By Edwin L. Carpenter – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation
Walden Media’s President and Co-Founder, Micheal Flaherty, believes that hard work pays off. Flaherty co-founded Walden Media with his former college roommate Cary Granat. Their intention was to produce interactive programs, books, and films. The year 2003 was a remarkably successful year which resulted in Walden Media’s first three films—”Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey,” James Cameron’s “Ghosts of the Abyss,” and “Holes.” Each of them opened to critical praise and success. In a recent interview with The Dove Foundation, the Boston native expressed great joy at the positive results of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe,” a film his company produced along with Disney.
“We’re really overjoyed—it passed everybody’s expectations. Disney has been great and this has helped us get to a grass roots level. The network we have built up here at Walden–teachers, parents, and pastors, helped us.”
Flaherty believes one of the greatest benefits of this lavish and high-quality film is the renewed interest in the books which the film sparked. When asked what had pleased him the most about the success of “Narnia,” he replied, “The huge increase in book sales—Harper Collins’ book sales increased and many people have gone back to these stories.”
“My favorite scene in the film takes place when Santa Claus arrives and when Lucy wakes up and sees him she says, ‘I told you he was real.’” The young stand-out actress who plays Lucy is Georgie Henley, in her first feature film.
It is this kind of child-like wide-eyed wonder and innocence which director Andrew Adamson brought to the production. Flaherty calls such moments as the aforementioned scene of Lucy and Santa Claus “brilliant touches.” Adamson previously directed “Shrek” and “Shrek 2.”
The care and attention lavished on “Narnia” is what Flaherty is about. He mentioned that “Narnia” was five years in the making, and although they plan to continue the series, the next film will also be done with great care. “We will do ‘Prince Caspian’ next,” Flaherty said. He added that the film would be produced reasonably soon, indicating that it is not likely it will take five years for the next production. It took that long to get the first one scripted, up-to-speed, and produced. It was Granat who secured the rights to the C.S. Lewis “Chronicles of Narnia” series in 2001. Granat is Walden Media’s CEO.
Walden Media is not taking a long vacation following the success of “Narnia.” Flaherty said they have four films due to be released in 2006: “Hoot,” about a school child, and “How to Eat Fried Worms,” as well as “Charlotte’s Web,” and “Amazing Grace,” a story about William Wilburforce and John Newton.
Walden Media’s official Corporate Overview is to specialize “in entertainment designed to recapture the audience’s imagination, rekindle curiosity, and spark an enthusiasm for lifelong learning.”
Flaherty is pleased that the four principal children actors will be back for the next “Narnia” film. His genuine fondness for them was revealed when he referred to them as “great kids.” He believes that the kids, along with the story of good vs. evil, played a huge part in the film’s success. Yet to him the ultimate success was not measured at the box office, but at the book stores, where, as he mentioned, sales have rapidly jumped for “The Chronicles of Narnia” series.
Expect to see the next book on film reasonably soon. But rest assured that it won’t be released until Flaherty believes enough care has gone into the finished product. His impressive background includes work as an author, and he has been published in National Review, The Boston Business Journal, and American Spectator. He began his career as a speechwriter for William M. Bulger, president for the Massachusetts Senate, and also for Massachusetts’ current attorney general, Tom Reilly.
Flaherty resides in Lexington, MA, with his wife, his son, his two daughters, and Jumbo, their dog.
One gets the impression that Flaherty, who has accomplished so much in so little time, is only beginning his trek as someone who intends to recapture the movie audience’s imagination.