A scientist is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his blood stream with a small crew. Problems arise almost as soon as they enter the bloodstream.
The oceans during the late 1860-92s are no longer safe; many ships have been lost. Sailors have returned to port with stories of a vicious narwhal (a giant whale with a long horn) which sinks their ships. A naturalist, Professor (Pierre) Aronnax, his assistant, Conseil, and a professional whaler, Ned Land, join an US expedition which attempts to unravel the mystery. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This production was so large that Disney had to use facilities at other studios. This included Universal International (exterior sets redressed for the opening scenes) and 20th Century Fox (large exterior tank for the larger models). See more »
The note that Ned Land puts in the bottle, while containing numbers representing both latitude and longitude, neglects to say whether the latitude is North or South. The note is however not useless: the unnamed state could have sent warships to both the North and South locations. See more »
There's something out there roaming the Pacific Ocean destroying a whole lot of shipping and killing a lot of people. The more maritime the nation, the more losses it's suffering. Jules Verne's story has the United States of America taking the first crack at finding what's going on in the Pacific.
On a ship commanded by Ted DeCorsia are two Frenchmen, renowned scientist Paul Lukas and his assistant Peter Lorre. Also along is Kirk Douglas who is crack whaling harpooner.
Of course they meet up with the beast and it's no living thing, but a submarine. This was all new back then, although prototype submarines were used in the Civil War they had limited effectiveness. In fact this particular kind of submarine was something unheard of until the middle of the last century. It's captain is a misanthropic fellow named Nemo, played by James Mason. He's taking it out on the nation's of the world for some personal losses sustained.
His brilliance as a scientist, his refinement also attracts Paul Lukas. But Kirk Douglas just wants to escape because for all of Douglas's carefree philistinism, he sees Nemo as a murderer and a menace. The conflict between both is what drives the story.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea won Oscars for both Special Effects and Art direction. It is probably Walt Disney's most successful live action film ever done, even beating out Mary Poppins dare I say. Even in this day of computer generated effects, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea still holds its own with more modern films.
Kirk Douglas enjoyed the part of Ned Land the harpooner and it's a favorite of his today. He might have made a few more films for Walt Disney but for an incident that took place after the film.
Disney was also at the same time creating his first theme park, Disneyland in Anahem, California. When it was opening he invited Kirk and his family to spend the day there on him and he even agreed to furnish a camera crew to follow the Douglas family around as they enjoyed the park attractions.
So Kirk took his wife and his sons and they had a grand old time and got some free home movies as a souvenir. But Walt Disney kept the negative and the films showed up on his Walt Disney Presents television show. Of course Kirk never got paid for this appearance and neither did any of the rest of his family including young Michael Douglas.
Even though this left a sour taste in Kirk Douglas's mouth as he related in his memoirs, The Ragman's Son, he liked his work in this film very much and the part certainly has the same kind of exuberance we expect from a Kirk Douglas movie. Kirk even gets to sing in the film, a nice little sea chantey called A Whale of a Tale. He even made a record of it and I'm sure if you can find it, the item might be worth a few dollars as a collectible.
Right around the time 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released the United States Navy launched it's first atomic submarine. In tribute to that most popular of French authors with American audiences, the Navy named the ship the Nautilus. A great tribute to a great writer of fabulous tales of imagination. And Walt Disney couldn't have gotten better publicity had he paid for it.
Don't believe me, I swear by my tattoo.
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