On home video: a C. S. Lewis fairy tale for children

``The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'' -- an animated version of the C. S. Lewis story for children -- fairly crackles with excitement at times, thanks to well-paced action and exceptionally skillful readings by the actors providing the voices. This feature-film-length (95 minutes) fairy tale of medieval magic and Gothic fantasies, produced by the Children's Television Workshop, was first seen on CBS and is now a home videocassette released by Vestron. Its extravagant plot -- the first of Lewis's seven ``Narnia'' stories -- retains a sense of enchantment in its animated form and has some visually and dramatically memorable moments -- as when the White Witch sends her wolves after the children who have discovered her enchanted world of fauns, gnomes, and talking animals.

The children enter this enchanted land from the real world by stepping through a wardrobe cabinet, and before the story is over they have helped restore a kingdom to its rightful ruler.

With its legend-like tone and broad scope, this story can bear any number of interpretations, including Christian allegory. But it is not one of the religious or moral writings for which Lewis is known, and few children are likely to find symbols in an animated tale whose main attraction is its rousing action and engrossing plot.

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