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The Chronicles of Narnia on DVD:
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: 1-Disc & 2-Disc Collector's Edition 4-Disc Extended Edition & Gift Set / Prince Caspian / Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie Info)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Four-Disc Extended Edition DVD Review - Page 2

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Theatrical Release: December 9, 2005 / Running Time: 150 Minutes (Theatrical Cut Runtime: 143 Minutes) / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut Rating: PG)

Director: Andrew Adamson

Cast: Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie), Skandar Keynes (Edmund Pevensie), William Moseley (Peter Pevensie), Anna Popplewell (Susan Pevensie), Tilda Swinton (White Witch), James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus), Jim Broadbent (Professor Kirke), Kiran Shah (Ginarrbrik), James Cosmo (Father Christmas), Judy McIntosh (Mrs. Pevensie), Elizabeth Hawthorne (Mrs. Macready), Patrick Kake (Oreius), Liam Neeson (voice of Aslan), Ray Winstone (voice of Mr. Beaver), Dawn French (voice of Mrs. Beaver), Rupert Everett (voice of Mr. Fox), Cameron Rhodes (voice of Gryphon), Philip Steuer (voice of Philip the Horse), Jim May (voice of Vardan), Sim Evan-Jones (voice of Wolf)

Buy 4-Disc Extended Edition from Amazon.com Buy 4-Disc Extended Edition Gift Set from Amazon.com
Buy 2-Disc Collector's Edition from Amazon.com Buy 1-Disc Widescreen Edition from Amazon.com


Page 1: The Extended Cut, The Movie, Video and Audio
Page 2: Discs 1-4 Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

BONUS FEATURES

Though The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a hit with both families and sci-fi/fantasy fans, all of its DVDs have had bonus features aimed squarely at the latter demographic. Accordingly, most of the supplemental content is fairly hardcore and technical-oriented, seemingly modeled after the Lord of the Rings movies' DVDs. (Which undoubtedly set a release pattern for this Extended Edition to follow.) While I never thought I would be asking for fluff, some variety in bonus type la Pixar's DVDs would certainly improve the package as a whole. This is not addressed much with this new DVD set.

DISC 1

Two crew members take care of Aslan's stand-in in "The Bloopers of Narnia." The Douglas Gresham-penned subtitle track "Narnia Fun Facts" offers tidbits primarily about C.S. Lewis's books.

One new listing on the first disc's Main Menu gives you the option to "Play Movie with Introduction By Director Andrew Adamson." Reading that phrase takes almost as much time as the 20-second intro itself, which says nothing that you couldn't come up with being asked to introduce the DVD on a few seconds' notice.

"The Bloopers of Narnia" (4:35) is
Disc One's only self-contained bonus. While there are not any big hearty laughs to be found here, this montage captures the lighthearted atmosphere of filming especially among the kids, who are seen performing their Mystikal-inspired theme tune, "Check the Gate."

Next up is "Discover Narnia Fun Facts", a subtitle track written by co-producer Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis. With this option turned on, playback of the film is sporadically accompanied by stylish, cream-colored, crimson-bordered pop-up tidbits, which provide well-timed information primarily on Lewis's books, his life, and the world of Narnia. While the facts don't flow as regularly as similar tracks, their revelations are interesting and appreciated, though rendered slightly redundant by Disc 3's Lewis documentary.

Rounding out this first platter are two audio commentary tracks, which are recycled in full from the earlier DVD releases and spaced out with dead air to match the extended cut of the film.

The first finds director Andrew Adamson along with his four young stars William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley. For a 5-person discussion, there are a few more dry spells than you'd expect, but there are also a number of interesting anecdotes shared, such as one about a "potty mouth bucket." The actors show sophistication beyond their years; their genuine interest in and appreciation for their film is refreshing as are the questions they raise for their director. Otherwise, while the speakers are enthused, their reflections (recorded not long after the film was completed and before it was released) never get too exciting. Among the expected topics covered are what's real vs. what's CGI, challenges from the filming (which took place 1 years earlier), and how the director attempted to get the best performances from the young actors.

The second commentary track teams Adamson with producer Mark Johnson and over the phone, production designer Roger Ford, who is viewing the final cut for the first time. They discuss their dramatic intentions, technical accomplishments, and the results of shooting the film in chronological order. Fairly mediocre as far as commentaries go, perhaps the most apparent shortcoming is that Adamson repeats a number of the things he said in the children's commentary. It seems quite obvious that things might have fared better with Adamson only on one track. They also perhaps would have benefited from having Gresham or some more cast members present.

Surprisingly, Disc 1 finds only three auto-playing sneak peeks at its launch, previewing Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, Meet the Robinsons, and Disney on Blu-ray (a promo which has been expanded to include excerpts from live action fare, even one PG-rated Touchstone movie).

RiffTrax

DISC 2

Andrew Adamson is the focus of the "Chronic-(what?)-cles of a Director." Anna Popplewell shares her experiences in "The Children's Magical Journey." "From One Man's Mind" gives a very brief overview of the life of Narnia author C.S. Lewis, who is documented at length on Disc 3.

Disc 2, titled "Two Worlds of Narnia", is identical to Disc 2 of the "Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition" set released last spring.
Since my thoughts on the bonus features aren't likely to have changed in the past eight months, I've simply reproduced my comments from the earlier review here...

Disc 2 delivers a wealth of extras. If only one thing that can be culled from most of these behind-the-scenes bonus features is that the costume people apparently thought Narnia would be a cooler place if lots of characters wore neon green spandex pants. This was changed in post-production. These slickly-produced supplements are mostly presented in widescreen but are not enhanced for 16x9 displays.

The first of the disc's two major sections is Creating Narnia. It holds "Chronicles of a Director" (37:45), which is, as you'd expect, a favorable profile of Andrew Adamson, but it's also much more and the closest thing on the set to a general making-of documentary. It covers casting the young actors and voices, creating the creatures and insignia, making mammoth sets, filming in New Zealand, and so on. Three of the most interesting components of the piece: its revelations on details (such as the rooted nature of the lamppost and the story-telling wardrobe design), its footage of an animation test of Aslan on a city sidewalk with two girls, and a discussion of Adamson's philosophy to the project (in which he made not the book, but his memories of the book, expanding the minimalist writing style and making Narnia a real world).

"The Children's Magical Journey" (26:21) explains why insights from the young stars of the film were kept to a minimum in the previous bonus. This featurette tells of the production from the point of view of the fresh-faced actors who portrayed the Pevensies. Their growth during production in distant New Zealand is documented, as is their grasping of sword fighting and horse riding skills. Though a bit heavy on film clips, this is another solid supplement.

Moving onto a subsection titled Evolution of an Epic, one finds "From One Man's Mind" (3:55), a biography featurette on author C.S. Lewis. As can be expected from such a brief running time, this doesn't have enough breathing room to do more than hit the highlights (boarding school, University of Oxford, his service in the British Army during World War I). Lewis's Christian faith is downplayed and this surface-scraping piece pales in comparison, even to the profile on the BBC's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe DVD. Something's amiss when Lewis's featurette runs shorter than those covering minotaurs, centaurs, and eight crew members. Thankfully, though, Disc 3 addresses the problem by holding a 75-minute Lewis documentary.

Editor Sim Evan-Jones is one of eight "Cinematic Storytellers" who gets profiled. A crew member presents Mr. Tumnus in the faun's piece from "Creating Creatures." Skandar Keynes' skill in Turkish Delight eating is the subject of a Disc 2 Easter Egg.

Speaking of which, "Cinematic Storytellers" (55:00) is next. These eight vignettes paint a picture of the movie's production from the perspectives of eight key crew members. It's not that their comments are uninteresting, it's just that this approach is puzzling and not the most exciting way to look at the movie. Each crew member gets 5-8 minutes (affording each more time than the Lewis bio devoted to him) in their short, which looks at the crew member's career and their work on this film. At least it's not a matter of just everyone dispatching praise for one another, but celebrating their efforts feels a bit more like a favor to them than an all-access tour for us. Played individually, the featurettes run as follow: "Richard Taylor, WETA Workshop" (6:34), "Howard Berger, KNB Creature Shop" (5:26), "Isis Mussenden, Costumes" (7:42), "Roger Ford, Production Designer" (8:08), "Don McAlpine, Director of Photography" (8:02), "Sim Evan-Jones, Editor" (6:46), "Harry Gregson-Williams, Music Composer" (6:23), and "Mark Johnson, Producer" (5:50). If you have a specific interest in any of these duties, than you're in for a treat. Otherwise, this section may be one to sample or skip.

"Creating Creatures" (53:15) is the first of two sections devoted to the fantastic characters of Narnia. The eleven detailed featurettes here range from one and a half to ten minutes each and they discuss the design, appearance, dramatic connotations, and inspirations of the character class. They're fairly interesting, especially the pieces on principal characters, but might consider 90 seconds on the barely-seen ankle slicers, for instance, a bit much. The segments are as follows: "White Witch" (7:20), "Aslan" (9:38), "Tumnus" (7:14), "Wolves" (3:53), "Centaurs" (5:55), "Minotaurs" (4:06), "Ankle Slicers" (1:30), "Ginarrbrik" (2:09), "Beavers" (5:49), "Satyrs" (2:34), and "Goblins" (3:05).

Rounding out the section is "Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River." Though one assumes this came from the neat Sundance Channel series, it's abbreviated to some degree. There are no credits and the piece runs 11 minutes. Like other installments that have turned up on a number of DVDs, this piece looks at all the elements which make up one sequence in the film.

While still in the Evolution section, one can easily locate an 82-second Easter egg on Turkish Delight and how Skandar Keynes (Edmund) had to endure being filmed while rapidly consuming the delicacy again and again. Poor boy.

The Minotaur is one of eleven fantastic beings discussed in "Creatures of the World." The Stone Table appears in a computer-animated form in a brief featurette from the interactive map "Explore Narnia." "Legends in Time" offers a not particularly user-friendly timeline of the events covered in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia books.

The second section of the disc, Creatures, Lands & Legends, is far lighter on content and not terribly different in design, making the initial division mildly curious. First here is "Creatures of the World" (14:14), which is similar to "Creating Creatures" as it focuses on the same eleven classes. (The two sections are linked by a wardrobe icon in each menu.) Rather than exploring their journey to the screen as in the other section, here a narrator primly and dramatically reads a descriptive excerpt on the characters and their histories. These pieces are far briefer (each runs 1 to 1 minutes) and are composed of animated illustrations, concept sketches, and imagery from the movie. The shorts are: "White Witch" (1:26), "Aslan" (1:27), "Tumnus" (1:00), "Wolves" (1:15), "Centaurs" (1:20), "Minotaurs" (1:22), "Ankle Slicers" (1:08), "Ginarrbrik" (1:27), "Beavers" (1:15), "Satyrs" (1:00), and "Goblins" (1:15). An Easter egg here contains a series of credits screens, as if the slightly promotional text after each major featurette wasn't enough.

"Explore Narnia" is an "interactive map" of the world. Prim narration again figures largely, this time to tell you mostly what you already know provided that you've seen the movie. In some ways, it resembles a descriptive track for the blind. With computer animation of the landscape, photography from the film (scenes are cropped to 1.78:1 in this 16x9-enhanced section), and illustrations, five settings in the film are profiled and their importance is recalled. They are: "The Lantern Waste" (1:56), "White Witch's Castle" (0:58), "The Stone Table" (0:55), "Battlefield" (0:53), and "Cair Paravel" (1:05). Another Easter egg holds more black credit screens with white text.

Last and perhaps least is "Legends in Time", a Narnia "timeline" made up of four clips running roughly one minute each. Like the previous feature, this one recaps the events of the film, though some of it elaborates on little elements barely or not mentioned in the film (like the Pevensies' adulthood in Narnia) and appears to carry us into other Narnia books. Through cropped and stretched footage and book illustrations, this attempts to make the parallel England/Narnia timeline clearer, but does not succeed very well. It's not clearly arranged or especially enlightening. Another hidden set of "Credits" can be found in this feature's menu.

DISC 3

This man isn't C.S. Lewis. He just looks like him and gives car tours of sites important in the author's life. He is seen repeatedly in Disc 3's feature-length documentary "C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia." British kids read from the Chronicles of Narnia books in "C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia."

Disc 3 holds just a single supplement, but it's substantial and one which corrects one of the biggest shortcomings of the two-disc set, by profiling the author of The Chronicles of Narnia books at length. C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia (1:15:39) is presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Surround, with eight chapter stops and optional French subtitles. This feature-length documentary does quite a good job at overcoming its inherent challenge of making a movie out of the life story of a deceased individual. It visits some sites from Lewis' life and interviews authoritative figures who have some insight to share on the author.
Among the publishers, Lewis biographers, and once-removed acquaintances who comment are author Ray Bradbury, knighted actor Ben Kingsley, and Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham (who produced the Disney/Walden adaptation). Also making an impression is a cab driver physically resembling Lewis who offers a tour of locations significant to Lewis.

The film covers Lewis's imagination-fueled Irish childhood, the hand of tragedy that led him to declare himself an atheist, his service in World War I, his time at Oxford University, the lively discussions on writing he held with his colleagues (among them, J.R.R. Tolkien), the joyful reconnection and "reluctant" conversion back to Christianity, his unlikely marriage and expansive body of work. Dreamer injects some flair into its biography with a frequently-moving and often oddly focused camera, colorful scenery, and rotating palette of devices. Each of the Chronicles of Narnia books is synopsized and groups of British children are seen reading lines of dialogue from the books to one another. More effective than those is an intermittent reading of letters from Lewis to schoolchildren which acts as a recurring straight-from-the-source narration.

Overall, it's a nice piece, if not the definitive Lewis biography. While it's not perfectly captivating and its thoroughness will likely be deemed either excessive or insufficient depending on whose watching, it does shed plenty of light on the man whose visions are behind the film. That makes it more interesting to me than the variety filmmaker and special effects featurettes found on Disc 2, even if it doesn't directly relate to the movie (which is neither mentioned nor excerpted) and instead deals with the entire Narnia series.

The Chronicles of Narnia movie posters, photos, and memorabilia

Tilda Swinton shares thoughts on her character, while concept art shares the screen and the movie itself continues to play in "Visualizing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." Likewise, Aslan's first appearance provides a split-screen opportunity to talk about how the lion was brought to life via realistic-looking CGI.

DISC 4

The final disc's main attraction is "Visualizing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (2:20:10), which offers a near-complete version of the movie's theatrical cut with comments and visuals discussing the various challenges experienced in bringing the story of the screen. This nifty alternative to an audio commentary is visually more exciting but also more technical than anecdotal in nature. Liberal use of split-screens compare the final film to storyboards, behind-the-scenes shots, pre-special effects (or unfinished visuals) footage (in which green screens are common), and even staging of the scenes with computer animatics. The screen-specific observations from cast and crew are culled from the best bits of lots of sit-down interviews, which makes this more interesting than the typical, conventional commentary and also enables a lot of the crew to share thoughts. There is some overlap, if not verbatim then in the stories told in the two commentaries and Disc 2 supplements. Still, enough of the material is unique and well-presented to make this worth a viewing for fans.

Some of the topics discussed included voiceover performances, the process of digitally designing Aslan, casting ordinary young people in the leads, allowing for 21 people to play the kids' roles (counting doubles and stand-ins), how computers choreograph a major fight sequence (calculating who in the crowd lives and who dies), the different stages of animating beavers, using props and armor which are safe for children, designing costumes, and making the cast's first reactions to Narnia and its elements genuine ones.

This feature is introduced by producer Mark Johnson (1:12).

More green tights in "Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle." The Pevensie children go exploring in this piece of Concept Art. A page from "Art of Narnia" galleries depicts Maquettes from the production.

Disc 4 also holds "Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle" (7:45), which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the movie's climactic battle sequence. As you should naturally expect by now, there's footage of cast members in green tights, filming in front of green screens, and a number of crew members to comment on the challenges of computer-animating mythical creatures in a realistic fashion.

The final supplement, "Art of Narnia", is a gallery divided into Concept Art, Landscapes, Maquettes. With 91 stills, Concept Art is the both the most expansive and interesting of the sections, housing character sketches and depictions of key scenes with a specific mood. Landscapes offers 35 evocative paintings of the movie's various locations, while Maquettes (53 stills) serves up photos of built-to-scale miniature statues of the CG-supported mythical characters from a number of different angles. The stills are arranged six per page and gladly, none of the galleries are hindered by repeated instrumental strands the way Disney's animated films' galleries often are.

Disc 1's Main Menu differs in the center portion from that of the former Disc 1. Disc 4's Main Menu cleverly illustrates its approach to comparing the final movie with the visions that led to it.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The menus of Disc 1 are similar to
those found on the previously-released versions, only losing the unannounced option to use snowy Narnia scenery as screensaver of sorts and replacing snowy shots with grainy video of Aslan's Camp. As with everything else about Disc 2, the menus are identical to before. Disc 3's menu is mildly animated; half the screen rotates among Narnia-type location pics, while the other half remains Aslan in profile. Disc 4's menus neatly reflect the nature of its offerings by devoting half the screen to character stills and the other half to storyboards and concept art depicting the same character's key scenes.

Resembling an old book, the ten-sided Digipak folds open to reveal all four discs held in front of cream-toned imagery from the magical world, predominantly depicting those frozen by the Witch. While most of the sides are a basic Aslan head against a maroon background, one depicts the Pevensie children in four separate windows, and another provides a map of Narnia. Inside the flap, one finds a mail-in certificate enabling repeat Narnia DVD buyers to claim $10 by sending in a proof-of-purchase from either of last spring's Narnia DVDs and one from this Extended Edition set. It's a nice gesture, but announcing this obviously-planned release beforehand would have been even nicer. There is also a magic code for Disney's Movie Rewards program which doubles as an ad for Narnia books published by HarperCollins. Though the back of the package depicts and describes a "vivid and in-depth companion guidebook", nothing of the sort was found inside my copy.

The back of the case warns viewers that the extended edition contains material that may be inappropriate for children under 17, strongly advising parental discretion. I think they'll be able to handle the extended walks and uncensored snow angels. Folks hoping to find some blood and sex in this unrated presentation will be sorely disappointed.

The Gift Set is the one area where I'd have much more to say about packaging, but Disney did not send this out to reviewers. From promotional images, the bookends depict Lucy at the wardrobe and Mr. Tumnus by snowy trees and the lamppost. There's also apparently a certificate of authenticity, but that would appear to be it. The snazzy-looking statues and a certificate will cost you: the difference in list prices is $27 and retailers' disproportionate discounting of the two versions keeps the actual difference in cost in that neighborhood.

At least three out of four young people should enjoy "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." The White Witch wields a sword.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I don't hesitate at all to recommend The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as a splendid fantasy that most viewers should love. On its own merits, the Four-Disc Extended Edition DVD is a definite winner, but as an upgrade over the Two-Disc Collector's Edition, its appeal is not as certain.

The lengthened cut serves less as an improvement (or impairment) than it does as a lesson that seven minutes can easily be added to any 2-hour-plus film without yielding any noticeable difference. Disc 2 is merely a repeat of the Collector's Edition's second platter, holding insightful but not quite excellent materials on the making of the film. Disc 3's 75-minute documentary is a good, but not great biography of C.S. Lewis.
Disc 4 gives an informative new way to view the movie but its content also leans heavily toward the technical "this is what we did, this is how we did it" nature of Disc 2. Though picture and sound are still magnificent, the lack of a theatrical cut option keeps this from being the ultimate Wardrobe DVD release.

If you already own Wardrobe on DVD, then the $10 mail-in rebate for you and reasonable SRP (only $5 more than the two-disc set) both ease the pain of a double dip. If you are among the majority of people who opted for the single-disc edition, then upgrading is a no-brainer -- keep your single disc and make a terrific 5-disc set out of one of this decade's best movies. If you own the two-disc Collector's Edition, then your decision is not so obvious; Narnia completists might choose the Gift Set, which looks nice but is pricey (especially since its extras are not DVD-based). Those short on cash -- likely the result of another holiday season loaded with attractive DVDs -- might be okay merely renting this set. Those who don't own the movie at all would do well to go for any release but the single disc version. The amount of valuable bonus material you can get for just $5-10 more is well worth it.

One final note: if you're planning on getting either the Extended Edition or Gift Set, don't wait too long. A year from now, when both will be long out of print, I'm sure they'll each be selling for high amounts on second-hand online outlets. Like the gimmick or not, this is the way all limited-availability DVDs go, especially those bearing the Disney name.

Four-Disc Extended Edition:

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Four-Disc Extended Edition Gift Set:

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com
Two-Disc Collector's Edition:

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Single-Disc Widescreen Edition:

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

The Book: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Entire Series: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Related Reviews:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
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Peter Pan (1953) Alice in Wonderland (1951) The Phoenix & The Carpet (1997) Finding Neverland (2004)
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Around the World in 80 Days (2004) Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) Stardust (2007) The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
National Treasure (2004) Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: True-Life Adventures, Volume 3 (featuring The African Lion)
Chicken Little (2005) The Incredibles (2004) Valiant (2005) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Soundtrack CD Review

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews | DVDizzy.com: DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Recent Live Action Disney Movies | Upcoming DVD Cover Art | Search

Page 1: The Movie, Video and Audio
Page 2: Disc 1 & Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed December 12, 2006.