Andrew Adamson Went From Shrek to Narnia

Retrospective

In 2002, weeks after after The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ruled the box office, Disney and Walden Media made a highly anticipated announcement: Andrew Adamson had been chosen to direct a big screen adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

“I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child. So when this [opportunity] came to me, it was kind of like a gift and there was no way I could not do it.”

Director Andrew Adamson, 2005

Even though his directorial debut, Shrek, was the 4th highest grossing film of 2001, the announcement caught most fans off guard. After all, Andrew Adamson (aka “Andrew Son-of-Adam”) had never directed a live-action film. Prior to Shrek, he was a visual effects supervisor on movies such as The Frighteners (directed by Peter Jackson) and Batman Forever.

During the production, Adamson offered fans insight into his approach to bringing the beloved story to the big screen:

“When I set out to do this, I said very early on that I don’t want to make the book so much, as I want to make my memory of the book. […] [C.S. Lewis] planted seeds and let them grow in your imagination.”

Director Andrew Adamson, 2005

Discussion

In retrospect, was Andrew Adamson a good choice to direct The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?
Post a comment below or in The Narnia Facebook Group.

10 Responses

  1. Reepicheep775 says:

    This is interesting to think about because I wasn’t aware that “the guy from Shrek” directed LWW until after I had seen it. Not only that – I hadn’t even finished reading the book when I saw it! I had recently seen the BBC version of LWW, loved it, and was looking forward to the movie because of that.

    If the news broke today that Andrew Adamson was directing Narnia – assuming in this parallel universe that he hadn’t already directed LWW and PC – I think I would be worried. While I enjoy the first two Shrek movies, their irreverent attitude towards fairy tales would make me concerned that Adamson wouldn’t appreciate the sincerity of the books.

    I think my fears would have been unfounded given what we got. LWW isn’t a perfect film or adaptation, but I think it’s quite good at being both. It just goes to show that directors that make sense or don’t make sense on paper can surprise you.

  2. Glenwit says:

    Like Reepicheep said, I probably would have been a little worried if I knew who Andrew Adamson was, or if I had watched Shrek, neither of which were the case when this announcement was made.

    However, he had a huge responsibility and there was a lot to lose in the process. This was the first big screen adaptation of the story, and thus the first introduction to Narnia that many people would have – who hadn’t seen BBC or even read the novel.
    Fortunately, it didn’t go bust, and a whole new generation of Narnia fans were raised up as a result of this novel being brought to life. I had already read the book and watched the BBC series, but I absolutely loved this movie from the moment I saw it for the first time.

    I’m grateful to Andrew for what he was able to do with it – even if I disagree with some of his interpretation of Lewis’ ideas.
    Long story short, this movie will always have a special place in my heart – imperfections all the way.

  3. Thanks for this video. : ) It is great to see some rare footage and hear more info about Adamson.

    I am trying to think of current film directors and I am having a hard time recalling names. I know who I don’t want to direct any Narnia. I wouldn’t want Spielberg to direct Narnia because I think he would make it a popcorn movie and change a lot to be commercialised. And not JJ Abrams because I don’t think he would make it serious and nuanced enough.
    Actually, after seeing Little Women recently, I think Greta Gerwig might do a good job on the adaptation side of things. However I am not aware of her directing any genre/fantasy films. So maybe she could be a writer or co-director.

    • Col Klink says:

      Yeah, I can think of directors whose style I like but nobody whose style stands out as “Narnian” specifically.

    • JFG II says:

      JP: THANK YOU for mentioning Greta Gerwig! Wise insight.

      I thought her adaptation of Little Women was superb, like it was in a conversation with the original story while also paying homage to the book people still love. I know Little Women is not Narnia, but if Greta Gerwig loves Narnia (which would be AWESOME), Netflix should see what she can do: You know, she starts as a script-superviser, works her way up to scriptwriter, then gets the oppourtunity to direct a Narnia Netflix adaptation:

      You Know. The Silver Chair with Saoirse Ronan as Lady of the Green Kirtle 😉
      I can see it all now 😉

    • Roger says:

      I agree that the director should be Greta Gerwig. I have often thought that the Narnia movies should be directed by a woman, someone who will focus on the story, not the battle. Andrew Adamson had the battle blocking finished before he did the rest of the story like a good LOTR fan. The story should always come first.

      I think that Andrew Adamson really dropped the ball by not have an acting coach work with Georgie Henley how was nine at the time. She did a great job but came up a little short for the stone table scene. Andrew should have anticipated that.

      • Skilletdude says:

        Why do you assume women directors would be more focused on the story? Based on what?

        Books are not films. A dynamic and visceral battle sequence showcases the strengths of film that books tend to handle differently. You can tell your readers briefly what transpires in a battle. A good film will not do this. “Show, don’t tell”, is the general rule. With this in mind, I don’t think Adamson was in the wrong with the battle in LWW.

        And if you’ve seen the making-of documentaries, Adamson went to great lengths to help direct Georgie Henley to the best of his ability, like keeping sets and characters a secret, and physically sitting down with the children in the Beavers dam so they would have someone to interact with.

        The man is not above criticism, and there are things I wish he could have handled differently. But I also feel for his first live action project, the film is “respectabiggle”.

      • Col Klink says:

        I’d actually argue that the LWW movie was more character focused than the book. Or at least it tried to give three quarters of the main characters an arc. (In the book, only Edmund has an arc and arguably Peter has an arc. And a lot of their development is off page.)

        That doesn’t mean I prefer the movie to the book. There’s nothing wrong, IMO, with being plot driven rather than character driven.

      • J says:

        Narnia doesn’t need women directors. It needs assertive directors of either gender that know what the hell they’re doing: Adapting C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. To hell with the idea that women are more thoughtful directors: They’re different and they bring a different energy to filmmaking than men. Often that’s a good thing for the film at hand.

        Based on their Narnia debuts, Andrew Adamson was a mostly strong choice for Narnia on film; Michael Apted was a rather weak choice.

        Also: “Show. Don’t tell.” is overused in basic screenwriting. The idea that exposition is inferior to spectacle when adapting books to film is narrow thinking. Narnia is like Lawrence of Arabia: Neither works best as a silent film. It needs both spectacle and exposition to work. Not every movie can work like Lawrence of Arabia, but then not every movie could work like Narnia. End of rage.

  4. Larry W. says:

    I think he did a good job on the appearance and artwork of the film. The story adaptation could have been more faithful, but that is more of the script writers’ responsibility. He was able to see and represent much of what Narnia would be like if were real. 🙂