But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.
That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.
The story goes on to say that they have decided to just present the story as it is found in the book and let it speak for itself. That seems to me like a wise decision. The book has been enjoyed for decades by those within and those without the Church, and the movie should attempt to duplicate this without playing up its implicit Christianity or playing it down.
However, they are certainly avoiding the topic of religion. Check out what this official movie web-site says about Lewis. One would never guess that his fame and popularity had anything to do with his Christian beliefs. There is not the ghost of a whisper of a hint about religion in the entire web-site, although it does provide a link to Harper's site, where Lewis's faith is acknowledged.
What really worries me are two things: (1) Disney's ham-handed, treacly approach to visual renderings; and (2) the merchandising.
As for (1), the Disney artists, despite their occasional genius, have usually treated pre-existing visual art with about the sensitivity of the Vandals looking on the monuments of ancient Rome. A good example is the vulgarization of Winnie-the-Pooh. Compare the E. H. Shepherd "Classic Pooh" renderings of Pooh with "Disney Pooh." What on earth will they do with Pauline Baynes's Aslan? However, the conceptual art available at the website mentioned above looks good so far.
(2) The merchandising. I suppose I could live in a world filled with plush Aslans and Mr. Tumnuses; but does Disney now own the rights to these characters? Are we going to see the Mole family on lunchboxes, Narnia playgrounds at Disneyworld, and Aslan doing commercials for ABC-TV programming? Or (even worse) can Disney now produce their own hideously bad new Narnia stories and cartoons, in the way they have debased and degraded the Milne canon? Horrible thought: will we eventually wind up with both "Classic Narnia" and "Disney Narnia"?
Be afraid. Be very afraid.