Acton Institute Powerblog

Would C.S. Lewis Have Risked a Disney ‘Nightmare’?

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A newly published letter by Narnia creator C.S. Lewis shows his distaste for Disney “vulgarity” and his fear of seeing fictional animal characters transformed into cartoonish buffoons. Jordan Ballor, in a new Acton commentary, explores how Lewis might have felt about the new Disney film of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Ballor looks at Lewis’ dislike of animatronic, or costumed people acting the parts of animals, as well as his feelings towards Walt Disney’s “vulgarity.” Dispensing with Lewis’ objections to animatronics as an argument based on obsolete technology, Ballor focuses most of his thoughts on the larger picture of a gravely depraved movie industry, and how Christians should discern, practice restraint, and strive to infiltrate the industry to use it to create family friendly and edifying films.

Read the full commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Marsha Baughan

    I totally disagree with what you say here. In 1959 this movie could not have been made. Douglas Gresham knows more about CS Lewis than any of us. He approves of it… he waited a long time and turned down many other people who wanted to make this book into a movie. I think if Lewis were alive today, and could see the way the story has been brought to life, he himself would like it. I thought it was very true to the book, which I have read several times over the past 32 years. I think Christians should have something they can watch in a theater without being ashamed to have bought the ticket. By the way, Disney is distributing the movie and therefore marketing it. Walden Media made the movie. No one would have in a million years expected THE PASSION OF CHRIST to come from Mel Gibson. He is a popular actor…. His movie taught Hollywood to sit up and notice. The meek little Conservative Christians all over the world are truly there to be reckoned with. Also, there have been many wonderful Christian movies made over the years that have played in mainstream theaters. THE HIDING PLACE for one…

  • Gerald Palo

    I think that what Lewis was getting at with his preference for animation over live acting (assuming the animation would not be of the philistine kind that Disney was producing) has to do with the way in which a talking lion could be perceived. When you show a physical lion talking, no matter how well computer animated, you are showing a lie. A lion does not have the organs with which to speak in human language. Even well done, it is a caricature. The only way a lion can talk and be heard by a human being would have to be in a kind of supersensible clairaudiently perceived speaking and a clairvoyantly perceived seeng. This kind of speaking comes naturally to the imagination of the author Lewis and of the reader of his books. And in an artistic medium this might also be achieved, as long as it is not too physically literal. The animated films of Disney in Lewis’s time were kitchy and sentimental, but Lewis saw in the potential for conveying this not-quite-physical speaking and hearing in the plastic medium of animation. Whereas with a live lion, even CGI-generated, you would have a "realistic" physical lion doing something that no physical lion can do.

    I am looking forward to seeing the movie, but from what I saw of the previews, this unrealism of the lion speaking, even though well done, stemmed just from the fact that it looks like a real lion you would find on the savannah or in the zoo. The very realism squelches the imagination.

    On the other hand, the human imagination is able to overcome many an obstacle and can mold itself to compensate for artistic misjudgments. The real success of the film will be measured by whether ordinary viewers of it take in the essential idea of it, however short it falls of the ideal representation Lewis had in mind. I understand that sales of Lewis’s books, including the whole Narnia series, are skyrocketing as a result of the movie. I think Lewis would be pleased with that.

  • Martha

    Marsha, I think that you’re protesting too much.I think Gerard poses some good questions. A careful reading of Lewis’ letters and books can give any of us a window into his soul. Douglas Gresham’s advantage is that the relationship went BOTH ways!

    I’m pretty sure that Lewis (and Tolkien too for that matter )are rolling in their graves about the marketing of the film versions of their books!Do you really think Lewis would be thrilled with the McDonald happy meal toys or the neutered cereal box books? I saw the film last weekend with trepidation but it was better than I feared. I was delighted that so much was good and true to the spirit of the book. Aslan was true to form and so were the children and the witch. The relationships all rang true. Why they added the extra stuff during the flight from the beaver’s house to the Stone Table is beyond me!

    Even though Lewis would cringe at the marketing, I think that he would be glad that the film has given so many people the chance to go through the wardrobe. I hope it draws us all "further up and further in!" I just hope the future films stick a bit closer to the book.
    Keen on exploring the christian/film connection? visit the Godspy website I’ve just read some great articles there.