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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
Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition DVD Review - Page 2

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe movie poster - click for larger view, other designs, and to buy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Theatrical Release: December 9, 2005 / Running Time: 143 Minutes / 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)

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

"Discover Narnia Fun Facts" are like Pop-Up Video, sans the lame VH1 music videos. The young cast members sing "Check the Gate" in "The Bloopers of Narnia." Disc 1's animated Main Menu isn't the most exciting menu screen.

DISC 1 BONUS FEATURES

As stated and inferred earlier, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is simultaneously making its DVD debuts in single- and double-disc versions. The single disc version offers everything that Disc 1 of the Collector's Edition does, only in less remarkable packaging. To call it "standard" would undermine its significant supplemental offerings, but with the difference in retail price being only $5, anyone with an interest in bonus features and snazzy packaging will likely opt for the Collector's Edition. Accordingly, only the premium (and long-windedly-titled) edition was sent out to reviewers.

Though the film was a hit with both families and sci-fi/fantasy fans, the DVD aims squarely for the latter demographic with its bonus features. Accordingly, its content is fairly hardcore and technical-oriented, seemingly modeled after the Lord of the Rings movies' DVDs. While I never thought I would be asking for fluff, some variety la Pixar DVDs would be certain to improve the package as a whole. There is no question that there is a lot of content on the DVDs, but none of it remotely rivals the film for captivation.

On Disc 1, "The Bloopers of Narnia" (4:35) is
the 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 which was 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 much needed due to the DVD's paucity of other material on Lewis (compared to other aspects, anyway).

Rounding out this first platter (and all of the bonuses for non Collector's Edition-owners) are two audio commentary tracks. 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 (which were 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. Mildly surprising are mentions of various deletions, which are said to potentially be going back in an extended release (consider yourself forewarned).

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.

Disc One opens with the normal offering of sneak peeks. A promo for The Little Mermaid DVD is followed by trailers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Glory Road. The Sneak Peeks menu holds additional previews for Eight Below, Cars, Brother Bear 2, AirBuddies, "Lost" on ABC, and Walt Disney World's Expedition Everest.

Andrew Adamson is at the center of "Chronicles of a Director." Narnia was originally intended to be an urban jungle. Georgie Henley is a funny little British girl, a fact she illustrates in "The Children's Magical Journey" and elsewhere on the DVD.

DISC 2 BONUS FEATURES

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. Seriously, though, 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.

Cinematographer Don McAlpine is one of eight "Cinematic Storytellers" profiled. What would Ginarrbrik look like with a mustache too? Here is your answer in "Creating Creatures." William Moseley chats about his sword-slamming skills in "Anatomy of a Scene."

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 Beavers are depicted in their "Creatures of the World" segment. Computer animation depicts the "White Witch's Castle" in "Explore Narnia." "Legends in Time" won't exactly clear up the chronological riddles of Narnian time travel.

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.

Two sections of the DVD are devoted to this lineup of eleven. Disc 2's Main Menu depicts the enchanted wardrobe.

DISC 0 BONUS FEATURES - What's Not Here?

Having outlined everything that is included here (and there is a lot), let us consider what is missing, including some basic goodies that are to be expected (trailers, deleted scenes, galleries, music videos?) these days. The puzzling absence of deleted scenes does seem to give credence to Adamson's mention in USA Today of an Extended Edition DVD coming at some point and his remarks on the cast commentary do too. The trailers and "Behind the Magic" featurettes that were available on the Internet in anticipation of the film's release
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seem like they would have been obvious inclusions, but they are not found here. They are, however, included on the bonus DVD that was included in the limited edition soundtrack CD issued last December. (Why trailers have become such a rarity on the featured film's DVD is an annoying conundrum I'll spare pondering again here.) Oh, and no, the hit SNL short "Lazy Sunday" is unsurprisingly, but unfortunately, nowhere to be found on the DVD.

Finally, though Disney had no reservations about playing the film into the hands of churchgoers and marketing it in ways similar to The Passion of the Christ, the DVD disappointingly shies from discussing any of the Christian symbolism and the faith which shaped Lewis's writing. Am I wrong to suspect that if it had been any other religious, spiritual, or cultural inspiration but Christianity, that it would be covered here? While it's not worth dedicating an entire disc to this or anything, I believe one brief reference to Lewis's undefined faith is all we get out of the multiple hours on the two discs. I'd have less of a problem with the Christian allegory aspects going vastly unmentioned if it wasn't an issue with the film's release and marketing methods.

Normally, when there's a choice between light and fairly loaded versions, I strongly encourage opting for the more packed edition, which almost always delivers more bang for the buck. Here, the "light" version still holds two commentaries, a fun facts track, and a blooper reel. That's not exactly a full plate, but it is quite a bit. Disc 2's bonuses were voluminous but not overly impressive in terms of unique insight and entertainment value. Still, if the difference in price is just a few dollars (and it is at Amazon), then you're best to go for the neat-looking package.

In what is likely the set's neatest menu, "Creating Narnia"'s selection screen depicts the magic behind the magical world. Here is a picture of the entire set. Looks slightly less impressive this way, eh?

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Disc 1's menus depict the snowy landscape of Narnia and could be more exciting. (If you have any desire to view them without the options on top of them, look for an Easter egg on the Main Menu.) Disc 2's menus, on the other hand, take you "inside the wardrobe."
One page cleverly resembles a movie set, complete with fans circulating fake snow. All are enhanced for 16x9 displays. Disc 2's screens lose points for not listing the running times of the featurettes, which leaves you guessing (if you hadn't had this review beforehand) if you're in for an 11-minute featurette or a 50-minute documentary.

Press materials for the Collector's Edition touted "collectible art and special wardrobe packaging." The DVD delivers that, but it's not as exciting as one might hope for. The embossed cardboard slipcover opens up like a book to reveal the wardrobe inside. A window of the wardrobe peers in at Lucy by the lamppost when the keepcase (the cover of which merely showcases the front wardrobe in slick, understated fashion) is taken out. The two pieces of impressionistic concept art are the size of standard postcards and depict the heroes (Aslan and his creature friends) and villains (the White Witch and Ginarrbrik). In addition, there is an eight-page booklet which lists the 24 scene selections and provides an overview of all the menus (complete with thumbnail images) and bonus features on both discs.

Though the concept art and packaging are nice, they don't really justify a retail price $5 over the standard new Disney movie price tag. This dual-releases trend is especially troubling since retailers choose to heavily discount only the single-disc edition. Nonetheless, it seems to be all the rage with Warner and other studios.

Lucy + wardrobe = fun for all! This shot looks like it needs some end celebration music!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe isn't a perfect film, but it is the best Disney has released in over a year.
C.S. Lewis' imaginative tale has been given a respectful and powerful adaptation which places this among the better fantasies the silver screen has ever held and one of the best films (if not the best) of 2005.

Likewise, the Collector's Edition DVD falls a bit short of perfection but only for those with high standards. The feature presentation's audio/video quality leave nothing to be desired or gained on this format. Either DVD version gets you that plus two okay commentaries, a sparse but worthwhile "fun facts" track, and a blooper reel. Those with any interest in supplements would be wise to opt for the two-disc set, with its snazzy packaging and bonus platter coming for only a few dollars more. The latter serves up no shortage of content that's not uninteresting, but it would benefit from more diversity and more looks at the film itself (and its source text) than its technical creation. These minor shortcomings could likely be addressed around the time that Prince Caspian, Lewis's second Narnia novel, comes to theaters at the end of next year.

But it makes no sense to wait in hopes of an extended edition. What's presented here is largely stellar. As an entire package, the Collector's Edition is Disney's finest release of 2006 so far and either it or the single disc version deserves a spot in every DVD collection.

Four-Disc Extended Edition:

Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Four-Disc Extended Edition Gift Set:

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

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Buy from Amazon.com

Single-Disc Widescreen Edition:

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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

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

Related Reviews:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Soundtrack CD Review

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Reviewed April 4, 2006.