Narnia soundtrack strategy backfiring?

The first of four planned Narnia soundtracks came out last week — the Christian one, as it happens — and the New York Times reports that Disney’s marketing strategy may backfire:

The spiritual character of “Narnia” is being reinforced with the debut on the charts last week of a Christian pop album of music inspired by the film. But prospects for a previously announced secular soundtrack now seem cloudy, executives involved in the process say. Disney executives say that at the very least the CD will be delayed beyond its planned Oct. 25 release.

Mitchell Leib, president of music for Disney’s Buena Vista film unit, said he still expected to assemble and release a secular soundtrack before the film’s Dec. 9 opening. But he cited production snags. He said he was still awaiting a recording by the rock band Evanescence that is intended as the film’s closing song. He added that planning had also been complicated by last-minute decisions about how music will be used in the complex, special-effects-laden film.

The Christian-oriented album’s status as the only “Narnia” musical project in the marketplace, for now at least, could upset the studio’s plan to balance two audiences. “If they go ahead and release only the one soundtrack, I think they’re risking being identified as turning toward a blatantly religious company, which does turn some people away,” said Chris Ahrens, founding editor of Risen, a San Diego-based lifestyle magazine that explores the spiritual beliefs of entertainment figures. On the other hand, Mr. Ahrens said, if the music strikes a chord in the Christian market, “I think that’s huge for Disney in terms of the movie audience.” He added, “It seems like a huge gamble.”

The absence of the secular album could represent a golden opportunity for the Christian-music unit of EMI Group, the label that released the “Narnia” album, and the contemporary Christian genre in general.

So, whereas Christian artists were once represented on all three Prince of Egypt soundtracks, they have now been ghetto-ized on their own Chronicles of Narnia album, and they may even get a chance to crowd the secular album out of the market.

Jeffrey Overstreet, who is much more passionate about music than I could ever hope to be, is, quite rightly, steamed.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Colin Buchanan

    I just bought the official soundtrack to the film Narnia. Harry Gregson-Williams is a very talented composer and this soundtrack is a lucsious rendering of the film’s often stirring music. But, anyone who has a keen ear and interest in film soundtracks will hear something unsettling in this work: two frequently recurring leitmotivs from two completely disparate films. Goldsmith’s Star Trek: Insurrection Ba’ku Village … and James Horner’s White Feather theme are unmistakably ‘borrowed’ here. Let’s hope it was just coincidence.


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