Updated: September 19, 2011
FANTASTIC VOYAGE ORIGINAL PROTEUS SUBMARINE PROP
Original large-scale Proteus submarine filming miniature from Fantastic Voyage.
(TCF, 1966) From the classic science-fiction film truly worthy of its "Fantastic"
title, this miniature submarine was the film's key visual effects miniature and
was used in virtually all of the important special effects sequences. In the film,
the crew of the Proteus - a team consisting of medical specialists and submarine
operators/navigators - are miniaturized and injected into the body of a scientist
who possesses the secrets of miniaturization. The only catch: they have just one
hour to destroy the scientist's tumor, and make it back to the rendezvous point
to be enlarged back to their original size! A triumph of cinematic special effects
driven by a compelling script, the film easily won the 1967 Academy Awards for
Best Effects, Special Visual Effects and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color.
There were four Proteus submarine miniatures constructed for the film, ranging
from 1 1/2 inches to 5 feet in length, all based on the submarine design by
Harper Goff, designer of the Nautilus submarine from Disney's 20,000 Leagues
Under the Sea. The 5-foot model presented here is the "hero" miniature that
was built to be featured in most of the key sequences in the film, including the
journey through the heart, the pulmonary capillary, inner ear and the finale set
inside the human brain. The Proteus miniature was constructed by the 20th
Century-Fox special effects department under the direction of L.B. Abbott, head
of the effects department at Fox and the man responsible for visual effects in
the Irwin Allen TV shows Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and the
movies The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Logan's Run.
This model is constructed primarily of fiberglass at a scale of approximately 1/8,
and features adjustable forward and rear diving planes (although these are only
shown in the neutral position in the film) and operating, telescoping landing legs
which are seen descending from the hull in the pulmonary capillary and inner ear
scenes (the landing legs no longer operate). A reproduction of the submarine's
interior is visible through the large forward windows; the five crew figures were
built by artist Marcel Delgado, who created the stop motion animation characters
in the original classic King Kong (RKO, 1933).
The figure seated under the upper control bubble represents actor Donald Pleasence,
who pilots the craft during the climactic scenes inside the brain, while the ring
around the upper control bubble is illuminated by a series of grain-of-wheat light
bulbs. This Proteus miniature was suspended on wires and shot "dry for wet" on the
film's miniature sets, several of which (including the heart and brain sets)
occupied entire sound stages. Wires were run through the miniature's engine intakes
and out the 'thruster' tubes at the rear of the ship; the support mechanism for the
wires is visible through the rear opening of each propulsion tube. The metal locking
rings on the upper and lower yellow hatches are moveable.
This model was restored by modelmaker Greg Jein, whose work has been featured in
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 1941. In 1990,
it was placed on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. for a
special engagement. An important large-scale filming miniature from this Academy
Value: $60,000 - $80,000
Note: Profiles in History would like to thank Jeff Bond, Executive Editor of
Cinefantastique magazine for his assistance with the research of this miniature.
(*) Photos and text courtsey of Profiles in History!