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BBC Narnia’s 35th Anniversary

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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

Some things get better with age and that includes the BBC television series of Narnia! I still like the old series even though it is not perfect and looks very dated after all those years. 

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Topic starter Posted : November 8, 2023 9:38 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee

Applause Has it really been that long??? I'm very fond of the BBC TV series too, even though it was produced on a hopelessly tight budget and — as I've said before — looked hilariously hokey even at the time. But although there were quite a few downsides to it (especially the way Prince Caspian was heavily cut to fit into two half-hour episodes when it's one of the longest books in the series; they really should have given all of the adaptations six parts, or at least four), I've always admired the fact that the producers went about it with an implicit objective of "How can we adapt these much-loved children's books for the screen, as faithfully as possible to the original stories?" Not "How can we turn this into an epic action-packed blockbuster spectacular?", or "How can we put our own spin on these stories to fit a currently popular agenda?", or whatever.

I don't think any screen adaptation of Narnia so far has come really close to being perfect (if that's possible at all), but the BBC TV version definitely scores the highest for adapting what C.S. Lewis actually wrote, not what someone else thought he should have written.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 8, 2023 10:14 am
Narnian78 and coracle liked
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

@courtenay 

It has aged gracefully, and hopefully the people who watched it (including us) so many years ago have also matured in the same way. 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : November 8, 2023 11:21 am
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Guru

That's crazy to think it was 35 years ago when the BBC Narnia first aired.

While I agree with @narnian78 that it is pretty dated, it's still pretty decent. Okay, it's not the Walden or even the animated LWW from 1979, but it's still decent. Though I do agree with @courtenay that Prince Caspian felt a bit rushed (I had the same problem with Walden's VDT, where the plot felt a bit rushed and had the shortest runtime in that franchise).

I also agree that non of the screen adaptations of Narnia been done perfectly. Probably the closest we got was the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre (even with a few minor changes). But I would say the BBC is pretty decent.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : November 8, 2023 12:04 pm
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet-himself)
NarniaWeb Guru

With better technology, the series might have been great! I do kinda like the nostalgic feel of them though. 

Happy 35th anniversary Old Narnia!

This post was modified 4 months ago by Cleander

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Posted : November 8, 2023 4:48 pm
Courtenay liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee
Posted by: @the-mad-poet-himself

With better technology, the series might have been great! I do kinda like the nostalgic feel of them though. 

Well... the technology to do a significantly better job existed even in the 1980s, if you look at some of the best fantasy films from earlier in that decade, like The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal. Really top quality puppetry and animatronics could work wonders (still can, mainly in stage productions!), if one had mega-bucks to throw at it. Which, of course, the Beeb didn't. Grin  (Or mega-quids, I suppose it would be over here.) But they did what they could with what they had, and we as kids (my sister and I) loved it, even if we were regularly cracking up laughing at some of the special (???) effects... ROFL  (Which, really, was all part of the fun of it.)

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 8, 2023 5:37 pm
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Guru

Well, there were some changes and additions. They added the scene where Lucy goes back to see Mr. Tumnus and the White Witch conjures up a tent for where she and Edmund could have a chat. The the scene where Edmund was talking to himself had him disembodied from himself (the two Edmunds), I could see what they were trying to do.

I'll admit that the battle scene in the BBC is a bit cheesy (where it had Peter and Edmund and the Narnians swinging their swords and weapons at the animated creatures).

Then of course, like with most adaptations of LWW (except for the 1979 animated), they cut out the romp with Aslan and the girls after his resurrection. Though on second thought, I guess it would have made it too long if they had kept it in.

It is the best adaptation? Not really. Though I do think it is worth checking out.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : November 8, 2023 6:11 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee
Posted by: @jasmine_tarkheena

Well, there were some changes and additions. They added the scene where Lucy goes back to see Mr. Tumnus and the White Witch conjures up a tent for where she and Edmund could have a chat.

Those are only tiny alterations that have zero impact on the plot, though. The scene where Lucy goes back to Mr Tumnus is alluded to in the book — she tells Edmund that that's where she's been. Presumably the reason why Lewis doesn't include it directly is because that part of the narrative is all told from Edmund's point of view.

As for the White Witch conjuring up the tent, I remember reading somewhere quite recently that the reason they added that was because they were filming that scene outdoors in actual snow, and it was freezing cold!! Grin  

When it comes to genuine changes and additions, the Walden film had far more of those — like the overdramatic chase scene where the Witch is pursuing the children and the Beavers across the ice, and that whole invented subplot with the fox, all of which I've always felt was totally unnecessary and didn't add anything worthwhile to the story at all.

The the scene where Edmund was talking to himself had him disembodied from himself (the two Edmunds), I could see what they were trying to do.

That's not really an addition as such, though — that's their attempt to portray on screen what the book describes, with Edmund arguing with himself inwardly as he keeps having pangs of conscience over what he's doing. It looks a bit silly on screen, but it's obvious what it means, as you say.

I'll admit that the battle scene in the BBC is a bit cheesy (where it had Peter and Edmund and the Narnians swinging their swords and weapons at the animated creatures).

Those early CGI animations really haven't aged well, but then, they didn't look good even when the series was first shown! I've always suspected that was why they didn't include animated characters like those in the later BBC adaptations.

Then of course, like with most adaptations of LWW (except for the 1979 animated), they cut out the romp with Aslan and the girls after his resurrection. Though on second thought, I guess it would have made it too long if they had kept it in.

That was most likely because Aslan's body was made up of two people in a lion costume — one standing at the front and holding the head, the other bent over and holding the first person's waist, to make Aslan's back and hind legs, "pantomime horse" style — and so making him walk at a sedate pace was about as much as they could do. They couldn't have made him romp if they tried!! Giggle  

I was disappointed that the Walden film didn't include the romp, since Aslan as a (modern!) CGI character could easily have leapt about. Maybe they thought it would look unrealistic, or, as you've suggested, it would hold the action up? The best version of that romp so far, I'd say, is actually in the Focus on the Family radio production — of course there are no visuals, but Aslan does call out "Oh children, catch me if you can!", followed by lots of breathless laughs from him and the two girls, so we can easily picture that scene and the sheer joy of it!

It is the best adaptation? Not really. Though I do think it is worth checking out.

I agree with you — I think it was you who said this recently — that the FOTF version is the best adaptation so far, although it's audio only! I think all of the three surviving screen adaptations have their good points and their drawbacks, but the BBC TV version is definitely the most faithful to the book out of those three. (Whereas the FOTF version is equally faithful to the book without any of the drawbacks of cheap and hokey visual effects! Wink )

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 8, 2023 8:36 pm
Narnian78 liked
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

The BBC Narnia does look a little better on the You Tube remastered videos:

There is not a huge difference between them and the DVD’s, but they are definitely worth checking out if you can play them on your TV screen or if your computer has a large screen. The picture is a little clearer and somewhat brighter. 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : November 9, 2023 8:11 am
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Guru
@courtenay

I guess it kind of makes sense for screen. Otherwise, it would be too tedious in a book. The same could be said where one chapter are with Peter, the girls, and the Beavers and another chapter is with Edmund, the White Witch, and the Dwarf. The BBC does a pretty good job of cutting back and forth.

I enjoyed the Walden film, though I could have done without the melting river scene (with the wolves chasing down the Pevensies and the Beavers).

I suspect they wanted to expanded on the fox's role. In the book, he was actually among the woodland animals that are having a Christmas celebration when the White Witch comes across them (which they cut out).

It's understandable that screen adaptations of a book would have to make some changes to make it work for screen. So it's no surprise there on what the BBC was trying to do with Edmund's inner monologue.

I would say that the scene where Aslan standing with the rising sun in the background after His resurrection in the Walden is actually beautiful. Though I missed the line where he says, "Yes, it is more magic!" The BBC kept that in, though I felt it could have been more powerful.

Then of course, not all adaptations are created equal. The BBC is decent, though I do agree it does have some draw backs. I would say that my views on all the screen adaptations of Narnia is a bit complicated. 

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : November 9, 2023 11:05 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

If you would give a letter grade for the BBC Narnia what would it be?  I think I would give it B or a B+.  This may seem like an elementary school teacher giving a child a grade on their report card, but since the series was made for children anyway it may not be such a bad idea to rate the series by using that method.  The series was not great, but it was certainly good enough for children. The creators of the series deserve a lot of credit for trying, which is why I would at least give it a decent grade. I remember giving all three series based on the four books an 8 / 10 rating on the Internet Movie Database (the movie and TV series website), and I thought I was being fair. And after 35 years my evaluation would be about the same, although I think I have grown to like series even more than when I first saw it. 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : November 9, 2023 12:53 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee
Posted by: @narnian78

If you would give a letter grade for the BBC Narnia what would it be?  I think I would give it B or a B+. 

I'd probably give it about the same, for much the same reasons as you. Actually, I think I'd say B+, for sheer faithfulness to the books.

The 1979 animation of LWW I would give a B, in that it's sweet but doesn't feel quite as much like Narnia to me as the BBC one does — plus they started the story in a very odd place (with Lucy leaping out of the wardrobe after her first visit and the others not believing her when she tells them she's been to a magical country, and her visit with Mr Tumnus is then told in flashback), and Father Christmas got left out, and the White Witch was just a little too cartoony-villain-ish. But overall it's also very accurate.

The 2005 Walden film I would give a C, for too many unnecessary changes to the script, totally losing the charming and understated and rather quirky nature of Narnia by trying to make it into a blockbuster action fantasy epic, and making Aslan look incredibly ugly. All of which is entirely my totally opinionated personal judgment, so there. Grin  

(I've never been able to bear to watch the entire film a second time — even short clips of it leave me cringing and wincing — and if that's my reaction to the first Walden film, which overall was a lot more faithful to what Lewis wrote than the later two were... well, that's exactly the reason why I've never watched the Walden PC or VDT. I'm not into torturing myself, thanks. Tongue )

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 9, 2023 1:19 pm
Narnian78 liked
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Guru

That's a tough one. As I've said before, my views on the different screen adaptations of Narnia is a bit complicated. I usually rate movies or series with numbers and not letters. 

For the BBC series,well, I'm having trouble deciding rating it between 3 stars or 3 1/2 stars. I think I'll go with 3 1/2 stars. I think it's decent, though not enough to give it a 5 star rating. There's still stuff I appreciate: the acting, the look and set looks really nice, and staying close to the books with additions and changes.

For the animated LWW from 1979 (which was actually first screen adaption I've watched), maybe 3 stars out of 5. The animation looks nice, though a bit dated. I was kind of sad they've cut out Father Christmas and had Aslan give the children their gifts instead. And to @courtenay's point about the White Witch looking a lot like a cartoon villain, her design kind of makes me think of the evil queen from Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Interesting enough, it was directed by Bill Melendez , who is best known for directing the Peanuts Special, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I grew up watching during the Holiday season.

For the Walden, maybe four stars. I enjoyed it, though I don't think it's enough to give it 5 stars. It's been successful, but does it really deserves all the praise it gets? The acting is pretty good, the White Witch had a creative design with her hair frozen and slowly melting, the landscape actually looks really nice (though I'll admit it does come to a point to become to distracting). As I've said before, I could have done without the melting river scene.

I think all of those three screen adaptations of LWW actually showed Edmund breaking the White Witch's wand. It actually really brings out his character arch, so I actually give credit for that in all of those three.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : November 9, 2023 3:19 pm
Narnian78 liked
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

Probably both the BBC Narnia and the Walden films will still be watched many years from now, but I think the BBC series has more appeal for those who are more old fashioned in their tastes.  I have had people say to me that they thought the BBC version was too old for them, but the actual age of a TV series would certainly not be a determining factor on whether or not I will like something. However, I will tend to like things that look old, and I think that is best for Narnia since it is an old fashioned story. If the movies were made just recently I think Narnia should look like an old fairy tale. The Walden films succeeded only partially in doing that, and I think at times they looked too much like The Lord of the Rings films, which may have had too much modern technology. The actors appeared to have been more experienced and perhaps more talented, but I liked the simplicity of kids acting like normal children in the BBC series. The BBC version was much closer to being an old fashioned fairy tale, which in many ways was a similar time and place to the setting of the books, and it actually looks much older than 35 years. 🙂

I can understand why some people dislike certain parts of the Walden films because at times they do depart from the books. But there are other portions of the movies that are well done such as the decent acting and special effects. I used to dislike Walden’s Prince Caspian, but now I think it is more enjoyable, although they too many liberties with it, e.g. especially the extended battle scenes. I think that people should watch all three of the films before making an final evaluation of them. It would be the same with the BBC series. Both of them offer much to enjoy in spite of their flaws. I ended up buying both of the series and have rewatched them quite often. 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : November 10, 2023 3:14 am
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Guru

 

I love this picture of the cast. 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : November 13, 2023 7:44 am
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