August 31, 2010
Victory Through Air Power is a WWII propaganda film made by Disney in 1943. This clip of the film’s final sequence shows American forces, represented by an eagle, fighting (and defeating) Imperial Japan, which is depicted as a giant evil octopus.
(via Vulgar Army)
June 10, 2010
Today at Target I got my first look at Stretch, the new octopus character from Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3. The movie doesn’t open until June 18, but, as one would expect, the merchandise is out in full force. I saw Stretch figures in two different sizes: the 8″ (or so) “Deluxe Figure” which appeared to be made out of a soft, glittery material, and the much smaller (~2″) “Buddy Pack” figure which is made of a harder plastic.
(Sorry about the poor quality of these photos. The focus on my Droid phone’s camera is a little uneven.)
The official movie site says that Stretch (who is female, by the way, and voiced by Whoopie Goldberg) is “fun-loving,” and all the images there show a happy looking toy octopus. However, the toys I saw today are of a very surly cephalopod. Is she a villain (she has a villain’s “eyebrows”), or is she just grumpy? If so, WHY SO GRUMPY? I’ll guess we’ll have to wait until the 18th to find out.
Stretch’s bio on the official site also includes the following description: “Toss her high on the wall and watch her climb her way down!” Clearly, Stretch was inspired by the 80′s fad toy, the Wacky WallWalker®.
August 30, 2009
I totally forgot about this animated sequence from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Disney, 1971)! Not only do we get a short octopus drum solo, but we also see why one should never play poker with a cephalopod.
July 8, 2009
Hot on the heels of Movie Week, I find out that Disney is working on a prequel to their classic 1954 adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (covered previously here and here). Due to be released in 2011, and titled Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, McG (Terminator: Salvation, Charlie’s Angels) is attached to direct. And I am afraid.
Supposedly, the prequel will tell the story of how Captain Nemo goes from being an Indian prince to the brooding science pirate we all know and love. Or, in McG’s words “Where you look at the original picture [Nemo] just enters and he’s already pissed off and underwater and what we want to do is show how he got there.” McG has also stated that he wants Will Smith to play Captain Nemo.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Will Smith just fine, but why go through all the trouble of adhering to the character’s original backstory (in The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne reveals that Nemo was Prince Dakkar, son of the Raja of Bundelkhand) but not cast an Indian actor? I’m having troubling visions of a mutant mashup of the abysmal League of Extraordinary Gentleman movie and Wild Wild West.
The Hollywood Reporter reported (duh!) yesterday that the script for Captain Nemo is undergoing a major rewrite, but only time will tell if this is a good thing or not. (For the record, I’m getting all this second-hand from Meredith Woerner over at io9, THE blog for science fiction news.) I guess the odds are pretty good that there will be some kind of cephalopodian element to this movie, and, if so, I fear the odds are even better that it will end up in the Indie Squid Kid Movie Hall of Shame.
So, to cheer myself up, I’ll end with some production images from Disney’s original 20,000 Leagues movie. All of these and more can be found at Pat Regan’s wonderful www.volcaniasubmarine.com.
As Movie Week draws to a close, it’s time to come full circle with another Disney movie. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is the second installment of the trilogy based the popular theme park attraction. Even if you are not a fan, you have to admit that they’re pretty good for movies based on a 40 year old ride! Personally, I thought the first was thoroughly entertaining, the second was fun, but hard to follow, and the third made almost no sense at all. Dead Man’s Chest is the topic of today’s post because, of course, it features not one, but two cephalopod-based characters: Davy Jones, the film’s central villain, and the monstrous Kraken.
Davy Jones is an immortal mariner and captain of the infamous Flying Dutchman. He was originally tasked by the sea goddess Calypso to ferry souls of those who perish at sea to the afterlife. His subsequent betrayal of the goddess and dereliction of duty brought a curse upon him, transforming him into something resembling the Cthuloid spawn of an octopus and a lobster. He has a roughly human face, but his entire head seems to be made up several octopi stacked on top of each other—their tentacles forming a writhing facsimile of the pirate’s original hair and beard. The index finger on his right hand has become a single winding tentacle. He has no nose but instead seems to breath through a siphon protruding from the side of his face.
Davy Jones is apparently the ruler of the ocean, and seems to spend most of his time attacking ships and forcing sailors to join his mutant aquarium crew. He locked his still beating heart away in a chest (the Dead Man’s Chest of the title), for reasons that are unclear but seem to be critically important to the movie’s plot. He commands the mighty Kraken (see below), which he sends to hunt down Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp, of course) who owes Jones his soul…or something like that.
Davy Jones was played by the fantastic Bill Nighy, and Industrial Light and Magic created his CGI “costume” via motion capture.
The Kraken, as you can see in this clip, is an enormous tentacled beast capable of not just sinking a ship, but literally ripping it apart. Davy Jones summons the beast to do his bidding using a device that sends out shock waves into the water. In this scene, we see it attack and destroy the Edinburgh Trader. Why does it do this? I think it has something do to with Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom) and the key to the box that contains Davy Jone’s heart. Like I said, the story was kind of hard to follow.
Little of the Kraken’s body is seen in the movie, apart from it’s giant arms, two of which appear to be larger than the rest. This would be consistent with the monster being some type of squid, although these tentacles lack the characteristic club ends. At the end of Dead Man’s Chest, the Kraken has finally caught up with Captain Jack, and we get a clear view of the monster’s mouth. Instead of a beak, it has a circular maw with multiple rows of conical teeth. In this way, the Kraken resembles the Sarlacc from Return of the Jedi more than it does a giant squid. Like Davy Jones, the Kraken was entirely CGI, and ILM won the 2006 Acedemy Award for Best Visual Effects for their work on Dead Man’s Chest.
Not a squid.
Davy Jones and the Kraken return in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the final part of the trilogy, although the Kraken only has a brief appearance. It seems Davy Jones’ new master (who has the box that contains his heart and therefore the power to kill Jones. I think?) has commanded ol’ squid face to kill his former pet. We do finally get a look at the body of the Kraken when Jack Sparrow finds its massive corpse washed up on a beach. (A scene that we are apparently supposed to find very poignant and symbolic.) It has a pair of enormous eyes and a long mantle with two rear stabilizing fins—all very squid-like. The book Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide (Dorling Kindersley, 2007), states that the Kraken was 1400 feet long (the length of ten ships) and the accompanying illustration shows its body being at least twice as long as its arms, making the Kraken more like a cuttlefish than a squid.
We’re almost at the end of Movie Week! Tomorrow, for the final installment, I’ll take a look at the cephalopod movie hall of shame.
June 29, 2009
I didn’t originally anticipate needing to spend two posts discussing Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but it turns out I have more to say! In fact, without the two things covered here, Indie Squid Kid probably wouldn’t exist!
Walt Disney Presents the Story of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disneyland Records, 1963)
I wouldn’t say that this record is single-handedly responsible for my life-long squid obsession, but it definitely made quite an impression on my young mind. Here we see the giant squid, hate radiating from its enormous (and oddly human) red eye, as it is about to try to crush the oncoming Nautilus in it’s mighty tentacles. The fact that things didn’t happen quite this way in the movie is completely besides the point—this cover is AWESOME.
The record is an abridged version of the movie, and it uses a different (and uncredited) voice cast. Ned Land is the narrator (instead of Arronax), and his signature sea shanty, “Whale of a Tale,” has at least one different verse than the original film. Wikipedia tells me that this record was produced in 1963 to coincide with the first theatrical re-release of the movie. Herein lies a bit of a mystery. My copy of the record is also dated 1963, but I know I got it sometime in the early 80s. Were these LPs kept in print with the original copyright date, or did my parents pick it up second-hand? (It’s in pretty good shape for a 46 year old record.)
Story records like this were the DVDs of their day. I probably only saw 20,000 Leagues a few times on TV over the years (I doubt I ever saw it in the movie theater, and my family didn’t own a VCR until the late 80s), but I knew the story backwards and forwards because of this record.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage
I also wanted to mention the long gone (and sorely missed) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine ride from Disney World Magic Kingdom. The ride was open from 1971 to 1994 as part of Fantasyland. It was a near-exact copy of Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage ride, except the passenger vehicles were modeled to look like the Nautilus. The ride narration was rerecorded with a Captain Nemo sound-alike, and the script was tweaked to reference events from the film. Both rides culminate with a simulated giant squid attack.
I grew up in California, and visited Disneyland a few times in the late 70s and early 80s. It should be no surprise that the Submarine Voyage was my favorite ride (the Jungle Cruise was a close second). Sadly, I never got a chance to ride the Magic Kingdom’s 20,000 Leagues ride.
Incidentally, the original Submarine Voyage ride (which was open from 1959-1998), was reborn in 2007 as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. There is no longer a squid attack sequence, and that is a damn shame.
Welcome to Movie Week! Every day this week, I will profile various cephalopods that have appeared in film—both famous and obscure.
I can’t think of a better place to start than with the greatest movie cephalopod of all time—the giant squid from Disney’s landmark 1954 adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The squid appears during a climactic sequence about three-quarters of the way through the movie (1:35:42–about 95 minutes in). The Nautilus has just been ambushed by an American warship, and the damaged submarine has sunk to a depth of 5,000 feet, which, according to Captain Nemo (played by James Mason), is “deeper now than Man has ever been before.” Naturally, this seems to royally piss off a passing Architeuthis. Nemo tries to repel the squid using the Nautilus’s electrified hull (a technique which he had just successfully used to defend the sub from a tribe of vicious cannibals), but to no avail. Bringing his vessel to the surface, Nemo leads his crew into armed combat with the squid that now has the Nautilus firmly in its embrace, warning them that the giant squid is “the most tenacious of all sea beasts.” Nemo soon finds himself in the grip of a massive tentacle, his doom assured. Fortunately, Ned Land (played by Kirk Douglas) breaks out of the brig just in time to save Nemo with an expertly thrown harpoon—hitting the squid directly between the eyes (which Nemo mentioned earlier was the beast’s “only vital spot”).
The special effects in this sequence hold up surprisingly well after 55 years. The model used in the underwater scenes is quite realistic (the strange edits in the above video notwithstanding), even if some of the details are off. It even releases a cloud of ink when Nemo tries to electrocute it, which is a nice touch. Sure, the battle with the squid on the surface ratchets up the cheese factor a bit, with big, rubbery arms flailing all over the place, but in this blogger’s humble opinion, the Disney Architeuthis is more convincing overall than some recent attempts I could mention.
Disney’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remains the definitive interpretation of the Jules Verne classic. While steampunk traces its modern literary genesis back to the late 1980s/early 1990s, I think it could be easily argued that the popular sub-genre owes much of it’s visual aesthetic to the riveted opulence of Harper Goff’s Nautilus.
Let’s face it, this IS what the Nautilus looks like. Period.