Following in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was released in December 2005, with a budget of $180 million. The success of the first led to two sequels, though any further big screen adaptations of the Narnia series have yet to be seen. However, this was not the first adaption of the first Narnia book on screen. In fact, there has been not one but three TV adaptations made based on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe over the years.
The first TV adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was made in 1967 and broadcast on ITV in black and white. This version was made as a 10-episode serial (30 minutes each episode) broadcast from July 9 to September 10. It starred Zuleika Robson as Susan, Liz Crowther as Lucy, Paul Waller as Peter, Edward McMurray as Edmund, Elizabeth Wallace as the White Witch, and Bernard Kay as Aslan. The animals were portrayed by actors in costumes, not puppets. Unfortunately, the only parts that survive today are the first and eighth parts.
The second TV adaptation was broadcast on CBS on April 1, 1979, as an animated TV movie. This was a production of Children's Television Workshop and directed by Bill Melendez, best known for directing many Peanuts specials. The American version had Rachel Warren as Lucy, Susan Sokol as Susan, and Reg Williams as Peter, and Simon Adams as Edmund. Some of the actors were changed for the UK version: for example, in England, Edmund was played by Nicolas Barnes. The White Witch was played by Beth Porter (US) and Shelia Hancock (UK). Aslan was played by Stephen Thorne (US and UK). The CBS version was a huge success, with 37 million viewers tuning in. It also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
The third and most well-known television adaptation was broadcast on BBC in 1988, again using the 30-minute serial format. This version had six episodes and used people in costumes and puppets. It was broadcast between November 13 and December 18. It starred Richard Dempsey as Peter, Sophie Cook as Susan, Jonathan R. Scott as Edmund, Sophie Wilcox as Lucy, Barbra Kellerman as the White Witch and Ailsa Berk as Aslan. This version was nominated for Outstanding Children's Program(me) for both the Emmys and the BAFTA Awards but failed to win for either (it did win a BAFTA award for Best Video Lighting). This serial was actually renewed, and the BBC made two more seasons, the second season comprising of a two-part Prince Caspian and four-part Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in 1989), and the third season comprising of a six-part serial of The Silver Chair (in 1990). As of this writing, the BBC version of The Silver Chair is the only version of that book put on screen.
While today, these versions look a little primitive, nevertheless each one was made with the intention to bring the first Narnia book faithfully to the screen. Even the animated version, which doesn't look that great compared to today's technology, nevertheless was a huge hit at the time of release. Check out these TV adaptations of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.