year:
    Series Season 5: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    My reasoning? They have said they wish to make feature films and a series, and Douglas Gresham has said certain books would do better as a series, for instance the battle of Charn in Magicians Nephew. Also, this way they could have all four of the books that were not adapted by Disney and Fox pumped out within the first three years, after just two films and three seasons (plus LWW as the 2nd season). Then if people are hooked at that point, they can go on to do the final two seasons of the series, re-adapting PC and VDT, though these are not as essential if they decide to can the series after the HHB season and LB movie. Thoughts?

    • Col Klink says:

      As much as I’d love to see a Silver Chair movie, I don’t think it makes sense to start a series with it. At all. I imagine that was one of the main reasons David Magee’s script never got the greenlit in fact. I also don’t think it makes sense to do Prince Caspian and VODT last. The only reason I can think of for them to skip those and go straight to The Last Battle is they know the series is going to be cancelled.

    • icarus says:

      John, unfortunately your order makes very little sense from a logistical standpoint, or even a narrative standpoint.

      If you want your overall story arc to flow, and for your human actors to age in the correct manner, then LWW, PC, VDT, SC and LB have to be done in that order. The only two where you have any choice is in when to do MN and HHB.

      • John says:

        But if they treat the movies and the tv series as separate animals, this order makes a lot of sense, it’s just the chronological order. Silver Chair and Last Battle are the feature films, then the TV Series are effectively a separate prequel series, starting with the creation of the world we see in “silver chair” and then leading up to the point where we get Eustace’s backstory.

        It’s no more complicated than Marvel or Star Wars . Multiple threads happening at once doesn’t hurt as long as it is made clear which film comes when. They would just have to be clear that the movies follow one timeline, and the series follow another earlier timeline.

      • John says:

        I do see what your saying about actors for the Pevensies and Eustace though. The actors would have to be different for the movies than for the tv
        series I suppose. Which I honestly would not mind. But it makes this plan highly unlikely since Netflix would most likely not want such a disconnect between the episodic series and the feature films.

  7. JosiahP says:

    I really hoped the (then) unnamed Pixar film he was working on is “Onward,” whose trailer recently dropped. The premise–a suburban world of fairy tale creatures who’ve forgotten magic and need to rediscover it–bodes well for someone working on Narnia.

  8. Larry W. says:

    I wonder how familiar he is with the Narnia books. Hopefully he will read all seven of them at least once before starting his work on the Netflix series.