Friday, August 5, 2016

The Making of Disneyland Paris Nautilus

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

Let’s begin at the beginning. When Tom was 17 and saw the film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. He literally fell in love with Harper Goff's brilliantly designed Nautilus. So much so that he began building models of the submarine. Above is a picture of Tom at 17 with his very first Nautilus model, made of balsa wood - and not quite finished.

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

But If somebody would have told him when he was 17 that more than 37 years later he would have helped 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!

At the end of the 80's, when WDI Imagineers decided to build Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris, a land which will be a tribute to visionaries like Jules Verne or Leonardo da Vinci, they wanted a whole different concept than the usual Tomorrowland. The Nautilus was already included in the first Discoveryland concept but at that time the submarine was inside "Discovery Mountain" instead to be outside Space Mountain as it is right now.
Below, a great painting from WDI Imagineer and Discoveryland show-producer Tim Delaney showing the Nautilus inside Discovery Mountain.

What i miss the most of this first concept is the Nemo grand Salon Restaurant as it was envisioned for the Discovery Mountain project. Here is a rendering of the concept.

After the park's opening in 1992, the concept changed and it was decided that the Nautilus would be located outside the mountain, in the Discoveryland lagoon. Below, a gorgeous painting of Tim Delaney.

But, in the early 1990’s, when WDI imagineers decided to build this almost real-size Nautilus, they had a big problem: Harper Goff, the original designer of the submarine, was too old and ill to participate. Fortunately, Tom Scherman, who had dedicated his life to the Nautilus, and had met and befriended Harper Goff, knew everything about the many details of the legendary submarine. Thanks to Harper, Tom knew so much the submarine that he was able to draw any part of it, from any angle, from memory.

So, under Tom's direction, the imagineers went to work. They built Disneyland Paris' own Nautilus!

Tom worked under the direction of Tim Delaney, show producer of DLP’s Discoveryland. He made hundreds of drawings, and helped and advised WDI imagineers on 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.

Tom’s started his work with incredibly detailed sketches like this one below. Many others sketches can be seen in the "DLP Nautilus Sketches" section of this site.

Here is another great artwork from Tim Delaney showing the Nautilus in its lagoon.

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 in 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.

It's in Nemo's Grand Salon that DLP guests experience an attack by the giant squid and here is a WDI description of it: "In the 1994 original show the squid consisted of two parts a body with ten-foot-long tentacles and a separate 22-foot long "dancing" tentacle. Both appears behind a 30000 pound iris window. To achieve this illusion of life Imagineers created an iris window composed of an inner and an outer panel with water sandwiched in between. When a device trickles bubbles up through the water and ocean and fish effects are projected on the completely dry show room walls guests believe they are peering out under the sea".

"In the original show, the mystery grew as a dancing tentacle, the pride of WDI Show Mechanical team, was moving back and forth in graceful s-shapes. For mechanical engineer Greg Cook, back in 1994, it was the biggest and most sophisticated animation project they had done. The tentacle was made of 13 segments that can rotate independently".

On the rare picture below, the Show Mechanical Team with the dancing tentacle. Left to right: Imagineers Mike Kiddoo, Dave Alpert, Greg Cook, Jorge Marino, Barney Dunn and Amy Van Gilder.

"The impressive tentacle technology required Imagineers to push the horizons of figure finishing as well. The WDI team took great pains not only to achieve fluidity of motion, but also to have the skin stretch and fold in a realistic manner. "It was a real challenge to integrate the show mechanical hardware with the new lightweight sock that fits over the tentacle" said ride project engineer Rick Marthe. "We made sure it looks like natural skin wrinkling, not hokey foam rubber".

On the picture below Show Production's Imagineer Amy Van Gilder sews a 22-foot-long experimental skin "sock" onto the dancing tentacle.

"The dancing tentacle was an alluring prelude to the ferocious squid attack. Guests then watch the Nautilus crew preparing for the on-slaught by closing the iris window from eight feet in diameter to 10 inches. The iris effect is achieved through a hydraulic system connected to 20-Teflon-coated blades. In the original show, while the iris was closed the dancing tentacle rolled out of view as the squid body swings into show position from its hiding place behind a curtain of seaweed. When the iris opens again guests never knew the initial tentacle was not attached to the monstrosity floating up and down in front of them. The giant squid, six feet in diameter, features eight fluidly moving tentacles, animated back-lit eyes and a beak that snaps at guests- in total, one very memorable encounter".

A rare picture of the giant squid before it was shipped to Europe, at WDI Tujunga Building.

And below another rare Imagineering color picture of the giant squid.

Let's come back to Tom pictures and the next one below shows the machine room...

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

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

Meanwhile, at Disneyland Paris, Imagineers finished building the outside part of the Nautilus.

So, how is the final result? It’s a wonder, and if you've never came to DLP, here is how it looks, click on each picture to see them in larger scale.

The Treasure room...

Captain Nemo's private room...

....the map room

....the diving room

....the unbelievably gorgeous Grand Salon where guests experience an attack from a giant squid! Click on "play" below to listen the full original squid attack show as DLP guests could experienced it when the attraction opened in 1994.

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.

On the picture above, Tom Scherman is standing inside the Nautilus wheel house and below with Imagineers Tim Delaney (left) and Tony Baxter (right).

Below, Tom standing on the Nautilus "floating" in Discoveryland lagoon.

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

A last great shot of the Nautilus at night. Do not miss the new HD Video of "Les Mystères du Nautilus" attraction! You will find it on a special page HERE.

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 & Jules Verne - but before he left this planet one of his dreams became reality: Finally, 37 years after his first screening of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, he was standing on a real Nautilus. One that he helped to build, and we all thank him forever

All artwork and photos: copyright Disney, Disney Enterprises or Tom Scherman

Part of the text: copyright WDEye


K. Martinez said...

Beautiful walk-through exhibit! I wish we had this in our Anaheim park. Thanks for sharing it, Alaine.

Brandon said...

I thought this was a very detailed attraction! I was disappointed in that it wasn't a ride like it used to be in Florida! But seeing your article really makes me appreciate it even more now!

Alain Littaye said...

Well, Brandon, it's almost a classic: you were disappointed because you were expecting something else than it was, and it's the eternal problem of the difference between the mental image that we have of something and the reality. That's why i always say that it's better to don't have any mental image, whether it's for a ride or a movie, etc... as there is chances to be disappointed reality rarely match the mental image that we have in mind.