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Disney, Walden team up for "Narnia" movie
Disney, Walden team up for "Narnia" movie

Disney, Walden team up for "Narnia" movie

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fast on the heels of the Oscar triumph for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," The Walt Disney Co on Monday said it will back a film, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," based on another popular series of fantasy books.
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Disney has signed a deal with Walden Media, part of the companies owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, to co-finance and distribute the movie. It is expected to hit theaters for the Christmas season in 2005.

Financial details were undisclosed, but the deal marks a high-profile partnership for a series of potential blockbuster films following a recent decision by Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Inc. to sever ties that led to five straight box office hits with animated films such as "Finding Nemo."

Like the three-part "Rings" movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels about a war in middle Earth, the "Narnia" books have a long and loyal following.

The "Rings" movies, distributed by Time Warner Inc. unit New Line Cinema, have grossed more than $2.8 billion in global ticket sales. On Sunday, the third film, "Return of the King" won a record-tying 11 Oscars, including best film -- the U.S. film industry's top award.

The seven "Narnia" books by C.S. Lewis describe a war in the frozen fantasy land of Narnia pitting the forces of darkness led by the White Witch against the lion Aslan and four children who stumbled into Narnia through a wardrobe closet.

Published in 1950, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is the second book -- a prequel was written afterward -- and perhaps best-known in the series of children's books that has sold over 85 million copies worldwide.

"'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe' has the potential to be just the start of an extraordinary series of films," Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said in a statement.

The companies said their agreement calls for their partnership to continue on future "Narnia" films, but details were not disclosed.

Walden had previously signed up director Adam Adamson ("Shrek") for the "Narnia" movies.

Earlier this year, Disney and Pixar decided to go their separate ways after co-financing, promoting and distributing blockbuster animated movies like "Nemo," "Toy Story," and "Monsters, Inc."

The pact also comes as Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner, under fire from investors who claim he has mismanaged the company, readies himself to face stockholders this Wednesday at the company's annual meeting in Philadelphia.

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