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If Netflix's Narnia is animated, what should it be like?  

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The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Obviously the state of the film industry isn't our biggest concern right now, but something I've been wondering about lately is if the COVID-19 pandemic might push Netflix towards animation for Narnia.

A few days ago Deadline published an article about how the animated film industry is essentially still functional because most of the work can be done from home, unlike the rest of Hollywood. On the other hand, we don't know for sure when the live action film industry will be able to resume production, and it will likely be challenging for it to operate normally if there are recurring outbreaks, especially with movies and shows filmed abroad.

Personally, I would love to see an animated Narnia series (AJAiken has a great opinion piece on this) ... but goodness, I'd much rather see it under different circumstances. :(

If this were to end up happening, what would you want an animated Narnia to look like? 2D or 3D? Disney's Sleeping Beauty? Studio Ghibli? The Secret of the Kells? Moana or Frozen 2?

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : March 27, 2020 12:04 pm
Wanderer Between Worlds
(@wanderer)
NarniaWeb Nut

Although I have always thought of Narnia as more of a live-action adaptation (thanks to Walden), you’ve got me thinking! :) The more I consider the possibility of an animated adaptation, the more I like it! There are some things that animation can do that live action paired with CGI simply cannot. If done right, I think that they could really stress and address the atmosphere, joy, and solemnity of the Narnian Chronicles, giving a good balance overall. Come to think of it, having Narnia animated might even mitigate some of the pressure to turn the series into “just another fantasy action movie/LoTR/GoT clone.” Depending on the animation, style and writing, they could do so much!

Animation would probably cost more a lot more money than the live-action/CGI pairing. If Narnia went to a full CGI medium, I think the studio would need a lot of money because poorly-done CGI looks worse than poorly-done 2D animation, in my opinion. I personally do not like the idea of Narnia being made in the style of Frozen 2 or Moana because I think there is a bit too much of a disconnect between the hyperrealism of the surroundings and the cartoonishness of the characters (it works fine in those films but I don’t like the idea for Narnia). IMO, the The Secret of Kells animation looks interesting, but I can’t see Narnia having harsh lines around characters. I also imagine the proportions of the characters to be a bit more realistic. I think going too cartoony in style would take away some of the credibility (for me, at least). For example, from the pictures I’ve seen of the animated Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I can’t take Aslan seriously. He doesn’t look majestic to me; he looks rather goofy (maybe this is just me ;)) )

Personally, I’d like to see the series animated in the style of the film Klaus. Granted, I have not actually seen this movie, but was nominated for an Oscar, and it was distributed by Netflix. From the pictures that I’ve seen, the style looks to be an interesting blend of 2D and 3D (even though it was apparently all 2D animation). There are no harsh outlines of the characters, and it all looks quite natural. The animators seem to use lighting and shading in an expressive way, which is an essential part of achieving atmosphere. Maybe the animated Chronicles could even go for an actual mix of 2D and 3D, similar to what some Disney films did (parts of the forest in Tarzan, the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast).

At any rate, the prospect of a new Narnia adaptation (especially one that would span the whole series) is exciting. My biggest wish would be that writers and animators would keep the integrity of Lewis’s work at all costs. :D

—Wanderer

"I am,” said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

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Posted : March 27, 2020 1:38 pm
Ryadian
(@ryadian)
Member Moderator

Rosie, I ditto your thoughts about liking the idea in concept but not the reason. I do wonder how much of an impact it would have on Narnia, though. As far as I'm aware, they're not even into full-on pre-production yet, let alone thinking about filming soon. I imagine that the setbacks caused by all the cancellations will probably put even future projects behind for quite a while, but I have a hard time believing that Narnia was going to start filming next year. Will live action filming still be behind two years from now? Maybe it will and I'm just really clueless about how all this works. :ymblushing:

Wanderer, I'd really like to come up with something to add to your points, but I think you nailed them. ;)) I've long wished that we'd get a (good!) animated Narnia adaptation because I think it'd suit the story well. (The fact that I prefer animation over live action in general is totally irrelevant, of course, I'm not biased in the slightest. ;) ) Personally, I think a world where everything is animated - rather than a mix of animated and CGI - makes the magical things seem just as real as the non-magical, whereas it takes really good CGI to get the same effect in live action. After all, even with the best CGI out there, there is still an inherent difference between the real and the generated images, whereas animation is entirely generated.

I also tend to agree with a 2D animation style, and I would also lean toward a more realistic style as opposed to something cartoony or surreal. I'm afraid I can't point to anything specific that I'd like Narnia to emulate, but I will say that Netflix does have some good animation in their original series (I'm not sure I've actually seen an animated movie of theirs :ymblushing: ). I didn't really get into the story, but their Voltron series had lovely animation. I'm not saying I'd want that style, but that level of quality would make me quite happy. :)

A couple of other properties I can think of that experimented with a 2D and 3D blend (though they're more 3D than 2D) are the Into the Spider-verse movie and the The Dragon Prince Netflix original series. I know some people found the animation off-putting - myself included, at first - but when I got used to it, I actually really came to like it. (In the case of The Dragon Prince, at least, the animation also notably improved within the first season.) There was a point in both the series and the movie that I kind of forgot that it wasn't live action. ;))

I don't know if I'm ready for Narnia to employ that kind of style, but I suspect there's a bright future for that kind of animation. At the same time, I have to imagine that that style of animation would be very expensive, even compared to normal animation. So until then, I'd be content with a 2D, more or less realistic style (I know, I know, that narrows it down so much ;)) ).

N-Web sis of stardf, _Rillian_, & jerenda
Proud to be Sirya the Madcap Siren

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Posted : March 28, 2020 8:50 am
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Initially I would be against an animated Narnia movie right now, but if I had to choose, I think I'd go with CGI just because it's closer to being live action. :D
Seriously though, realism is a big feature in the Narnia books, and I think animation would struggle to capture the vivid depictions of fairytale places that are supposed to be 100% real. The monsters and other horrors also might lose a lot of power in a 2D format imo. Even the best CGI might leave a bit to be desired.
Maybe I'm just being a picky fan and wanting the best possible treatment for my favorite books... but I suspect C.S. Lewis might agree to some extent, given his (possibly well-warranted) contempt for the Disney depictions of dwarves and other fairytale elements.
So my short answer is, avoid animation, but if necessary, go with CGI.

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Posted : March 29, 2020 6:30 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Good thoughts, all. :D

Come to think of it, having Narnia animated might even mitigate some of the pressure to turn the series into “just another fantasy action movie/LoTR/GoT clone.”

I've been thinking the same thing, and I'm starting to think they wouldn't be able to turn Narnia into a LotR/GoT clone if they animated it — mainly because I've really been struggling to think of anywhere in the animated world that I've seen huge, pitched medieval battle scenes. Something like that would be a nightmare to animate because there are so many moving parts. There are no tanks rolling through Narnia; everything that battles moves organically, except maybe a trebuchet or a catapult. The closest thing I've been able to think of is the battle on the mountain in Disney's Mulan,

Spoiler
and an avalanche ended that before it began
.

Does this mean the animation would be the wrong medium for Narnia? :-? I kind of think it would be a good thing, honestly. Massive battle scenes were never what the books were about, and if animation meant that the filmmakers gave more attention to the other parts of the stories, that would be great. :-bd

I imagine that the setbacks caused by all the cancellations will probably put even future projects behind for quite a while, but I have a hard time believing that Narnia was going to start filming next year. Will live action filming still be behind two years from now? Maybe it will and I'm just really clueless about how all this works. :ymblushing:

I feel pretty clueless, too, so who knows. ;)) I'm not sure about where Narnia would've been this time next year — even though Douglas Gresham was quoted last November as not having heard anything yet, Matthew Aldrich had only been on board for five months and they may have easily been in touch since then. I haven't known what to expect exactly, but it didn't seem inconceivable that we'd see casting announcements at the end of the year or the beginning of 2021... now, though, I would be pretty surprised. It just seems unlikely that they'd try to cast child actors when at any moment the production timetable might have to be overhauled. =/

All that said, though... animated films generally take much longer to make than live-action (although Narnia is rather in-between, since there's so much VFX). It may be that by the time an animated film would be ready to go, it wouldn't have taken that much longer for a live-action version.

Seriously though, realism is a big feature in the Narnia books, and I think animation would struggle to capture the vivid depictions of fairytale places that are supposed to be 100% real. The monsters and other horrors also might lose a lot of power in a 2D format imo. Even the best CGI might leave a bit to be desired.

Something I've been thinking about... what makes a film-world immersive? What animated movies or shows have I seen that made me really want to experience that world? I remember reading after Avatar came out that there was this phenomenon of people being depressed because they wanted so badly for Pandora to be real, and it wasn't... I don't want people to be depressed about Narnia (because of course Narnia is real ;) ) but I do want viewers to feel a strong connection to the world itself, because throughout the seven stories, the world of Narnia and the character of Aslan are the only two consistent story elements.

Is realism necessary to evoke that kind of reaction, that kind of connection to the world? Or is thoughtful and beautiful 2D animation able to do that as well? Studio Ghibli comes to my mind, but so far it's been a challenge to think of a 2D animated movie where I almost loved the setting more than the story itself. Hmm. Maybe I need to go on an animated movie marathon. ;))

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : March 30, 2020 4:07 pm
JFG II
(@jfg-ii)
NarniaWeb Regular

Thanks for the Topic, Rose-Tree Dryad!

Narnia adaptations animated? Wonderful. It should have been animated to begin with, I think. Especially for 2-D. That would allow so much opportunity to stay true to the tone of the books without focusing on itty-bitty details we fans can get hung up on. Unlike Tolkien & LotR, the Details don’t matter as much as what emotion Lewis was inspiring in us when we read his books. Example: Age of the kids? What color is Reepecheep’s fur? Do the Calormens look like Arabs or Ottomans? These can be addressed in simple ways for animation that never could in live-action.

Is realism necessary to evoke that kind of reaction, that kind of connection to the world? Or is thoughtful and beautiful 2D animation able to do that as well? Studio Ghibli comes to my mind, but so far it's been a challenge to think of a 2D animated movie where I almost loved the setting more than the story itself. Hmm. Maybe I need to go on an animated movie marathon. ;))

How about episode marathon? Try Avatar: The Last Airbender. The story is ok, but the setting & characters are inspired. Don’t worry. It’s only 24 & 1/2 hrs to get through. ;)

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Posted : March 31, 2020 2:59 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

If they go animated, I want it to look like this. Every single frame:

https://www.narniaweb.com/wp-content/gallery/the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-concept-art/42.jpg

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Posted : April 1, 2020 12:04 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Something that occurred to me the past couple of days...

If animation is pushed to the forefront in the film industry, a strategy I could imagine Netflix going with is to make an animated adaptation of The Magician's Nephew, thereby leaving the door open for live-action versions of LWW and the rest of the stories. The creation scene is MN is is much more suited to animation than live-action, imo; it would be very expensive to do it right and very easy for bad CGI to mess it up.

Further, they might also consider animating The Horse and His Boy as well. If Netflix is serious about spin-offs, it might be appealing to them to combine live-action series and animated features in a single film universe. I can also see it being useful from a filming standpoint: if you're doing the stories in chronological order, instead of making child actors wait around for HHB to finish filming before starting on PC, you can have an animated HHB being produced simultaneously with a live-action PC. That way nobody's aging out of a role.

How would you guys feel about that? Too discordant? :-?

How about episode marathon? Try Avatar: The Last Airbender. The story is ok, but the setting & characters are inspired. Don’t worry. It’s only 24 & 1/2 hrs to get through. ;)

I've seen it, actually, and believe me, it's crossed my mind many many times while pondering this topic. :P It's been several years, though, and I am way overdue for a re-watch... ;;) ;))

If they go animated, I want it to look like this. Every single frame:

https://www.narniaweb.com/wp-content/gallery/the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-concept-art/42.jpg

Two questions... why didn't I think of that, and why has this never been my desktop wallpaper? ;)) Seriously, that would be an amazing animated film.

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : April 9, 2020 11:11 am
Ryadian
(@ryadian)
Member Moderator

Seriously though, realism is a big feature in the Narnia books, and I think animation would struggle to capture the vivid depictions of fairytale places that are supposed to be 100% real. The monsters and other horrors also might lose a lot of power in a 2D format imo. Even the best CGI might leave a bit to be desired.
...but I suspect C.S. Lewis might agree to some extent, given his (possibly well-warranted) contempt for the Disney depictions of dwarves and other fairytale elements

Not to be contrary, but I'm not really sure that the Narnia books provoke a strong sense of realism, at least not to me. I don't mean to say that I think Narnia isn't supposed to be a real place with real characters and ideas. All the same, Narnia is built on fantastical elements. To me, at least, it's at its most vivid when it's the most imaginative - the sea of glass in the Utter East, the Wood Between The Worlds... oh, goodness, I'll get back to this one later. :P But honestly, when I imagine Narnia, I imagine something more akin to a painting than photograph-type realism.

I also don't think that animation can't portray horrors just as well as live action. There are some horrifying villain designs out there (The Horned King from The Black Cauldron comes to mind, though I've not seen the movie since I was a 12 or so and can only remember what he looks like. But I remember him being terrifying.) In terms of darker themes... well, Avatar: The Last Airbender has come up in this thread. ;)) This show handles topics like the ravages of war in a way that's both thoughtful and still appropriate for (older) kids. (If we wanna talk horror, there's an episode in season 3 that... whooo boy. I can't describe it without spoilers, but trust me - they pull off horror, while still maintaining a Y7 rating and the same level of realism as the rest of the show.)

Basically, I think that in animation, just like in live action, the effectiveness of the atmosphere, realism, etc., has more to do with the effort that the creative team puts into it than it does with the medium.

That would allow so much opportunity to stay true to the tone of the books without focusing on itty-bitty details we fans can get hung up on. Unlike Tolkien & LotR, the Details don’t matter as much as what emotion Lewis was inspiring in us when we read his books. Example: Age of the kids? What color is Reepecheep’s fur? Do the Calormens look like Arabs or Ottomans? These can be addressed in simple ways for animation that never could in live-action.

There are also certain details from the book, like Aslan playing with Trumpkin like a cat with a toy, that I've not seen a live action adaptation attempt. The BBC just has Aslan blow Trumpkin into the air, and he just roars at him in the Walden version.

I'll admit, I imagine an animated version might not try some of those either (potentially deeming it too outlandish for modern audiences), but I could at least imagine what the attempt might look like. Partially because when I imagine things, my imagination doesn't really adhere to proportions and the laws of physics. ;)) But that's also why I can't figure out how to describe it.

How about episode marathon? Try Avatar: The Last Airbender. The story is ok, but the setting & characters are inspired. Don’t worry. It’s only 24 & 1/2 hrs to get through. ;)

I've seen it, actually, and believe me, it's crossed my mind many many times while pondering this topic. :P It's been several years, though, and I am way overdue for a re-watch... ;;) ;))

Oh, goodness, I almost started another rewatch this week. ;)) And this is where the Wood Between the Worlds comes back! I've been watching a lot of Avatar-related YouTube videos, and something occurred to me. Each of the seasons is based on an element - Water, Earth, Fire. Each season's color palette matches the respective element - Season 1 is very blue, Season 2 leans more into greens and browns, and Season 3 uses a lot of vibrant reds and warm colors.

Part of that is the different settings (the first season begins and ends in arctic climates, after all) and easily-changed things like the color of clothing, but... the atmosphere seems to change colors, too. How they depict lighting, the particular shades of brown and green they use for the landscape, etc. Either I'm just not observant (a distinct possibility ;)) ), or it's genuinely subtle enough for me to miss it the first four times (at least) I've watched through the show.

Anyways, back to Narnia. The Magician's Nephew describes the colors of the suns (or other unknown light sources ;) ) of Charn, The Wood Between the Worlds, and the very young Narnia. I've always subconsciously imagined Charn as being very red and consciously saw the Wood as vibrantly green, but now I'm imagining these places created in the same kind of way that Avatar chose its color palettes.

Admittedly, I don't think I'd want young Narnia to be completely yellow, but perhaps if it's just very, very vibrantly colored. Probably in stark contrast to England as well, which I suspect would be drab (maybe I'm just biased by basically every depiction of that era I've seen being drab ;)) ).

N-Web sis of stardf, _Rillian_, & jerenda
Proud to be Sirya the Madcap Siren

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Posted : April 12, 2020 7:37 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

For what it's worth, I had a dream last night where somebody discovered that the first Narnia movie Netflix was going to do was The Silver Chair and it was going to be an animated version because of filmmaking restrictions surrounding COVID... this is what happens to you when you're a news poster. LOL

Posted by: @ryadian

Not to be contrary, but I'm not really sure that the Narnia books provoke a strong sense of realism, at least not to me. I don't mean to say that I think Narnia isn't supposed to be a real place with real characters and ideas. All the same, Narnia is built on fantastical elements. To me, at least, it's at its most vivid when it's the most imaginative - the sea of glass in the Utter East, the Wood Between The Worlds... oh, goodness, I'll get back to this one later. But honestly, when I imagine Narnia, I imagine something more akin to a painting than photograph-type realism.

I don't know if realism is exactly the right word... maybe intensely atmospheric. One example: whenever I read the line "The [water] drops dripped off the laurel leaves" in The Silver Chair, I am instantly transported to some long-lost early morning in my childhood when I was outside and it had been raining and the everything was misty, full of the sound of falling droplets and the scent of damp earth. I get such a visceral reaction out of that line! Lewis might as well be casting a time travel spell on me. Daydream

It's tricky with animation, because creating moments in the natural world that have an intense impact on the viewer takes so much work, whereas with live action... you can just send up a drone over some rocky little Irish islands and you'll definitely get some footage that will give people chills. Maybe that's why using CGI to create a semi-photorealistic Narnian world seems like it might be the better option — it's easier to copy the beauty of the natural world.

Posted by: @ryadian

Anyways, back to Narnia. The Magician's Nephew describes the colors of the suns (or other unknown light sources ) of Charn, The Wood Between the Worlds, and the very young Narnia. I've always subconsciously imagined Charn as being very red and consciously saw the Wood as vibrantly green, but now I'm imagining these places created in the same kind of way that Avatar chose its color palettes.

Oooh, I love this. Grin That's a great comparison between A:TLA and a possible Narnia adaptation! You could even take it further and give each book a specific color palate, because they're all so different from each other.

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : June 11, 2020 5:14 pm
Reepicheep775
(@reepicheep775)
NarniaWeb Junkie

A complete set of animated Narnia adaptations is my dream. I think there are many benefits that would come with animation.

Like @wanderer-between-worlds mentioned, animation would have a different set of expectations than live action fantasy films. Audience members who aren't fans of the book might feel cheated if they go to see a live action fantasy about good vs. evil and the battle scene gets sidelined in favour of Aslan's resurrection, riding on Aslan's back, restoring the statues etc. I don't think that would happen in animation.

Animation would also allow Narnia to look like a truly magical world without losing its sense of reality. The Walden films have beautiful locations, don't get me wrong, but it also looks like New Zealand. On the other hand, if you make the backdrop too magical-looking, it might end up looking fake. Animation would avoid all that. When I'm reading the books, the mental image in my head looks more animated (basically Pauline Bayne's illustrations come to life), then it does live action.

The Studio Ghibli films stand out to me in terms of their ability to slow the story down and create atmosphere without constantly feeling the need to maintain tension and throw plot twists at the audience to keep their attention. When watching Studio Ghibli films, I'm so mesmerized by what I'm looking at that I'm barely even thinking about the plot. I think the Narnia films should aim to have a similar feel.

I think the animation should look more Western than Studio Ghibli though. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I would want it to be 2D and experimental (so something like The Book of Kells or Klaus but not exactly like either). I think it would be neat if the style of animation changes depending on which world the scene takes place in. For example the Earth scenes could use a more drab, basic animation and the Narnia scenes could look more vibrant and stylized. They could even base them off different artistic styles. Earth could be based on Realism or some modern art style and Narnia could be based on medieval art, Impressionism etc. The Wood Between the Worlds and Charn could have unique styles also.

It would never hurt to base the animation off of Pauline Baynes' art (or the Walden concept art like @icarus suggested).

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Posted : June 12, 2020 10:24 am
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