Is Netflix’s Chronicles of Narnia Adaptation Ever Going to Happen?

Jan 8, 2023

It’s been nearly half a decade since Netflix announced its plans to adapt C.S. Lewis’ epic The Chronicles of Narnia fantasy adventures into a series of film and television productions to compete with the likes of HBO’s Game of Thrones and what would eventually become Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming giant paid nine figures back in 2018 for the rights to these children’s fantasies, which have been beloved by millions since they were originally published in the 1950s. Yet, for spending so much to secure the rights, it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on with the world of Narnia at all, at least from a fan’s point of view.

“Aslan is on the move,” said Mr. Beaver in the most famous of the novels, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which immediately gave hope and peace to the four Pevensie children who had wandered their way into the world of Narnia mostly by accident. Well, all except Edmund, who at the time was working with the vile White Witch, though he’d make peace with Aslan soon enough. Despite this important line from the book, Netflix hasn’t given us much indication that Aslan, or anyone in Narnia for that matter, is on the move. And if he is, it’s at a very gradual and secretive pace.

Related: ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ Movies, Ranked

The Countless Adaptations

Image via BBC

The Chronicles of Narnia has an interesting history of being adapted into film and television projects before Netflix’s acquisition. Ignoring the various stage, radio, or audio productions, the first television adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was released in 1967 as a 10-episode series. Each black-and-white episode ran about 30 minutes, and are sadly nigh-impossible to find in their entirety nowadays. From there, the original novel was adapted once again, this time as a two-part animated television special that aired on CBS in 1979. This one even earned itself an Emmy!

A decade later, BBC churned out three seasons of The Chronicles of Narnia, a fan-favorite television serial that adapted not just the first book, but the next three as well. After working through The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe once again, and combining Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader into one single season, the BBC series closed the book on Narnia by bringing The Silver Chair to life in its final year. To this day, no Narnia adaptation has managed to go beyond the fourth published book as The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle, which all remain un-adapted to this day — at least when it comes to film and television. Though, many hope that Netflix will change that.

Image via Disney

Yet, of all the Narnia adaptations out there, none are more famous than the Walt Disney/Walden Media trilogy. Beginning with the deeply loved The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 2005, these adaptations ended somewhat abruptly in 2010, only getting through the first three published novels. This film series started off strong and its sequel was just as exciting as the first (yes, the Prince Caspian movie is actually pretty good), only to conclude with a very condensed and lackluster adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Although a fourth film based on The Silver Chair was announced and in development for years, development was sadly as far as the Joe Johnston-helmed project ever got. And that’s one of the things that has made many of us who adore The Chronicles of Narnia nervous about Netflix’s tenure with the rights to this wonderful collection of fantasy tales: the potential for another incomplete or unfinished story.

According to the Financial Times, “anything that smells or looks like Game of Thrones is something that people are excited about.” Of course, the problem with that statement is that The Chronicles of Narnia is not Game of Thrones. Not by a long shot. And those who grew up cherishing these Lewis classics don’t want it to be. Rather, Narnia is a collection of specific events, tales that stand strong on their own rather than needing to fall within a greater narrative. Though some of the characters cross over and continue throughout multiple novels, the only truly consistent thread besides Aslan is the world of Narnia itself. Save for The Horse and His Boy, each story tells of children from our world who suddenly find themselves in a magical, otherworldly place, only to conquer the challenges they face there.

Could ‘Narnia’ Ever Be ‘Game of Thrones’?

Image via Disney

No, Narnia is not Game of Thrones. Truthfully, it’s not even The Lord of the Rings. No doubt, that makes it a bit harder to adapt than other fantasy adventures, but it also makes it unique among some of the greatest mythical worlds. Unlike most serialized fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia doesn’t follow a strict over-arching plot. While there are threads that recur and ideas that are revisited, it’s as Aslan once said, “things never happen the same way twice.” Maybe that lesson alone is enough to give us hope that Netflix will come through where the last series failed, but it still seems too early to tell.

In 2019, Netflix brought on Matthew Aldrich, co-writer of the Disney/Pixar classic Coco, to serve as the “creative architect” of their live-action television and feature film projects based on The Chronicles of Narnia. Since then, we’ve heard word that Aldrich has attended a “Showrunner Training Program” hosted by the WGA but beyond that, it’s been crickets. The only other solid lead we have comes from the online resource NarniaWeb, which was told back in August 2021 by an unnamed Netflix insider that the Narnia adaptations were still in “active development,” despite there not being any official statements made by the streamer since the announcement of Aldrich’s involvement. In fact, NarniaWeb has an entire page devoted to the progress of the Netflix adaptations, which this author checks frequently.

Will Greta Gerwig Direct a Netflix ‘Narnia’ Adaptation?

Though not an official announcement, there’s also the rumor that Netflix may be eying Greta Gerwig — possibly known best for her directorial work on Lady Bird, Little Women, and the upcoming Barbie film — as a director for their upcoming Narnia projects (per What’s On Netflix). While in this author’s opinion, Gerwig would be perfect for an adaptation of either the original classic, The Horse and His Boy, or even The Magician’s Nephew, there’s been no confirmation that this is anything but a rumor.

So what gives? Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic affected Netflix in ways that they’re still dealing with years later, so maybe we need to show a bit more grace to the streaming conglomerate regarding their lack of updates. But, these new adaptations had been in the works for at least two years prior to the pandemic, not to mention ever since, making the lack of serious updates a bit troubling. In the same timeframe that Netflix bought the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia, it also secured the rights to and produced the Neil Gaiman fantasy The Sandman alongside Warner Brothers, which quickly gained success as a series on their platform. Other fantasy projects such as The Witcher franchise, Shadow & Bone (which coincidentally features Prince Caspian star, Ben Barnes), and even their acquisition of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques have all seemed to move forward in recent years, while Narnia seems to be at a standstill.

Could a ‘Narnia’ Series Be True to the Books?

While some fans have been speculating as to how well Netflix will adapt The Chronicles of Narnia books with questions regarding their commitment to the integrity of the source material, Lewis’ religious themes and theology or their connection to the previous adaptations, others can’t help but wonder if Netflix’s Narnia will happen at all. That isn’t to say that they aren’t working hard or that there isn’t potential there, just that the lack of updates for years on end proves to be concerning.

Truthfully, we don’t know much more than that. Until Netflix offers an official statement regarding the future of The Chronicles of Narnia, there’s not much more that we can do other than go back and re-read the novels in anticipation. If Aslan is indeed still on the move, some of his most faithful followers would like to know, but if he isn’t, well, we’d like to know that too. Nevertheless, Netflix has a pretty good track record when it comes to bringing high-fantasy epics to life and The Chronicles of Narnia certainly fits that description. Here’s to hoping that we’ll all be traveling to Narnia again sometime soon and that we’ll all be able to climb “further up and further in” as we rediscover this magical world.

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