Yesterland

Journey into Narnia

Creating
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss 2007


How do you think you would begin your Journey to Narnia, an attraction based on the 2005 motion picture from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

You walk through a magical wardrobe, of course!

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Wardrobe doors

First you wait in a stark outdoor queue. Then you’re let into an indoor space dominated by a large, ornate wardrobe. In this case, “wardrobe” refers to a tall cabinet for the storage of clothing, not to someone’s collection of clothes. A recorded announcement, spoken with a proper English accent, explains the premise of the story based on the book by C.S. Lewis.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Into the closet

The mighty doors of the wardrobe open, and you and the other guests enter. You’re going “behind the scenes of the movie-making magic of the epic film.”

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Frozen forest

As you walk through, you enter the magical world of C.S. Lewis’ story. This is the frozen forest of Narnia. Look for a replica of the lamppost seen in the movie. In the distance, the house of Mr. Tumnus, one of the central characters, is beneath a rock bluff outcropping.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Movie screen

There’s a movie screen at the front of the forest. But tell yourself it’s not a movie screen. It’s the White Witch’s Castle in the distance.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Look up!

The villainous White Witch is on a high ledge within the frozen forest.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Neelix, 2007 (public domain)

Jadis, Queen of Narnia—the White Witch

The White Witch speaks to you:

Loyal subjects of Narnia, you’ve all heard the stories of sons of Adam and daughters of Eve in the wood. And you know what must be done should you ever find a human in my dominion. I ask for so little, and yet there are traitors amongst us. Understand there are consequences to high treason. Think about whose side you are on—mine or theirs. Gather the faithful. If it’s a war Aslan wants, then it’s a war he shall get.

As a guest in this attraction, you get war as part of a short film.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Lucy Pevensie, one of the four Pevensie children in the story

Watch the movie screen for a four-minute version of the 143-minute movie. If you don’t like spoilers, close your eyes and plug your ears. This condensed version reveals the plot and even tells you how the movie ends.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

To the props

Now you enter a gallery to view props that were used in the making of the movie. Examine actual armor, maquettes, storyboards, costumes, sculptures, and set pieces.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Fantastic frozen creatures

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Sign explaining why the creatures are frozen

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

Authentic costumes

Somehow, everything you’ve experienced so far seems like a pre-show for a big ride. Perhaps the next step will involve boarding a ride vehicle that resembles a sleigh from the movie for an immersive journey—after all, this attraction is called Journey into Narnia—into the imaginative worlds of the book and movie.

Journey into Narnia at Disney-MGM Studios

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2006

White Witch sleigh

No such luck.

There’s a sleigh, but it’s just another movie prop.

The next step is to exit back into the bright sunshine, now that your eyes have become accustomed to the darkness.


The Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe opened at Disney-MGM Studios on December 9, 2005. A press release at the time promised something spectacular:

In the great tradition of Disney attractions which immerse guests in their favorite movies and stories, Disney-MGM Studios will host an exciting walk-through experience based on the Disney Pictures and Walden Media motion picture release, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” opening on Dec. 9 worldwide.

Journey Into Narnia was in a space that had originally been part of the walking portion of the Backstage Studio Tour when Disney-MGM Studios opened May 1, 1989. The tour had once displayed sets from The Lottery starring Bette Middler, a short film made specifically for the park. It showed how the park’s outdoor New York Street set, indoor soundstages, and post-production facilities could make Florida appear to be New York City.

Over the years, Disney had used various parts of the former production and walking tour infrastructure to promote Disney movies, including 101 Dalmatians (1996).

Journey Into Narnia closed January 1, 2008, six days before Disney-MGM Studios became Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Less than a half year later, on June 27, 2008, the same space became Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian. The revised attraction featured Aslan’s Stone Table Chamber from the second movie in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008). This Narnia attraction lasted until September 10, 2011.

The Walt Disney Company chose not to be involved with the third movie in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). However, because Disney’s attraction was still open at the time of its release, Disney effectively promoted the 20th Century Fox release.

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow under construction

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow under construction (November 2012)

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Completed exterior mural of The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow

December 2012, the former Narnia space became The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. Here’s how a Disney press release described the new attraction:

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow debuts this fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., giving Walt Disney World Resort guests a chance to become immersed in the world of the four “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. Aspiring pirates will experience the story of Jack Sparrow like never before to discover if they have what it takes to join Captain Jack’s crew. The attraction will be included with theme park admission and will be located in Soundstage 4, former space of Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian.

There was no longer a “behind-the-scenes, making-of-the-movie” premise. This time, the emphasis would be on audience participation and high-energy storytelling with creative use of state-of-the-art digital projection.

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow show (December 2012)

Compared to the two Journey to Narnia attractions, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow is much more successful as theme park entertainment. Johnny Depp gave a terrific new performance as Captain Jack Sparrow just for the attraction. And there’s even the classic song, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Pirate’s Life for Me!”

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is now alive and well at two Walt Disney World theme parks (and at DisneyQuest).


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Updated October 31, 2014.