Special Effects, Lighting, Grip, etc. for 'Rumpelstiltskin', 'Sleeping Beauty' & 'Beauty & The Beast' & 'Snow White'
"Making these movies was something else. Such a great team, enormous fun was had by everyone." - Nigel Clark
Q: By having the enviable job of being able to work on 4 of the Cannon MovieTale films, could you tell me some of the specific places in Israel where you filmed and what your role was in this endeavor?
A: G & G rented all the waterfront warehouses in old Jaffa Docks and all the indoor scenes were filmed there. We were doing at least 2 Fairy Tales at the same time, which is the reason I didn't work on all the Fairy Tales.
I worked Special Effects, Lighting, Grip, Set Dressing. I was in charge of the Extras and was Extra on the few days I was not needed on the crew. I was paid by the day so I would swap around as needed which meant I was one of the few to work every day.
I also danced in the second row in 'Sleeping Beauty'. One of the Professionals was sick and as I reluctantly agreed to give it a go. The Dance Master said, "Don't you worry - I will have you dancing by the end of rehearsals." I was very skeptical but he did it along with the help and encouragement of my lovely female partner. At first, I was afraid I might miss catching her or worse, throw her into the next row.
Q: The castles [all of them] in the MovieTales were lovely and I was wondering if they were in fact actual castles [perhaps like the ones that can be found all across Europe] or if they were cleverly elaborate built sets? They look extremely authentic, if they are just sets.
A: The Castle was the same one in all the films and was built at Nevi Elan halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the site of a half finished Hotel which Cannon converted to their Studios. We just kept painting it different colors, in fact a couple of times a crowd of us drove down after filming in Jaffa all day and repainted it in the evening. It was a masterpiece of Israeli ingenuity as bits could be quickly moved to make it look different.
The long shots are New Schwanstein Castle here in Bavaria but we didn't film there. Apart from one in Wales, these are the only two real fairytale-like castles in the world.
Q: The many costumes reflecting the period [from the beautiful dresses to the ensembles of the palace guards and peasants] are nothing short of fantastic. Who was the one to design them and do you know if any of them are still in existence today?
A: There is a famous company - the name of which escapes me for the moment - in Great Britain and the U.S. who have thousands upon thousands of costumes which movie companies hire as needed. The costumes are altered to fit the actors and the extras are picked to fit the costumes.
Q: I notice that in the 'Sleeping Beauty' MovieTale, Elf [Kenny Baker] occasionally makes a kind of frog-like noise... For example, Elf [Kenny Baker] making frog-like noises - part of the original Grimm's tale was a frog appearing to the Queen as she was bathing and granting her wish to have a child. This seems to be the case especially when he transforms into a frog to escape the palace guards after having found Princess Rosebud enchanted in the tower. Do you know if this similarity was intentional by the writer(s) or just a stroke of random irony?
A: I have no idea about the intentions of the frog-like noise, which is not on the German Version. It was not on the original soundtrack either.
Q: In regard to the dancing White Statues in the 'Beauty & The Beast' MovieTale, could you possibly tell me how the makeup designer [?] managed to make them look so white, so convincing as statues?
A: It was a latex paint and was a couple of millimeters thick. It formed virtually a second skin and took about two hours to shower and rub off. A young English guy acted as a guinea pig for about three weeks until they got it right.
The Special Effects boss was Terry Glass who acted as advisor to the team. Our team consisted of John Hargreaves (our boss), Rani Charash (Made the metal bird himself), Yoram Zargari (Made the moving Gargoyle which was operated by him with myself assisting) and Mani Rosenstein (made the coffin from 'Snow White' out of Perspex). We all did the room of mirrors ('Snow White') as it was a very time consuming job. I did most of the scenes with the wind machine in 'Beauty & the Beast'. We had lots of scenes with smoke and dry ice. Plus mundane things like opening and closing doors, as well as changing and lighting candles plus operating all the torches. I spent half of one day picking up leaves and pinning them on a tree so I could blow them off again with a wind machine which was the subject of many jokes and leg-pulling. The shot they used looked very good in spite of the fact I had lost at least half the leaves. John Savage appeared briefly on the Castle wall in one scene. To do it, he was standing on my shoulders. We had previously tried all kinds of things to produce the desired effect.
Q: Something that always intrigued me as a child was the Beast's [John Savage] feral growls and hisses. What I was always curious about was if Mr. Savage actually did any/all of these by himself or if it was a sound effect that was later dubbed in?
A: Yes, it was dubbed later. I think I preferred him without.
Q: The glass coffin where the Dwarves placed Snow White after she ate the poison apple was an astoundingly beautiful stage prop, I think. My question regarding it is the matter of breathing. How could Sarah Patterson [Snow White] breathe while encased inside of it? Was it really made of glass? Were there air holes?
A: The coffin was clear Perspex and Mani spent a long time getting it right. The air holes were a big problem and we all tried so many different ideas. I cannot remember what we did in the end. Did you know Sarah was only 14 years old?
Q: Another 'Snow White' question in regards to snow. In the film, you see the snow on the ground, hear it crunch under feet, see it falling. I wonder if it was real snow or not? And, if not, what was it made of?
A: Salt from the Dead Sea. Tons of it. It was the only thing that would work in 35 deg C plus temperatures. It was awful working with the salt as it reacted on our skin to give us bleeding sores and finger nails. The snow falling was paper.
For some of the outdoor scenes, the director (David Irving) wanted nice green grass and everywhere was brown so I suggested we might try to spray-paint the grass with water-based paint. It was so successful, they used it many times.
Q: Do you by any chance know why the Dwarf names of Iddy, Biddy, Fiddy, Liddy, etc. were used instead of the Disney-esque ones [Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, etc.]?
A: I don't know for sure but as Disney has Merchandise with their dwarves, the names are most likely copyrighted.
Interview, conducted by Mystacor