Sunday 14 January 2018

Doctor Dolittle 1967

Supervised by L.B. Abbot,this film features an effective miniature storm sequence. Doctor Dolittle's boat the Flounder was represented by an 11 foot 6 inch model (3.5m) at 2 inches to the foot scale which is 1/6 of the full size boat's dimensions. It was photographed in Fox's Serson lake at Malibu.  If you look carefully you can see regions of white water being created by underwater airlines which is then whipped away by the blast from a series of wind machines, making a very effective stormy ocean surface. The Flounder model is then capsized by a wave from a dump tank.

The Flounder model on display.

All the miniature construction was supervised by the head of the miniature prop department, Gaile Brown and included an 8 foot (2.4m) long mechanical whale attached to a flange wheeled dolly which traveled along an underwater track and pulled by a steel cable and a winch. It was able to dive and surface, had a working blowhole and a flapping tail mechanism along with air hoses to produce the wake and tail fluke white water effects.

A miniature version of the floating island Seastar, was built 80 feet (24.4m) wide, which employed a number of 44 gallon drums that could be partially filled with water enabling it to float at the right level.  There was a matching section of African coastline 300 feet (91.4m) wide and what appears to be a close up larger scale section where two halves of a tree come together.

Added to the mechanical whale creatures was a miniature flying giant moth complete with a miniature Doctor shot against blue screen and composited against a matte painted sky and a miniature version of the giant sea snail also shot in the Sersen tank.

I remember being totally captivated by this film when I was taken to see it at the cinema as a child of around 5 or 6. I really believed that the Push me Pull you double headed Llama creature was real and I was astounded when the two bits of land and particularly the tree came together like a jigsaw.

Source: Special Effects - Wire tape and Rubber Band Style by L.B.Abbott, ASC Press 1984.

1 comment:

  1. With regard to the "The Flounder" (and what an inappropriately prophetic name it was)...

    Profiles in History "Hollywood Auction 96" December 11-14, 2018

    Using their pdf catalog:

    On page 364:

    "1350. Rex Harrison “Doctor Doolittle” model miniature
    boat "The Flounder" from Doctor Doolittle. (TCF, 1967)
    Vintage original large model miniature ship constructed of wood,
    cast resin, and metal components. Outfitted with colorful canvas
    sails on wooden masts and intricate rope rigging. Cleats, cabin
    door, chain for anchor, rails and ladders present. Expertly studio
    assembled, painted and finished in hyper-realistic detail. The ship
    measures a large 18 ft. long x 7 ft. wide. With the ship’s name,
    “The Flounder” hand lettered on either side of the prow.
    Highly visible in the children’s fantasy as Doctor Dolittle’s
    vehicle of choice (when not traveling by giant snail or
    butterfly). Exhibiting age and production wear. In
    vintage very good condition. Item is located in
    the state of Michigan and special shipping
    arrangements will apply.
    $20,000 - $30,000"

    Entry includes three photos of the model and a film still.


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