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Cautiously Optimistic
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This is a bit on the verbose side, but I thought it might be of interest to "2001" fans.

The following was posted on another site by a friend and fellow "2001" nut who works in the FX industry. Recently, he had a chance to speak with "2001" expert David Larson, author of an upcoming book on the making of the film. Larson has spent several years researching the subject, and has been granted unprecedented access to "2001"-related materials by the Kubrick family.

Here, in a nutshell, is the story of what happened to the FX miniatures used in the film...

As with just about anything to do with the making of 2001, the fate of all the models is complicated and the stories that have endured are almost an urban legend.

It's true that Kubrick was a fanatic about security and the releasing of imagery. In eight years of research, Dave Larson has come across only Polaroid exposure shots of the large discovery being filmed...no color transparencies at all. I think we've been spoiled by the photo coverage from ILM/Apogee/BOSS over the years. They had the benefit of a staff photographer whose job it was to cover the making of stuff. People just didn't think that way in the pre-2001 days, so there wasn't a dedicated photographer during the VFX filming. And stuff was still shot on film back then, so you weren't likely to shoot several hundred photos of the model under construction (God, how I wish they did). And Kubrick would likely have disapproved. That, I think, kinda explains the dearth of photos.

As for the sets - the British had a common practice of stripping down any useful parts and reusing them as stock set pieces and then burning the rest on the backlot to get rid of them. For 2001, about the only thing I can think of as being useful for a stock set would be the hotel at the end of the picture. As it is, I'm willing to bet a lot of the furniture from that set was from a rental house. The paintings and urns and lights and vases and table and bed are all fairly common items. (Wouldn't be surprised if they are still there.) All the Space Station, spaceship interiors, and Discovery sets were so highly stylized that doubt they were even considered for stock sets. Even if Stanley hadn't been that secretive, I doubt they would have survived.

Now here's where it gets tricky - during the production of the movie, Stanley Kubrick agreed to sell many of the props, costumes, artwork, miniatures, and even some set pieces to a group of people that were trying to establish an International Space Museum & Gallery in Washington, DC. The idea was that these artifacts would form the cornerstone of the museum and would eventually include 'real' artifacts that had flown in space. (At the time, there was no dedicated gallery at the Smithsonian for these types of artifacts. Any/all aviation and space related items were displayed in the main Smithsonian Castle building till the new Air & Space building was constructed around 1976.) Supposedly, Chesley Bonestell had donated some of his artwork for the facility as well. A lot of the costumes and almost all of the models were tagged for this exhibit and were crated up and stored till the movie was finished. A lot of the models were only shot with a large format still camera and those photos were actually what we see on the screen. (All of the weapons satellites, good portions of the Moonbus, Aries, and Orion footage were all shot as stills, retouched, and then rephotographed.) In a way those photos were more valuable to the production than the actual models, and thankfully, a lot of those large format photos have survived. Most of those models would have been boxed up in the summer of 1967.

Kubrick insisted that the items sold to the museum would not be used in other films, as the props from Forbidden Planet had been reused over the years (Invisible Boy, episodes of Twilight Zone, etc). And they agreed to this stipulation. In addition, there were to be many tie-ins with other companies that had supplied information on their plans for the future. All of those were to feature some of the props from 2001 as part of a marketing strategy.

So what happened?

Well, first off, a lot of the companies that agreed to to provide technical and design support to the movie loaned out personnel, but were unable to manufacture anything fast enough to satisfy a movie schedule (even one as glacial as 2001). American Express made a credit card (ultimately unseen), and Honeywell company made a snazzy briefcase, but that was about it. Most of the other futuristic props that are in the film were designed and built at the studio. There were a lot of logos used (IBM, Howard Johnson's, Hilton, Pan Am, Aeroflot), but not a whole lot of actual products. That kinda killed the tie-in deals.

Not helping any was the fact that the movie took something like four years to make. This deal was negotiated fairly early on, and perhaps Stanley just got weary of the idea of a museum by the end of the production. The marketing people and the critics didn't really know what to make of the film and this would just add to the "what the heck are we going to do with this thing" feeling that everyone had once the film was finally seen.

Probably the biggest factor was Stanley just wanting to preserve the mystery of how they pulled it off. I think this quote from Kubrick sums it up - "How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo (Davinci) had written at the bottom of the canvas: 'The lady is smiling because she's hiding a secret from her lover.' This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don't want this to happen to 2001." That and the not wanting it to appear in another movie (Once out of England and his control, anything could have happened to that stuff.) Whatever the reason, Kubrick reneged on the agreement to send the stuff to Washington, DC. This was some time in late 1967, before the first screenings and just as the stuff should have been shipped to the US from the UK. The museum people were justifiably upset. MGM just kinda went along for the ride. Like any good Hollywood tale, this one wound up in a lawsuit with both MGM and Kubrick being sued for a good sum by the museum people. The suit wound its way through depositions and the like for a number of years. Meanwhile, all this stuff is still in storage over at MGM in London. Finally, when it was realized that they would probably be found liable for breach of contract, Stanley and MGM settled up with the museum people.......in 1974. (The damage was done, however, and the International Space Museum & Gallery never opened.)

The six years in between the release of 2001 and the end of the lawsuit were not good ones for MGM. They were facing a lot of financial difficulties here in the states, and the UK studio operation wasn't in particularly good shape either. In Los Angeles, MGM cleared out most of its prop and wardrobe collection in a series of auctions in the early 70's. After Soylent Green wrapped filming in 1972, a good portion of the backlot in Culver City was bulldozed and turned into housing. Since the models and props were part of a lawsuit, the items had to be kept secure. But once the lawsuit was over, Kubrick and MGM were free to do anything they wanted to do with the stuff. MGM had no real interest in keeping the stuff around. The crates took up a considerable amount of space in a facility that they were looking to liquidate. (MGM shipped over a couple of the helmets and some of the costumes, but that was about it.) Kubrick didn't specifically order the stuff's destruction, but didn't want to pay to have the stuff shipped to the states or to have it stored, either. It wasn't too long before the guy running the studio operations at MGM in the UK called up a hauling company and had it all sent away to the dump.

Here's where the tale gets downright bizarre - we've all seen the photos of the Space Station in the field. Apparently, the large Discovery and the full size Pods survived filming and were set up at a children's playground. This was all done on the quiet, without MGM's knowledge. Once they found out about it, they went ballistic and ordered the company to go and retrieve the stuff and made them sign a document saying the items had been destroyed. This was the equivalent of a racehorse being taken to a rendering plant. So, what the kids didn't manage to break off in the few days the stuff was outside was loaded up, shipped out to a dump, and likely burned.

Rumors and anecdotal evidence suggest that the Moonbus miniature did survive. Depending on which version you hear, either Kubrick wound up with it or another crew member kept it. The sad footnote is that it finally met it's end at the hands of someone's kids and some fireworks. (Dave Larson heard that Kubrick had it. I heard the story about the other crew guy and his kids (for the life of me, I don't know where I heard it, but I thought the person telling me the story at the time to be credible, so I'm repeating it.)) When Dave Larson inventoried the stuff the Kubrick estate donated to the College of Communication, it wasn't amongst any of the inventories. None of the Kubrick family members Dave met with have mentioned it. Likely, it is gone.

I think that because of our fondness of the movie and our desire to see how it was done, as well as the stories we've heard, we all have this idea in our heads of some crazy madman running around the set screaming, "Burn it. Burn it all!" But I don't think that's the case...the reality turned out to be more subtle. It think there was an unfortunate set of circumstances colliding with a very private and secretive man that occurred in an era where these kinds of items just were not valued as much as they are today.

I have to say one other thing - Dave Larson has researched this and passed along this information to me over a series of long chats we've had over the years. I can take no credit for any of the information here. He has really done his homework, and quite frankly, is 'da man' when it comes to 2001.
 

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Interesting interview, I look forward to Larson's book!
 

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It's true that photos of model construction are pretty thin on the ground, but there are some here and there. In Jerome Agel's 1970 book 'the Making of Kubrick's 2001', there's a nice photo of Stanley and Con Pederson holding two different-scaled Discovery antennae up for inspection, with the moonbus on a bench behind them. Also, photos of the lunar landscape table set-up and Trumbull painting the moonbase onto a photo blow-up. Bizony's book '2001, Filming the Future' has two spectacularly fine photos of the large Discovery command module sitting in a foam-padded cradle awaiting final touches.
 

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2001 FX models

I will try to find it but I discovered a photo of the 2001 space station rotting
in a field. The person who took the photo, car was too small to take it away.
When he returned it was busted up by local kids.
Very sad indeed
 

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Cautiously Optimistic
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Discussion Starter #7
Yeah, it's not that "2001" photos don't exist; it's that they're relatively rare -- at least by the standards of the miniature work recorded by ILM, Hartland, Boss, and the like.

I've seen some of the stuff Larson has dug up, and it's pretty amazing.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I will try to find it but I discovered a photo of the 2001 space station rotting in a field.
Yeah, that particularly gut-wrenching image is floating around the internet.

Oh, the humanity. ;)

Speaking of interesting "2001" shots...



Dig the centerfold on the corkboard, the open box of Airfix kits on the counter, and the guy with the glasses, who bares an eerie resemblance to Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon.
 

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As for filming technique, the models were, indeed, shot with still cameras, and the still photos given "life" on an animation stand. Brian Johnson used this technique on "Space: 1999", mostly on far shots of the Eagles, but you can see this was done heavily in the "War Games" episode with the Mk. IX Hawks.

I recall that one effects technician named Zoran Perisic didn't like how the miniatures looked when 2001 was finished, and, after working on the film, he decided to create a new system for filming miniatures. He finally perfected his system, but the first practical use of it was not with miniatures, but with an actor in a flying rig.

His system was called "Zoptic," and the film was "Superman The Movie." He won an Oscar for his Zoptic system.
 

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Yeah, that particularly gut-wrenching image is floating around the internet.

Oh, the humanity. ;)

Speaking of interesting "2001" shots...



Dig the centerfold on the corkboard, the open box of Airfix kits on the counter, and the guy with the glasses, who bares an eerie resemblance to Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon.
And I'll bet that at least one, if not two, of those guys worked for Gerry Anderson at some point in his career.
 

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I think we all felt the same wave of nausea when we read that sentence about the pods and Discovery winding up in a children's playground, didn't we?

The size of that model is amazing--I know it was sixty feet but seeing the engine section's true size is staggering. I wonder if the whole thing was built to this scale just to accommodate the pod mechanisms and back projection devices that had to be in the command section? I think any other filmmaker would have just composited the sphere over the rest of the ship in the pod shots if it needed to be built at that scale. I can't imagine the work needed to get that entire miniature's image in the camera on a soundstage...
 

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Cautiously Optimistic
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Discussion Starter #13
I can't imagine the work needed to get that entire miniature's image in the camera on a soundstage...
There was an even larger section of the command module built for close-up shots.

When your hear Trumbull bitch about how the STTMP Enterprise miniature was way too small, this gives you some idea as to his frame of reference.
 

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As for filming technique, the models were, indeed, shot with still cameras, and the still photos given "life" on an animation stand. Brian Johnson used this technique on "Space: 1999", mostly on far shots of the Eagles, but you can see this was done heavily in the "War Games" episode with the Mk. IX Hawks.

I recall that one effects technician named Zoran Perisic didn't like how the miniatures looked when 2001 was finished, and, after working on the film, he decided to create a new system for filming miniatures. He finally perfected his system, but the first practical use of it was not with miniatures, but with an actor in a flying rig.

His system was called "Zoptic," and the film was "Superman The Movie." He won an Oscar for his Zoptic system.
Would that be the rig that Reeve does the shot where he 'flies' for the first time in the Fortress of Solitude and does the little banking move as he goes by the camera. IIRC, the commentary said that was also the first shot of Reeve 'flying' that was filmed.
 

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Would that be the rig that Reeve does the shot where he 'flies' for the first time in the Fortress of Solitude and does the little banking move as he goes by the camera. IIRC, the commentary said that was also the first shot of Reeve 'flying' that was filmed.
No, no, no, no!

Anytime you see Christopher Reeve "flying" in front of a rear-projected background, that was Zoptic. IIRC, it was a system of zooming and panning the camera on an object in front of rear-projected elements. The Salkinds went to this method when blue-screen mattes weren't working.

The shot you're thinking of was Reeve on wires on the set, "live."
 

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As for filming technique, the models were, indeed, shot with still cameras, and the still photos given "life" on an animation stand. Brian Johnson used this technique on "Space: 1999", mostly on far shots of the Eagles, but you can see this was done heavily in the "War Games" episode with the Mk. IX Hawks.

I recall that one effects technician named Zoran Perisic didn't like how the miniatures looked when 2001 was finished, and, after working on the film, he decided to create a new system for filming miniatures. He finally perfected his system, but the first practical use of it was not with miniatures, but with an actor in a flying rig.

His system was called "Zoptic," and the film was "Superman The Movie." He won an Oscar for his Zoptic system.
No, no, no, no!

Anytime you see Christopher Reeve "flying" in front of a rear-projected background, that was Zoptic. IIRC, it was a system of zooming and panning the camera on an object in front of rear-projected elements. The Salkinds went to this method when blue-screen mattes weren't working.

The shot you're thinking of was Reeve on wires on the set, "live."
It's been a long time since I watched the original, but my memory was that some of the rear projection shots seemed to be timed so that there were zooms or pans in the footage they would duplicate on Reeve to have him bank out of frame.

I would think that some of that rigging would be the same thing used to make him fly and bank 'live' which I would guess were some sort of carriage like thing on a track they could puppet the wires on him to go up differently on each side of a two wire hip mounted harness.

I don't know if they did anything with him like the shots they showed in the "Superman Returns thing where the new guy had additional wires on his arms and legs to help him with fatigue. I would guess it wasn't the case with Reeve what with wire removal being a problem back in the old days. I always assumed he was on a two wire hip mount, more or less the same thing 'magicians' like David Copperfield also does his flying illusion with.l
 
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