Walt Disney’s production of 20000 Leagues under the Sea is very special kind of picture, combining photographic ingenuity, imaginative story telling and fiscal daring. Disney went for a bundle (say $5 million in negative costs) in fashioning the Jules Verne classic.
The story of the ‘monster’ ship Nautilus, astounding as it may be, is so astutely developed that the audience immediately accepts its part on the excursion through Captain Nemo’s underseas realm.
James Mason is the captain, a genius who had fashioned and guides the out-of-this-world craft. Kirk Douglas is a free-wheeling, roguish harpoon artist. Paul Lukas is a kind and gentle man of science and Peter Lorre is Lukas’ fretting apprentice.
But it is the production itself that is the star. Technical skill was lavished in fashioning the fabulous Nautilus with its exquisitely appointed interior. The underwater lensing is remarkable on a number of counts, among them being the special designing of aqualungs and other equipment to match Verne’s own illustrations.
Story opens in San Francisco where maritime men have been terrorized by reports of a monstrous denizen of the seas which has been sinking their ships. An armed frigate sets out in pursuit and is itself destroyed, with Lukas, Douglas and Lorre the survivors.
1954: Best Color Art Direction, Special Effects.
Nomination: Best Editing