Out of all the potential literary franchises that started appearing with increasing regularity to try and cash in on the success of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter during the early years of the 21st Century, it appeared for a while as though The Chronicles of Narnia was one of the few destined for any sort of continued success.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a huge hit, becoming one of the highest-grossing movies of 2005 after raking in $745 million at the box office, but despite spawning two sequels, the adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ fantasy series never managed to recapture those heights. Both Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader earned over $300 million less than the opening installment, and any plans for further adventures in Narnia were ultimately shelved.
An attempt was made to get The Silver Chair in front of cameras, with Captain America: The First Avenger’s Joe Johnston attached to direct, but the project could never come together and the fourth movie remained stuck in development hell. Eventually, Netflix swooped in to purchase the rights in 2018 with an eye to creating both movies and TV shows set in the world.
In a recent interview, producer Douglas Gresham, who also happens to be the stepson of C.S. Lewis, admitted that he hopes the streaming giant decide to take the episodic route when mounting the latest Narnia adaptation, believing that the condensed running time of a movie wouldn’t be enough to do justice to the mythology. Although he also seems a little concerned about the slow progress being made.
“I would love it to be an episodic thing. Because with a movie you have an hour, maybe two hour maximum if you really want to stretch it, to put an entire book, an adventure storybook, into the film. And you just can’t do it. I have not heard a word from them. I’m getting worried myself as to whether anything’s ever going to happen.”
Netflix aren’t going to shell out huge sums of money for the rights just to let The Chronicles of Narnia gather dust on a shelf, but such an expansive and detailed universe needs to be adapted carefully in order to appeal to as many people as possible, not just fans of the series. Coco writer Matthew Aldrich is currently tasked with spearheading development, and given the lukewarm reaction to the movies, the creative team need to make sure that they don’t end up repeating the same mistakes all over again.