NETFLIX is to create a new television and feature-film series based on The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, it was announced on Wednesday.
The books have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, and have been translated into more than 47 languages. Disney produced two feature films, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian (2008), and 20th Century Fox followed with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2015).
Now Netflix, the streaming service with 130 million members worldwide, has struck a deal with Mark Gordon of Entertainment One (eOne) to buy the rights to all seven books in the Narnia canon. All TV series and feature films produced through the deal will be Netflix productions — the first time the rights have been held by the same company.
The stepson of C. S. Lewis, Douglas Gresham, is to serve as executive producer for the television series and as a producer for the feature films, alongside the film producer Vincent Sieber, who produced the first Disney blockbuster and the Dawn Treader sequel. Prince Caspian grossed just $400 million, leading Disney to pull out of the franchise (Features, 10 December 2010).
C. S. Lewis married Mr Gresham’s mother in 1956. She died of cancer in 1960, leading him to write an account of his bereavement in A Grief Observed, originally published under a pseudonym. Until his death in 1963, Lewis continued to raise Mr Gresham and his older brother David. His estate was passed to his brother and then his stepsons ten years later.
A review of Prince Caspian: the Return to Narnia printed in the Church Times in the year of publication, in 1951, describes the book as “a first-rate story” (Books, 30 November 1951).
“Let any parent start reading the book aloud and see how and English children’s story should be written,” it says. The first two books “deal mostly with dwarfs and talking animals. But they are simultaneously about the Christian religion,” it says. “ With its earlier companion, [Prince Caspian] will be a children’s classic, and be handed down to children’s children.”
Mr Gresham said: “It is wonderful to know that folks from all over are looking forward to seeing more of Narnia, and that the advances in production and distribution technology have made it possible for us to make Narnian adventures come to life all over the world.
“Netflix seems to be the very best medium with which to achieve this aim, and I am looking forward to working with them towards this goal.”
The chief content officer at Netflix, Ted Sarandos, said that the “beloved” stories had “resonated with generations of readers around the world. Families have fallen in love with characters like Aslan and the entire world of Narnia, and we’re thrilled to be their home for years to come.”
Mark Gordon, the president and chief content officer of film and television at eOne, said: “Narnia is one of those rare properties that spans multiple generations and geographies. eOne and I are excited to be collaborating with The C. S. Lewis Company and Netflix, who have the capacity to translate the Narnia universe into both stellar feature-length and episodic programming.
“We cannot wait to get started on the multiple productions we hope to undertake.”