The Legacy Of George Pal
If George Pal had not lived - if he had not done the things he did - if he had not shown us his grand visions of the universe, a great many wonderful things would never have happened.
Unfortunately, creative people seldom see all the ripples they create during their lifetime, and they never see all the ways in which their work affects other people and inspires others to achievements that otherwise would never exist.
We grew up watching George Pal movies. We loved them, because, whatever their budgets, those were not small movies. They were grand!
George Pal organized a group of private American businessmen in DESTINATION MOON and they, not a government agency, sent the first spaceship to the lunar surface.
George Pal meticulously destroyed the entire city of Los Angeles in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and showed us a hero whose courage and dedication to the importance of science remains as vivid in our minds as the hideous Martian creatures.
In the ultimate challenge to humanity, George Pal showed us the end of our planet in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and once again, individuals - scientists and industrialists - saved the human race by creating a gigantic space ark in less than a year's time.
In THE TIME MACHINE, Pal showed us that even at the very ends of time the power of the human spirit, the individual, can triumph against incredible odds.
He didn't think small, and he didn't turn out schlock! His larger-than-life visions helped to enlarge our view of space and science and individualism and heroes.
George Pal inspired countless artists and writers and filmmakers, who, in turn, inspired scientists and astronauts, whose amazing journeys into space during the past 20 years have inspired a whole new generation of science-fiction creators.
That is the way visions and ideas work. If they are noble and rational and original they have tremendous power.
We can honestly say that George Pal is one of the people responsible for the existence of STARLOG magazine. We are one of his creative ripples, and now STARLOG has spawned several more magazines in related fields, and these publications are busy every day inspiring thousands of young readers around the world.
The end is not in sight. In fact, there is no end to this chain. George Pal's ripples will continue to spread forever. Most people will never really know the ways in which our world is more wonderful because of this ONE man.
Although STARLOG presented several interviews over the years with Pal, we personally mourn the fact that we never thanked him adequately for creating such fascination in us - a fascination that grew into a professional love affair with science fiction movies and TV.
Thanks, George Pal, for tossing your own, personal, creative pebble into the waters of the world.
Kerry O'Quinn/Norman Jacobs Publishers, STARLOG
George Pal's PUPPETOONS averaged eight minutes in length, requiring some 30,000 single frames (pictures) and 9,000 individually hand-carved wood figures for each frame of film. Their production was similar to that of a two-dimensional drawn cartoon. With his writers, Pal would come up with the story, and dialogue if any. The production would be storyboarded, sketched out shot by shot and decisions would be made about set designing and music. Pal would render color drawings of the main characters and their movements in each sequence, completing the first, middle, and last drawing of the animation. The artists employed as in-betweeners, filled in the character's movements between these three extremes. The drawings were then photographed to test the smoothness of the action. In a sense, a two-dimensional cartoon, in rough artist sketches was first made for every Puppetoon. Then while sets and props were being constructed in miniature, there were weeks of careful carving of the characters from wood.
To animate a wooden face it was necessary to produce twenty-four or more slightly different changes of expression for each second of action. The expressions were general enough, at times, to allow for the repeating of action, but speaking dialogue or singing an operatic aria allowed for a few short-cuts. The bodies of Pal's puppets were also made from wood and covered with cloth and costume. The limbs were constructed of multi-stranded wire which could be bent many times and into an unlimited number of positions. For upright support, wire pegs were placed in the puppet's feet and made to fit holes drilled in the floor of the set.
Finally, the single-frame photography was accomplished under the guidance of an exposure sheet based on a pre-recorded sound track. Editing, synchronization, and other post-production work completed the process. When in full operation, Pal was turning out one Puppetoon film every forty-five days. The cost of this in today's dollars would probably place each 8 minute short at the cost of several million dollars a piece compared to tens of thousands in the 1940's.
The technique of the replacement figure puppet was really Pal's invention and stop motion animation was used in some form or another in every one of his films. There is stop motion in DESTINATION MOON, THE TIME MACHINE, 7 FACES OF DR. LAO and THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM. This technique is where it all started and the same basic process is the building block of all computer CGI today from JURASSIC PARK to TOY STORY.
|Pal is seen in this photo with his longtime friends Walt Disney and Walter Lantz. Pal's puppets were an influence in the building of Disneyland in exhibits like IT'S A SMALL WORLD and others. Disney's team of animators studied Pal's Puppetoons, according to Ward Kimball - creator of Jiminy Crickett and one of the fabled "nine old men". Walt was so fascinated because he strove to attain three dimensionality in his animation and here Pal was already doing it right before his eyes.
|George Pal and Gene Roddenberry's offices were across the hall from each other at Paramount Studios. Gene got a lot of advice from Pal on the making of his Star Trek series. George is pictured with Gene and Robert Wise on the set of the first Star Trek movie. Wise was influenced by DESTINATION MOON when making THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
These two photos above are very rare.
The great animator Jim Danforth on one of his earliest jobs animating Wah Chang's Jeweled Dragon in "The Singing Bone" sequence from BROTHERS GRIMM. Danforth also animated the Lochness Sea Serpent in 7 FACES OF DR. LAO which was nominated for an Oscar.
THE TIME MACHINE employed numerous stop motion techniques and won an Oscar for them.
For THE WAR OF THE WORLDS film, designer Albert Nozaki created the Martian machines with three distinct operating features 1) a long movable cobra neck which emitted the heat ray 2) an electrical TV camera-type scanner which emerged from the body of the machine 3) wing tip skeleton rays.
This DESTINATION MOON photo is very interesting. If you look carefully you will see two tiny astronauts walking down a ladder on the ship. Again, puppets were created by Pal and his stop motion technique was employed.
A concept which was later abandoned as being too dangerous involved the use of electronic beams to simulate the war machines' means of support. The idea was to use a high voltage electrical discharge of one million volts, fed down into wires suspended from overhead generators to form leg-like electronic beams. Gordan Jennings, head of special effects who won an Oscar for his work on this film, tested the effect near his office on Stage 2 at Paramount Studios and it worked fine, however, the concept was later abandoned as Pal explains: "It would been too easy for the sparks to jump to any dust, metal or dirt on the large stage. It could have killed someone, perhaps set the studio on fire, so we reluctantly gave up the idea although a great deal of hard work had already been done."
The electrical experience was not entirely wasted as each vehicle was expertly attached to fifteen hair-fine piano wires that connected to a device on an overhead track. Electricity was fed through these wires to the operating mechanisms. Other wires later transported the machines across soundstages where effects cinematographer Wallace Kelly recorded them on film with his high speed cameras.
The machines were equipped with two distinct weapons: a fiery heat ray which was used in the destruction of the cities; and a skeleton beam that disintegrated man's conventional weapons. Although many matted effects were employed to overlay on the picture, Gordan Jennings used LIVE BURNING WELDING WIRE to simulate the fiery heat ray on the miniature stage. As the wire melted, a blower set up behind the machines forced sparks toward the camera.
Many similar miniature pyrotechnics are used today in such films as ID4, DEEP IMPACT, GODZILLA and a host of others.