Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media have confirmed that for budgetary and logistical reasons the Burbank-based studio is not exercising its option to co-produce and co-finance The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with Walden.

The Hollywood Reporter is saying today that the third entry in the series, based on the classic books by C.S. Lewis, was in preproduction and set for a spring 2009 shoot for a planned May 2010 release. Director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough) was on board to direct a script by Steven Knight. The key players of the second installment, Prince Caspian — Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell — were to return for the third film. All of this has been uprooted though, in the wake of Disney’s decision to ditch the franchise after two frames.

The most interesting part of the development is that Walden Media has said that it will continue to pursue the project, hoping to find another distributor to take Disney’s place. The most likely candidate at this stage is Fox, which markets and distributes Walden fare under the Fox Walden banner.

This does come as no surprise though, as we’ve known that the Mouse has been cooling to the idea since back in March when Disney-focused blogger Jim Hill reported it as a rumor. Combine that with Prince Caspian’s underperformance at the box office in May and you’ve got yourself motive for a studio bailout. And from where I’m sitting it isn’t a bad decision on Disney’s part — the further down the road toward the seventh movie they travel, the more risk will be involved. Unfortunately the Narnia movies have not worked in the same way that the Harry Potter movies have. Though for fans of the series, keep in mind that this is not the end of the road. It is merely a giant, gaping pothole.

Are you interested in seeing all seven of C.S. Lewis’ books adapted to film?

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