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The Special Effects
"To create the Ranger Village, I started by looking for a place beautiful enough and secluded enough to warrant building it," explains Storer

"To create the Ranger Village, I started by looking for a place beautiful enough and secluded enough to warrant building it," explains Storer. "A few years ago I had been working on a film near Heber City and had gone snowmobiling with the director during lunch. I had remembered this place near the Snake Creek power station and fortunately I was able to find it again six years later and in a different season.

"The Ranger Village has a collage of a lot of different architectural styles. There is a bit of what you would see in Yellowstone, and then some Adirondack influences which I think are more romantic and fun because they give the structures shape. Since we couldn't go for enormous scale in the buildings, we filled in with more details and character.

"What seemed to be one of the more daunting challenges of the film turned out to be one of its bigger successes," says Storer, referring to the need to create an Old Faithful geyser, also from scratch.

Discussing the possibilities with director Steve Boyum, special effects supervisor Ray Bivins found himself in search of a jet engine and someone who would let the production use it. "We asked Steve Boyum how high he wanted the geyser to shoot and his response was 'Higher than you can get it,'" recalls Bivins. "A jet engine is about the only thing small enough to go underground in the space that we had, and still have the force to propel water and steam to about 135 feet."

The real Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park usually erupts to a height of between 130 to 140 feet, though spouts from 180 to 190 feet have been seen in its 125 years of recorded observation. Fortunately, jet propulsion scientists at Utah State University's jet propulsion lab in Logan, Utah were willing to rise to the occasion and assist the filmmakers in the gushing, cinematic experiment.

"You've got 1,200 degrees coming out of the engine," notes Ray Bivins. "We had to find the exact flow of water to feed into the jet because we didn't just want an enormous fountain ... we wanted a spout of steam mixed with water, similar to the look of a real geyser. But if we put in too much water, it started to run back down the feed tubes because it cooled the engine too fast ... and too small an amount simply evaporated in the engine."

"We were using Utah State University's Vietnam-era jet ranger helicopter engine," Stephen Storer explains. "We dug an enormous hole underground and mounted the engine, set on its side, shoring it up so that the vibration of the jet wouldn't damage the superstructure of its new wooden casing. It is very powerful, creating 4,000 pounds per square inch of thrust coming out of an 18 inch tube. Another twist was that the water had to come in horizontally and turn 90 degrees to come out in a vertical spout. Since we were shooting the sequence at a location far away from any natural or municipal water source, we needed to have 4,500 gallons of water pumped in from numerous water trucks for every 20 to 30 second take we did."

The "Old Faithful" scenes for the Ranger graduation and Billionth Birthday celebration were shot in the breathtaking plain of Guardsman's Pass, which is just south of Park City and at an altitude of 9,500 feet. Ray Bivins crew also planted explosive charges leading up to the geyser to effect the underground charges that apparently stop Old Faithful from erupting only moments before the celebration is set to begin.


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