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'Chronicles of Narnia' to be film

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LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Following collaborations on "Holes," "Ghosts of the Abyss" and the upcoming "Around the World in 80 Days," the Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal with Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz' Walden Media to co-finance and distribute "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

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Budgeted at more than $100 million, according to sources, the film is scheduled to begin shooting in the summer, with "Shrek" director Andrew Adamson at the helm.

The film, the first installment of Walden's "Chronicles of Narnia" franchise based on the series of children's fantasy books by C.S. Lewis, will be released at Christmas 2005 by Walt Disney Pictures. Under the deal, which includes worldwide distribution rights, merchandising and all ancillary rights, Disney retains the option to release future films in the series, Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said.

"It's a very, very ambitious production and one that we believe could be very important to the studio," Cook said. "The story and the characters are so inviting that audiences around the world will be excited for the franchise." Cook said the studio is still "digesting" the deal and that it's too early to talk about the timetable for the production of future installments.

The story of Narnia revolves around the Pevensie siblings -- Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter -- who go through a magic wardrobe and enter the world of Narnia, a once peaceful land of talking beasts, dwarfs and giants that has since become frozen by the evil White Witch. The four children then help the lion Aslan break the witch's spell.

Ann Peacock wrote the first draft of the script, with revisions by Adamson and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

" 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' has many fantasy elements," Walden Media CEO Cary Granat said. "It is a film that has unbelievably great scenes for families, with four kids who leave a world consumed by war that they have no control over only to enter a world where a war is raging in which their actions are crucial to the outcome. It says a lot about empowerment and fractured families coming together."

Said Adamson: " 'The Chronicles of Narnia' were an important part of my childhood, just as they are to millions of fans around the world. I hope to bring to the screen a movie that is as real to the audience as Narnia was to me as a child."

Lewis launched the series in 1950 with "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and followed it up with the prequel "The Magician's Nephew" and the sequels "The Horse and His Boy," "Prince Caspian," "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," "The Silver Chair" and "The Last Battle."

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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