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text: king kong NOVA: Why did you use King Kong as your subject matter and have you created your own movie magic in this consequence?

BURTT: We made every attempt to create real magic in the Kong sequence. "King Kong" was a milestone in special effects. And, it inspired a whole generation of people to get into that business originally. And, we know it's a widely recognized icon—"King Kong"—we've tried our best to update and do yet another interpretation of the "King Kong" special effects legend. And, I think we have achieved some real magic in it. It's a real challenge to do it on the big screen, because, once again, you're trying to make things look as real as possible, you're trying to create an illusion for the audience that they'll accept. And, you're doing it with puppets and paper and cardboard, and lights, and you know, and a few tanks. And that sort of stuff. A few biplanes. I think it's possible, once we're done, this will look great.

NOVA: The picture covers the evolution, does it not, of special effects? And doesn't Kong, in effect, reflect that evolution?

BURTT: Sure. The original "King Kong", being such a massive action picture, such a fantasy, encompassed a long list of special effects techniques, and different processes to achieve all the different supernatural things, they really had to create in that film. And so, in recreating "Kong", we had the same problems to solve. You had to create a place ... an imaginary place. You had to get biplanes in the air and have them shooting at an animal on a building. You had to get Kong up on top of a hundred story building. None of these things are truly possible without special effects, and you find that you have to resort to quite a list of different things to do. You're working with a puppet one day. The next day you're working with a painting that's going to be a building. Then you're working with a real airplane, attaching smoke generators to it or something. Or, you're speeding through the streets of San Francisco in a fire truck and you're under-cranking the camera to make it look like it's going twice as fast as it really is. So, there's just a lot of different techniques used to get the totality of visual effects into the sequence.

text: king kongNOVA: Is the Kong fall off that hundred story building worth the price of admission alone?

BURTT: So far, the Kong fall off the hundred-story building has been our biggest audience reaction. I didn't quite think of it that way, originally. But, once we got it up there in IMAX, and we all saw it in the theater, everybody clutched their stomach when it happened. (So) it may be. But we have a few other surprises in the film.

NOVA: Have there been any experiences that you might think of where you had to really think fast, where things just changed so radically from what you planned?

BURTT: This film ... when we found ourselves on the sets of various people's movies ... and of course, they're busy. They don't have any extra time. They're racing to meet a schedule. So, we're doing a documentary with this big, heavy camera's like a refrigerator you're carrying around sometimes. And, we had to be very quick, because we can't control situations. You know, it's not like running around with a camera on your shoulder, poking it into someone's face. You want to shoot something, you have to knock down the door and bring in your equipment, so we had to be very clever and move very fast, watch when things were going to happen and somehow get our camera over there in time. Sometimes we wouldn't make it. Other times we'd get there and do it. But, when you got a shot in IMAX ... when you got a shot in this format to work, then you captured a moment for all time on film for other audiences to experience. And that's really what you do in a documentary film of this sort.

imax camera NOVA: Is this a film where anything and everything can happen?

BURTT: The tag line for this film was, "Anything can happen." And, we realized that from the first day we started, that that was our motto ... our credo ... because anything could happen to us. We'd start in one direction and we'd change and go another way. We'd set up a scene and it would rain, so we'd go do something else. Or, something would go wrong here and there, or something very fortunate would work out. So, we expected, on any given day, to have that motto, once again, ring true. "Anything can happen." And, it sure did.


Photo Credits: (1-2) copyright 1996 WGBH Educational Foundation, (3) Peter Iovino copyright 1996 WGBH Educational Foundation .

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