Set Visit: Land of the Lost
One of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles is take the Studio Tour at Universal Studios, Hollywood. I don’t know whether it is simply reminiscing on memories of my youth - I remember all the way back to when the tram used to stop half way through and you could pick up giant, Styrofoam rocks and pretend to be “The Bionic Man“ - or is it simply the fact that I get to pass by JAWS as he jumps out of the water. I find it fascinating that they’ve added the little bit about parking the tram by a bunch of barrels on the dock marked explosives. ’Look at the pretty fire folks… look at it… look at it… oh my God it’s a shark!’ The poor shark Bruce was getting too obvious so the fire is a perfect distraction. I guess it must work, people really do scream. Anyway… I digress… The thing is, I’ve been on this tour so many times I could probably give it myself. But I happened to find something even more exciting than going on the tour, and that was stepping inside Soundstage 27 in June of 2008.
First of all, I have to describe the almost ALIEN-esque world created there with a prehistoric tone. It was the largest production ever filmed on the Universal lot and it was astounding. We stepped inside The Temple of Skulls which housed a gigantic UFO-like incinerator next to an ancient amphitheatre, but it was clear there were no games going on. The steps that lead down deep inside were large so that a certain species could easily maneuver up and down since they have large, webbed feet. The walls surrounding the amphitheatre contained what seemed to be hundreds of egg shaped chairs so that someone, or something, could watch whatever took place deep inside this brilliant set design. It looked liked some dark and tribal Opera House as the rows of chairs piled high up into the rafters.
To imagine that a film’s set, with this detailed and quite frankly, fantastic looking design, starred Will Ferrell is very intriguing. I‘ve been on a couple of sets for his movies and they were certainly nothing like this. I absolutely don‘t remember seeing a giant bust of a lizard like head in STEP BROTHERS. Nor do I remember there being a specific place for the sole purpose of torturing an intended sacrifice in that film either. This was a massive looking beauty of a soundstage that truly belongs in a film entitled LAND OF THE LOST. It is shocking to see such a place when I only remember the campy 1970’s film with puppet dinosaurs and men in suits. But don’t worry, the men in suits are still there, yet thanks to the amazing talent of Spectral Motion, the beasties will be far more interesting to look at.
As we all gathered around while they filmed, we found ourselves on what was possibly my favorite part of this wondrous set. There is one section that is surrounded by what could best be described as egg shaped phone booths. But inside the booths were Sleestak skulls with glowing red eyes. If you forgot for a minute that this was Land of the Lost, this area would be damn freaky. Again, the whole ALIEN thing comes up because there seemed to be some definite inspiration from that film. But these things were just utterly fantastic. The whole soundstage felt so towering that it would have been easy to get lost in all there was to see. It truly felt like another world that has the essence of something far out of this decade… I believe dinosaurs lived there.
Even the trees and the plant life that surrounded this Temple was very convincing. Sometimes when on a set, it somehow translates better on film because you can shoot around the places that are either just a crafts services bar, or someone trying to fix a lighting problem and the ladder ruins the growing imagination. But it seems like there was not a wasted space in this entire room. So much could’ve been put on the screen as it was all so wonderfully constructed. Everyone involved in the look and feel of what I witnessed should be proud. I almost wish that there had been a more serious tone to the film as I think the set could’ve been used for something much darker than this is likely to be. But if they find the right amount of humor and action together, it will likely be very entertaining. So here’s to hoping it’ll be as good as the actual land of the lost that has been created for the film. And this includes some awfully realistic looking beasties we all know and love… yep, I’m talking Sleestaks.
The beauty of what Spectral Motion brings to this world is the convincing nature of the Sleestaks and of course, Holly, Will and Marshall Rick‘s loveable sidekick, Chaka (Jorma Taccone). While they seem to remain true to the original design of the series, the new look seems very believable. It took quite a bit of work to create these prehistoric lizard men, but Mike Elizalde and crew are always up for a challenge. Quite awhile ago, I got the chance to visit Spectral Motion and saw a very early look at these classic characters and I was incredibly impressed. But to actually feel how well the material is made and see so many of them lined up just outside of Stage 27, it truly impressed me how much has changed with practical effects like this. I’m just curious how the Sleestak sex scene will turn out… yes, I said Sleestak sex scene. Although I hear it is more of a make-out session but we’ll find out shortly what that entails.
While I was only an occasional viewer of the original 70’s LOTL television show, I was certainly a fan of Sid and Marty Krofft. They did a whole mess of shows that I watched, and it was terribly exciting to see their involvement in the current film. When talking about the update actually finding its way to the silver screen, it seemed like they needed a true match made in movie heaven to make it a reality. “We created [LOTL] and we got all the people, Brad [Silberling] and everybody, and then we pitched it to all the studios… the five studios. They all wanted it. And we, on purpose, we developed Land of the Lost in the Nineties at Disney. And then we developed it at Sony, and Paramount… but the bottom line was, it was like another episode.” And it was always Will Ferrell they were looking at which helped them bring together the comedy and the jeopardy. Thus, Will is now asking us in the trailer if the big, bad dinosaur is right in back of him. Will this humor and adventure work? We’ll soon find out.
There is certainly more to come on THE LAND OF THE LOST, including interviews with Will Ferrell, Danny McBride and the lovely Anna Friel. So the question is, are you looking forward to getting lost?
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.