Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Disney and NASA to explore “Goldilocks” planet in new 3D IMAX film

By Robbie Graham
IMAX Corporation and Walt Disney Studios today announced an agreement to produce and distribute a new epic 3D documentary from veteran IMAX director Toni Myers.

IMAX and Disney previously have worked together on the distribution of a number of high-profile films, including Fantasia 2000 and the recent Oz The Great and Powerful, although this marks the first collaboration between the two companies in a production capacity.

Produced in cooperation with NASA, the upcoming space-themed documentary, which is still untitled, will use IMAX's extremely high-resolution photography and videography to offer "breathtaking, illuminating views of our home planet from space, exploring the astonishing changes that have occurred on Earth in just the past several decades."

The film will also explore "mankind's future on and off the planet... while also travelling light-years to other star systems to ponder the possibilities of 'Goldilocks,' an Earth-like planet." The film is expected to be released in 2015.

Ward Kimball's artwork for
Mars and Beyond (1957)
This will not be the first time Disney has teamed with space scientists to produce a documentary about life beyond Earth. In the mid-1950s the House of Mouse worked closely with famed rocket scientist and aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun on a series of ambitious documentaries about space travel and life in the universe as part of the Disneyland TV series (1954–1958).

The documentaries -- Man in Space (1955), Man and the Moon (1955), and Mars and Beyond (1957) -- were directed by the legendary Disney animator Ward Kimball, who, in his later life, claimed to have been involved in the production of a Disney documentary in the mid-1950s that was backed by the US Air Force and which was intended to acclimate the public to the reality of the UFO phenomenon and alien visitation.

Disappointingly, the Air Force eventually decided to pull the plug on the documentary, which, according to Kimball, was set to feature real UFO footage provided by the military.

NASA also has a history of assisting filmmakers on alien-themed productions. In 1982, NASA helped Steven Spielberg with his classic alien contact movie E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, offering the filmmaker advice on how scientists would likely respond in the event of a real alien contact scenario. This collaboration shaped sections of the movie, including the scene when NASA personnel enter a sealed-off suburban home in search of E.T.

Producer Kathleen Kennedy also asked NASA what sort of planet E.T. might call home. The space agency came up with a “little green planet” populated by “little mushroom farmers.” E.T.’s biology reflected this scenario, said Kennedy – the friendly space creature being “closer to a plant than a biological human being.”

Curiously, NASA also lent its cooperation to the Disney movie Mission to Mars (2000), in which astronauts discover the remnants of an ancient civilisation on the red planet and make contact with one of its alien survivors – although NASA was keen to point out during the end credits that its cooperation and assistance “[did] not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film.”