Sea Classics Magazine
JAN 1975
Vol. 8 No. 1

ULES VERNE, first of the
great, popular science fic-
tion writers, startled readers
around the world when, in
there were no complete plans
or even drawings of Verne's visionary
craft. Early on, Disney seemed to be
in favor of a cigar shaped, space
 
  1870, he published his novel "20,000
Leagues Under the Sea." The most
exciting of Verne's stories was also
to become one of the classic all
time adventure films brought to the
screen by the genius of Walt Disney
and his talented staff.
As with all major motion picture
efforts, work began long months be-
fore any shooting took place. A year
of pre-production planning was car-
ried out on the film that other giant
motion picture studios had deemed
impossible.
The biggest attraction and the big-
gest headache for the film makers
was the Nautilus herself. Jules
Verne's word was law as far as
production was concerned and his
description of the submarine was
to be as closely followed as possible
in the film. The problem was that
ship-like affair, but Harper Goff, the
man to whom most of the credit for
the movie should really have fallen,
fought to keep the design of the
ship on a believable basis for the
period in which the story was to
take place, the world of the 1870s.
Captain Nemo wanted his vessel to
give the appearance of a terrible
sea monster when it attacked ships
at sea, and this feature had to be
built into the design. This would in-
clude primarily the great bulging
eyes, the dorsal fin and the giant
tail. Again, much of what was finally
used in production was the result
of Mr. Goff's brainstorming although
most of the credit was given to the
production manager, Mr. Fred Leahy.
Indeed, he received an Academy
Award for the special effects in the
movie.
 
"20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" Photos copyright Walt Disney Productions






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1
Below the Chart Room lies the Outtitting
Room where the crew suited up in their
diving gear.

2
The Wheelhouse--where the submarine
was steered by looking through the view-
ing ports at each side of the wheel.
Other features include the diving control
stancions to the left of the wheel. Along
the wall is the atomic counter and trim
indicator.

3
The Power Supply Room--the very heart
of the vessel, the propulsion unit. Here

 
Captain Nemo had discovered what man-
kind has always sought--the veritable
dynamic power of the universe.

4
Through the starboard viewing port is
the giant squid, which attacked the NAU-
TILUS with its 30-toot tentacles and
almost killed Captain Nemo.
 

 The gentlemen shown here need no
introduction. Casting for the movie could
not have been better, particularly
in the case of having the distinguished
English actor James Mason: play the
sometime demonic Captain Nemo.

 

 

 


 

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The interior of the NAUTILUS was one
of the finest examples of Hollywood
magic ever created. Here, in the
uncompleted set for Captain Nemo's
salon, stands designer Harper Goff.
The accompanying photo shows the
same view only after the set has been
completed. The L.A. area was
scoured for antiques that would blend
in well with the set design. As can
be seen from the photo of the
unfinished set, the movie was faithful
to a popular building technique of the
era in which giant tubes were used
to form the framework for the sub.
These tubes, in addition~to providing
structural strength, were alternately
filled with air or water as a means for
ballasting the sub. Again, this was
all Mr. Goff's brainchild.

3
Several versions of the NAUTILUS were
built for the movie--and in several sizes.
Overall shots where the entire sub
would be in view were done in a
specially constructed 90x165-foot tank
inside a sound stage using a brass
12-foot model, the same model Shown
in the lead photo of this article and the
same model which for many years sat
on display at the "20,000 Leagues
Under the Sea" exhibit in Disneyland.
The unit in this photo was only a surface
model of about 20 feet total length
and was used for all of the surface
running shots which were filmed
in the large outdoor tank at the old
20th Century-Fox facility in Studio City,
California. The lights created an eerie
glowing effect around the ship as
she charged at "collision speed"
to saw her victims in half.


4
The third model built of the NAUTILUS
was really a full scale mock up of the
above-waterline section. This was
constructed for the scenes in which actors
would be seen on deck. This unit was
also placed in the Fox tank for shooting.

5
One of the action highlights of the
movie comes when the NAUTILUS
is attacked by a giant squid. More than
$200,000 and eight shooting days were
required to bring this sequence to life.
Research indicated that squids have
been known to possess tentacles 90
feet long and weigh in excess of 20 tons.
The sea beast created for the Disney
epic sported only a 40 foot reach!
Weighing two tons, the Disney squid
was a masterpiece of rubber, spring
steel, flexible tubing, glass cloth,
lucite and other forrns of plastic. In fact,
the squid was a giant marionette
requiring 28 men to bring it to life.
Another 100 men backstage were
required to bring the entire sequence
to life. Viewers will recall that the
scene took place in a violent storm.
6
This shot shows the 20-foot model on
the surface of the big outside tank.
Movie goers might recall the scene that
is being prepared here where the
NAUTILUS, with Captain Nemo in a
near state of hypnosis, rams and
destroys a ship carrying nitrate.
Note the worker standing in the
far end of the tank.

7
One of the scenes in the movie called
for Nemo to leave Kirk Douglas,
Peter Lorre and Paul Lukas stranded
on the surface while the sub dived.
It was determined that in order to
obtain this particular piece of footage,
special arrangements would have to be
made. The purpose is obvious and the
U.S. Navy was kind enough to provide
the USS REDFISH for a short time in
order to accomplish the desired effect.
Scene was shot off San Diego
using stunt men.


8
Special fully operational diving suits
weighing some 225 pounds not
including lead weights were designed
for the underwater diving sequences
which were filmed in the Bahamas.
This in itself was an amazing work of art.

 


 

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All black and white
photos courtesy
Walt Disney Productions