With two months to go before the release of its big-budget film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the Walt Disney company wants very much to whet audience appetites by placing music from the soundtrack on radio and music-video channels.
But Disney's tricky marketing strategy for "Narnia" - which includes aggressively courting Christian fans who can relate to the story's biblical allegory while trying not to disaffect secular fans - is particularly tricky when it comes to music.
The spiritual character of "Narnia" is being reinforced with the debut on the charts last week of a Christian pop album of music inspired by the film. But prospects for a previously announced secular soundtrack now seem cloudy, executives involved in the process say. Disney executives say that at the very least the CD will be delayed beyond its planned Oct. 25 release.
Mitchell Leib, president of music for Disney's Buena Vista film unit, said he still expected to assemble and release a secular soundtrack before the film's Dec. 9 opening. But he cited production snags. He said he was still awaiting a recording by the rock band Evanescence that is intended as the film's closing song. He added that planning had also been complicated by last-minute decisions about how music will be used in the complex, special-effects-laden film.
The Christian-oriented album's status as the only "Narnia" musical project in the marketplace, for now at least, could upset the studio's plan to balance two audiences. "If they go ahead and release only the one soundtrack, I think they're risking being identified as turning toward a blatantly religious company, which does turn some people away," said Chris Ahrens, founding editor of Risen, a San Diego-based lifestyle magazine that explores the spiritual beliefs of entertainment figures. On the other hand, Mr. Ahrens said, if the music strikes a chord in the Christian market, "I think that's huge for Disney in terms of the movie audience." He added, "It seems like a huge gamble."