Phil Bray, Disney Enterprises Inc.
Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Andrew Adamson and Anna Popplewell on the "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" set.

Andrew Adamson finally has some confidence in his filmmaking abilities. That's a really big career step for him.

The 41-year-old New Zealand native has had considerable experience in both visual effects and in animation.

And he did direct the first two "Shrek" animated hits before his work on "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

And yet even he admits that he was an unlikely choice of director for the first film in what Walt Disney Pictures was planning to be a successful movie franchise.

As he recalled, "I'm sure there were a lot of people wondering who this Andrew Adamson guy was and why Disney allowed him of all people to make this movie."

"And I was chief among them," Adamson added with a laugh.

But he must have done something right. That film wound up grossing nearly $300 million in the United States alone. That obviously helps explain why he's returned to direct and co-write the screenplay for its sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which opens Friday.

"I'm back! And so are the Pevensie children," Adamson said from New York City. He was there helping to promote the new film.

The movies, based on author C.S. Lewis's seven-volume "Chronicles of Narnia" series, were long in development at Walt Disney Pictures, but none of those projects had gotten off the ground until the start of the 21st century.

According to Adamson, a few screenwriters and filmmakers had suggested they update the tale or make even more drastic changes in the story content.

"I think everyone was getting pretty frustrated and disheartened at that stage," he said.

Fortunately, Adamson was coming off the first "Shrek" success at the time and had his own pitch, which showed the producers how much he loved the material.

"They were the first really 'big' books that I ever read. To me they were perfect and needed no changes whatsoever," he said, suggesting that the clincher may have been his "nearly encyclopedia knowledge" of the books' events and characters.

Still, Adamson said he "was convinced that I had scared them off at first, because I was so obsessive."

Yet he wound up having a "blast" making the first movie and says he felt more "assured" making the follow-up, "Prince Caspian."

He also feels a "parental" affection for young actors William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley, who play the heroic Pevensie children.

"I've really grown attached to all of them, especially Georgie, who was 8 when the first film was shot. She's my girl," Adamson said.

So, he wanted to "be there with them every step of the way of this amazing adventure."

Not to give anything away about "Prince Caspian," but not all of the Pevensies return for the next adventure, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." And while Adamson will be serving as a producer for the movie adaptation, Michael Apted ("Amazing Grace") will be taking the directing reins this time.

"It's a bit of a relief, because this 'Narnia' movie world has gotten to be a bit of a beast," he said. "It's very difficult to juggle this huge production, this ever-growing cast of characters and keep your sanity. So, it's time for me to let it go."

And in the future, he'd like to do something "more modest" in scope.

"I'd really like to do something intimate, or something that's just completely different and crazy," Adamson explained. "When I figure out exactly what that is, you'll hear from me again."


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com