to Narnia: How we got here
By Dick Rolfe,
chairman - The Dove Foundation
There are many reasons
why a movie like “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The
Witch and The Wardrobe” is being made. Below are several
entertainment industry milestones that set the stage for
this auspicious movie release.
By 1933, the motion
picture business was becoming a dominant part of the
entertainment scene. Movie theaters were springing up
all over America. Nearly everyone could afford a nickel
to escape the stark realities of the depression for a
couple of hours. Movie moguls, most of whom were
Jewish, were interested in reaching the largest segment
of the American audience with uplifting moral stories
translated onto the big screen in neighborhood theaters.
They watched with
horror as pornographers began taking advantage of motion
picture technology. Worried that the industry would
become tainted by salacious material, the major film
studio heads called on leaders in the Christian Church
to help protect the integrity of mainstream movies. By
enlisting the dominant religious groups in America to
set a standard for decency, film makers were assured of
appealing to the masses without offending anyone’s moral
sensitivities. The Catholic Legion of Decency and
Protestant Film Review Board were formed to review and
award their seals of approval to movies before they
could be released in local theaters.
By 1967, both of these
Christian media watchdog organizations had closed their
doors, leaving Hollywood to its own devices. In order to
avoid Government regulation, the studios hired former
LBJ aid, Jack Valenti to create a self-regulated ratings
system. The Motion Picture Association of American
(MPAA) introduced the first movie ratings (G, PG, and
R). It is important to note that, up to this time,
there had never been a movie released that would have
received an R-rating. Since then, nearly 60% of all
movies have been rated “R.”
The 1990’s begins a
paradigm shift of Biblical proportions...
Several changes began
to take place in the early 90’s that pointed Hollywood
to a long-ignored audience segment recently tagged as
the “faith and family” market.
The Christian music
business began to skyrocket, creating huge profits that
got the attention of Hollywood entertainment executives.
Secular music companies bought or launched Christian
1995 – Tim LaHaye and
Jerry Jenkins released their first episode of the “Left
Behind” series of books that set records on every Best
Seller list in publishing.
1999 –The Dove
Foundation released its first Film Profitability Study,
which proved that the average G-rated movie is 8 times
more profitable than its R-rated counterpart. Since
then, R-rated movie production has dropped by 12% while
G-rated film production increased by 38%. More recent
statistics are included in the latest Dove study,
released in June of this year.
2002 – Rick Warren,
pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California,
published his record-breaking best seller, “The Purpose
Driven Life,” which has sold over 30 million copies.
2004 – Movie star, Mel
Gibson put $30 million of his own money into a film
no-one in Hollywood wanted any part of. Fortunately for
Gibson, unfortunately for those who refused to invest,
“The Passion of the Christ” holds the record as the
highest grossing R-rated movie of all time, and it was
the 3rd highest grossing movie of the year.
These recent events set
Hollywood film executives to searching for this Holy
Grail, the “faith and family” audience. The search was
not a response to a moral imperative, but in the
interest of pure Capitalism.
Billionaire, Philip Anschutz, a quiet, humble Denver
businessman and founder of Qwest Communications. He also
owns oil fields, railroad lines, the country's finest
collection of western art, a network of farms and cattle
ranches, five Major League Soccer franchises, 20% of the
movie screens in America, two movie production companies
and two daily newspapers.
Mr. Anschutz became
concerned about the power that media has to influence
people, especially children. He pledged his time and
resources to help clean up entertainment content by
becoming a major player in both distribution (He owns
Regal Entertainment, the country’s largest chain of
movie theaters) and film production (He purchased Walden
Media and Bristol Bay Productions. Both produce only G,
PG or PG-13 films).
Walden Media is led by
two former college roommates from Tufts University.
Micheal Flaherty started out as a passionate education
reformer. He dedicated his efforts to working with inner
city school children, and was hailed by the Boston Globe
as an “entrepreneur in education.” Micheal’s college
buddy, Cary Granat worked his way up in the
entertainment industry to become president of
Miramax/Dimension Films. Together, they combined their
talents and started Walden Media with the purpose of
creating entertainment that inspires the imagination of
children and gets them excited about learning.
So far Walden Media has
produced successful Dove-approved films like “Holes” and
“Because of Winn Dixie.” They are currently in
production on two children’s favorites, “Charlotte’s
Web” and “Hoot.”
Families are waiting
with great anticipation for December 9th when the movie
version of C.S. Lewis’ worldwide best seller,
“Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe” will be released nationwide. This fantasy epic
is Walden’s next big thing, taking them one step further
toward their corporate goal. If this movie is
successful, there are six more Narnia books waiting to
be brought to life on the big screen.
While The Dove
Foundation has not yet reviewed this movie, we have
received several assurances that it may well fit within
our “Family Approved” criteria. Three concerns have been
expressed by most people I’ve talked with ever since it
was announced that the movie was being made.
Who is in charge of the creative portrayals in the
Walden Media has total creative control over the
content. Disney is focused strictly on
distribution and marketing of the finished film.
Is the movie true to the book?
Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis, after
seeing a rough cut of the film, said, “Jack
[Lewis] generally didn’t like movie versions of
books, but he would definitely approve of this
What is the level of violence?
Representatives from both Walden and Disney said
“the movie will be released with a PG rating.”
This is a good indication that the story will be
intense, just as it is in the book, but not
graphically violent. The books were written for
children 8 years of age and older. Chances are
the movie will also be appropriate for that age
We are hopeful that we
can reward Walden Media for their hard work on “The
Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe” with a Dove Seal of approval. Watch our
www.dove.org. We will post the review as soon as
we’ve seen the entire movie.
In the meantime, take
time to read, or re-read the book. It’s a glorious
adventure with a wonderful allegory of unconditional
The Dove Foundation is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to
encourage and promote the creation, production,
distribution and consumption of wholesome family
entertainment. We are supported primarily by donations
from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood
in a more family-friendly direction. All donations are
Copyright © 2005 The Dove Foundation. All rights