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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is NOT the blockbuster 2005 Disney theatrical adaptation of the first book in C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia," but a long-neglected TV cartoon version, faithful but primitively-rendered by comparison. Suitably softened for network prime time, it still has a disturbing image of the noble lion-messiah Aslan after he has been tortured and (temporarily) killed by his evil enemies.
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What's the story?
Four kids -- Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Susan -- while staying at the home of an eccentric professor, discover that if they enter a large wardrobe stored in the attic, they pass into a mythical realm called Narnia, gripped by unending winter because of an all-powerful White Witch (resembling the wicked queen in Disney's "Snow White"), who has also, significantly, forbidden Christmas. A Narnian prophecy holds that four human children ("sons of Adam and daughters of Eve") will arrive to end the White Witch's reign, and already the heroic lion Aslan is actively raising an army against the witch.
Is it any good?
Compared to later, lengthier adaptations of the story, this cartoon does an efficient job of reproducing the simple, fairy-tale imagery and language of Lewis' prose for the youngest viewers. Rather remarkably, there are no musical song-and-dance numbers to get in the way of the narrative and either dilute or overemphasize the Christian elements. Though this cartoon version was suitably softened for network prime time, it still has a disturbing image of the lion-messiah dead (temporarily).
THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE premiered on network television in 1979 and has been recently re-issued on video in the current craze for all things Narnia. It's an adaptation of C.S. Lewis' first Chronicles of Narnia tale, and it came about as a joint project between the Children's Television Workshop, the Episcopal Church, and Bill Melendez, an animator who was one of the primary animators responsible for the classic TV Peanuts specials. With its soft, flowing lines and basic hues (largely white, as this is set in a realm besieged by eternal snow), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe looks like something very close to a coloring-book come to life. The atmospheric music associated with "Peanuts" is absent, replaced often with solemn quiet.
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