Thursday, August 13, 2009

A TRIBUTE TO TOM SCHERMAN - Part One - The making of Disneyland Paris Nautilus

This article is a tribute to Tom Scherman's work and a fantastic insight in the making of DLP’s unique Nautilus attraction. As you will see, we all have to thanks Tom as without him probably the almost-real-size Nautilus that guests can visit at Disneyland Paris would have never been built.

Let’s begin by the beginning. When Tom was 19 and saw at theatres “20000 leagues under the sea” he literally found in love with Harper Goff brilliantly designed Nautilus. So much that at the same age he built his first model of the submarine, and above is a rare picture of Tom shot by his brother Rowland Scherman.

Later, he will even re-designed his own home in a Nautilus way!

But If somebody would have told him when he was 19 that more than 35 years later he would have help to build a real one in a Disney park - and in France Jules Verne's country! - and even better, that this Nautilus couldn’t have been built without him - i doubt that he would have believed it !

So, in the early 1990’s when WDI imagineers decided to build at Disneyland Paris a real-size Nautilus they had a big problem: Harper Goff, the original designer of the submarine was going to die in 1993. Fortunately, Tom Scherman who as we know dedicated his life to the Nautilus knew everything about the secrets of the making of the legendary submarine. Thanks to his passion Tom became friend with Harper Goff and he knew so much the submarine that he was able to draw almost any part of it. So, with the help of Tom, the imagineers were able to built an almost real size Nautilus, and the works begin.

Tom provided to Tim Delaney, show producer of DLP’s Discoveryland hundreds of drawings , help WDI imagineers on the models and of course during the construction of the attraction. He also built for DLP two other models, one that visitors were able to see in the pre-show of the “Visionarium” attraction - now extinct - and another smaller one which is still in the “Discoveryland” room on the first floor of the “Walt’s” restaurant in Main street.

So, let’s have a look first of how Tom’s work begin , with some of his drawings, incredibly detailed.
Here is Tom’s shetch for the “treasure room”

One for the passage way to Nemo’s cabin

He did many different sketches for the famous diving room

For some of its elements like the load ring or the diving well

And even more details like the ring support or a vertical pipe

And not to mention the diving suit rack

By the way, Tom also did the diving suits that anyone can now see inside the diving chamber!
Of course he provided drawings for Nemo’s grand salon

For the grand window and other Nautilus windows

Some details for the salon viewport iris control

And of course for Nemo’s pipe organ

When you leave Nemo’s grand salon, you’ll find on your left a window with seaweed behind it, here is Tom’s sketch for it

Here are two sketches for the passage way between the grand salon and the pump room - the pump room is located at the end of the walk through

And here is one sketch for the pump room door itself

He knew so much the Nautilus in details that he was able to provide incredible detailed sketches on some elements like these below

Discoveryland show-producer Imagineer Tim Delaney also did some great artwork, showing the outside of the Nautilus.

As you've seen above Tom has built detailed models, and then it was time to build the real thing. All of the Nautilus was not recreated, and WDI imagineers decided to re-create one “floor” only, with the most famous rooms.

Believe it or not, but all the inside decors of the Nautilus were built in California inside a WDI facility, then every piece were put in huge boxes and sent by boat to Paris through the Panama canal! So, i suppose we can say that for once a Nautilus will have go through the Panama canal!

And how do you build real-size Nautilus decors? Well, thanks to these pictures that Tom sent to me April 1st 1994, we will have a close look on the making of the attraction. All the pictures were shot by Tom (except, of course when he his on the picture).

So, it began by a kind of metal “skeleton”...

Here is the one for the grand salon window (on the right is the diving room)

And a little bit later...

Here is Tom in what will be Nemo’s cabin.

A picture of the staircase in the map room

And two of the almost finished map room.

Two pictures of the diving room.

Tom is here during the making of the grand salon. Also below as a picture of a part of it, finished.

The next picture shows the pump room.

....And Tom in the middle of it.

Everything seems to be on its way for the shipping through the Atlantic Ocean.

So, how is the final result? It’s a wonder, and if you've never came to DLP, here is some pictures of how it looks. The Nemo’s room...

....the map room

....the diving room

....the unbelievably gorgeous Grand Salon where guests experience an attack from a giant squid!

Nemo’s pipe organ - Captain Nemo’s bust appears regularly in the mirror!

.......and the machine room, the last room of the walk through

When you go out of the submarine, you have a fantastic view on Discoveryland.

Tim Delaney and his crew are here standing on the top of it before the Nautilus lagoon was filled with water.

And when the attraction was ready, DLP marketing department did these publicity shots with a "Captain Nemo".

And Tom? Well, for a man who has designed the inside of his home like the Nautilus and devoted a big part of his life to the submarine, re-creating a real Nautilus was undoubtedly an achievement. Months after the attraction's opening, Tom unfortunately passed away - i suppose that he is now chatting with Harper Goff - but before he left this planet one of his dream became reality - finally, 35 years after his first screening of 20000 Leagues under the sea, he was standing on a real Nautilus. And one that he helped to built, and we all thank him forever.

All artwork and photos : copyright Disney Enterprises


Anonymous said...

I believe Tom actually was taking one of his Nautilus models to England to present to James Mason who played Nemo in the Harper Goff movie. I cant remember if he was sucessful in that effort. Tom did do a pilot for a weekly show on Captain Nemo that he showed us at WED back in the 70's. One day it may come to bear............

DisWedWay said...

Tom was also developing a film concept based on a steam powered Iron Man as Jules Verne would have done. After creating a full size mockup of his top hated Iron Man he got together with Disney Legend Ward Kimball for a staged race between Ward's full size steam train and Tom's Iron Man. Tom used dry ice to make the steam come out the topless top hat. What a day that was..................

davewasbaloo said...

It saddens me that this wonderful attraction is often ignored and bad mouthed by guests, and rarely opened or maintained. To me, it is one of the real gems of DLP.