SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
About The Story
Kerry Conran traces the origins of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" back to a book he had as a child growing up in Flint, Michigan in the late 1960s, early '70s. Conran says among other wondrous images, The Book of Marvels had a rendering of the Empire State Building mooring dock for dirigibles, aka zeppelins or blimps. This relatively unknown, trivial fact was amplified in Conran's imagination when he saw the film, "King Kong."
"Before they mounted the antennas up there [on the top of the building], they had a cowling dock," Conran says. "You can see it in the original 1933 'King Kong.' He's clutching it. If you look at it, it's a cowling dock for a zeppelin that he's holding on to."
Conran says he took that "strange image I wanted to see" and slowly, carefully spun a universe, his "World of Tomorrow," around it. As he sat down and began working on his film, the characters, storyline and images he envisioned sprang from the eclectic mix of film noir, pulp fiction, comic books and classic animation he'd seen growing up. He wanted to take his favorite elements of each -- the epic romance and action, the wild pace, humor and surprises, exotic locations and suspense-filled cliff-hangers -- and create an imaginatively credible world.
Kevin Conran, Kerry's brother and the film's production designer and costume designer, remembers he and his brother "would literally run downstairs on Sunday morning to watch these old 'Flash Gordon' serials before we had to take off for church." He says, "They were sliding that rocket ship across a wire and you knew it, but it was great to us just the same. There are numerous overt references in this film to those old serials and cartoons. We know a lot of other people love them, too."
Just as George Lucas found inspiration in '40s aerial flicks like "Buck Rogers"" and "Flash Gordon" for his empires and space ship dogfights in "Star Wars," so did Conran find these serials and cartoons combining with his love of film noir and the American genres of fantasy, science-fiction and adventure fiction -- all of which sprang from pulp fiction, at the beginning of the last century.
The term pulp fiction originally referred to "pulp" paper magazines of the late 19th century, such as Weird Tales and The Strand, which featured the work of such prolific literary masters as H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (The Lost World, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes). Generally, pulp fiction stories focused on man struggling with dark, powerful and often, evil forces -- both internal and external --beyond his control. By the early and mid-20th century, pulp fiction, with its mix of science fact and speculative fiction, launched a new era and genre of fantasy stories with compelling alternative or parallel realities.
The enduring universality of these conflicts and stories can be seen in the continued popularity of such characters as Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan as well as of the recent multiple-Oscar-winning film series, "Lord of the Rings," based on Tolkien's trilogy, and blockbuster film updates and remakes of "The Lost World" (Steven Spielberg's film of the same title), "King Kong" and the upcoming Robert Rodriguez adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's "A Princess of Mars."
Conran believes that many people relate not only to the universal archetypes of comic book and pulp fiction characters but also to the iconic and unforgettable imagery surrounding them. He studied these images that haunt him and used the exaggerated scales, minimalist framing and monstrous villains to achieve the look and composition of his digital and live-action wonder.
"You know the scale, it really does get back in large part to a lot of those old pulp magaz
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