While it might not be something you actively think about, there are actually people in this world who make their living assembling EPKs (electronic press kits) and who shoot this kind of footage to be added to DVDs, either on the standard or special editions. Many of these folks are young directors making their way through the industry, taking work where they can get it to finance their own independent films. Most of the time, DVD special features are just a rough assemblage of what the crew has cobbled together. A doc on this topic here, a bio of this person there, and of course the always handy "introduction to the characters" piece.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you get someone who finds a through-line within the material and sets out to tell a story. While the disc might still be just a collection of featurettes, watching them all not only tells you how they made the film -- it illustrates a theme.
Such is the case with the special features of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
Sifting through the exhausting collection of featurettes, one gets the very distinct notion that filmmaking is hard. This was clearly not an easy shoot. Plagued by all sorts of problems involving complicated planning, location and weather hassles, it is evident from the onset that the sheer scope of the film they were trying to make was constantly working against director Andrew Adamson and his team. And yet, much like the characters of their film, they pressed on against all adversity. They're not complaining as much as they're just laying it all out. Filmmaking is hard, and having watched hundreds of special features that try to make it all look easy, it was a pleasant change of pace to see someone admit just how hard it is to orchestrate sometimes.
I won't describe every last bit of the featurettes here, because there are quite a few of them. Suffice to say, if you have a young'n thinking about filmmaking, this is the set of special features to show them. There's so much elaboration here that it's exhausting just to watch. With details on everything from how they secured the rights to shoot on the picturesque river to what a complete pain in the hindquarters it is to work all day in makeup, this disc is there to remind you that no one just waved a magic wand and conjured Narnia. It was made through the blood, sweat and tears of an incredibly talented, very large group of people.
There's a lot of great material showing close-ups of WETA's fantastic effects and the art department's beautiful work. I've seen various Narnia pieces close up and these folks aren't playing around. On the big screen or in the home theater all that detail comes to life, and you really feel like you're looking at a distant magical land -- not rural Europe. And feature after feature shows you how they painstakingly selected, prepared and transformed each location into fantastical ruins and wondrous forests.
My favorite feature was a day spent with legendary science fiction/fantasy actor Warwick Davis. Here we get to watch snippets of a full day in makeup -- from waking up and getting the treatment to dealing with it on set to doing the work that has to be done to take a lunch break. And while that might seem a bit tedious to watch, Davis's sparkling personality and sharp wit comes through as well.
While most featurettes tend to spend the bulk of their time talking about the genius of the filmmakers, it was a nice change of pace to see a set that wanted to illustrate just how insurmountable a task these filmmakers had in front of them, allowing the film itself to celebrate their work. Oh, and the film? Really good. If you've somehow missed it, now is your chance to pick it up for yourself.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.