17 February 2009

We're gonna take you flying

In May Disney’s Hollywood Studios will celebrate its twentieth birthday. Though, to be fair, for a majority of its life the park was known as Disney-MGM Studios (Due to the timeframe in which this article is set the park will be addressed as Disney-MGM Studios for the remainder of the article). An often lamented characteristic of the park was the fact that for so many years the park was an actual working studio. Films, feature animation, television shows, commercials, and even radio programming were all produced at the Studios beginning in 1988, a full year before the park would open.One of the most interesting set pieces that was located at Disney-MGM Studios during the park’s early life was Delta Air Lines’ aircraft motion picture set. The set began life as a test plane of the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. Delta’s search for the perfect plane for their set ran from Southern California to Oklahoma, where the plane was found on an abandoned military airstrip. At the time, the plane was owned by an aviation salvage dealer who had planned to sell the aircraft off in pieces. Delta purchased the front 65 feet section of fuselage, a section that covered the nose cone all the way to where the wings should begin, and transported the section in three parts to Atlanta. After an extensive refurbishment in Atlanta, which included paint, chairs, electrical systems, and a frame to support the three separate pieces of the fuselage, the completed set was moved to its soundstage home at Disney-MGM Studios.

At this point, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea to ask why Delta would have wanted to create such a set when they had plenty of planes at their disposal. The set allowed the two cabin sections to be pulled apart, allowing access to angles that were never before obtainable due to the constraints a normal plane presents. The available space created by the fuselage separation also relieved the cramped factor of normal aircraft filming. Additionally, aside from the cost associated with filming any type of advertisement or film sequence, Delta also incurred the cost and hassle of removing an operational airplane from an active flight schedule.

This new set, aside from actually being able to fly, was authentic in every detail. Seats could recline (weather the cabin was set for coach, first class, or both), the gallery was fully operational, tray tables could be returned to their upright position, audio headsets were functioning, the cockpit’s gauges, switches, and instrumentation all functioned and could be made to simulate actual flying conditions, and the set even had an Air Fone telephone. Another plus to the filming community, the windows of the aircraft were only seven feet off of the ground, as opposed to the thirty feet mark an airplane’s windows usually sat off of the ground. With all of these details included, Delta could use the set for promotional images, instructional films, and commercials. When not in use by Delta, the airline set could be use rented by the day, week, or month for filming purposes.

Delta loves to fly and it shows, but they also loved to film, and their dedication to providing such a quality set showed off that love as well.


Craig Wheeler said...

Interesting. I would have guessed that this type of set would have been constructed, owned, and operated by a film company, not an airline; and that any airline insignia on the set would have been product-placement advertising rather than an indication of ownership.

Princess Fee said...

A great article on the set - would I be correct in remembering seeing the set during some of the Studio Tours back in the day?

PTA Transit Authority said...

My favorite subject... Transportation, great post.