A Blog on the History of Film & Motion Arts
The Visual Effects of Jason and the Argonauts

In this post, I will elaborate more on the film I covered in my presentation, Jason and the Argonauts. As a side note, this will also be my last post on this blog for the forseeable future. The four aspects of the film I covered are four scenes in it, each featuring a separate monster. They are Talos, a giant bronze statue, Triton, the sea god, Hydra, the seven-headed serpent, and the seven skeletons.

The film revolves around Jason, his ship, the Argo, and its crew, the Argonauts, and their quest to find the Golden Fleece.

Much of the film was shot in Italy, despite being based on Greek mythology. The reason for this is that, at the time, many of the ruins in Greece were unusable, and many scenes in the film needed ruins that could be used for filming. Fortunately, Italy, which was once a Greek colony, had many Greek ruins as well as coastlines. The latter was used for some shots of the Argo.

Talos, the giant statue of bronze, is in reality a scale model no larger than sixteen inches high. It was based on the Colossus of Rhodes. Harryhausen deliberately made its movements jerky, slow and mechanical to portray its composition and size. Three separate models were used to animate Talos. The first one is the scale model. The second one is a life-size plaster model of one of Talos’s feet, required for one shot where Jason has to open a cover on the ankle. The third model is a cracked fibreglass model held together by clay. This model was used in the last few shots showing Talos breaking up. To do this, Harryhausen gouged out bits of the attaching clay per frame.

The sea god Triton was portrayed by a real actor wearing a mechanical tail. This actor was specifically chosen for his long arms, which were needed in order for the Argo to pass below it while he holds back the “Clashing Rocks”. The entire scene was shot in a studio, which had a tank specially built for the film. This tank had a wave generator. The rocks in the scene are made from solid plaster. Originally, Styrofoam was used, but upon shooting, the production team realised that the individual bits floated when they broke off and fell into the water.

Hydra is probably a good example of artistic liberty in action. The original Hydra had over fifty heads and would generate two heads every time one was beheaded. This was impossible to animate back in 1963, so Harryhausen drew inspiration from vase paintings and eventually settled on a seven-headed snake with forked tongues and horned crests.

The skeleton sequence, which is about four and a half minutes long, took four and a half months to make. The actors first had to memorise a fight sequence with stand-ins; once they did, the stand-ins were removed, and they were filmed sparring with thin air. Harryhausen then animated seven skeleton models based on this footage.

Lesson 13 - Presentations 2

Lesson 13 is a continuation of Lesson 12, in which each of us are supposed to do a presentation of a film that we select from a list of fifty. The films covered this week are:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  2. The Lord of the Rings
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  4. Jurassic Park
  5. Toy Story
  6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  7. Titanic
  8. Jason and the Argonauts

I was last on the list, presenting Jason and the Argonauts. I’ll go into more details on my presentation in my next post, but for now, I’ll comment on some of the other films to the best of my memory.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the first fully-animated feature film, released back in the 1930s. Apart from the astonishing fact that every single frame was hand-drawn, there was another aspect of it that made the film amazing, and that is in the way it is somehow able to give the illusion of depth to every scene. This was a achieved via a multiplane camera, a behemoth of a machine that is exactly what it says on the tin: a camera that shoots several layers of frames at once. This contraption allowed for up to four different image layers, hence allowing Disney to draw the foreground elements and background elements on separate layers before using the multiplane camera to shoot everything at once. The result is a soft blur to background elements and consistency of the size of each element on screen, particularly background elements. Equally amazing is that every single sound in the film was recorded in real-time; if the sound of glass breaking was needed, Disney had to break an actual glass object to obtain that sound. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also utilised “colour theming”, especially in the case of the dwarves. All seven of them are given different coloured clothing based on their personality and mood. The more vocal dwarves wear stronger colours, for instance.

The Lord of the Rings makes heavy use of forced perspective in order to film scenes involving the hobbits interacting with humans. This is done by making the same props at two different sizes. In the case of objects such as tables, the two halves were mounted on tracks that move in accord to the camera. Obviously, this also meant that both actors weren’t sitting opposite each other, but in actuality were sitting about a metre diagonally. They thus had to end up talking to thin air while still being able to convey emotions and such. Despite such a hurdle, the entire trilogy is critically-acclaimed. That’s acting for you.

Jurassic Park employed animatronics, or robots, in conjunction with computer-generated imagery, or CGI. Shots of humans physically interacting with dinosaurs made use of animatronic dinosaurs. The rest was done in CGI. The decision to use animatronics and CGI was taken after several test shots were done using stop-motion, the ancient animation technique of modifying an object per frame, and it was deemed to be far too unrealistic.

As surprising as this may sound, several of the space battles in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were matte paintings made from as many as forty different elements. For each and every one of these elements to fit nicely into the scene is truly astounding.

Lesson 12 - Presentations 1

The focus of Lesson 12 is on Assignment 2. Assignment 2 requires each of us to choose one film from a list of fifty and go into details about the visual effects in the film that made them popular through a PowerPoint Presentation. Since there are fifteen of us, each presentation takes about fifteen minutes, and our lecturer had other things to cover, the Assignment will be done over two consecutive weeks, with an essay version of our presentations due in the final week.

The following films were covered this week:

  1. Babe
  2. King Kong (the 2005 film, not the original)
  3. Sin City
  4. Ghostbusters
  5. Forrest Gump
  6. The Fifth Element
  7. The Matrix (the first one only)
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I personally feel that the most unlikely film to be in the list of visual effects films is Babe. I mean, it’s just barnyard animals talking, right? How complicated can it get? Well, as it turns out, the presentation of this film reveals quite a bit about just how complex the visual effects work in the film is. Most of the visual effects work is concentrated on the mouth of the animals. The post-production team had to create new mouths for the animals and animate them so that they synch with the voice-overs. Then, they had to rotoscope the surrounding landscape to fit. Rotoscoping is a frame-by-frame process of editing, and regular film runs at 24 frames per second, so you can imagine just how tiring it must be to rotoscope, say, a 12-second footage, which equates to 288 frames. In the case of Babe, nearly the entire film needs editing, because it is a film about animals talking, and there is usually at least one animal in each and every scene.

Ghostbusters was also relatively heavy on the visual effects front. Matte painting was used for a number of scenes, including the part where the protagonists were blasted to the edge of a rooftop. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the film is an actor dressed up in two layers of costume: an outer layer, as well as an inner layer, the latter being fireproof. Most of the cars in that particular scene are scale models. The beam generated by the Ghostbusters’ proton guns are hand-drawn, which is quite impressive when you consider just how unnaturally fluid they look on screen.

Forrest Gump is a film I’ve never watched, but that I’ve heard a lot about. After the presentation about this film, I can see why. A good deal of Forrest Gump involved the main character being involved in several noteworthy incidents in the past. The only way to do this is to obtain archived footage and then edit it accordingly, which is what was done. Another interesting visual effect used in the film is crowd creation, which is achieved by duplicating a small group of people all over a scene.

It also surprises me a little to learn that The Matrix is partially inspired by some scenes from the anime Ghost In The Shell.

Lessons 10 and 11 - Star Wars and Terminator 2

Note: This post was delayed because Tumblr was down on Saturday night.

In Lesson 10, we watched the rest of Forbidden Planet before watching an ancient classic: Star Wars. Our lecturer was pretty firm when he said that he was going to show us the original version, without the “A New Hope” or “Episode IV” bits. In other words, we watched the version that was meant to be a one-off.

Considering that it was a film made in 1977, Star Wars is a masterpiece of visual effects. Given how old it is, some minor errors, such as a solid lightsaber blade, are understandable.

The one thing that caught my eye more than anything else, though, is one segment of the trench run. Specifically, look at 0:18 to 0:22. Although I have a rough idea of how that is done (handheld camera lowered and oriented into a scale model portion), it still boggles my mind at how realistic that is.

In Lesson 11, we watched the critically-acclaimed film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. This, I might like to add, is the first Terminator film I’ve watched in full. For the violence that it contains, there were a ton of great visual effects work done here. The part that impressed me the most was the short segment in the mental hospital, where the T-1000 passes through a steel grille like as though it was never there. The fiery playground at the beginning was also pretty good too.

Lesson 9 - Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is a film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1956. This film is set in the distant future, when man had colonised several planets in the galaxy. The United Planets Cruiser C-57D is sent to Altair IV to investigate the disappearance of a colony expedition on board another ship, the Bellerophon, two decades ago.

Given its age, there were quite a few things that surprised me, the first being that everything was shot in a studio. That’s right, every scene in the film, regardless of built or atmospheric, was done indoors. Stop motion was also used in segments involving extremely fast or instant object movement. And then we have the music, classified as electronic music, which sounds nothing like the kind of electronic music I hear these days. The electronic music back then was done without synthesizers or special equipment, only the instruments that produced it. The result is a set of tunes that could shatter your eardrums if you turn the volume on too high.

Perhaps it is also interesting to note that the raygun projectiles in this film are remarkably similar to the laser projectiles seen in Star Wars, which was released nearly two decades later. In addition, the id-monster in the film looked like something that came out of Disney simply because the guy who worked on it, Joshua Meador, was loaned to MGM by Disney. Equally astonishing is the ludicrous price tag for Robby the Robot at that time: US$125 000. Mind you, that could easily be around US$500 000 in this day and age.

Lesson 7 - The PIXAR Exhibition and Two Zoetropes

On the fortnight before the term break, we went on a three-hour visit to the Singapore Science Centre, where an exhibition celebrating PIXAR’s twentieth anniversary was being held. Visiting the exhibition was not without reason; among other things, there was a Toy Story zoetrope on display, the actual clay models and concept art that the guys at PIXAR made to create animated films such as The Incredibles, WALL-E and Monsters Inc., and a theatre where past PIXAR films such as Toy Story 2 are shown in 3D. In other words, this exhibition was the animator’s treasure trove. Everything from the pipeline of PIXAR to the obligatory Toy Story 3 merchandise was there.

Even before we actually entered the PIXAR exhibition, the Science Centre already has a zoetrope on public display. Designed in the late nineteenth century, the zoetrope is one of the earliest forms of animation: a round cylinder with vertical silts at the top and individual frames of movement (i.e. a man walking) placed directly below them. The zoetrope is spun by hand at a very high speed while you look through the silts at the images placed on the opposite side. The material between the silts serve as a “shutter” to give the illusion that what you are seeing through the silts is a man walking on the spot. It as probably one of the few things that really caught my eye that day.

The zoetrope inside the PIXAR exhibition was far more sophisticated, and although it works in a very different manner, the principle behind it is still the same. This zoetrope is a large device located in a very dark room, with lights placed all around it. The “frames” are clay models of various Toy Story characters placed in a circle on a disk. The disk is spun at a very high speed, and once it reaches the optimum speed, the lights surrounding it start to flash very quickly. The result is a sort of stop-motion animation of all the Toy Story characters on that disk, with the flashing lights serving as the shutter, in the exact same way that the silts on a classic zoetrope work. To say that it was impressive is an understatement.

Lesson 6 - Spirited Away and Coraline

For the second half of Lesson 5 and first third of Lesson 6, we watched the award-winning animated film Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli. Considering that Spirited Away is the first anime film to win an Academy Award, I was expecting something great. I wasn’t disappointed.

The amount of work put into Spirited Away is simply astonishing. Even the in-between frames, such as Chihiro falling onto Kamaji at very high speed, are drawn out properly. This is very different from the kind of anime and cartoons that I watch, which either cannot be bothered to draw the tween frames properly or, in the case of Warner Bros., actually draw off-model to simulate movement. You get neither of these in Spirited Away, and I say kudos to Mr. Miyazaki and everyone at Studio Ghibli for that.

One of the things about all the Studio Ghibli films that I’ve ever watched - My Neighbour Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away - is that there is no real antagonist. My Neighbour Totoro takes things even further in that there is no antagonist. The designated antagonists in these films always have a reason to be the way they are, and it is these reasons that prevent me from disliking them like I would dislike Obadiah Stane from Iron Man.

Oh, and Spirited Away fanart? I’ve seen a few of those…

…Actually, I’ve seen way too many of them, and I won’t post any links here because of potential copyright issues.

The next film we watched was Coraline, a stop-motion animated film. This is the second time I’ve seen this film, but I enjoyed it all the same. The concept of the story isn’t new, but the way it is fleshed out to the viewer is outstanding. More than anything else, it is probably a film that most kids and adults can identify themselves with, simply because each and everyone of us are unable to live in a “perfect” world, even for a second. The underlying coda of Coraline, perhaps, is to teach us that we should be happy with what we have, and I totally agree with that. Yes, you can always desire for more, but there must be a point in time when you have to get a hold of yourself and say, “That’s enough desiring, what I have right now cannot be better.” Sure, that might slow things down a bit, but then the world wouldn’t look as rubbish as it is if you continued to aim even higher.

Lessons 4 and 5 - The UPA, Hanna-Barbera and the Rest of the World

Note: Lesson 3 covers the UPA and Hanna-Berbera; Lesson 4 covers everything else. As an additional note, most of what is written for Lesson 4 was not covered during the lecture, but instead done through rudimentary research at my own discretion and my own time. I just find that there is a lot more that should be worth a mention.

While the more famous animation houses stole most of the limelight (you know which two), there were other smaller companies that played second fiddle, although some of them did create a thing or two that would later have an effect on the animation industry as it is today. Walter Lantz Productions found a mascot for all of Universal Studios’ theme parks in the form of Woody Woodpecker, for instance. My focus today, however, is on the United Productions of America (UPA), and Hanna-Barbera.

The UPA was formed during the Second World War, as a direct result of several of Walt Disney’s employees leaving Disney due to dissatisfaction with the little reward they got for working so hard (such as for Snow White, which was drawn frame by frame, as I mentioned in Lesson 2), and they started off making training films. After the war, they had a stint creating Mr. Magoo shorts for Columbia Pictures. Mr. Magoo, while not so much a hit as the Looney Tunes or Mickey Mouse, survived long enough as a character to warrant his own film. The premise of him is very simple: a blind man put into extremely dangerous situations that he is unaware of. Take a look.

Watch that once and enjoy it. Watch it a second time and note the repetition of the background at around 0:47, as well as the lack of animation on Magoo’s body when he speaks - only his hands and head move once in a while - and the fact that his mouth tends to move in the same faction every time he speaks. This is what the UPA pioneered - limited animation. What was supposed to be a cost-cutting and time-saving measure - repeating a background several times and animating only what is needed - became an animation style that animation studios around the world took note of. It is interesting to note that at least one UPA founder left Disney because they were disillusioned with the idea of realistic animation, and felt that realism can be portrayed without being realistic all the time. In that sense, you could say that UPA’s limited animation style is the counterpart to the ultra-realistic animation style that The Disney Company employs in all of their animated films.

Take a look at this car chase scene from Shinkyoku Sōkai Polyphonica, for instance. Internet denizens know it more for the huge amount of factual and perspective errors that this particular scene has (they call it QUALITY), but they have also pointed out the repeating scrolling backgrounds used throughout, which I am now very certain was T.O. Entertainment, the production house behind the anime version, taking a leaf out of the UPA’s book, although they may not have used it in the right context.

Hanna-Barbera Productions (H-B) took things one step further when they came into being in 1957. This animation house formed from the ashes of MGM’s cartoon studio, and the founders of H-B, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, were instrumental in the runaway success of Tom & Jerry. However, that was when they were with MGM, which had a ton of money for them to work with. They had no such privileges in H-B, so they made do with limited animation. H-B’s line of work was to animate cartoon shorts for Television, which until their genesis was limited to theatrical screenings, feature films in theatres, and re-screens on Television. H-B was one of the first animation houses to animate shorts specifically for Television, not theatre. This was what led to their huge success back in the sixties and seventies. During this period, their heyday, H-B created an absurdly huge library of cartoon characters - Quick Draw McGraw, Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, Top Cat, Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, Snagglepuss, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons and so on. They can all be easily traced back to H-B, even to the common layman, because the art and animation style employed is the same across the board.

When H-B’s parent company entered dire straits in 1990, they sold H-B off to Turner Broadcasting. Two years later, Turner created a new channel, of which most of its content stemmed from the immense library of cartoons and characters created by H-B. This channel is Cartoon Network, and it is with Cartoon Network that H-B’s decades-old shorts survive to this day. If any one of you reading this have always wondered why the name “Hanna-Barbera” was portrayed so greatly on Cartoon Network back in the 90s, this is your answer.

On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to have a taste of Cartoon Network back in the late nineties, so I know what they showed back then, and I loved it. I still do. H-B made so many characters, I ended up liking some of them and disliking the rest. There was no middle ground. In retrospect, I now realise that H-B’s characters and cartoons were more or less the whole of Cartoon Network back then. It is this knowledge that allows me to understand the grievances of people who in this day and age are screaming at Cartoon Network for no longer being as good as it was twenty years ago.

Before I continue, here’s a little … uhh, music video, courtesy of the guys from the Space Ghost cartoons. This video was made for a different cartoon series, called Cartoon Planet, featuring Space Ghost and two badguys he caught. Now, I’ve never watched Space Ghost before, but I’ve seen his trademark figure around Cartoon Network, and I like this video very much.

Animation was not just restricted to the United States alone. Elsewhere around the world, other countries had their own fair share of animation. Sadly, I do not know much about them, since everything is focused on America.

America’s neighbour, Canada, knew full well that competing with the Americans for success was a very effective way of committing suicide, so they went for awards instead. They had good reason to avoid competition, especially since America is home to Disney, Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera, i.e. three of the most prominent animation houses in the world, each with at least three decades of work to them. There are a great number of award-winning animations that come from Canada alone, this being one of them.

The best I can say about Russian animation is that it is diverse. The Russians started off small, inspired by some Mickey Mouse shorts that Disney sent over back in 1936. Due to restrictions by the Communist government, however, much of what the Russians could have developed during the 30s to 50s was lost, and many animators left for greener pastures. Those who stayed on found it difficult to move away from rotoscoping, but they did eventually. From a short called History of a Crime, the Russians finally began to diversify, and animators started to develop their own styles of animation. Russian animation style today is a fusion of the traditional American animation styles and modern computer graphics.

The Japanese had a rough and very slow start in animation. While the earliest known Japanese animations were made as early as 1917, most of them no longer exist, having been cut down into strips or individual frames after being screened publicly. It did not help that, back in the early 1900s, Disney was the go-to company for any form of animation. As a result, every animator in Japan had to resort to limited and cutout animation in order to save time and costs while at the same time being able to charge cheaply so that local audiences would prefer to watch their shorts rather than shorts created by the Americans. During the Second World War, the Japanese would find use in animation as a propaganda machine and as an educational tool.

Toei Animation was formed after the Second World War. The first anime feature film ever released was made by them, titled “The Tale of the White Serpent”. This film borrowed a few concepts from Disney, such as excessive use of music and animal companions. However, what made Toei stand out was them giving extra attention and detail to the focus of the scene, usually leaving everything else in limited animation. This method of animation, called the “money shot”, would be employed in other animation houses around the world, such as H-B, later on.

Competition from Television in the 70s would cause the animation industry in Japan to drastically shrink, forcing many young animators into higher positions far earlier than if they were promoted via experience. As a result, this created a window for experimentation, and the Japanese started making the switch to animations with a futuristic theme in them. It was during this period that Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam were formed. The latter is now a cash cow franchise.

However, during the 80s, while most of the Japanese animation industry was caught up in future-themed animes, two new developments arose. The first was the formation of a subculture, called otaku, forming around manga-based magazines in response to the overwhelming reception to future-themed animation. The second development was that Space Battleship Yamato’s director decided to allow the animators working for the show to employ their preferred method of animation as a cost-cutting measure. Both developments were responsible for the creation of manga-based anime, of which both Bleach and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya fall under, and animation houses such as Studio Gainax, creators of Neon Genesis Evangelion. A by-product of sorts from these events is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an animated film directed by Hiyao Miyazaki. The success of this film resulted in an increase in the number of high-budget and experimental films, as well as additional funds for Miyazaki, allowing him to form Studio Ghibli. Sadly, many studios that formed from the result of this film’s success were unable to make a living and eventually shut down. However, a small number of animated films produced during this period found their way overseas, and ended up being internationally acclaimed despite being commercial flops. Akira is one such example.

Near the mid-1980s, anime was finally brought into home entertainment with original video animation, or OVA. OVAs are essentially the packaged form of what H-B did for a living: animated films and cartoons made specifically to be run on home video such as VCRs. The creation of OVA also crated what is probably an unintended side-effect: hentai.

The 90s might very well have spelt doom for the anime industry if it was not for Studio Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion revolutionised the anime industry and gave it a massive shot in the arm by introducing censorship and merging extremely plot-heavy animation with the robot- and future-themes from the 80s. In the meantime, experimental anime found a home in Japanese late-night Television. Finally, the world was introduced to Pokemon, Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon, all of them now regarded as three of the most successful franchises of all time, especially more so for Pokemon given that it is one of the few game-derived anime to have an impact on the entire world. Near the end of the millennium, the Japanese started to mix anime into real-life, the result being anime such as Hana Yuri Dango and Jigoku Shoujo.

The 00s saw mainstream anime experiencing a revival of the robot- and future-themed anime from the 80s with anime like Gundam SEED, Code Geass and Macross Frontier, while at the same time sliding towards real-life events, bishoujo (pretty girls), bishonen (good-looking boys), moe (character emphasis and preferences), romance and cutouts from a character’s fictional life. There was also an increase in the number of anime adapted from manga, light novels (manga targeted at high school teenagers) and visual novels (computer games where their monetary value is derived from storytelling). The aforementioned Shinkyoku Sōkai Polyphonica is an example of the latter, and K-On! is an extremely good example of the penultimate.

On a final note, Doraemon was appointed by Japan to be the country’s first Anime Ambassador. His job: to promote anime worldwide in diplomacy. Funny, perhaps, but true.

Lesson 3: American Shorts

Last week, we covered Disney, as well as the company he founded, which was the most prominent company ever to tap into the animation industry, which was still in its infancy back in the twenties and thirties. Disney’s unprecedented success back then spawned several smaller animation companies, all of them creating their own characters and achieving different magnitudes of success.

Outside Disney, perhaps the most famous cartoon characters ever made are from Leon Schlesinger Productions. Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny were created from 1936 to 1942. Seventy years on, they’re still regarded as three of the Looney Tunes’ central characters. What probably surprised me more than anything else is that Porky Pig was created first, followed by Daffy Duck and then Bugs Bunny. Throughout my childhood, I always thought that Bugs came first, but had this nagging feeling that I got it all wrong, and now, I know that I did get it wrong. The fact that Porky Pig was created first may explain why he gets a slightly longer fanfare in a Looney Tunes short starring him.

Back when I was a kid, I watched a good number of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts to know my preference. It’s funny that, for someone who dislikes musicals with a passion, I find Merrie Melodies shorts to be some of the most entertaining ones I have ever seen. I’ve never actually liked Looney Tunes shorts that much, because they seemed less entertaining.

Oh, and then we have this … not sure what that’s about…

The one thing that set animations from Leon Schlesinger Productions apart from those made by the Walt Disney Company is in the amount of say the producer exerted over the animation in question. While Walt Disney took it upon himself to personally review everything that was in the works, Leon Schlesinger only intervened if the animation didn’t make money. For this reason, the animators under him had a lot more freedom with which to exercise their creativity, while the animators under Disney had to conform to his standards. This is probably one of the main reasons why animated shorts from Leon Schlesinger Productions eventually became more successful than those from Disney.

Tex Avery, one of the guys responsible for the creation of Bugs and Daffy, also created Screwy Squirrel. Prior to this lesson, I had only seen one of the Screwy Squirrel shorts, and I actually enjoyed it greatly. I learned that only five Screwy Squirrel shorts were ever made, which is a pity, because I found the premise of a crazy squirrel utilising cartoon physics to its fullest to be quite a good one.

Lesson 2 - Walter Elias Disney

Note: Lesson 1 was skipped because I fell asleep in class and lost about 25% of what was taught, so I don’t think it’s worth covering. Besides, a post on it was meant to be done two weeks ago, not now.

So, Walter Elias Disney, better known to the whole world as just Walt Disney. It’s hard to explicitly detail just how much this one man has contributed to the world of animation and entertainment.

The one thing that really amazes me more than anything else is how Disney somehow manages to pull off the impossible and remain one step ahead of everything else. When he and his company was still up and coming, and he declared that he would be making the first featured animation film, people thought he was raving mad, and that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Even his wife said that nobody would pay to see it even if it was finished, and the production costs for it was so high, Disney actually had to mortgage his house. The result was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which, taking into consideration the original version as well as all its re-releases, not only grossed about $185 million but also managed to make it into the National Film Registry of the United States. When you take a closer look at the animation industry back then and realise that every single frame in that 83-minute, 24-frame-per-second film was hand-drawn, you cannot help but wonder how Disney was able to sustain the drive needed to finish it. I’ve drawn a generic humanshape walking and a strand of seaweed swaying before, and I know just how difficult and time-consuming it is to do both. Ever since I’ve learnt how to animate things the hard way, I cannot help but admire the animators of old, especially the ones who worked under Disney.

Disney was also responsible for conceiving the idea of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, an attraction comprising of two steel roller coasters. Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first steel roller coaster in the world, built in 1959 by Arrow Dynamics and WED Imagineering, and if it didn’t exactly revive the roller coaster industry, it certainly gave the whole industry a shot in the arm, if the RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 puts it right.

Besides being known for what he has done for animation and for the theme park industry as a whole, Disney is, unfortunately, also guilty of some other things. The acid sequence that he employs in several of his featured films, for instance, or the fact that many of his films use recycled animation. The latter is now more or less widespread in some circles, such as Gundam, and the former is, fortunately, only apparently isolated to other films or animation that nobody can really give a hoot about.

If there’s one thing that I want to know about Walt Disney, though, it’s whether this urban legend is true or false…