Movies, films, moving pictures, flicks, motion pictures, whatever you choose to call them, have had a tremendous impact on this century. When Eadweard Muybridge set up twenty-four cameras to photograph a horse race in 1873, I’m sure he did not anticipate generations of screamers, weepers, groaners, and neckers would follow this new entertainment/artform.
In 1889, Thomas Edison built the kinetoscope. One person could watch the action through a peephole. Much of the allure was probably being allowed to see something no one else could see. I cannot imagine why anyone wanted to watch a man sneezing. Then again, it is not apparent why anyone wants to watch Woody Allen.
The Lumiere brothers showed the first group movies, the best showing a train arriving at a station. It is not known whether the train was on time or how much traffic it had backed up in the intercity area.
In 1990, movies begin to tell a story: Cinderella, a trip to the moon, then the great train robbery. We’ve come along way since then: Walt Disney Cinderella, Star Trek the Undiscovered Country, and Thelma and Louise.
In the 1950s 3-D movies arrived, the best being The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now there’s 3-D, 4-D, Cineplex, IMAX, rides supplemented by film, rides imitating film, film imitating rides, live shows of filmed shows, and actors impersonating film characters who were originally impersonating someone else in a film.
At Universal Studios I covered my eyes with a new intensity while watching Hitchcock’s The Birds in 3-D. At MGM studios I laughed along with Jim Henson’s Muppets in 4-D. Smoke, bubbles, and exploding walls surrounded me. The mother behind me commented to her child throughout the production. My wish for a stray cannon shot to plug her never came true.
I travelled through a spaceport in MGM studios, star tours, surrounded by robots, droids, and special effects, to reach the actual ride. Strapped into a spaceship, the wild film unfolded. As I zoomed through the death star’s canyon, the entire room swerved and bucked. I thought I’d reach the pinnacle of tension until my son announced he discovered motion sickness.
The Indiana Jones spectacular showed stunt people acting out a movie scene done by stuntman acting as actors acting out a story for the movie. I am reminded of David Sukuki‘s comment that Mickey Mouse is a person acting as a mouse who behaves like a person.
We ate lunch at Mel’s drive-in bracket universal bracket from American graffiti almost witnessing a genuine rumble when the lady in front lost her cool and tried to shred the waiter with her tongue. I think she’d had too much heat and not enough cola. We had supper at MGM’s replica of a 1950s drive-in theatre with black and white film clips, a realistic horizon, drive-in speakers, popcorn, and waitresses on rollerskates. The only thing missing was the mosquitoes. Our children ate in the front of the car while my husband and I were in the back. They loved the role reversal.
We survived King Kong’s attack, the San Francisco, being spit on by camels in Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and a trip to ET‘s planet by bicycle. ETA says goodbye to each visitor by name which inspired us for a return trip, incognito. He did stumble a bit with the fake name “Goober.”
At the Kennedy Space Centre the IMAX theatre was the next best thing to a genuine launch. Unfortunately people had to sit on the theatre floor because of poor organization. They can send a man to the moon but they can’t make sure everyone gets a seat. The bus tour bored my son so much he fell asleep. Sometimes fiction is more interesting than fact. Disney offered American Journeys in 360° of circle vision. While standing, we were surrounded by moving pictures. Once the white water rafting started, I understood the importance of the leaning bars. We also learned about sound effects, horror make up, props, editing, shirts, animation, costuming, and special-effects. I have a new appreciation for the creativity and hard work that goes into filmmaking.
On our way home, we decided to visit Hull, Quebec in an attempt to break away from the movie glitz. We visited the Canadian Museum of civilization. Surprise, they have a Cineplus theater.
Originally publish in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
September 12, 1993