C.S. Lewis began Prince Caspian with the following passage:
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, and it has been told in another book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe how they had a remarkable adventure.
The second remarkable journey for Adamson and his team of artisans and actors (which numbered about 2,000 by the time filming ended) began while the first project was still in post-production. While screenwriters Markus and McFeely toiled on the script, pre-visualization artist Rpin Suwannath coordinated a staff of twelve artists and started visualizing the movie in a computer.
“Pre-visualization is the process of creating computer generated animatics that serve as a creative, technical and useful tool for budgeting the movie, and let Andrew visualize his scenes months before he shoots them,” explains Suwannath, who oversaw the same responsibilities on the first movie.
The process was vital to Adamson’s ability to mount a film of this magnitude. “It helps you see pieces of the puzzle that aren’t there on the day you direct these huge scenes,” the director says. “I can’t imagine not using pre-viz for a movie like this.”
While Suwannath and his team began to visualize the world of Narnia inside their computers, the filmmakers began their lengthy, global search to find locations that would evoke a vastly different realm than the winter landscape depicted in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
“Narnia doesn't exist,” says Mark Johnson. “Except in C.S. Lewis' imagination. And in Andrew Adamson’s vision. In putting together this physical Narnia, we had location scouts all over the world for almost a year before filming began, trying to find places we could use to portray Narnia."
James Crowley, who served as location manager on the first film, along with a team of regional scouts went to twenty countries spanning six continents.
“There was a predetermined feeling about New Zealand,” Crowley says. “Europe was also discussed, but not where specifically. Part of this was due to the seasons. For this story, we needed an endless summer, so the seasons and the hemisphere played a huge factor in determining the final locations for the movie.”
The filmmakers ultimately chose to shoot in the Czech Republic (including Prague, Usti and the Brdo region near Dobris), Poland (Stolowe National Park near Kudowa-Zdrój; the Kamiencyka Gorge in Szklarska Poreba), Slovenia (the River Soca in Bovec near the country’s only national park, Triglavski Narodni Park) and New Zealand.
“The thing that New Zealand offers that a lot of places don't is a proliferation of old-growth forests,” Adamson says, explaining what drew him back to his native country. “There's not an area of Europe that hasn't been felled and regrown at some point, so finding an old growth forest is very difficult. In New Zealand, the whole west coast of the South Island is covered with ancient forests.”
Shooting began at two breathtaking sites on the Coromandel Peninsula’s Mercury Bay, which served as the settings for scenes in which the Pevensie children take their first steps back into Narnia: Cathedral Cove, a spectacular beach on the eastern shore of the peninsula, and a majestic bluff rising several hundred feet above the ocean where the siblings discover the ruins of Cair Paravel.
The company then departed for the country’s South Island, a magical place offering some of the planet’s most glorious scenery. Three sites were chosen for the two-week trip south. The first two, spectacular rivers in the country’s South Westland area have been given aliases to prevent them from being overrun by tourists—the “Westland River,” a scenic site which dramatically empties out to the Tasman Sea, and “Glasswater River.”
This second locale is defined by a dramatic river chasm bookended by cascading waterfalls that plunge 200 feet into the glassy waters. The water shimmered so clearly, actress Popplewell says, “Audiences won’t believe it’s real water because it appears to be an optical illusion created by VFX in post-production.”
The third South Island site chosen for filming was Paradise, a privately-owned horse ranch about an hour’s drive from Queenstown. “There were a couple of locations that were perfect for this movie that only New Zealand could offer,” says Johnson. “In many ways, it is a fairytale country with the kind of locations that make your jaw drop. New Zealand gave us the magic of Narnia.”
After a ten-day break in production to relocate scores of crew members and the film equipment literally halfway around the world, PRINCE CASPIAN resumed filming in Prague, also known as “the City of 100 Spires” because of the plethora of church and castle towers that dot its skyline.
“Prague is a popular place for film shoots,” says Johnson, “for a number of reasons. They have very good film crews; all the necessary equipment and sound stages are available here; and it’s a relatively inexpensive place to shoot, which is a real factor these days.”
The location was also an advantage for the cast. “It was really difficult on the children and their families to spend six or seven months in New Zealand on the last film,” he says. “From central Europe, they could be back home in England in a couple of hours. That was really important for them.”
The capital of the Czech Republic doubled for World War II England with the collective help of the art department, costumes and transportation. The road in front of the Praha Rudolfinum, one of the city’s grand concert halls, was transformed into Trafalgar Square circa 1941, with a bit of help from VFX supervisor Wright, who rotoscoped in footage from that era.
Prague is also the home of legendary Barrandov Studios, which has attracted plenty of large-scale productions over the last decade, of which this film is reportedly the biggest. Since its beginnings in 1931, Barrandov has launched the careers of cinema giants including Milos Forman, Jirí Menzel and the late Ján Kadár. In recent years, Hollywood has brought in productions including “Casino Royale,” “The Brothers Grimm” and “The Bourne Identity,” as well as “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”