(Source: kansascity.com) It took 11 trailer trucks to deliver “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition,” which opens today at Union Station. Those centaurs take up a lot of space, not to mention the giant ogre.But the effect is magical, judging from the reaction of children from the Ronald McDonald House and Blue Ridge Christian School who got a first look on Thursday.

“I didn’t expect not nearly as cool as this,” said a wide-eyed 10-year-old Spencer Rice of Grandview.

The show, produced in partnership with Walt Disney Pictures, draws heavily from the popular “Narnia” films, which were based on the series of fantasy books by C.S. Lewis. Nearly every gallery has at least one video monitor showing clips from the movies. There also are costumes, props and set dressings from the films. Special effects include falling “snow,” a frozen waterfall you can touch and the White Witch’s icy throne.

Lauryn Kimble, 10, of Raytown, said she liked “the realistic stuff from the movie.”

That is music to the ears of Union Station CEO George Guastello, who urged the children to tell everyone they know to come to the exhibit.

With a limited budget for traditional marketing, Union Station is embracing “social media” to promote the exhibit to the vast world of plugged-in Narnia-ites out there. The station is on Facebook, posting video on YouTube and even Twittering to spread the word in order to sell 80,000 or more tickets through Aug. 23.

That’s how you reach people like 10-year-old Hannah Schriner of Kansas City, who had a good idea what to expect.

“I saw it on the Internet,” she said. “We looked it up in computer class.”

The station is also cross-marketing with a variety of partners. The Kansas City Symphony included a piece from “Narnia” with its recent “Lord of the Rings” concert. And one of the centaurs will be on display at Crown Center as thousands of young families attend Jiggle Jam this weekend.

The primary demographic Union Station is trying to reach for the exhibit is women ages 25-54 with children ages 6-17. The conventional wisdom is that women have more control over a family’s entertainment dollars. The station also is reaching out to youth groups and summer camps, as well as church groups, because there is a Christian undercurrent to the books.

Visitors should allow 45 minutes to an hour to tour the exhibit, which occupies 10,000 square feet in the station’s lowest level.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Narnia is a Medieval-like world of lords, knights and castles. For opening weekend, visitors will be greeted by costumed characters from the Renaissance Festival.

Educational include building an arched doorway and launching a catapult. Science City and the Engineerium will also offer activities and demonstrations tied to the exhibit.

Six-year-old Cheyene Ruggles of Wichita, who is staying at the Ronald McDonald House, became the first to enter Narnia on Thursday as she rolled her wheelchair through the portal.

She had little to say afterward, but she was all smiles.



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