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Still Watching the Skies: Episode 43 “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

Posted on Mar 11, 2018 by | 2 comments

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Robert, Nat, and Cody take a deep dive with 1954’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA courtesy of Walt Disney and company. We’re joined on this journey by Andy DiGenova of Dis-Order: Every Disney Film.

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA was the first live action film shot by the Walt Disney company in America. Shot for the princely sum of $5 million, every cent spent on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA shows on the big screen. There have been few bigger productions of Jules Verne’s novels and the 19th century science fiction look has undoubtedly been an influence on steampunk design.


Captain Nemo

The cast is full of big names too with James Mason’s Captain Nemo capturing audience imaginations and being the most acclaimed Captain Nemo to ever walk the screen. Listen to find out who can bust out a killer James Mason imitation. Besides Mason, one of the biggest stars of the era in Kirk Douglas was recruited to play harpoonist Ned Land and turned in one of the broadest performances of his career. Paul Lukas was recruited to portray the noble Professor Arronax who’s convinced that he can turn Nemo to the public good. And Peter Lorre kicks off the comic relief remainder of his career as Professor Arronax’s assistant Conseil.

Updated to address contemporary issues, this take on the material brings up whether mankind is ready and worthy of wielding atomic power. We debate whether it’s a successful idea, or if the film rushes past the interesting ideas in favor of a simpler tale of adventure. And we discuss the legacy of the Award Winning film on Disney’s live action films that followed. Is the film as a whole remembered, or do people just remember the best parts, like the squid battle.

Regardless, there’s no getting around the great iconography of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, regardless of the film’s successes and failures as drama. If that’s not enough, we take the time to pick Andy DiGenova’s brain on his experiences working with Disney, and give you a glimpse behind the scenes of the parks. Plus we talk about the fondly remembered 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA ride at DisneyWorld.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


Time tracks are below.

Intro and Conversation with Andy DiGenova 0:00 to 9:48

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA Discussion 9:48 to 1:21:00

More conversation with Andy DiGenova, Next Month’s Film, and Outro 1:21:00 to End

So feel free to dive in. You can give us a play below or Download the episode. Also, feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below or Email Us at [email protected] as we appreciate feedback.

Next month, we go on another journey of adventure featuring a brilliant scientific mind with DOC SAVAGE: THE MAN OF BRONZE. We hope you’ll join us.

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Robert Reineke
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  1. I highly recommend the hour-plus documentary “Making of ‘20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea’ as produced independently of Disney productions though there is only a glancing comment on Walt by the film’s director.
    It was a huge gamble on the part of Disney to produce such a film which ran over-schedule not to mention its budget. The monetary overruns were primarily because of the “squid attack scene” and the underwater scenes composed in Jamaica. Walt had as his guests to a private viewing a number of bankers. Upon seeing but a portion of the film they immediately bankrolled him for another million which allowed the completion of the picture.
    A great deal to see and learn in this production and it may be found on YouTube. I had no idea how groundbreaking the movie was for its time. Of course, it was Walt’s personal change to Verne’s storyline where atomic energy was the power source Nemo had discovered. In the novel, Verne used “electricity” as the driving force for his creation of the “Nautilus”, the name being later used by the U.S. Navy for its first atomic powered sub, taken from the movie and not the novel.
    Again, highly recommended as it is as entertaining as it is revealing.

    • Thanks for the recommendation.

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