The first official trailer for the third movie installment of the "Chronicles of Narnia" made its public debut Thursday morning, giving fans a peak at what some thought wasn't going to be after Walt Disney Pictures abandoned ship.
Released at midnight, the two-minute trailer for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" beckons Narnia fans to "Return to Hope," "Return to Magic," and "Return to Narnia" five years after the first film hit theaters to positive reviews and box office success.
"You have returned for a reason. Your adventure begins now," says the series' central character, Aslan, in the trailer.
Also returning for the voyage are Pevensie siblings Edmund and Lucy, and King (formerly Prince) Caspian.
Not on board for the third installment, however, is Walt Disney Pictures, which announced in 2008 – just days before Christmas – that it would not be co-producing and co-financing "Dawn Treader," citing "budgetary considerations and other logistics" as reasons behind the decision.
Instead, 20th Century Fox has partnered with Walden Media for the next title in the Christian-themed fantasy series, hoping that it will fare far better than the one before, "Prince Caspian," which pulled in only $419 million despite a larger $200 million budget.
Many critics had blamed Disney for the second film's less impressive success, claiming that Disney refused to hold any pre-screenings and would not pursue any special marketing of the film to churches and other Christian markets, where "Narnia" author C.S. Lewis is regarded as one of the most influential Christian apologists of his time.
"[F]or the first film an extensive and highly effective marketing campaign directed by Motive Entertainment (the marketing experts from Passion of the Christ fame) produced an enormous response from Christian movie goers," noted the Calif.-based C.S. Lewis Society.
"Disney however presented Prince Caspian as a strictly secular and violent, fantasy/adventure/romance, and the result was all too predictable," it added.
Furthermore, unlike the first "Narnia" film, which had a holiday release, "Prince Caspian" came out in the spring and was up against superhero summer flicks including "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones."
"Disney tried to market it as an action flick, with limited success," observed media analyst James Hirsen in a commentary for Newsmax.com.
With Disney out and Fox in, Narnia fans are hoping "Dawn Treader" will see success similar to "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," which raked in $745 million in ticket sales worldwide on a $180 million production budget.
"Dawn Treader" is set to release on Dec. 10, 2010, in both traditional 2D and Digital 3D.