"Everyone Could Use Some Inspiration"

         Inspiration for an artist can be found in very common occurrences. An artist could be inspired by a beautiful sunset, or water drops falling from tree branches after an afternoon rainstorm. Other artists can be inspired by looking to their predecessors. These artists may walk in the museums that house paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, or Leonardo Da Vinci. Inspiration comes to an artist in a variety of ways; but, when artists are directors looking for inspiration, they tend to look to their predecessors as well. Film directors will look at what worked for one particular director to see if they can imitate or improve upon what that director did. Film directors will also look at what did not work so as to avoid mistakes of their predecessors.

         Special effects in films of the twentieth-first century have expanded to the point where the audience has a difficult time in determining what is real or what is computer generated. In the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001 Hironobu Sakaguchi, Moto Sakakibara) the characters were computer generated so well that the individual hairs on a character would move freely throughout the entire movie. Getting a character's muscles to move and flex when walking is simple these days, while getting the hairs on the head of a character to move as he/she is executing a punch is ten times more advanced. The movies of this day and age are overwhelmed with computer graphics. In the past when computer graphics were not an option, other techniques came into play.

         These other techniques include stop motion photography,using footage projected on a screen in the background, and large difficult to use mechanical puppets. Techniques such as these can be found in the film King Kong (1933 Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack). King Kong (1933) was an anomaly of its time period. Back in the 1930's few movies were focused on a large monster over taking a city. Cooper and Schoedsack treaded a new path for horror flicks. In this film the star (Kong) was filmed in pieces. If his entire body was on display the directors would use stop motion photography (as is stated in David A. Cook's A History of Narrative Film) for his movement (246). If it was just his hand it was a mechanical device. If it was just his face it was a puppet mechanism. Kong was not the only large creature in this film; there were also the dinosaurs that were in the background that also used stop motion photography. Previous film stock projected onto a screen in the background of the actors in this film allowed for simultaneous motion between the non-living creatures and the living.

         Kong was a motivation to future directors (those after Cooper and Schoedsack) to use "larger than life" creatures in their films. From King Kong other directors learned how to execute filming of these large creatures and how to make them more realistic looking. In 1975 a film by the name of Jaws, (1975 Steven Spielberg) the monster shark was larger than life size as King Kong was. Spielberg, like Cooper and Schoedsack, used a mechanical creature. In 1956 Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Ishiro Honda, Terry O. Morse), King Kong's future enemy, Godzilla arose. This movie like King Kong also used stop motion photography. Another film inspired by King Kong was a common movie of the 1980's. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman 1984) followed in the footsteps of King Kong with a large creature attacking the same city as King Kong; New York City. In Ghostbusters there was a slight advance in computer generation, but there was still the stop motion of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

         The movies following the 1980's began to excel in computer generation, yet they were still inspired by King Kong. One such trilogy was inspired by all aspects of King Kong. This trilogy was Jurassic Park (1993 Steven Spielberg), The Lost World (1997 Steven Spielberg), and Jurassic Park III (2001 Joe Johnston). Spielberg had to have watched the film King Kong for inspiration (along with The Lost World by Harry O. Hoyt, 1925), as is stated in Cook's book because he used the same stop motion photography for his dinosaurs mixed with computer generation (899). In one of the films the dinosaurs are actually brought back to a large city in the United States. Does this sound similar to the plot of King Kong?

         Films try to come across as new and inventive when in reality they are basing themselves upon products of the past. The computer graphics of today were inspired by the techniques of the past used for special effects. Computer graphics were to improve upon the outdated techniques of stop motion photography. Without first having the elementary basics of special effects, we would not have computer animation today. Not only are computer graphics and other miscellaneous special effects building on those of the past, but so are the plots of the movies being used repetitively. In the early times of film making, films were typically original because few movies had been made. There are few plots left that have not been executed. Instead directors seem to be looking to the past for inspiration not only in special effects but in plots as well. Who knows: maybe next year we will be viewing another version of King Kong when a large spider monkey takes over the hearts and buildings of Miami instead of New York.

Rebecca Cripps

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