Many children grew up reading the Chronicles of Narnia by Tolkien’s contemporary and best friend, C.S. Lewis. It’s a classic children’s series that few would object to (although there are, of course, exceptions, such as in the case of Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials). Even those who don’t think of themselves as Christian can find something to enjoy in the religion-infused series. For non-readers, though, the movie series directed by Andrew Adamson represents a suitable gateway into the beloved story. Few would deny that the direction and casting of the film were perfect.
Even though they were decently successful movies, the series ceased after the third installment, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This has left many fans wishing for some kind of reboot of the series, either in the form of a show (as was the case with His Dark Materials) or another series of films. Should this new iteration of The Chronicles of Narnia be animated or live-action in either case?
The series has a history with both; before Adamson’s films, Bill Melendez directed a 1979 animated film based on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While the live-action film was much more successful than the animated one, that is no cause to believe that the series as a whole shouldn’t go down the path of animation. Here’s why the next Narnia installment should be animated.
Animation Can Better Capture the Childlike Wonder of the Books
For many children, animation is the first screen-based medium of entertainment that they’re exposed to and, as such, is the method of storytelling they feel most attached to. This can last even into adulthood, with more and more animated television being written to appeal to all ages and with the mainstream inclusion of anime. This childlike engagement that animation has with children is the best way of adapting C.S. Lewis’ series since Narnia also possesses that same sense of childhood wonderment.
Even those who start with the prequel book, The Magician’s Nephew, can attest to the sheer wonder of Lewis’ tale. When Diggory goes to the Wood Between the Worlds, the simple descriptions of the atmosphere and the implication that every pond leads to a world just as vast as Earth or Narnia is simply breathtaking. While not necessarily impossible to encapsulate with live-action, animation is truly where a moment like this would shine.
Take Studio Ghibli, for example. Their magnum opus, Spirited Away, is the perfect encapsulation of the wonders of exploring a new world. And it accomplishes this through its remarkable and gorgeous animation. Thus, Narnia would be an absolutely perfect fit for animation since, just like Spirited Away, wonder and childlike musings are at the core of its story.
The Filmmakers Won’t Have to Worry About the Cast Growing Up
A common topic of conversation that comes up when discussing Hollywood is child actors. More specifically, how they aged. For example, people who were children or teenagers in the 2000s likely saw Freddie Highmore as a sort of peer. He was around their age at the time of films like August Rush or Spiderwick. However, looking at him now in The Good Doctor, it’s incredibly hard to believe he’s the same person.
When it comes to child actors, it feels like they grow up too fast. And when they do grow up, they feel unrecognizable. So regarding Narnia, most of the central human characters are children. Children whose growth rate wouldn’t be consistent with the production rate and the flow of time within the story. And it’s important for the characters in Narnia to be children since there’s such an emphasis placed on the innocence of children. Such as in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Diggory convinces Lucy’s siblings to believe her about Narnia.
So in an animated adaptation of Narnia, the characters are only as old as they appear. And they can appear to be any age the animators wish. This would come in handy for a multitude of reasons aside from the previously stated obvious one. For one, production wouldn’t be as contingent on the actor’s ages, meaning that the process of adapting Narnia need not be rushed. Furthermore, even if a live-action adaptation were to rush its production, there’s the matter of making the characters grow up when they need to.
All of these problems can be solved through animation, where characters, places, and objects are only as they are drawn. And in the case of voice actors for an animated adaptation, there are plenty of talents who can play the role of children. And there are child voice actors who would just need to worry about their vocal cords sounding reasonably the same across their character’s age.