Thursday, October 18, 2007

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

Today is the first part of an article in tribute to Tom Scherman and a fantastic insight in the making of DLP’s unique Nautilus. As you will see, we all have to thanks Tom as without him probably the almost-real-size Nautilus of Disneyland Paris would have never been built.

Let’s begin by the beginning. We all have found in love during our youth for a particular subject. But sometime, it can take incredible proportions and have effect during your entire life. Take me, for instance: I was around 14 when i saw for the first time David Lean’s movie “Lawrence of Arabia” , and i fall in love so much with the movie - and then most of David Lean’s movies - that 45 years later i ended directing a documentary filmed on the real locations of the movie, documentary who was part of a 3 dvd set collector’s edition - exclusive to France - , also made the conception of the box, and even organised a press event for the release of it in the midlle of the Wadi Rum desert with all journalists sleeping under bedouins tents at the exact location where the Auda’s character played by Anthony Quinn had his huge camp in one of the movie’s most famous sequence!
A little bit crazy, isn’t it? Yes, i agree , but it was fun and exciting...

Why do i tell you all this? Because - to come back to Tom Scherman - in his case , it was not Lawrence of Arabia that he found in love with, but “20000 leagues under the sea” , and even more specifically, the Nautilus. So much that at the age of 19 , he built his first model of the submarine, and here is a rare picture shot by his brother Rowland Scherman.

Later, he 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 built a real one in a Disney park , in France , the country of Jules Verne - and even better, that this Nautilus couldn’t have been built without him - i doubt that he would have believe it !

So, in the early 1990’s when the imagineers decided to build for Disneyland Paris a real-size Nautilus they had a big problem: Harper Goff, the original designer of the submarine passed away , and took most of his secrets with him in his grave!
Fortunately, a wonderful man who - litteraly - devoted his life to the Nautilus knew everything about it, and of course, it’s Tom Scherman. As the passion of Tom for the Nautilus last all his life, he became friend with Harper Goff and had all the “secrets” of his making. In fact he ended to knew so much the submarine that he could draw almost any part of it . So, with the help of Tom , the imagineers were going to be able to built a real Nautilus, and the works begin.

Tom provided for Tim Delaney , show producer of DLP’s Discoveryland hundreds of drawings , help them on the models and of course during the building itself.
He also built for the DLP two other models, one that visitors were able to see in the “Visionarium” attraction pre-show - now closed - 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

Mind you, imagineer Tim Delaney did also some great artwork , specially for the outside of the Nautilus

As you saw above Tom built detailed models, and then, it was time to built the real thing. Of course, all of the Nautilus was not recreated, and the imagineers decided to re-create one “floor” with the most famous rooms.

Believe it or not, but all the inside decors of the Nautilus were built in California inside one of 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 at least for once a Nautilus will have go through the Panama canal!

And how do you built a real-size Nautilus decors? Well, thanks to these photos that Tom sent to me the 1st april 1994 and that i found back recently, we will have a close look of how it looks during its making. All the photos were shot by Tom during the making ( 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 at the beginning , in what will be Nemo’s cabin

A picture of the staircase in the map room

And two of the map room almost finished

Here are two of the diving room

Here is Tom during the making of the grand salon as well as a picture of a part of it , finished

The next picture show the pump room

....And Tom in the middle of it

Everything seems to be on its way for a big shipping through the atlantic ocean

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

....the map room

....the diving room

....the unbelievably gorgeous grand salon where guests can experience an attack from a giant squid !

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

.......and the machine room , last one on 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 once all was over, the marketing dept of DLP enter in action and did these publicity shots with a mise-en-scène of a fake Captain Nemo

And Tom? Well, for a man who have designed the inside of his home like the inside of the Nautilus and devoted a big part of his life to it ,re- creating a real one was undoubtedly an achievement. Some months after the opening of the attraction, Tom unfortunately passed away - i suppose that he is now chatting with Harper Goff - but before he left, one of his dream became reality - finally, 35 years or more after his first vision of the Nautilus he was standing on a real one. One he helped to built, and we all thank him forever.

All artwork and photos : copyright Disney Enterprises