AN UPDATE OF TV, FILM & RADIO INFORMATION
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C S Lewis, Collins, 0 00 183180 I . £6.95: Lions, 0 (I0 671663 6, £2.25 pbk: Lions, 00 673431 6, £2.95 TV Tie-in pbk with eight pages of photographs. This major serialization runs from Sunday. 13th November at 4.15pm for six weeks (see opposite).
Simon and the Holiday Club
Margaret Stuart Barry, Collins, 0 00 184922 0, £4.95: Lions. 0110 673262 3, £1.75 pbk
To be screened by BBC I starting on 14th November, twice a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) for six weeks at 4.20pm. Elizabeth Spriggs as the witch, and Hugh Pollard as Simon.
The Nature of the Beast
Janni Howker. Julia MacRae, O 86203 194 X. £6.95: Lions. 0 00 672582 I . £1.95 pbk
We’ve now seen the film at a London preview but will hold over a possible review and interview with Janni Howker, who also wrote the screenplay. until the January issue when the film is likely to have a general release date. Meanwhile what we do have are one or two local openings which, if you’re within striking distance, make it well worth a night out:
24th November – Accrington at Unit 4 (nice touch this as most of the filming was in and around Accrington itself)
25th November-Salford at the Quays, Sheffield, Milton Keynes. Cannon Haymarket and also Tottenham Court Road
The Snow Spider
Jenny Nimmo. Methuen. O 416 54330 0, £6.50 Magnet, 0 416 06492 2, £1.75 pbk
This Smarties Prize winner is to he networked on ITV from 27th November at 4.30pm in four 30-minute episodes. It stars Sian Phillips as Nain and Ossian Roberts as Gwyn.
The Watch House
Robert Westall, Goodchild. 086391 053 X, £6.95: Puffin Plus, I) 14 03.1285 4, £2.25 pbk
The BBC have this scheduled for six half-hour slots starting December ’88.
Jan Needle, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 12607 X, £7.50: Puffin, 0 14 03.2905 6, no price as yet, both to be published in May 1989
Scheduled by ITV for late ’88 in a one-hour episode plus again on Middle English (Thames TV) in four 15-minute episodes.
The New Adventures of William Tell
Anthony Horowitz, Puffin, (( 14 03.2353 8, £1.99 (December 1988)
Coming from ITV early in 1989 in eighteen 3O-minute episodes.
Roald Dahl, Cape, (( 224 02165 6, £7.95: Puffin, 0 14 03.1730 9, £2.50 pbk
Postponed until next Spring.
Roald Dahl, Cape, O 224 02040 4, £7.95: Puffin. 0 14 03.1597 7, £2.50 pbk
A feature film coming some time next year.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken, Puffin, 0 14 03.0310 3, £1.95 pbk
A feature film for Spring ’89.
Astrid Lindgren, OUP, 11 19 271097 4, 0.25: Puffin, 0 14 03.0894 6, £l .95 pbk
Filmed as The New Adventures of… this is another Spring-time feature to watch out for.
The TV Adventures of Mr Majeika
Humphrey Carpenter, Puffin, 0 14 03.2664 2, £1.95 pbk
ITV have this provisionally scheduled for six 30-minute episodes this coming Spring.
Catherine Storr, Puffin, (( 14 03.0209 3, £1.95 pbk
A feature-film, retitled for the screen as Paperhouse, now postponed until Spring ’89.
Allan Ahlberg, Viking Kestrel, 11670808326, £6.95: Puffin, 0 141)3.19964. £l.75 pbk
Four 30-minute episodes with Liza Goddard from ITV. No transmission dates yet.
John Burningham, Cape, 0 224 02279 2, £5.95: Picture Puffin, 0 14 0511.841 4. £2.25 pbk
By the makers of The Snowman and When the Wind Blows this has disappeared from the listings. We’ll keep our ears and eyes open.
– advance listings for this evergreen Spring-term BBC1 series. We, and indeed the Jackanory team itself, still don’t know their final running order but this is what we can look forward to:
Tumbleweed, Dick King-Smith, Gollancz, 0 575 03975 2, 15.95; Puffin, 0 14 03.2547 6, £1.99
The Best-kept Secret, Emily Rodda, Angus & Robertson, 0 207 15809 6, £6.95
The Monday Sheepdog, Ivy Baker, Angus & Robertson, 0 207 15503 8, £5.95
Matilda, Roald Dahl, Cape, 0 224 02572 4, £8.50
Paddy on the Island, Ursula Moray Williams, Andersen, 0 86264 186 I, £5.95
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, various publishers
The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman, Methuen, 0 416 12512 3, £5.95: Magnet, 0 416 08812 0, paperback due early 1989
Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl, Cape, 0 224 01201 II, £6.95: Puffin, 0 14 03.0912 8, £1.95 pbk
Ten in a Bed, Allan Ahlberg, Granada, 0 246 12586 1, £3.50 pbk
Jeremiah in the Dark Woods, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Viking Kestrel, 067040637 6, £5.95; Young Lions, 0006716407, £1.75 pbk
The last three are repeat programmes.
New Maps for Narnia…
Julia Eccleshare on An Old Favourite in a new guise
C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has long filled a central role in children’s fiction as both a classic of undoubted literary merit and as an enduring children’s favourite. It’s already been adapted for stage and tape. Now it’s been transformed into a major television production.
Adapting a book of this quality and kind, lying deep in the fantasy tradition, is no mean feat. The producer, Paul Stone, explains: ‘It is only comparatively recently, within the last five years, that this sort of book could be adapted for television. For it to work, it’s essential that the fantasy is convincing in its naturalism and it is only since the development of sophisticated computer graphics which allow Colour Separation Overlay that this has been possible.’ The use of many layers of film shot on top of each other means that time-changes and unnatural movement, such as Alsan’s flying, are now technically achievable and visually powerful.
But the BBC’s adaptation hasn’t come about just to prove the technical wonders of computer graphics. Paul Stone embarked on the project because of his own enthusiasm for the story and, indeed, the series of Narnia books. ‘The Narnia stories are exceptionally exciting as well as being highly visual. Their special appeal is that magic can happen out of commonplace and they give children a chance to discover the wonderment of things beyond. The good versus evil theme is one that lies at the heart of many fantasies but it is particularly delicately represented in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by the clever use of the Lion, Aslan, to represent good, though he is also traditionally the symbol of strength and power, while evil is represented not by some black or witchy hag but, rather, by a glittering white queen.’ The argument as to how far the struggle between good and evil is specifically Christian in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe still remains open to debate but this adaptation is not plugging a specifically Christian line. The good of Asian as opposed to the evil of the White Witch can be interpreted far more broadly here.
Paul Stone’s understanding of the stories and his commitment to representing them faithfully, but imaginatively, is absolute. The adapter, Alan Seymour, has kept ‘true to the spirit and, as far as possible, to the letter’ of the dialogue and the child characters – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – have remained firmly in their own period. As Paul Stone says, ‘this means that by today’s standards their behaviour is sexist in that the boys take part in the battles while the girls only watch but that is how the book was written and it would be wrong to destroy or change those patterns.’ A few details have been changed to bring the book nearer to the present day, such as taking out the boys owning guns. This seems to have been quite acceptable for a child then, but is much less so today.
With so much enthusiasm, thought and care going into it, television’s version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe looks set to provide excellent entertainment for those who already know the book as well as introducing it to a new audience. So confident of its success is the BBC that it has already planned a six-episode combined adaptation of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the `Dawn Treader’ for 1989 followed by The Silver Chair in 1990.
Given the ever-debated issue of whether television is snatching readers from books, I asked Rosemary Sandberg, publishing director of Collins children’s paperbacks which publishes the Narnia books, what she felt about the new television adaptation. Her reply was unequivocally positive. ‘This project is being done with all the BBC’s special care. And there can be none better. Paul Stone’s version of The Box of Delights showed us just how well magic can be shown on television and I am sure that he will be just as successful with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The special effects will certainly make it very exciting to watch.’
Of course, the Narnia books have never lacked readers. They’ve been exceptionally popular ever since publication. Clearly, a six-part television series will return them to the limelight though, so, to tie-in and capitalise, Fontana are publishing a new large-format paperback edition with a TV cover and eight pages of photographs.
Altogether, whether on page or screen, Narnia is back on the map.
Julia Eccleshare is a freelance broadcaster and journalist. She is the current compiler of Book Trust’s Children’s Books of the Year.