Magazine article American Cinematographer

Letters

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Letters

Article excerpt

Postcard from

The Lost World

Scott MacQueen did an admirable job documenting The Lost World in the June issue, but he makes one glaring assumption: that Willis O'Brien animated alone. He did not. From 1925 onward, O'Brien always had an entourage of grips and propmakers working as co-animators. In a tape-recorded interview circa 1963, Marcel Delgadotold Don Shay that O'Brien had initially hired Cliff Markay as a modelmaker and co-animator. When Delgado assumed those chores, Markay was sacked. Delgado also recalled another co-animator named Bill Fox.

The acute disparity in the quality of The Lost World's stop-motion sequences also belies the notion of solo animation. The first allosaur attack on the duckbill was crudely shot on twos and threes to stretch the soup, and by someone who lacked O'Brien's expertise. Compare this with the subsequent attack on the styracosaur and the goring of the meateater to death, smoothly animated on single frames and a virtual blueprint for the Kongtyrannosaur fight. The latter slugout was the work of O'Brien and his key grip, E.B. Gibson.

The page 43 photo of the actors behind the bemired brontosaur appears to be a paste-up, not a matte test. The actors are razor sharp, indicating that they were cut out and inserted. In the film, the actors are seen in the blackened area. Here, the bronto's head rears over the split screen line. The photo was probably an incomplete publicity composite.

Screenwriter Marion Fairfax's trepidant stance on Obie's work was an attitude that stalked him like an albatross. In September 1941, Messmore & Damon, the makers of the actuated dinosaurs forthe 1939 World's Fair, tried to convince the producers of the ill-fated Gwangito use their services. O'Brien put his foot down and that was that. In January 1947, Norman Freeman suggested to RKO VP Ned Depinet that a man in a gorilla skin could be the simian star of Mighty Joe Young, a year after Obie had begun sketching stop-motion sequences for that film. …

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