27 June 2008

Your candle on the water

Passamaquoddy is having a cookout next weekend in honor of the 4th of July and, like any good newsman, I smell a story brewing. So, be sure to check out Passamaquoddy for all the festivities in the coming week. In the meantime, how about a little background on the fair town? Here’s a little history from The Little Big Book of Disney. Also, the keen-eyed observer may find an association between Pete’s Dragon and the new film WALL-E.

When the Disney Studio made plans to tell the story of a good-natured dragon who inadvertently wrecks havoc in a small Maine fishing village, studio executives found their $10 million budget insufficient for a Maine shoot. The logical solution: build a new town.

Oscar-winning art director Jack Martin Smith, known for Cleopatra, Fantastic Voyage, and Hello, Dolly!, spent $250,000 to create the fictional town of Passamaquoddy from scratch on the back lot of the Disney Studios. He organized the face-lift of thirty existing buildings of the studio’s Western Street, the construction of eight additional ones, and the installation of a special concrete-lined pool to accommodate the period fishing boats and docks of the seaside village.

Smith’s coup: a 52-foot lighthouse built on Point Buchon, a promontory south of Morro Bay, California. Although it overlooks the Pacific Ocean, the area’s brisk winds and stunning views resemble the northeastern United States coast. At a cost of $115,000, the lighthouse took fifty men three weeks to build. Upon completion of the film, some talk circulated about preserving the lighthouse as part of an attraction for Disneyland or Walt Disney World. The plans never came to fruition, and the top of the lighthouse sat on the Burbank back lot for several years before finally deteriorating beyond repair.

The lighthouse lamp in Pete’s Dragon shone so bright that the film’s location manager needed to obtain special permission from the Coast Guard to light it for filming. The lamp, with its $6,000 Fresnell-type lens, could cast a beacon eighteen to twenty-four miles – far enough to confuse passing ships.

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