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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #53
May 16, 2008

The Magical Forest

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian + 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 forest is a magical place, and thanks to the folks at our local tree planting organizations, we can enjoy its 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 our canyon forest. Our kids especially love to grab flashlights and take hikes under the glow of a full moon. Narnia's lush foliage inspired us to contact a local non-profit arbor organization that organizes family tree plantings and educational hikes, so that our kids would have fun and learn about the environment at the same time. Our kids were lucky enough to spend the day participating in a tree planting sponsored by 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 soil 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.


A Tree Planting

Age Recommendation:
Five and up
Time Allotment:
Plan to spend a morning or afternoon


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • Why It's Worth It: Tree planting is not only a fun community activity for your family, but a great way to educate your children on environmental issues. Our kids loved digging in, and in the process learned the basics of tree planting and how to protect and restore their own urban forest. The best part was having something to be proud of- a new tree in the neighborhood!
  • Moonlight Hikes: Enjoy the forest at it's most magical by taking a moonlight hike! For guided hikes, check your park's website NOW because these opportunities fill up fast. Early registration is usually required. Click here to learn more about our experience with kids on these hikes.
  • Before You Go: Check the website of your park or local organization carefully. You may need to register in advance for volunteer events.
  • Beautify Your Neighborhood: Many organizations will sponsor neighborhood tree plantings. These usually happen in the spring and fall. Check for applications and submit one now for a fall project.
  • Learn More: The Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests are both chocked full of fun and interesting facts about our nation's forest ecosystems. They also provide information and resources that make getting involved easier.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + tree planting or check the Arbor Day Foundation for a list of planting organizations. For a moonlight hike check your local park's website.
  • Houston: Armand Bayou Nature Center is a 2,500-acre preserve located 25 miles southeast of Houston. Once a month, near full moon, the ABNC leads a night hike. Experience the wonder of nature in the cool of the evening while one of the naturalist guides accompanies you through the forest.  Look for raccoons, deer, opossums and other nocturnal creatures. Reservations are required. Don’t forget your flashlights!
  • New York: Million Trees NYC is a citywide, public-private program with an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City's five boroughs over the next decade. By planting one million trees, New York City can increase its urban forest by an astounding 20%, while achieving the many quality-of-life benefits that come with planting trees. Join other NYC volunteers throughout the city in planting, painting, and restoration for the semi-annual It's My Park day this Sunday, May 17th. To find an event near you click here.
  • San Francisco: Who says you can't find magical forests in the city? Not Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit dedicated to improving streetscapes with more than 1,500 plantings each year. You can sign up for a planting in your neighborhood online, then just show up; the organization provides the materials, you guys rip up concrete, and plant the trees provided. When the job is done, everyone joins in a community lunch. Simple, fun, and good for the earth -- who can beat that?
  • Washington, D.C.: Beautify your own yard! Casey Trees is currently offering a $50 rebate for anyone who plants a tree on private property in D.C. this spring. Check the website for details. They also have a Community Tree Planting Program. Check out the details and apply for a project this Fall. Cool fact: Did you know that one of the largest trees in D.C. is in Mcpherson Square?  Click here to find a list of the the largest trees in D.C.

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

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