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Creation (1931)

A lost submarine discovers a secret island where dinosaurs still live.

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Ned Hallet
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A lost submarine discovers a secret island where dinosaurs still live.

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While this film was never completed (it was scrapped so that King Kong (1933) could be made instead), some scenes were indeed filmed:
  • A shot of the island and various animals (a chimpanzee, a jaguar and a heron) interacting in the foliage. You then see a mother Triceratops and her two babies, who are playing a game of "tug-of-war" with a small tree. After this one of the babies wanders off into the jungle (chasing a possum into a cave) and is found by one of the men who is marooned on the island and looking for food. He shoots the baby in the eye, killing it. Suddenly the enraged mother comes charging after him and runs him down finally goring him to death with its horn. Parts of this sequence were almost grafted into a scene in King Kong but the idea was scrapped because it didn't match up well with the King Kong footage.
  • A shot of the volcanic island rising from the sea during a fierce storm. And a yacht being smashed by the waves of the stormy sea. This footage is apparently lost.
  • There is also a still from this movie featuring an Arsinoitherium chasing some Chilean sailors through a jungle. But apparently this was a staged photo and not actual film footage.
  • Several models were constructed for this project such as a Triceratops (with babies), a Tyrannosaurus Rex (with baby), an Arsinoitherium, a Pteranodon, a Stegasaurus, a Brontosaurus, a Agathaumas and a Styracosaurus. A lot of these models would be used for King Kong.
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Featured in Dinosaur Movies (1993) See more »

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The Foundations for King Kong
6 July 2004 | by (Greenville, North Carolina) – See all my reviews

For the millions out there who may be unfamiliar with Creation, this was to have been the first dinosaur movie of the sound era. An extremely ambitious undertaking, the production was helmed by the people who produced the 1925 silent classic The Lost World- director Harry Hoyt and master of stop motion animator Willis O'Brien. As envisioned by director Hoyt, Creation would basically have been a sound retelling of the Lost World scenario: a group of survivors from a yacht and Chilean submarine find themselves in an extinct volcano where prehistoric animals have survived. Stranded, the human castaways fight for survival and are ultimately rescued before the island is swept away in a volcanic cataclysm.

About a year of pre-production work went into Creation, but ultimately the film was dropped, due largely to the mounting financial troubles at RKO. Creation had already run up costs in excess of $100,000 (during the Depression- today the equivalent expense would probably be well in excess of several million dollars). While a great deal of preproduction work was finished, only two known sequences were completed. One was a high-speed filming of the volcano rising from the ocean during a storm; the other (the only footage that appears to have survived) is a stop-motion animation sequence involving a mother triceratops and two youngsters, animated by O'Brien. In this polished effects scene, the babies engage in a playful tug-of-war with a stick, until the mother nudges them apart. One of the youngsters wanders away, trekking through a very atmospheric jungle, where it has the misfortune to encounter the main villain of the story, a survivor of the shipwreck named Hallet (played by Ralfe Harrold, the only live actor to participate). Hallet shoots the poor little dino in the eye, killing it. Hearing the cries of her dying baby, Mother triceratops charges, goring the man to death. Viewing this surviving footage, it is clear O'Brien had vastly refined the quality of his work since The Lost World.

O'Brien had been steadily improving the quality of his animation, which in the Lost World varied considerably. The dinosaurs (in particular the babies) are very lifelike in their movements, and OBie managed to instill a personality in the creatures that made them both appealing and compelling to watch. Another major improvement was the use of multiple glass paintings, rendered by gifted studio artists Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe which gave a startling illusion of depth to the jungle vistas. Much of the visual inspiration for these exotic settings was from the work of Victorian artist Gustave Dore. However, it was the huge advancement in the Dunning traveling matte system in the years since The Lost World that made this sequence truly exceptional. Unlike the Lost World, which relied primarily upon static in-camera mattes to place live action into the miniature settings, the Dunning system could insert live action without blocking off a portion of the frame, allowing the live action to be inserted directly in front of the miniature settings. This ancestor of today's green screen digital compositing was put to much use in the early 1930's, but in Creation the process was all but perfected. Ralfe Harrold was inserted into scenes in a virtually flawless manner; the composite results are markedly better than even the work in King Kong- done two years later.

It's too bad the film was never completed; however, had it not been for Creation, King Kong as we know it today would probably not have been possible. Due to O'Brien's flawless work on Creation, producer Merian Cooper determined stop-motion animation (combined with multiple glass paintings, improved traveling matte and rear projection process work) could bring his proposed adventure epic King Kong to the screen. Had Creation been completed, it probably would have been a fascinating spectacle. However due to it's rather uninspired plot line (Hoyt was successful with The Lost World, but his sense of drama and direction was hardly in league with Merian Cooper's) and like so much of today's overused CGI eye-candy films, it would have remembered for its use of effects, but little else. Kong, on the other hand, quickly became a cultural icon; one which has survived for over 70 years in spite of time, improvements in film technology, and innumerable knock offs and imitations. If you have an interest in the history of stop motion animation, I recommend trying to see this brief glimpse of what became the artistic foundation for King Kong. Fortunately, the surviving footage can still be seen as a special feature on the Most Dangerous Game LD released from the Roan Collection about 10 years ago. I don't know if it exists anywhere on DVD as yet, but we can all keep our fingers crossed that when King Kong is finally released in the US on DVD, someone will have had the foresight to include the Creation footage among the special features. It's definitely worth a look.


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