My wife and I made hurried plans for a trip to London to gather reference for the film.We contacted Eva Redfern who managed the Disney Studio in our London branch and she worked tirelessly to set up the things we requested. Paramount to our quest for reference was a trip inside Big Ben itself. Security was and probably still is very tight around Big Ben as it is not only a famous London landmark but is considered part of the Palace of Westminister. We took our video equipment up those steps into the bell chamber. In those days, video equipment was heavy and in multiple pieces (camera and recording deck). After trudging up never ending sets of stairs, we found ourselves literally standing behind the huge face of Big Ben's milky white glass face.
When the unseen bells were struck by the hammers above us, the tower actually vibrated with the sound. After that treat we then crawled up and lifted a sort of trap door with a pillow on top and found ourselves face to face within the bell chamber including the big one, BIG BEN. While being up in the bell chamber, we only had about 10 minutes to snap pictures and run video before the bells would chime on the quarter hour. Being close to noon, we knew we were in for some real ear splitting harmony and the ear muffs were very welcome. We spent the afternoon going inside, outside and around the structure until we were sure we had plenty of reference material of the tower for my needs as well as the crew back home.
|A reference shot I took just behind the |
huge white clock faces of Big Ben
|One of the hundreds of photos |
I took laying on the ground to
get a "mouse's point of view"
|A rough pastel concept for Basil's domicile|
The basic structure for Basil's flat came from underneath my house. I crawled under my bathroom to take shot photos of the plumbing and wood/concrete construction. The sewer pipe was a wonderful device to set into the ceiling for proportion. Items like that gave it the identity of an area UNDERNEATH another living quarters and not just a miniature Holmes flat. I kept the large nails and wood grain which enhanced the scale and turned a piece of short pipe into a framed window.
After sketching out the layout of Basil's flat I built a fairly detailed model of it that could be viewed from all directions. I even sculpted small posable figures of Basil and Dawson to scale to place into the set. This technique of building small set models had been done at the Disney Studio since before Snow White as an aid to directors, layout, BG artists and animators in visualizing scene settings.
Ken Anderson had built a mill model for Walt Disney's classic 1937 Silly Symphonies, "The Old Mill ,"with detailed movable parts before production on that Academy Award winning short for those reasons. It was invaluable to many departments especially layout and story in planning unique angles and lighting patterns. With Walt's encouragement he went on to build a model set of Snow White's cottage for the next film also with great visual results.