Tim Gresham, the step-grandson of C.S. Lewis, wasn't overly aware of his familial connection to the author when he was very young, but when his older brother wouldn't stop banging on about the Narnia series, he decided to pick up a book and see what all the fuss was about.
"It's amazing as a child, being introduced to the world of literature in that way," he says of the series, the first "chapter books" he ever read. "It's magical, it's exciting, it's brilliant."
This summer, fans of C.S. Lewis' adored Narnia books and the films that they spawned will have the opportunity to relive the magic in an interactive touring exhibition hosted at the Pavilion at Docklands.
The exhibition, which opens on Thursday and runs until next February, includes 150 original costumes, set dressings and props from the blockbuster Chronicles of Narnia film series, as well as a frozen waterfall, a functioning catapult, and the icy throne of the White Witch, on which visitors can chill their bottoms.
Gresham, an Australian, is in Melbourne to launch the exhibition on Wednesday night. His grandmother, Joy Davidman Gresham, was married to the author, and though Lewis died four years before Gresham was born, the books left a lasting impression on him.
"They capture the minds of young readers and catapult their imagination to a different area," he says. "They discover the joys of reading not just books, but good literature."
Gresham's father, Douglas Gresham, was a co-producer on the recent Narnia films, and was instrumental in sourcing materials for the exhibition, which has already toured the United States and Asia.
Gresham says the family had fielded film scripts for years before Andrew Anderson, director of Shrek and Shrek 2, approached them with a vision for the movie that aligned with their own.
The exhibition draws parallels between the fictional world of the books and films and the real world, encouraging discussion of issues including climate change, communication with animals and principles of structure and design.
Costumes displayed include the long white gown resembling finely cracked ice worn by Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, and the metal armour worn by the children-turned-warriors in the films.
Like their father, Gresham's own children were introduced to the books at an early age.
"They weren't allowed to see the movie until they read the books," says Gresham. "And as a consequence, all of my children are avid readers."
The Chronicles of Narnia – The Exhibition runs from Thursday November 22 until February 2.