interview with Douglas Gresham
by Sabrina O'Malone
April 30, 2005
If you thought The Lord of the Rings movies were big, wait until The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe hits theatres on December 9th 2005.
More Narnia Interviews
© Disney Walden Media
The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 85 million copies worldwide; furthermore, there are seven potential movies in the series versus just three in LOTR.
An interview with Douglas Gresham, co-producer of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, provides an inside look at how classic literature combined with cutting edge technological advancements are breaking new ground in the motion picture industry.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe will be the first film to combine and utilize the four disciplines of Live Acting, Animatronics, Prosthetic Costuming and CGI in one movie and in some cases in individual characters. Perfection of the technology required to do justice to this classic story has only recently existed.
Gresham explains that advances in the fields of Prosthetic Costuming, (body suits or face masks controlled by the movement of the actor’s own musculature) Animatronics, (electronically controlled puppetry) and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) coupled with the skill of the director, (Andrew Adamson, the animation genius who created Shrek and Shrek 2.) were utilized to bring the full richness of the land of Narnia into this groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind motion picture.
Gresham assures fans of the book series that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe script is true to the original story, bringing to life the adventures of the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy as they discover the magical land called Narnia which they enter through a wardrobe. While in Narnia they befriend talking animals and embark upon a quest to free the land from the clutches of a powerful tyrant imbued with magical powers. With the help of Aslan, the Great Lion, the children discover the value of reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness, courage and valor; traits which Gresham describes as essential for children to learn at some point in their development.
Douglas Gresham is the stepson of the author of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and the creative and artistic director of the C.S. Lewis Company. Gresham is a man wired for pushing the envelope. He is an author, speaker, and airplane pilot, the captain of a yacht, and a devoted husband and father who make time to restore vintage Jaguars® to give to his kid’s on their 21st birthdays. Never content to rest on his laurels, the co-production of this Walden Media Disney blockbuster is arguably one of his most ambitious projects to date.
Gresham on Cutting Edge Movie Technology
What kind of Technology is used to create the movie? What is animatronics?
Animatronics is creating a character out of latex with circuits controlled by a puppeteer and motors to control the eyes. It is similar to robotics. We also combine Live Actors with Prosthetic Costuming which is controlled by the movement of the actor’s own musculature or facial expressions and Computer Generated Imagery or CGI to create this movie. We are really pushing the technological envelope.
Is it going to be like Lord of the Rings or Veggie Tales? Is it geared towards older kids or younger ones?
Well, LOTR couldn’t have been geared towards the young. They would be terrified with big Orcs and things. Our goal is to appeal to a wide spectrum of age groups. I would like people to be equally enthralled at the age of 6 or 7 as they are at 77 and anywhere in between. It’s a very beautiful movie. It’s also visually beautiful. Andrew Adamson has done a wonderful job. The actors portraying the children are superb. The progression of the personality and character development of the four children is beautiful to watch as well.
To answer your question, I think it’s going to be even better than Lord of the Rings in some ways. Mind you, not to take anything away from Peter Jackson I think he did a magnificent job on LOTR. But I think our director is better than their director. (Laughs)
Are you going to be true to the book or better still to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre version of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe?
Groucho Marx used to do a TV show. He asked a little boy “Which do you like better, TV or radio?” The little boy said “Radio…because the pictures are better.”
This is what we’re up against. We’ve had to produce something that’s even better than people’s imaginations.
This is where Andrew Adamson really shines. We have a brilliant team on this. That was one of the reasons that we went with the company Walden Media or Walden Films. Their mandate and their ethos is a good fit for this project. The company was started by Michael Flaherty is also owned by Phil Anschutz; there’s a solid Christian influence behind the company.
Why have heard Disney is making the movie?
Disney is distributing the movie. They are doing an enormously good job as well.
Gresham on The Radio Theatre Audio Drama
How was it to work on making the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Audio Drama?
Oh I had a lot of fun on that production.
As the creative and artistic director of the CS Lewis Company, I get approached from people and companies all over the world with ideas of things they would like to do. I knew of Focus on the Family and their work. What I didn’t know was the standard of quality they were going to produce. When they sent over the scripts and synopses, and I woke up to the fact that Paul McCusker knew what he was doing and is quite an accomplished writer as well. There was a well thought out rationale behind his every decision. He would take and give direction well. Then when I heard the list of actors who were going to be cast, I was very thrilled because I knew of most of them by reputation.
I’m very proud to have been associated with it.
Gresham on Traveling with Kids in the Car
When you first set up the Audio Drama were you thinking of commuters?
Not exactly, however I was thinking of people with kids in the car. Keep in mind my own past history. My wife Merrie and I traveled all across the continent of Australia with 3 kids in the car. There we were charging across the desert or the Nullabor Plains…with a house trailer behind us when our boys invented an idea of how to keep themselves entertained.
Doug Gresham reads
The Last Battle to Daniel
The oldest would make a very faint ticking sound. As I would slow down to listen, he would slow down the rate of the ticking, as I’d speed up he would speed up. Eventually I’d pull off to the side of the road, have Merrie rev the engine to try and see the problem and of course I couldn’t find any.
I finally caught them when I looked in the rearview mirror and saw them sort of giggling. That’s how I woke up to what they were doing. (Very clever my kids are) What you really need in a long trip is something to hold the kids attention in the car. And it’s not bad if it holds your own attention too. You could be in a traffic jam and it wouldn’t matter anymore.
Our kids were really pretty good in the car, except for the occasional bickering.
You don’t happen to have a cure for backseat bickering, do you?
We arrived at a very good solution to the boys fighting amongst each other in the backseat. If one kid started to cry because one of the others had hit him, the kid who did the hitting got a smack, and the one who did the crying got one too (for making such a fuss about it). After that it just stopped.
Our children are grown now, James is an airline captain, and Tim is the Business Director for Asia and the Pacific for a global healthcare company. Dominic is an architect. Lucinda designs custom jewelry. And Melody, our youngest, is in College. We have 8 (soon to be 9 Grandkids)
Gresham on the popularity of WorkingMom.com among people without a religious background.
You’ve got to remember that church people aren’t as hungry as the un-churched.
“You don’t need to lay out a spectacular banquet in a famine area. Food will do.” Douglas Gresham.
That’s all that’s necessary. If you go out into the highways and byways you’ll find that the un-churched people are the ones who want to listen to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They need the message of the Gospel.
The church people think they know it already. The problem is that so many people in our Christian world accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior; not Lord. They want to be saved, sure; they love being saved. Yet when He asks “Will you do this for me?” they say “Hey come on…”or “How do I know it’s really you asking me to do this?”
I’d like to say that when you get a chance to do something good; Do it. Whether it’s your own conscience or Jesus, or angels. Do something because it’s good.
We couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Mr. Gresham for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
2005 by Sabrina O'Malone
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Cronicels of Narnia :: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe hits theatres on December 9th 2005.