We are delighted to offer the first of a planned series of reports direct from the set of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. These will not be the kinds of canned pieces you’d find on “traditional” outlets. Instead, you’ll be getting unfiltered reports from and about the filmmakers, as they work tirelessly to bring all the magic of C.S. Lewis’ beloved story and characters to the big screen:
“Dedicated to the Ones He Loves” by Ernie Malik
“All Narnians, with grateful hearts may we give thanks to the crew of the mighty Dawn Treader for their strong minds and artisan hands”
So reads the dedication etched onto the base of the towering mast of production designer Barry Robison’s mighty and majestic set build of the film’s title character in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” which sat out on the peninsula at Cleveland Point about 20 miles east of Brisbane, Australia, and hosted cast/crew for 17 days of filming during the month of September.
What does it all mean?
It’s very possible that such merchant sailing ships of yore carried the names of its crew in honor of those whose hands helped build such a ship. Or, that of an unexpected death at sea.
In the film’s story, it was Barry’s idea to inscribe the ship’s soaring mast as Caspian’s dedication to his loyal Narnian crew who built the vessel for their King. While audiences will never see a close-up of the names on the mast, they represent, in the story, those Telmarine sailors on the journey with Caspian and the Pevensies.
However, below Barry’s poetic inscription on The Dawn Treader (which, by the way, was modeled somewhat after James Cook’s Endeavour, which sailed the South Seas in 1768, a replica of which currently sits in Sydney’s harbor) are the actual names of each individual on the film crew who had a hand in bringing this kingly frigate to life.
Regardless of their home, be it the U.S., Mexico, England, New Zealand, or Australia.
The list honors those carpenters, illustrators, plasterers, painters, laborers and art department personnel who all contributed to this monument to motion picture set designs. Robison estimates there are at least 200 people listed.
When he is questioned about the vessel (its inspiration, or dimensions, or whatever), the longtime movie artisan is quick to include the names of those who assisted in bringing his grand vision to life. While his name alone will grace the motion picture screen as the sole production designer for the film, he fondly recognizes that there are dozens of creative minds (and hundreds of talented hands) that crafted the regal set design.
Like supervising art director Ian Gracie, who served in the same capacity on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Kiwi art director Mark Robins, who spent every day out at Cleveland Point overseeing its construction (after watching it first come to life on a sound stage at the studio). Mexican art director Marco Nero, whose early design work when filming was scheduled for Rosarito Beach (the site of the “Titanic” shoot in 1996) proved invaluable. Construction manager Sean Ahern. Head scenic (painter) Matt Connors, without whose contributions the ship would be just a colorless model. Like the names on the mast, Barry’s list goes on and on.
The day the boat was finally erected in its entirety out on the peninsula that juts out into the South Pacific, Barry stood beside his creation, almost in tears at the sight of the finality of what began as a three-foot model some 28 months ago.
Now, his design, and that of his colleagues, would get to shine before the movie cameras.
So, these few words are dedicated to this gracious gentleman, artist and creative talent whose own contributions to not only the Dawn Treader, but the entire movie itself, stand as a testament to movie magic in a land and world whose magical landscape has endured with readers the world over for well over a half century. And, will continue well into the millennium.