(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
Doug (vo): 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is not an unknown movie. It gets a lot of attention and whenever somebody mentions the name, they either think of the book or this version. But I do feel bad as a lot of modern audiences seem to dismiss it and, to be honest, I can kind of see why. Not that’s it’s bad, it’s actually really good, but when you have something as adult and groundbreaking as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and then you have the name Walt Disney attached to it, yeah, a lot of people seemed to think that it’s gonna be a musical or corny and, honestly, it’s very adult. And when I say adult, I don’t mean trying to get the PG-13 rating up by having swear words and gore and, I don’t know, whatever the hell Pirates 3 did.
[A disturbing death scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the one where Davy Jones kills Mercer, is shown briefly]
Doug (vo): I’m talking about actual adult characters, actual grownups, actual good dialogue, actual intriguing ideas. Yeah, remember those? You could still get away with that with a G rating, and still have it be a live-action film. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s the story?
Doug (vo): Well, there’s rumors of a giant sea monster that’s apparently taking down a lot of ships. So one ship is sent out to try and find it and destroy it. Two of the crew members are Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre. But once the supposed sea monster destroys that ship, our two heroes, along with another survivor, swim aboard this sea monster apparently and discover that it’s actually a submarine, at a time when, really, there were no submarines. This submarine is led by Captain Nemo, played by James Mason. That’s three pretty damn big stars at the time right there, James Mason, Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre, all very distinct in their acting styles and work off each other very well. What’s Nemo’s plan? It turns out he’s sick of humanity and the world, so he decides to retire to the sea. But he’s so sick of all the misery and war that humanity makes for itself that he decides to step in and try to destroy anything he sees as disrupting the peace. He’s cold and stern, but he’s just trying to do what he feels is best for all of mankind. He doesn’t trust our castaways, but overtime, he does manage to open up to them, treating them less like prisoners and more like members of the crew.
Doug (vo): As Disney films go, this is probably the most subdued, and that’s saying a lot, seeing how there’s a giant squid that attacks. There are some really groundbreaking effects and some really good visuals. The smart dialogue and the development of the characters is so clear cut that it’s hard not to like them. Their ideologies, their intelligence, their characteristics, everything about them makes them so distinct but also so enjoyable.
[The squid attack sequence is shown]
Doug (vo): The effects are also really something. This squid probably would be done in CG nowadays, but back then, they just used a life-sized puppet. Originally, it was shot during the day, and Disney said it looked too fake. So he recommended that they do it in a storm, that way it hides the strings a lot better. The idea of shooting a monster in a storm or in the dark in order to hide what it looks like would be used years later, both for atmosphere and to hide the technicals behind making it. There’s definitely changes from the book, but I feel it really still got the spirit of both the characters and the technology really well. And even when they’re doing something as silly as fighting a giant squid or using electricity to fight off these natives, it still works because of the dedication of both the atmosphere and the actors.
[Posters of Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford are shown]
Doug (vo): It’s kind of like with Indiana Jones. Yeah, when you get down to it, it’s a pretty stupid story, but Harrison Ford’s performance and just how seriously the direction is taking it makes it one of the great action classics.
[Various clips from the film resume showing]
Doug (vo): And while this isn’t really an action film per se, I say it does make some really big strong stands for sci-fi and fantasy. But I guess that’s why it has such a hard time finding such a dedicated audience. Fans of typical Disney probably won’t get into so much dialogue and so much technical talk and only one or two fight sequences. But fans of that stuff probably can’t get too much into, like, say, Kirk Douglas’ little musical number or the fact that he has a sidekick seal.
Doug (vo): But for me, I think they blend perfectly. It has just enough to keep kids from falling asleep but also has just enough for the parents not to change the channel. I think it’s a good mix, even if it does lean more towards the adult side, which, now that I’m an adult, I find I like even more. It’s got good adventure, good actors, and good talent telling one of the most famous sci-fi stories of all time. I’d say it’s definitely worth checking out.
[The scene where the submarine's front opens, revealing a window showing underwater, is shown]