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Between Hollywood and Godlywood

The Case of Walden Media

Nathalie Dupont

This book sheds new light on the relationship between conservative Christianity and Hollywood through a case study of Walden Media, which produced The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. Financed by a conservative Christian, Walden Media is a unique American company producing educational and family-friendly films with inspiring, moral, redemptive and uplifting stories. However, there is more to Walden than meets the eye and the company reflects wider trends within contemporary American society. Drawing on film industry data, film study guides and marketing campaigns targeting mainstream and conservative Christian audiences in the United States and abroad, this book reflects on Walden Media’s first ten years of activity as well as on the relationship between Hollywood and conservative Christians, notably evangelicals, at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Though both worlds are still wary of one another, this study shows that Walden Media films, and particularly The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, have tread a workable path between Hollywood and «Godlywood», albeit within the constraints of the now global film business.
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Walden Media is the company notably behind the latest adaptations of the first three volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia, that is, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson, 2005), Prince Caspian (Andrew Adamson, 2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Michael Apted, 2010). The company was created by Michael Flaherty and Cary Granat at the very beginning of the twenty-first century, and it intended to ‘recapture imagination and rekindle curiosity’1 through family-friendly films adapted from children’s books that were either bestsellers and/or featured on school reading lists. An educational goal was thus at the forefront of the creation of Walden Media, whose founders wanted to take advantage of the possibility offered by cinema in that field, so as to forge a better link between film entertainment and education, notably through specially devised educator’s guides to Walden productions.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye, and though Walden Media is a secular company that employs Hollywood insiders and professionals who ‘aren’t there for any kind of spiritual or philosophical reason, they’re just there to make movies,’2 it is not by chance that this company came to be at a precise moment in American history. As William D. Romanowski points out: ‘As a crucial medium of communication, movies are enmeshed in, and bear the marks of, religious, cultural, and class conflicts throughout the twentieth century’3 and Walden Media does reflect the American society it was born into. Indeed, not only...

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