Disney Ditches Dawn Treader

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Just in time to make your New Year a little dimmer, the Walt Disney Company announced it is shutting the book on The Chronicles of Narnia, deciding against co-producing and distributing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which would have been the third film in the the C.S. Lewis adaptations. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney is pulling out of its partnership with Walden Media to finance future films in the Narnia franchise because of “budgetary and logistical reasons.”
This leaves Walden Media trying to find a new financial partner to continue the much-loved series. Walden has a strong relationship with the Lewis estate, and Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, has served as co-producer of the films, representing his stepfather and the Lewis estate throughout the process. 20th Century Fox, which markets and distributes Walden product as Fox Walden, is reportedly a possible candidate to full the shoes vacated by Disney, and will hopefully step in before the Dawn Treader sinks.
The first film in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was filmed in New Zealand for $180 million, grossed $292 million domestically and an additional $453 million overseas in 2005. In 2008, Prince Caspian, on the other hand, shot in the Czech Republic, Mexico and New Zealand, dropped to $141 million in the U.S. and $278 million overseas for a total gross of $419 million against a production budget of $200 million, not including promotional costs. Although Caspian’s return showed a healthy profit, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Collector’s Edition DVD just released on December 2, 2008 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment to make even more money for the studio, the 2nd movie in the series also showed a downward trend. Since a third installment would face an uncertain box-office future, apparently Disney was not willing to take the risk.
Dawn Treader was also planned to be produced in the $200 million range and filming was scheduled to start in early 2009 for a May 2010 release with Michael Apted directing. Key players from Caspian, Ben Barnes, Georgia Henley, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell, were to continue on in their roles. However, the blow to Dawn Treader may not only delay filming while Walden seeks a new partner, but it might also create problems such as schedule conflicts, not to mention, aging, for the returning youthful cast members.
WhenThe Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter movies proved that youth-friendy fantasy films could draw a huge audience and a big box-office return, studios jumped on board the young-reader train and produced more of the same: The Golden Compass, Eragon, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and the Chronicles of Narnia. While the Narnia series has held its own, the dismal results of the other films may have also contributed to Disney’s pullout, as they look at the downward trend of fantasy-adventure movies in general.
It is a bit ironic that while neither Queen Jadis or King Miraz were able to shut down Narnia, Disney has succeeded in returning a winter’s hold to the land. Let’s hope Walden Media can find Susan’s horn and summon aid in time to save Narnia.

RELATED ARTICLES & LINKS:
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Collector’s Edition Releases on DVD
Douglas Gresham, Step-Son of C.S. Lewis Talks About Narnia
Finding God in The Lord of the Rings
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