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L.A. Popcorn Adventure #97
May 16, 2008

The Magical Forest

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian + TreePeople Tree Planting

The second installment of the Narnia stories has a fresh face -- British actor Ben Barnes was plucked from obscurity to star in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, alongside the four child actors who played the Pevensie siblings in the first film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Although it is only a year later in London, 1300 years have passed since the children left Narnia, and a lot has happened in their absence, notably all the friendly Narnians have been driven underground by nasty King Miraz. The siblings band together with a quixotic bunch of animals - our kids adored the whiskered mouse leader Reepicheep - and battle to restore order, putting the dreamy Prince Caspian back on the Narnian throne. Although the battle scenes were not for the faint of heart (see Red Flags, below), the story unfolds against sumptuous locations that matched our imagined version of Narnia.

The Narnian forest is a magical place, and thanks to the folks at TreePeople, Angelenos can enjoy their own restorative beauty amidst a major metropolitan city. We often throw on a pair of sneakers and get lost on the windy trails in the comfy cradle of Coldwater Canyon, where TreePeople's main offices are based. The mission of the 30 year-old organization is to "help nature heal our cities," a wonderfully simple and brilliant statement. Besides maintaining the vast hillside trails system in Coldwater Canyon, the group plants trees all over Los Angeles, educates children and adults about the environment, and works with the government on critical water issues. Over 10,000 school kids a year are introduced to the forest thanks to the stewardship of this venerable non-profit, and ours were lucky enough to participate in a TreePeople tree planting at their school. Together with their classmates, they walked out the school gates to a nearby location and helped to dig holes for young saplings. Each child got their hands dirty, manned shovels and patted dirt down around the root of a tree that will bloom for years to come. Our own private Narnia.

Film Title: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Directed By: Andrew Adamson
2008, Rated PG, 140 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth It: The C.S Lewis novels are so set in our imaginations that filmed versions of the stories feel like another chapter in the magical saga; this production is gorgeous and the Narnians are portrayed endearingly. That being said, the film is much darker than the first film -- it features loud, clashing battle scenes in which the heroes are responsible for many killings. Parents must know their own child, but we don't feel it is appropriate for kids under 9. Even our 11 year olds covered their ears and eyes in a few scary spots.
  • Red Flags: This is an action film, full of swordplay and battles. The few particularly scary parts are these: Prince Caspian is alerted that his uncle is about to assassinate him, and flees quickly on horseback. A tense chase scene ensues in the Narnian forest. Later, the Narnians storm the castle that Prince Caspian's uncle has commandeered. It is a particularly gruesome and gory battle scene where you distinctly see enchanted animals killed at short range. King Peter's duel offers the only spot where a hero chooses to spare life: Peter turns Miraz over to Caspian to take his life (in revenge for Miraz offing Caspian's father), and Prince Caspian chooses to let him walk away.
  • Further Viewing: Rent the first Narnia film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, for the full back story on the Pevensie kids and their magical story. If your kids love fantasy, introduce them the the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, or for little fantasy lovers, Dragonheart.

Our Tips for Talking with your kids about this Film:

  • Literature Savvy:  Reading the Narnia series is one of the great pleasures of childhood. Be sure your kids read these books -- we heard them out loud as kids, and so read them aloud to our children. Start now on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, our favorite of all, which is the next book to be filmed.
  • Screenwriting Savvy: If a child adores a book, they are often disappointed with the choices filmmakers make when adapting that book to the screen. Counsel your passionate reader before the movie about the essential differences between film and literature (the condensation of time and need to explain the backstory, visualization of imagined landscapes and characters). It's often helpful for them to think about the real people that had to sit down and make these choices. Your goal isn't so much to lower expectations, as to teach children to become critical thinkers. Instead of "I hate the way they did that", try to get them to say "If I were making the film, I'd have chosen to do it this way instead".
  • Location Savvy: Where'd the filmmakers find all that pristine forest? In New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.


Tree Planting with TreePeople

Time Allotment: three hours
Age Recommendation:
7 and up

The Coldwater Canyon Park home of TreePeople is under renovation, but will open again mid-July. Our advice is to book Moonlight Hikes now - see KOTC Kernels.

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • Why It's Worth It: TreePeople is a beloved LA institution that has been doing its part on behalf of the environment for 30 odd years. Although their Coldwater Canyon campus is currently being renovated, we count it as one of our favorite spots for a hike in LA. Definitely put it on your family's To Do list this summer, for it will open up again in July. Click here to learn more about their programming. The group will help you bring tree plantings to your school, or neighborhood,
  • Moonlight Hikes: Be sure to sign up NOW for one of their highly popular Moonlight Hikes, which will be resuming in July. These book up early - so, calendar it now; click here to learn more about our experience with kids on these hikes.
  • Before You Go: Volunteers are needed for planting groups in the next month - be sure to register to join a planting group -- There are several groups on May 17 and 18, and then again on Saturdays in June.
  • California Fire ReLeaf Initiative through American Forests: Click here to donate money to rebuild trees devastated by last year's fires.


How to take this Adventure in Orange County:

  • Irvine Ranch Wild Lands: Continue the magical adventure of Narnia's land and walk though the recently named National Natural Landmark, the Irvine Ranch Wild Lands.  These 35,000 acres of diverse open space offer many opportunities to experience nature, right in your own backyard!  Plus, it will never be developed, protecting this magical place forever (and not just 1300 years). Open your own magical wardrobe and step through to a land filled with spring time butterflies (if you squint hard they look like fairies), gnarled old oak trees, meadows glowing with bright yellow mustard, and the sounds of nature all around you.
  • Before you go: Click on the website and click on "Let's Go Outside."  Only certified guides can take you on your magical journey.  You can make a reservation online and most activities are free.  There are hundreds of hikes to choose from.  Easy hikes are great for adventurers under 8.  Bring water, snacks, your camera, binoculars, sunscreen, hats and most of all, your imagination!
  • What To Expect: As you start your journey with your guide, keep a sharp eye out for little bumpy worms with feet - caterpillars are enjoying the green leaves of the milkweed plant.  My son counted 8 different varieties of caterpillars.  Butterflies flew around our heads, and especially liked my daughter's bright pink hat. As you continue your journey, don't forget to taste the spicy mustard.  Pinch off a little of the yellow buds and chew - soon a spicy hot mustardy flavor hits your tongue.  Good thing you brought your water!  The sounds of birds of all kinds fill the air.  Listen for woodpeckers filling holes with acorns for winter.  You may hear them, but finding them is a different story.  Find some shade under an old oak tree and cool off with some water as you listen to the buzzing of crickets and the calls of hunting raptors.  Bring some binoculars to really see what you've been hearing.  You've found your own Narnia, right here in Orange County!

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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