Interview with Aslan
by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith
June 7, 2005
Entertainment T’night: First, I’d like to thank you and the producers for letting us on the set of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’ll have to admit it isn’t the first time I’ve been on a movie set, but it is very exciting to be here in the midst of this armed camp... to get to watch the Centaurs and ocelots and eagles getting prepared for battle. I’m so looking forward to seeing the completed movie.
As for the production itself, I know you’ve been trying to keep away from the hype that accompanies most of the new releases these days, especially new fantasy releases, but how come Disney hasn’t gone all out on publicity for this new picture?
Aslan (sitting on his haunches outside a red tent, his mane gently ruffled by the slight breeze): We are. We have been. We’re not trying to avoid publicity. Any enterprise can use publicity. It’s just that we’re trying to produce a product, and with interruptions there might be delays. In fact, before we begin, I will say if I’m called and my scene is ready, I will be drifting off with little in the way of goodbye.
Entertainment T’night: We understand. It must be hectic working with children and also having to be created frame by frame. Can we ask how you got started in the business?
Aslan: It’s an interesting story. As you know, my grandfather was in show business. My grandfather on my mother’s side, was the MGM lion. And then my father worked for a time with Sigfreid and Roy; he wasn’t part of the mauling, by the way, that report in The National Enquirer is dead wrong.
The animated part of me came from my father’s side of the family. My dad had a contract with Disney since the early fifties, first appearing as a cub in some of the early Donald Duck features.
My dad had a big part in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but that only made it to the cutting room floor. After that he had bit parts in a lot of animated movies. He was Scar’s stunt double in that famous fight scene in the first Lion King, and he actually played the Tiger in Aladdin; a lion playing a tiger... That’s where he had to wear stripes and learn to growl with a Persian accent.
Entertainment T’night: So acting is in your blood.
Aslan: I’d say.
Entertainment T’night: Watching you work, I can’t help thinking you are trying your darndest to sound like Liam Nieson.
Aslan: Oh, you noticed. Being animated, I don’t really have vocal cords, and to actually vocalize I’m forced to rely on others for recognizable sounds. I do have total permission to sound like Mr. Nieson, and he is being compensated.
Entertainment T’night: As you know, the religious community has been one of the first to embrace this movie. They seem quite vocal in their support of this particular movie. They seem to despise Harry Potter and a lot of other movies that to most people seem benign, but they have picked up the banner of C. S. Lewis and are giving this movie a recommendation.
Aslan: Well, I, for one, am glad. This is earnest, wholesome entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with good entertainment. This is a wonderful film. I’m proud to be a part of this movie. I’ve been telling people this is the kind of movie Disney should have been making years ago, but, as you know, we waited years to tackle this material. Only recently has the technology arrived to the point where we could animate flawless characters and integrate them so seamlessly into the scenes with their human counterparts.
Entertainment T’night: In fact one of the characters seems half animated and half real. Mr. Tuttlemire, I think his name is.
Aslan: The goat person. And that’s not the character’s name.
Entertainment T’night: There’s been rumors of a rift between you and that character.
Aslan: He claims I tried to eat him. It was a simple mistake. It was dark that night.
Entertainment T’night: Is he an Ewok?
Aslan: You’re thinking of another movie.
Entertainment T’night: Going back to the religious aspect for a moment, there have been reports, in Newsweek for one, that some churches have allowed this movie to be shown to congregations. The last movie to have won over the religious community was The Passion, Mel Gibson’s movie. Are you happy with the comparisons to his movie?
Aslan: As far as I know, there haven’t been any comparisons to that movie. I, for one, thought The Passion to be a little too dark, a little too bloody. I didn’t see the whole movie, but I didn’t think that was the way to be portraying the message. There were implications of Jew-bashing, and I remember seeing a still from the picture and thinking, “Wow, enough with the blood already.”
Entertainment T’night: And yet, aren’t you playing the exact same character?
Aslan: That’s true as far as it goes. But you won’t find any blood streaming down off my carcass. You won’t feel the death scene in the same way. Not saying we’ve sanitized things, because we haven’t. There is still my death to deal with. Some kids cry. Some adults cry when they see me lying on the altar.
Entertainment T’night: Is Disney the right company to be getting cosey with the religious right? Like for instance, in the movie, Fantasia that movie clearly depicts in one of its segments a belief in evolution. In the movie they have the chaos of the first millions years and then they show creatures developing and crawling out onto land...
Aslan: Really. You’re really reaching with that one. If you’ll remember it was Disney who brought us The Land Before Time. In that movie, the creatures are clearly very young and live closer to the present era. They even use slang, and dance, and try to find clean water — without any help from the government, I might add.
Entertainment T’night: Didn’t Disney produce Inherit the Wind?
Aslan: You know... I’m not sure. But I do know I’m not here to defend every Disney movie ever made. I haven’t seen them all, and I haven’t been in them all. Did you want to ask me anything more about this current movie?
Entertainment T’night: It’s just that it looked to me like a Disney...
Aslan: I think we’ve covered that ground.
Entertainment T’night: Is it true you are carnivorous?
Entertainment T’night: If you were asked to play Aslan again, would you?
Aslan: Certainly. This is a very good lion. As you know most lions are stereotyped. You’ll never know how many times I’ve been asked to play parts in movies where all I did was claw and growl. I’m proud to say I turned down a lot of parts like that.
Entertainment T’night: What if they wanted you to play other aspects of Aslan, some more realistic aspects? Something more... Biblical? How about having a scene where Aslan asks his army to kill all the inhabitants of a city, down to the last man, woman and child? Aslan standing by the gates of Heaven and not allowing Holocaust victims in because they haven’t accepted Him, aren’t washed in His blood? How about...
Aslan: (His ears spring up.) Hear that? They’re calling me. I gotta go. They’re calling me for my big scene.
Entertainment T’night (Yelling at the departing actor): Thank you.
Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith