“The Chronicles of Narnia” is coming to a mall near you.
NEW YORK — To get to Santa at certain Taubman Center properties this holiday season, there’s a snowy detour through the magical kingdom of Narnia.
Giant walk-through snow globes and walk-through trees in the common areas of 11 Taubman malls provide a different kind of Christmas tableau. They feature images and sounds from the upcoming movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” based on the first of the C.S. Lewis series of novels.
Each mall has a 22-foot-high and 22-foot-wide clear, Plexiglas snow globe that’s rigged with a rush of cold Narnia air, falling snow, trees crystallized to appear covered in ice and a mobile with two giant snowflakes holding LCD monitors running a continuous trailer of the movie and the soundtrack. The falling snowflakes are edible and biodegradable, disintegrating as they land.
An 18-foot-high walk-through tree serves as the introduction, leading to the snow globe. Inside the tree, there’s a video greeting from the film’s director, Andrew Adamson, who also directed “Shrek,” and props and memorabilia from “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
After the tree comes a wardrobe section, then the oversized snow globe, which is followed by three smaller snow globes, each six feet wide by eight feet high, with lifelike replicas of characters from the movie.
A total of 20,000 display lights decorate the trees and globes.
“The snow globes are a unique way to communicate directly with the consumer. They’re very theatrical,” said Glenn Tilley, president of The Becker Group, the “experiential marketing” firm that created the snow globes and Narnia landscape for Taubman.
“It’s a 360-degree experience no matter where you are standing,” added Betty Bergeron, director of production for Becker. The Baltimore-based creative firm also has a Norman Rockwell exhibition touring the country based on the artist’s Saturday Evening Post covers.
According to Karen MacDonald, director of communications for Taubman, Narnia occupies about 1,200 to 1,600 square feet in each center, whereas Christmas setups in the past, some with oversized toys, animal kingdoms or castles, occupied 600 to 1,000 square feet.
Most people require 10 to 15 minutes to cover the 50- to 60-foot long Narnia experience, said Tilley. At the end of the journey, there are photo opportunities with Santa and a “green screen” so visitors can be photographed to make it seem as if they’re standing in a Narnia winter scene. There are also photo-related products, like frames, for sale.
Taubman unveiled the Narnia landscapes on Nov. 16, in advance of the Dec. 9 release date for the movie. Narnia can be visited at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles; Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver; Dolphin Mall in Miami; Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va.; International Plaza in Tampa; MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Va.; Northlake Mall in Charlotte, N.C.; The Mall at Wellington Green in Wellington, Fla.; Westfarms in Farmington, Conn.; The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Tex., and The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J.
Taubman Centers, a real estate investment trust that owns and/or manages 23 shopping centers around the country, plans to place the big snow globes in all of its properties next year, but at this point has not decided how they will be decorated. It’s possible they will be themed after another book or movie. The Narnia project was limited this year to 11 malls because of commitments in Taubman’s other centers to other Christmas setups.
“The snow globes each year will provide a new holiday component,” MacDonald said. “It could be entertainment-related, possibly involving a movie or a book, but it’s difficult to say now. Usually the holiday display is geared just toward children, but the great thing about our Narnia snow globes is that we have created something for both children and adults. The book was written over 50 years ago, so there are a lot of adults who know it.
“Our goal is really to make our shopping centers a destination for the holiday and create something of an annual family tradition,” she added. “We started this project about a year and a half ago. Visiting Christmas windows at stores is a family tradition. We want these snow globes to represent that same thought.”
According to Janet Cesario, The Mall at Short Hills’ marketing director, about 100 million copies of “The Chronicles of Narnia” have been sold, so there should be strong interest in the movie and the globes. The movie was created by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. These companies also provided props from the film, which is set in New Zealand, to the Taubman malls. Also, the cast and director recorded messages to enhance the impact of the snow globes.
“This is far more than your typical holiday walk-through display leading to Santa,” said Cesario. “It’s a total experience that will whisk everyone off to a spectacular fantasy land.”