Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming: Magic Carpet 'Round the World

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming: Magic Carpet 'Round the World

Article excerpt

Sensitive lighting and interesting scene composition can be difficult enough to achieve with one camera. But consider the challenge imposed by placing nine cameras in a circle to photograph Magic Carpet 'Round The World for Walt Disney Productions' Circle-Vision 360 theater. Add a shooting schedule of nine countries in nine weeks and there is a unique assignment indeed.

Most Disneyland visitors are familiar with the Circle-Vision 360 film, America The Beautiful, presented by the Bell System, which completely surrounds the audience with a circle of nine images. Magic Carpet 'Round The World in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has been equally as popular since its debut in 1971. The decision to produce a 60% expansion of the latter film was the result of an agreement made between Disney and the Oriental Land Company. This new version, sponsored by Fuji film, premiered at Tokyo Disneyland last May.

The original Magic Carpet 'Round The World contained excellent footage of the Middle East and a few other areas that would have been very costly to improve upon. So to compliment the existing strengths of the film, the team chose to focus heavily on Europe. This single decision made very effective use of limited funds by allowing for a variety of countries within a relatively small area, globally speaking. Disney's executive producer, Randy Bright, as well as the Japanese sponsors, agreed upon this direction, since the Japanese have traditionally viewed Europe as "a great storehouse of culture."

Producer-director Rick Harper began with a storyboard created in collaboration with lineproducers Antoine Compin and Charis Horton. The team began gathering ideas from photographic library sources, books and magazines, and assembling potential shots into a storyboard. Then, tourism offices were contacted to learn more about the selected locations. Many places were ruled out immediately for various reasons. Typically, in the years since some of the pictures in the book were taken a cement factory or some such obstacle had been erected, obscuring an otherwise nice 36o-degree shot. The research process narrowed things down considerably, saving valuable time in location scouting.

Next, a scouting trip through nine countries was accomplished at a break-neck pace. Polaroid snapshots were assembled in a panoramic edge-toedge fashion. With the information from the scouting trip, the team drew up a budget back in the office of Antoine and Charis in Paris. In the three-week period that followed, refinements were made to the storyboard, the budget was firmed up and the team left to begin filming. The total filming took nine weeks.

The location shooting was divided into two major phases: a flying tour and a driving tour. The crew began in Athens, Greece and flew in a chartered DC-3 to the island of Santorini. Harper says, "We did three shots there on what we called the 'dark side' of the island (there is no electricity there). Then we flew to Rome, hired some local people to integrate with our own crew, which was comprised of two French grips, Rene Strasser and Yvon Sausseau, a French camera assistant, Richard Andry, and Joe Nash, the camera engineer from Disney who can put the camera together blindfolded. This crew was superb in every way."

From Rome, the crew flew to Amsterdam, where they left the plane and met up with drivers and two more grips. Trucks took them from Amsterdam to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and to France, where they traveled by ferryboat to London, trucks and all. After filming in Scotland they returned to Paris and shot there. Arrangements were made for additional local crews throughout production.

The Circle-Vision 360 system is a series of nine Mitchell cameras mounted around a central column with one large motor that runs them all synchronously. Each camera is aimed upward into a carousel of front-surface mirrors. This arrangement gives all the lenses a common nodal point and also avoids the parallax problem that would occur without the mirrors. …

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