Over a year ago, in October of 2018, Netflix announced that they had purchased the rights to C.S. Lewis’ seminal fantasy work, The Chronicles of Narnia. Along with this announcement, the streaming giant revealed that they were working on a Narnia Universe, consisting of multiple movies and a TV show.
There are seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series: The Magician’s Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; and The Last Battle. It is widely considered one of the all-time classics of fantasy literature, a series that has inspired generations. The series appeals to readers of all ages, and provides a stellar entry point into the fantasy genre for children. The series follows the adventures of several children who find themselves on epic adventures in the land of Narnia, which is populated with all manner of fantasy creatures. Some of these children only appear in one book, while others recur.
Netflix’s deal with with The C.S. Lewis Company marked the first time that the rights to all seven books have been held by a single entity. This is definitely proof of intent and huge ambition from Netflix, and that’s without getting into the kind of money they must have spent; according to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix paid a nine-figure sum!
In any case, after paying up, Netflix announced that it had multiple Narnia projects in the works, saying that they would “develop classic stories from across the Narnia universe.” Ten Sarandos, the Chief Content Officer at Netflix, expressed his admiration for the novels. “C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia stories have resonated with generations of readers around the world,” he said. “Families have fallen in love with characters like Aslan and the entire world of Narnia, and we’re thrilled to be their home for years to come.”
It’s now been over a year since the announcement, and we remain none the wiser about where these projects are going. We know that Mark Gordon and Vincent Sieber will act as executive producers. The two previously worked in the same role on the Narnia movies released between 2005 and 2010.
C.S. Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham will also act as an executive producer on the upcoming projects. When Netflix announced that they had bought the rights in a multi-year deal, Gresham said, “It is wonderful to know that folks from all over are looking forward to seeing more of Narnia, and that the advances in production and distribution technology have made it possible for us to make Narnian adventures come to life all over the world.”
In more recent news, Netflix confirmed on Twitter in June of 2019 that Matthew Aldrich, known for his screenwriting work on Coco (2017), will serve as the creative architect of the Narnia Universe. In Netflix’s words, he will “oversee the development of all films and shows adapted from C.S. Lewis’ beloved Narnia universe.” What Kevin Feige is to Marvel, what Scott M. Gimple is to The Walking Dead Universe, Matthew Aldrich is to Narnia.
Other than that, we’ve pretty much been left in the dark. There’s definitely a demand for more Narnian adventures. In 2005, Disney released The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was a hit that spawned two sequels: Prince Caspian (2008) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader, released by Fox in 2010. The movies have taken in close to $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office. That’s not something to be sniffed at!
Since then, there’s been some rather turbulent development over a movie adaptation of Book Six in the series, The Silver Chair. Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) was confirmed by Variety as its director in 2017, with production set to begin a year later. However, that doesn’t seem to have happened. Whether this movie will be picked up again remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely. Mark Gordon, who producing The Silver Chair, is now attached to Netflix’s Narnia Universe.
At the moment, there are a lot of networks vying to fill the high fantasy space left open by Game of Thrones. Amazon is producing shows based on The Wheel of Time and The Lord of the Rings, HBO is making a Game of Thrones prequel, and Netflix itself has The Witcher and an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.
The Chronicles of Narnia is more family-friendly than any of those properties, but it’s still an epic fantasy story, and would compete with the rest for viewership. Perhaps Netflix is waiting until this space is less congested.
Or maybe it’s stalled. Until recently, Showtime had a show based on Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle series in the works, but then the network passed on the project, which is currently being shopped around elsewhere. It’s possible the Narnia project was quietly put to bed.
But we hope not. Still, if you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of Netflix’s Narnia Universe, you might be waiting a few years yet. The best case scenario is that Netflix has big plans for this franchise and is taking the time to do it right. Watch this space!