Special Effects in Vintage Movies Part 2: A Trip To The Moon

Special Effects in Vintage Movies Part 2: A Trip To The Moon

When I think about old movies I try to imagine being an actual audience member from back then, someone who does not have the hindsight of the plethora of special effects available now. I still remember seeing Toy Story for the first time and 3D animation being a very new experience

Above: Toy Story being animated on a 1995 computer! 

Before Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902), the cinematic phenomenon of special effects was virtually non-existent. 

If you have the time, you can watch the whole 14 minute film (colorized) here. You'll be watching the earliest example of the Sci Fi film genre and, of course, one of the most influential films in cinema history.

And so, as I'm watching, (I'm imagining this now)... I'm in a showing of this movie in 1902...

I see telescopes magically turn into stools, I see a space capsule being loaded into a cannon and launched from it, I see the moon "approach the viewer" and start to get bigger before a space capsule crashes into it, I see an elaborate new moon world, where an umbrella turns instantly into a large mushroom and then grows tall before my eyes, I see aliens explode into thin air when being fought against, I see the space capsule fall from a cliff and crash again into Earth's ocean. 

Above - Iconic moon crash scene 

It's 1902 - I'm used to Stage Plays and short films. My mind has been blown. 

The special effects used were the heavy uses of the Stop Cut (mentioned in the last blog)...

Transitional Dissolves (think: fade in/fade out)...

Multiple Exposure (combining two different exposures or images that are layered on top of each other). This happened when the space capsule was falling in front of a black background superimposed upon the footage of the ocean.

Tracking shot (when the camera follows backward, forward or moves alongside the subject of the scene). This happened in the iconic moon crash shot.

There's also the creative use of stage machinery and pyrotechnics ... best to see for yourself!

The first real moon landing wouldn't happen until nearly 70 years after this film released. I find imaginations of moon aliens and strange mushroom landscapes awesome :) 

What stood out to you about the film? 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.