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Duking It Out in the Arcana Cabana
The first action sequence of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice” is a spectacular sorcerer's duel between arch enemies Balthazar Blake and Maxim Horvath in the Arcana Cabana, Balthazar's decidedly bizarre old curiosity shop in Lower Manhattan, its spooky confines stuffed to the rafters with all manner of bric-a-brac. The magical battle is witnessed by 10-year-old Dave Stutler, who has been lured to the shop by a runaway love note he penned to young Becky.

The Arcana Cabana battle is the first time we see sorcery in action in the film, from Merlin's dragon ring, which very magically comes to life and walks onto Dave's finger, to Horvath's emergence from the Grimhold, and then Balthazar and Horvath using the full range of their powers to cast spells, move objects and, in essence, blow the place to bits before they're both sucked into a large urn—where they will remain until both return into each other's (and Dave's) lives in a decade.

"The Grimhold,” explains Nicolas Cage, "is a prison for the very, very scary and wicked Morganians, and the more evil the Morganian, the deeper into the circles of this sort of Russian nesting doll they go. Morgana is in the center. The obstacle is that it keeps getting taken, and every time that happens, Horvath has the ability to open it and release another very dangerous force of Morganian evil.”

The Arcana Cabana sequence provides a perfect example of how interdepartmental cooperation was essential to creating a compelling and believable sequence. As with every other foot of film, the scene combined the efforts of director Jon Turteltaub along with the other magicians of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice.” His key creative team included masterful director of photography Bojan Bazelli, production designer Naomi Shohan, costume designer Michael Kaplan, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, legendary special effects supervisor John Frazier and his on-set coordinator, Mark Hawker, and stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge.

"This scene establishes the magic that sorcerers are capable of doing,” says Nelson. "We see plasma generated and fired for the first time, fires are created through pyrokinesis, there are concussion blasts, matter is moved through telekinesis, and there's a gravity inversion spell by Balthazar which sends Horvath hurtling up to the ceiling. It's a true collaborative effort of practical effects, stunts, the actors, camera, direction.”

In the last decade, Nelson has earned three Oscar® nominations, winning for his work on 2000's "Gladiator.” His professional philosophy is straightforward. "We do visual effects for things that are too dangerous, too expensive or impossible to do,” says Nelson. "My idea of a perfect visual effect is one that starts with a practical effect—a real event that can be photographed—and then goes into something that's amazing that looks real, ending with another practical effect. We have a great group of people under physical effects supervisor John Frazier working on set, and they're terrific at providing what's known as ‘floor effects' to make everything as real as possible. Then we take it someplace else.”

"With this film, we knew there would be a really great mix of CGI and live mechanical effects,” says Frazier. "That's the way Jon Turteltaub likes to shoot. He wants as much of it live as possible, and then enhance it with CGI. Audiences are now so sophisticated, they don't want to see stuff like what we did in the '60s and '70s that was totally mechanical. But on the other hand, sometimes when something is done entirely CGI, it looks like a cartoon rather than a movie.

"We did a lot of live effects on ‘The Sorcerer's Apprentice,'” continues Frazier. "Magic has always been about smoke and mirrors, and we have both in the movie!”

"The first fight in the Arcana Cabana not only sets the tone, but also introduces

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