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Peter T Chattaway

Narnia: Pre-release discussion of LWW

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When I read aloud to my kids, I do a variety of voices, and no voice is more challenging to do than Aslan. I can only do it lying down, and I have to speak from way, way in the back of my throat, but it's necessary to put a lot of breath into it so that it doesn't come off as just gargly.

Man I bet that makes the reading of the stories even more fantastic for your kids. I can picture it now "Oop here's an aslan bit" whilst scrambling to make it to the floor to read the line in time. Marvellous.

Perhaps you should audition?

Matt

PS - James Earl Jones did a good lion Job in The Lion King, so in someways he'd be a natural choice (despite the Darth Vader worries)

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Heh. It doesn't quite work that way... I generally read the kids' bedtime stories lying on the floor in my daughter's room, propped with a pillow against her bed, so I'm already down there.

I find that it helps to create character associations with real actors or people and imagine them doing the line readings. For example, I usually think of Ian McKellen's Gandalf when doing wizard types, and John Rhys-Davies' Gimli when doing dwarf types. Giants, at least the bad ones, often have a bit of Jabba the Hutt. For some reason, I tend to do toads and frogs in some sort of Sean Connery variation.

I don't claim to be any good or anything, but the kids can usually tell which character I'm doing, and at least once when I was doing a character in disguise who unexpectedly drops his affected voice in mid-sentence, David realized who the character really was as soon as I did the voice shift.

Currently, doing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I find that I can't help associating the characters with the voices in the film. My Tin Woodman is the best, but I can't do the Cowardly Lion to save my life.

Russell, all I can say is, I Feel Your Pain. I'm afraid we all have stories like that that the kids insist on that are just painful to read; sometimes we can come up with subversive little ways of amusing ourselves while doing so, but sometimes it's just a horrible slag. We have a book called My Puppy that was clearly written by someone who didn't know the first thing about dogs and in fact may have been a cat person. Astonishingly, virtually every single page contains some boneheaded misrepresentation of dog character, care of dogs, or something related. When forced to read this particular travesty, Suz and I often modify the lines for the amusement of the listening parent.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Re: Oz, you'll have to let me know whether you end up enjoying that book and whether you delve into the others. I tried to read it to Leah probably two years ago and we mutually decided to put it aside after a couple of nights. At that time, it seemed to me that the story's magic on screen made it difficult to throw ourselves into the book's decidedly different approach. I've thought a couple times that we should go back to it someday.

I would have loved seeing the film's actors try those elaborate musical numbers with a cow tagging along.

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Oh, I've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz more than once -- several times as a kid / young adult, once in the recent past prior to writing up the film, and am now almost finished with it again. I like it very much.

I've read a number of the sequels too, and it's my impression that they go downhill from the first one, as Dorothy develops a precious lisp and the stories (as I seem to recall) become less focused and mythic. I love The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but Baum, like George Lucas, seems to have had very little personal insight into what he was creating and how, and even had some remarkably silly (though no doubt very fashionable at the time) ideas about modern vs. premodern education, morality, children's stories, and so on. Reading Baum's introduction to his own book and comparing it to the book itself, I can only marvel at the extent to which his instincts led him, rightly in my view, to betray his stated intent... But perhaps in the sequels his ideas got the better of his initial instincts (perhaps a theory also applicable to Lucas).

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More on Oz: I think there's a lot to appreciate about the original story over against the classic film version. For example, in the books it's far clearer that Dorothy's friends really possess the attributes each longs for. In particular, the Scarecrow is obviously quite clever and the Cowardly Lion is obviously heroically courageous, much more so than in the film (only the Tin Woodman is as sensitive and heartful onscreen as in the pages of the book).

It's still possible to point to moments in the film when the Scarecrow demonstrates cleverness (as, e.g., when in the Witch's house he grabs the Tin Woodman's axe and uses it to slash the rope holding the chandelier, which falls on the guards) and the Lion courage (as, e.g., his brief moment of valor outside the Witch's house before succumbing to the need for a comic punchline). But in the books the Scarecrow is consistently, even reliably clever, and the Lion is dutifully willing to face danger and even sacrifice his own life for his friends.

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funny you should mention that (about the true characteristics of the scarecrow et al.)

I re-watched the film recently and was amazed by the first section which other than the wicked witch I'd forgotten. In that part the farm hands who the 3 Oz charaters (Hank, um and the other two) are clearly in full possesion of the attributes that they're Oz counterparts so eagerly desire. I was then surprised (even though I knew deep down) that this didn't show though at all (baring the examples you cited which I noticed). Funny eh? Would surely have been better that way.

Matt

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SDG wrote:

: For example, I usually think of Ian McKellen's Gandalf when doing wizard

: types, and John Rhys-Davies' Gimli when doing dwarf types.

Heh. I suppose you know that McKellen claims to have based Gandalf's voice on Tolkien, and Rhys-Davies claims to have based Treebeard's voice on Lewis?

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

: For example, I usually think of Ian McKellen's Gandalf when doing wizard

: types, and John Rhys-Davies' Gimli when doing dwarf types.

Heh. I suppose you know that McKellen claims to have based Gandalf's voice on Tolkien, and Rhys-Davies claims to have based Treebeard's voice on Lewis?

Didn't, but that certainly adds another layer of surrealness to the whole business. biggrin.gif

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Friend sent me this today;

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: Uneven acting

I think you're a bit too kind here. The acting is pretty terrible all round. Four Haley Joe Osmonts they aren't, and the white witch & the beavers are terribly hammed up. I've not seen Silver chair all the way thu, but Eustace is the worst of the whole lot. His converted brat just feels like a brat trying to act like he know has some admirable qualities. I don't want to expect too much, but I do feel that the acting could be a lot lot better, even for kids.

: Tom Wilson (sometime Dr. Who)

Actually it was Tom Baker who took on both roles. He was the longest standing doctor and therefore is the actor most associated with its role. Unfortunately his subseuent career suffered as a result.

Matt

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Thanks for the correction - I knew it was Tom Baker, can't think how I typed Wilson.

I think you're judging the acting a bit harshly. I'm sure you know British television much better than I do, but I thought it was pretty reasonable for the sort of thing it was. These aren't "actors' movies," in any case. Who cares if the White Witch is over the top? It's not exactly a layered characterization in the book. The Beavers hammy? Didn't notice; I was more bothered by how darned big they were and how cheap-looking their costumes were.

Anyway, besides Lucy and Puddleglum, both of whom I really liked, there were some other supporting parts that were enjoyable too, such as Professor Kirke. I'd have to watch them again to comment on specific other actors; the fact is the acting wasn't what had my attention.

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: I think you're judging the acting a bit harshly

Possibly, FWIW I didn't like Lucy either tho' I agree wiuth Professor Kirk. Perhaps I am being too harsh as they were only kids. There was just this annoying smugness about them all. That said I've not watched any TV with kids in it for a while so perhaps I should shut up?

Matt

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...I've not watched any TV with kids in it for a while so perhaps I should shut up?

Good point.

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sidebar

From today's Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor:

It's the birthday of C[live] S[taples] Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland, (1898). He's the author of the children's series about the land of Narnia. He also wrote The Screwtape Letters (1941), in which he wrote, \"The safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.\" He was a confident Oxford philosopher, not at all prepared to find himself a Christian convert. To his friend Owen Barfield he wrote: \"Terrible things have happened to me. The 'Spirit' or 'Real I' is showing an alarming tendency to becoming much more personal and is taking the offensive, and behaving just like God. You'd better come on Monday at the latest or I may have entered a monastery.\"

C.S. Lewis said, \"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.\"

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It's the birthday of C[live] S[taples] Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland, (1898).

Indeed! Happy Birthday, Clive! Tonight my theatre is hosting a party for old Jack after our performance of THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE. Three actors are attending as Tolkien, Charles Williams and Dorothy Sayers. Fun!

C.S. Lewis said, \"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.\"

Wow. I hadn't read that one, or have forgotten. Quite the quote. Thanks, DM.

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AlanW wrote:

: Apparently so--would you like him judged now or later.

Every time someone decides whether or not to purchase his "Christian music CD", someone judges him. And yeah, I do hold people who try to profit off their faith, or who promote themselves as stand-up comics who keep it clean, to a higher standard than people who don't.

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Narnia blockbuster confirmed for NZ

19 December 2003

By BESS MANSON and TOM CARDY

After almost a year of negotiations New Zealand has secured the multimillion-dollar Hollywood movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Work on the film begins next month in Auckland.

Confirmation of the movie, to be directed by Kiwi Oscar-winner Andrew Adamson, comes after almost a year of negotiations between central and local governments, Henderson Studios and American producer Walden Media.

No budget details were available. However, the Los Angeles Times reported in July that it would cost about US$175 million (NZ$300 million).

Under the Government's Large Budget Screen Production Grant scheme, the film-makers could claim $37.5 million, or 12.5 per cent, back.

Industry Development Minister Jim Anderton said the news was a vote of confidence in New Zealand as a location for film and screen production.

The production would be based in Auckland with location shooting in the South Island. It is understood the Hobsonville airbase in west Auckland would be used in filming, as well as a section of land behind it as a back lot. Henderson Studios would also be used.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said last night that confirmation of the production coming to his region was "the greatest Christmas present this city will ever have".

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[...] After almost a year of negotiations New Zealand has secured the multimillion-dollar Hollywood movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Work on the film begins next month in Auckland.

Confirmation of the movie, to be directed by Kiwi Oscar-winner Andrew Adamson [...]

Anyone know anything about Andrew Adamson? Think he'll do justice to the story?

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BethR wrote:

: Anyone know anything about Andrew Adamson?

He's one of the co-directors of the Shrek movies; apart from that, the IMDB lists no other directorial credits for him, though he apparently did do some visual effects work on the last two Batman movies as well as the Robin Williams flop Toys.

: Think he'll do justice to the story?

Impossible to say, really, especially since his only previous efforts have been collaborations with other directors. The IMDB lists three writers for this film, and I don't recognize any of them; and even if I did, there's no saying how much influence any of them would have on the finished film.

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This seems as good a thread as any for this ...

- - -

Ottawa firm creates herd of oliphants

Company worked on creature construction for Lord of the Rings

Vito Pilieci

CanWest News Service

Friday, December 26, 2003

A tiny Canadian high-tech firm that helped bring The Lord of the Rings to the big screen is also in the running to bring 20 characters from The Chronicles of Narnia to life.

XYZ RGB, a six-person company in Ottawa, has also just started on director Peter Jackson's US$100-million remake of King Kong for Universal Studios, slated for release in 2005.

And then there's Halle Berry's bust. To make a digital replica of the acclaimed actress, technicians at the company had to scan a cast of her legendary bust for a film version of the comic book villain Catwoman.

"We were the first company to get a hold of the actual life-cast of Halle Berry," said XYZ RGB president Helmut Kungl. "When we scanned her life-cast, we even picked up the bra lines on her back from where she took her bra off."

The company used its technology, created by the National Research Council of Canada in the early 1980s, to make digital models of massive four-tusked oliphants and the evil spider Shelob in The Return of the King, the last instalment of the J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the movie, oliphants, which stand several stories high, are used by evil orc armies to wage war on humans. Shelob is a giant spider that tries to kill the hobbit Frodo, thanks to the nefarious Gollum.

The creatures in the recently released film that captivate moviegoers were just clay figurines before being being digitally rendered by XYZ RGB. "They showed up in very large crates," Kungl said. "The fact that they would send their most valuable pieces halfway around the world to Ottawa when there are others who will do this says an awful lot."

XYZ RGB took digital scans of the models, which had been flown to Ottawa from Weta Digital's production labs in New Zealand. The oliphant sculptures were about three metres in length and stood about two metres high, while the model of Shelob was a little larger than a grapefruit.

Using a laser to scan the object in paper-thin sections, XYZ RGB was able to copy and reproduce every crack, raised surface or flaw in the models. The digital scans are then superimposed on computer-generated skeletons of the characters and used by producers to bring the imaginary creatures to life.

XYZ RGB got involved with The Lord of the Rings about a year ago after the release of the second part of the trilogy, The Two Towers. The company said the oliphants, which audiences only saw in a brief scene, looked fake and clumsy.

Kungl discovered that WETA Digital had been using out-of-date scanning technology to create the oliphants. So XYZ RGB talked the studio into sending a piece of a Cave Troll from the first movie in the series so that one of its digital scans could be made. The rest is history.

"When they showed the data, there were audible gasps," Kungl said. "Ever since then they have been sold. They needed a level of detail that they just didn't have previously."

The company's work was so impressive on the latest instalment in The Lord of the Rings that Jackson made certain XYZ RGB was involved in rendering digital models for his upcoming remake of King Kong.

Last year, Warner Bros., the studio behind The Matrix trilogy, used XYZ RGB to digitally sculpt models of Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and all other actors involved in the movie's computer-generated world. "Our name is definitely getting out there, which is a big bonus," Kungl said.

XYZ RGB has placed a bid to help bring the magical characters of C.S. Lewis's Narnia to life, in the upcoming movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which will be produced by New York's Walden Media.

The firm hopes to soon see models of characters such as Aslan the magical lion, Reepicheep the talking mouse, Tumnus the fawn and 17 other magical creatures pay a visit.

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This really does merit re-posting on this thread, methinks:

The Chronicles of Narnia
. Production company Walden Media (Holes) seeks a distributor for its film based on the first volume of C.S. Lewis' seven-novel series. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four children travel through a closet and enter the kingdom of Narnia, where they meet the lion Aslan.

Many of the pieces for the production expected to start this year already are in place, including a New Zealand locale, director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) and Weta Workshop, the effects house that won Oscars for its work on Rings.

Adamson, who first read the storybooks as a boy, says, "I always thought Narnia was real. I don't want to make the book as much as my memory of the book. Aslan has to be a talking, emoting character."

Memory, eh? Seems fair, since film IS after all a different medium from literature. Let's just hope his memory isn't one of the really wonky ones.

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