Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Disney Doing "Narnia"

Walt Disney Studios has sealed a deal with Walden Media to bring to life a live-action film version of British author C.S. Lewis' classic children's fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Per the deal announced Monday and trumpeted Tuesday in a series of nationwide newspaper ads, the Mouse House will cofinance and distribute the first installment in the Narnia series, which will have a budget of more than $100 million and be directed by Shrek mastermind Andrew Adamson.

Written in the 1950s and beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the author chronicled an epic struggle between good and evil set in the magical land of Narnia. The first installment centers around four siblings--Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter--who enter an enchanted closet and find themselves in a world filled with giants, dwarves and talking beasts.

They eventually encounter a magnificent lion named Aslan and are recruited to help battle the evil White Witch and break a century-old spell that keeps Narnia permanently frozen in winter.

Disney and Walden are betting that Lewis' fantasy franchise--which also includes the prequel, The Magician's Nephew, and the sequels The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle--will follow Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings series by casting a spell at the box office.

The live-action "Narnia" adaptation is scheduled for release around Christmas 2005. Future films in the series could follow.

"Serenity" Gets Green Light for Movie

(Variety) Universal Pictures has greenlit "Serenity,'' the feature film based on Joss Whedon's Fox TV series "Firefly,'' which was canceled in late 2002 after just 11 episodes.

Deals are in place for Whedon to direct and for the original cast of the TV show to reprise their roles. Pic, budgeted in the mid-eight figures, is skedded for a June start and should be ready for a 2005 release.

After Fox pulled the plug on "Firefly," Whedon struggled to continue the project, speaking with other nets and cablers about the skein, then finally turning to studios about a feature version. U acquired the feature rights from Fox last fall.

Whedon said the pic will be released under the title "Serenity" to give it some distance from the TV version. "It was important that people understand that the movie isn't the series," he said. "The movie is bigger, more epic than anything you can do in a series."

To that end, he said he went out of his way while penning the "Serenity" script to make sure that it is accessible to auds who never tuned into "Firefly."

"You're not going to bring people into a movie if you're explaining all the time what happened before," Whedon said.

Series was a space oater set 500 years in the future, tracking the journeys of the crew aboard the Serenity.

Forthcoming pic is set about six months after the TV show left off, and centers on two passengers on board the ship who attract trouble to the crew.

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