Legacy Content

Toon Talk: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea DVD
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The Top Ten Things We Learn From This Commentary:

  1. Kirk Douglas learned to play the guitar for the ubiquitous Disney song, the charming chantey “A Whale of a Tale? (written by Al Hoffman and Norman Gimbel). Douglas also ‘choreographed’ the number himself.
  2. Film legend Charles Boyer was the first choice for the role of Professor Arronax, but was unable to do the film due to a prior commitment.
  3. Among the many records set during the filming of 20KL: the most people underwater at the same time, 38, more then even the U.S. Navy.
  4. Early in the production, animation was considered to create some of the special effects. But in the end, the only animation used was some fish swimming pass the salon window and the electrical sparks created to scare off the cannibals.
  5. Sophie the seal, a veteran of the circus, played the adorable Esmeralda.
  6. No blue screens were used in the entire filming of the movie. Most of the effects were done with either rear-projection or ‘dry for wet’ recreations.
  7. Richard Fleischer is the only director that Kirk Douglas worked with twice: after 20KL, Douglas hired Fleischer to direct his production of The Vikings, which he also starred in.
  8. James Mason did not know how to play the organ, but learned the proper fingering of the keyboard specifically for that scene.
  9. 20KL was only the second film filmed in Cinemascope (the first was The Robe starring Richard Burton). Due to the infancy of the new technique, the entire production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was shot with one, single Cinemascope lens.
  10. The thrilling sequence when the squid wrapped its tentacles around the Nautilus was actually shot in reverse.
  • Disc 2 leads off with the engrossing documentary simply titled The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Narrated by The Lord of the Rings’ John Rhys-Davies and featuring Fleischer and Douglas (the only surviving member of the cast), this ninety-minute feature hosts a plethora of insight and trivia, ranging from Harper Goff’s initial futuristic-by-way-of-Victorian designs, to how Nemo’s famous pipe organ was purchased for a mere $50, to how the world’s first real nuclear submarine was named the Nautilus after the movie’s sub, not the book’s.
  • Also on view in The Making of 20KL is a peek at the infamous ‘sunset squid‘ sequence, the original version of the film’s signature scene, which can be seen in all its Ed Woodian embarrassment in Lost Treasures: The Sunset Squid.
  • The intriguing parallels between Jules Verne and Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination are elaborated on in another documentary, describing these two visionary entertainers as a “natural team to work together across the centuries?. Mention is made here of the 20KL attractions at Tokyo DisneySea and Disneyland Paris, but curiously, nothing is said about the long-running Disneyland and Walt Disney World favorites.
  • Learn all about The Humbolt Squid: A Real Sea Monster!, the creature that supposedly inspired Verne’s story, in a Discovery Channel-like expose of these tentacled underwater velociraptors hosted by filmmaker/explorer/20KL fan Scott Cassell.
  • Included in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Production Gallery are a host of galleries of Production Stills (lots of production stills, including some great shots of the completed sets), Production Art (concept art, costume designs, storyboards), cast and director Biographies, Posters (including a superb collection of vintage styles and several international versions), a Script-to-Screen Excerpt, an Audio Archives (including three radio spots, complete with a booming, B-movie announcer) and more.
  • 20KL’s composer and longtime Disney contributor Paul Smith is spotlighted in The Musical Legacy of Paul Smith. Smith (who not only wrote the scores, but also completely arranged, orchestrated and conducted all his own work) was well known for his melodic, enchanting scores, such as his Oscar-winning work on Pinocchio and, most notably, the True Life Adventures series. It is also noted here that Smith had a cameo in Fantasia, and that the console for Captain Nemo’s organ can be found in the ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
  • While Touring the Nautilus, tech-heads get a unique view of the famed submersible via still photographs, film footage, blue prints and a nifty 3-D digital model.
  • Walt introduces an excerpt from the Disneyland television episode titled Monsters of the Deep, hosted by Douglas and Peter Lorre (Conseil), who does a hilarious take on Mason’s Nemo.
  • Horribly jerky photography mars the Movie Merchandise segment, wherein two brothers/collectors display their 20KL collection, including a ‘Beanie’ Nautilus.
  • Holy Finding Nemo! Exotic fish and other rare test footage are seen in Unused Animation, while 16mm on-set footage of unused material (the closest to ‘deleted scenes’ you’ll get in this set) can be seen in Trims.
  • And lastly, the original Theatrical Trailer, touting “The Mightiest Motion Picture of Them All!?, can also be seen.

Toon Talk Rating: A-

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Toon Talk Trivia:

  • Originally released on December 23, 1954 (what a Christmas present that must have been!), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was subsequently re-released theatrically in 1963 and 1971.
  • 20KL won two Academy Awards: for Special Effects and Art Direction/Set Decoration - Color. It was also nominated for Film Editing, an award it won from the American Cinema Editors Guild.
  • Although director Richard Fleischer (who won an Oscar for his 1947 documentary Design for Death) did not make any other movies with Disney after 20KL, his film career continued with such other classics as Fantastic Voyage, Doctor Dolittle, The Boston Strangler, Tora! Tora! Tora! and Soylent Green. He did appear in the documentary Walt: The Man Behind the Myth.
  • Academy Award-winning film legend Kirk Douglas also starred in the Touchstone films Tough Guys and Oscar.
  • Paul Lukas also won an Oscar, for Best Actor in 1943’s Watch on the Rhine.
  • Another Jules Verne novel, Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, was adapted into the Disney film In Search of the Castaways.
  • The haunting melody that Captain Nemo plays on his pipe organ is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a.k.a. Act I of Fantasia.

Coming Soon:

  • Bernard, Bianca and all of The Rescuers finally make their DVD debut.
  • Buckle your swashes for a high sea-fairing July: Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, the latest animated adventure from DreamWorks, sets sail on July 2nd, followed by Disney’s own blood-thirsty buccaneers, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl on July 9th.
  • If its summer, it must be time for another Spy Kids movie: adding 3-D, Salma Hayek and Sylvester Stallone into the mix, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over premieres on July 25th.
  • Piglet’s Big Movie makes its small-screen, DVD debut on July 29th.

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-- Kirby C. Holt

Kirby, a former Walt Disney World Resort Cast Member (and Trivia Champ), is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ...

Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.

The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted June 20, 2003


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