Walden Media – A Beacon of Entertainment Hope
by Phil Boatwright
Hollywood can be a dark place, a land of great creative opportunity, but also one that can eat away at the soul. But, make no mistake, there are people, and companies, determined to enliven the heart, while also respecting the entreaties of the Bible rather than ignoring them. One such multi-media entertainment company is Walden Media. (Actually, Walden Media is located in Boston, but then, there really is no actual Hollywood nucleus; Hollywood is a city of mind.)

Headed by CEOs Micheal Flaherty (that’s how he spells it), and Cary Granat (I kid you not), Walden Media was formed seven years ago, its purpose; to make great films from celebrated literature (THE QUESTION OF GOD; ALIENS OF THE DEEP; THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE; BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE; I AM DAVID).

“We want to be the next great trusted brand for families, particularly for teachers, libraries and parents," Flaherty says.

I AM DAVID was a powerful film adaptation of Anne Holm’s internationally acclaimed novel NORTH TO FREEDOM and concerned a 12-year-old boy who escaped a communist labor camp possessing only a compass, an inherent distrust of people, and a sealed letter. That film weaved together a compelling drama about a person discovering the world for the first time. It moved along with a sincere tone, but never neglected the light whimsical touch needed to entertain.

Walden’s other projects contained heart, life-lessons and generated positive feedback from moviegoers. The studio was achieving its goals; to respect and entertain moviegoers.

After wisely beginning with small theatrical projects, the company’s CEOs then faced their greatest challenge and very likely their most rewarding contribution to the film world -- the making of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.

Based on the best-selling children’s book by C.S. Lewis, the story concerned four children who discover a magical wardrobe that transports them into the realm of Narnia, a land inhabited by talking animals and many a life lesson. There, the children join forces with the courageous lion, Aslan, to defeat the evil forces of the White Witch.

Micheal Flaherty says the film is the book, pure and simple. “For me, the main themes in the book are family and forgiveness. We made sure those themes were in the film.”

HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS is Walden’s most recent venture (opened August 25th). Though many adults at one screening had to look away a couple of times when the squirming co-stars were mixed into culinary-churning concoctions; still most found the production to be a delight. The picture deals with kids wanting to fit in, but realizing that standing up for who they are is more important than trying to be like everyone else. Here the lead wins over the bully’s minions by being himself, then eventually stands up for the bully. Our young hero learns that bullies behave as they do usually because they are being mistreated in some manner themselves, and that it is best to not judge too quickly.

The film’s writer/director Bob Doleman adds, “The whole plot of the bully is not in the book. There’s mild bullying in that they make a bet in the book and the bet revolves around a dare and there’s some money involved. It wasn’t really strong enough to hold it together as a movie, in my opinion. So I introduced the idea of the bully and having to face coming to a new school, because a lot of kids have to go through those situations. But I’ve never liked the idea of a clear-cut bad guy. Our bully has moments of compassion that make him human. We tried to make that an important element in the story. I believe in compassion and forgiveness. So the fact that those themes come out in the end and that the two boys become friends is very uplifting and hopeful. If only our enemies could wind up being our friends, it would be a better world.”

Next up: another children’s classic, CHARLOTTE’S WEB starring this generation’s Shirley Temple, Dakota Fanning. Also in production, a dramatization on the life of one of the greatest athletes of all time, Jim Thrope. For more information about Walden Media, go to their website.