Disney Works with British Churches

The London Times (owner: Rupert Murdoch) reports on the latest from Narnia (books owner: Rupert Murdoch):

The Walt Disney organisation has appointed Christian Publishers and Outreach, an evangelistic publishing company, to promote the Christian message behind the story in churches across Britain.

Alas, this is slightly botched. The company is actually Christian Publishing & Outreach (CPO), a moderate evangelical publisher of magazines and posters. Scotland on Sunday broke this story a few days ago:

The deal has been arranged with Christian Publishing and Outreach (CPO), a company that sells printed materials and other resources to 20,000 UK churches.

As well as posters and sermon ideas, CPO will even offer churches DVDs containing the official trailer for the £62m film, which is due out on December 9.

Christian Herald], said the film is probably the biggest opportunity the Church has had for many years. Bravo said: “We have seen enormous demand. A lot of churches have been wanting to get on board with this. This is a family film that appeals across the board. Obviously a lot of churches are very keen on CS Lewis and his writings and see this as a good chance to maybe communicate something of their message in the context of the film.”

This is the CPO’s usual strategy. According to a brief profile elsewhere:

They will frequently work with other Christian organizations to produce specific joint evangelistic material. Such collaborations have produced literature for the World Cup, Tour de France, Olympics, and other sporting events.

Liberal Christians, however, provide Scotland on Sunday with some sceptical commentary:

Don Cupitt, author of the acclaimed Taking Leave of God, said: “The film companies will use the Church exploitatively and deliberately. The evangelical wing of the church is always looking for a handle, often very naively. It is a mistake. It would be much better if the evangelicals had some thoughts of their own.”

The former bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, said: “I would have thought that CS Lewis himself would not have been easy with this. While he is the darling of the evangelicals he was not really strictly speaking an evangelical Christian, he was quite a complex and subtle theologian. So I think he would be a bit bemused.”

Disney’s partnership with CPO mirrors similar developments in the USA, as the Telegraph reported earlier this month:

After carefully avoiding religion for most of its history, the Walt Disney Co, in a sharp deviation from corporate policy, has reached out to Christian evangelical groups to help shape a marketing campaign for its big Christmas film, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The entertainment giant has hired several Christian marketing groups to handle the film, including Motive Marketing, which ran the campaign for Mel Gibson’s wildly successful The Passion of the Christ.