Friday, 27 May 2016


Hello friends and fellow matte art enthusiasts.  It's been far too long I know, though as some of you may know, my individual personality quirks dictate that I just have to be 'in the mood' to tackle one of these gargantuan blog post articles ... you know the sort of deal ... where the stars are all aligned and the ole' NZPete so called 'creative temperament' is at a natural peak.  Anyway, here we are again with the second of the three part extensive look at those magical mattes from the Walt Disney Studio that so many of us will remember seeing on the big screen back in the day, and others of you may recall seeing on the small home video screen in more recent decades.
We've got some great material here today, with the timeline extending from the some mid 1960's shows right the way through to perhaps Disney's biggest production THE BLACK HOLE which came out in 1979.  I've gathered together a substantial array of matte shots, some of which I can guarantee you've never seen, nor been aware of until now - really ingenious trickery that passed off as completely authentic on screen and that in some cases I had to quiz former Disney matte department head Harrison Ellenshaw as to whether my suspicions were in fact accurate.

Like many of my readers I have fond memories of many of these films from having seen them on their first run theatrical release or Saturday matinee double features.  I well remember my Aunt Bette taking my somewhat older cousin and me into the city on the train for a day at the movies, with my cousin not wanting to see a 'kids film', so an agreement was reached where we all went to see THE LOVE BUG for my benefit at the 11am session (at the Civic, Auckland...the one that Peter Jackson's KONG smashed up), and then straight afterwards crossing the street to the equally majestic St James theatre to see THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN for my cousin's sake at the 2pm session.  I think I liked both films.  It's funny how one remembers such minor events with such vivid clarity.

Just before we commence our artistic journey,
I won't repeat all of the bio-data on the creative people involved in the following shots, as I covered all of that in detail in the previous blog post.
I do hope this article is as well received as Part One was.  I was very happy with that article and the public response, so thank you to all those who communicated with me and commented, including a number of other prominent sites who cross linked the article and my blog in general. It's always so gratifying to learn others care about this artform and share their thoughts on such.

I just hope the new (unwelcome) changes Google have made to the method of uploading images to the Blogger platform don't put me into another state of panic as happened a few days ago when the first Disney article suddenly lost all of the pictures!  Talk about Pete being ready to 'walk the plank'.... The long established and reliable Picassa Web Albums, which I've long used, is apparently being junked in favour of something called 'Google Images', which on first trial screwed me and caused a substantial headache.  But that's what happens for guys like me who struggle with this technology at the best of times.


Disney's matte painting department as it was in 1978 when production was under way on THE BLACK HOLE.  That is noted cover artist and highly talented matte painter David Mattingly busy laying in a proposed matte shot.  Note the various other paintings in partial stages of completion.
Another rare view inside Disney's matte department, with this being the stage where the glass paintings were photographed.  Again, the work being carried out is from THE BLACK HOLE (1979), of which a great deal more will be demonstrated later in this article.

A matte from the 1964 Disney show A TIGER WALKS.  No effects credit, nor a mention in Peter Ellenshaw's memoir, so possibly a Jim Fetherolf matte, though the style tends more toward Peter or Alan Maley to this author.
Jim Fetherolf supplied some fanciful mattes for THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA (1964)

Pussy cat heaven according to Jim Fetherolf.
A film that never seems to outstay it's welcome, MARY POPPINS is still a joy, and one I'd hate to ever see remade, or dare I say it, 're-booted' (I hate that term as much as I utterly despise 'franchise'... though as usual, I digress).  Great mattes, music, songs, performances, cartoon segments and especially, the jaw dropping effects cel animation in the fireworks sequence.  I just can't get enough of that stuff!

Without question, Disney's most loved and iconic pictures must be MARY POPPINS (1964).  Tons of mattes, opticals and wonderful animated set pieces abound, with the effects supervisors, Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycette and Hamilton Luske taking home well deserved Academy Awards for their efforts.  Ellenshaw was principal matte artist, assisted by Jim Fetherolf - who's above painting opens the show - and long time assistant Constantine 'Deno' Ganakes.  In his memoir, Peter mentioned this shot as being Jim's work as he really enjoyed painting minute architectural detail and suchlike.  Peter collaborated after the fact by painting in a lovely soft layer of low cloud and mist, in order to lend the appropriate 'larger than life' feel to the shot.
A rare photo of original Ellenshaw matte art wonderfully illustrates Peter's 'big brush' broad approach where detail would be only rendered where necessary, with the overall view reading as far more comprehensive than was actually the case.

Another rare look at one of Peter Ellenshaw's beautiful MARY POPPINS matte paintings.  Sadly, this - and many other mattes - suffer badly in the recent appallingly timed and mastered BluRay edition (see below).  Just dreadful.

Two frame captures - the top being from the BluRay edition where the entire shot is timed so dark and colourless, the exact opposite of how the film itself looked theatrically as well as on home video, TV, 16mm and even DVD. The lower frame is from a DVD edition.

A shot that many tend to miss is this clever tilt up matte where a partial set has been extended upwards and to the sides by Ellenshaw, with an additional piece of live action projected in on top.

Another exquisite Peter Ellenshaw matte painting that in addition to being an all out wonderful piece of artwork is a technically accomplished piece in that Peter actually painted the perspective change for the tilt down shot into the painting, which must have taken some draftsmanship to lay in.  A winner all the way and thankfully one that still survives to this day.  The aforementioned BluRay depicts this shot as dark, dank and somewhat gothic, as if the colour timer was attempting to invoke those ghastly desaturated new age 'colour' schemes that seem to be in vogue nowadays.

detail of actual matte art

detail of perspective change worked into the painting  by Ellenshaw.
Minimal actual set with much of the house painted in later, trees included.

Before and after of the Admiral Boom's rooftop hangout.  Upper left pic is of the original substantial matte art prior to the addition of a very small patch of live action.  A shot that nobody ever expects as a matte trick.

Peter Ellenshaw at work.

The wonderful tilt down from St Pauls with much of the frame being painted, including the lower left foreground.

Before and after matte from the chimney sweep dance routine.  Several other mattes are used in the sequence of different angles and some to matte out pieces of unfinished set and carpenter's supports etc.

A shot from the Step in Time dance sequence, which is still fantastic all these years on.  Note the dancers performing in front of Disney's Sodium Vapour process screen prior to doubling in with the original matte art.
More original MARY POPPINS matte art.  Harrison Ellenshaw recalled being a junior intern in the Disney matte department in 1964: "My father would come in to see what Jim Fetherolf was doing - painting the detail with a tiny sable brush.  Jim would step back and wait for 'The Master' to give his opinion.  My father would just look and say, "Give me the brush".  Jim would then hand him the sable and Peter would say "No... not that one, give me the other brush, the big brush."  Jim would then rifle through his brushes as my father kept saying, "No, bigger...give me a BIG brush."  Finally there he was, attacking the painting with a 3 inch house painters brush.  It was magic."

More acrobatic routines from the Step in Time set piece. The entire film was shot on soundstages, thus requiring a huge amount of matte art to fill in and flesh out scores of scenes supposedly taking place outdoors.

One of my favourites is this moody evening matte of St Pauls Cathedral, made all the more potent by the Sherman brothers' 'Feed The Birds' tune upon the accompanying soundtrack.  Mesmerising to say the least.

Another exceptional set of mattes, three of which are from a single sequence with the kids on the run through a lonely East End of London seemingly bereft of people.  Huge percentage of painted London in this sequence, with the children often added as stand alone yellow backing sodium matte elements.

The dreamlike scene of realisation for our chief antagonist is so perfectly orchestrated.  Jim Fetherolf matte art here with a major tilt down as animated birds are doubled in against the painting.
The original Jim Fetherolf matte painting which is stored in Disney's archive.  It's a pity the painting wasn't shown in it's totality in the film as Jim's efforts in rendering same were undeniably impressive.

Frames from the 'Feed The Birds' montage where Fetherolf's matte art has been combined with superimposed birds and a dissolve in on Julie Andrews.  A magnificent sequence and apparently Walt used to ask composers Richard and Robert Sherman to stop by his office routinely before going home for the day and sing the song for Walt.  It really touched a nerve with Walt.
Before and after of Mr Banks seeking out the message of MARY POPPINS

More invisible before and after matte work.

Peter Ellenshaw demonstrating the manner in which his painting will be integrated with live action.  Peter's exquisite application of light and hue is completely lost in the recent BluRay edition!  Some of the shots from BluRay I've needed to adjust just so as to view them they're that dark and overly Prussian Blue saturated.

Ellenshaw matte art of Edwardian London with backlit pin pricks of twinkling light.  Pure 100% magic!

Atmosphere, and then some!

Matte painted interior top ups and sideways extension to the bank set.

A good little picture, THOSE CALLOWAYS (1965) was entertaining and had much to offer, not the least of which were some beautiful Autumnal New England mattes by Jim Fetherolf.

Classic Fetherolf.  A number of Jim's personal fine art works had much in common with this matte.

70% matte art here with just the bit of grass around the guy being real.

New England according to matte artist Jim Fetherolf.


Jim Fetherolf was kept busy with several mattes for THAT DARN CAT (1965).  For this shot just the cat and immediate right side foreground is actual, with the rest being a stylish painted matte.  Note the cleverly integrated matte join that conforms to the puddle of water.

More Fetherolf shots from THAT DARN CAT
Peter Ellenshaw was assigned the many mattes of Irish castles for THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL (1966)

Classic Ellenshaw matte art - moody, backlit evening settings were something Peter was a master at.

Castles, period towns and sailing ships were all old hat for Ellenshaw who had painted scores and scores of these previously on Disney films as well as with his mentor Pop Day back in England, not forgetting of course Peter's long and successful career in fine gallery art where such subjects were not uncommon.

FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL - a film I'd love to see remastered for BluRay.

The closing shot from FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL is this dramatic pull out matte painted shot with the actors projected into a clear portion of the painting.
The only matte I could spot in FOLLOW ME BOYS (1966) was this movie theatre addition.
I remember seeing this as a kid.... hey, what kid doesn't dig seeing monkeys running amok?  Peter Ellenshaw handled all of the mattes though for a departure from the norm would resort to the use of high quality photographic prints of the various villages in the South of France (taken by Peter himself on a pleasant junket).  The photographs would serve as matte 'art' of a sort and be combined with sets in Hollywood.  Some shots were augmented and blended with hand painted additions.  Incidentally, the technique was often used in other studios such as Fox (big time) and latter day MGM where large photo blowups would be painted on and altered by the matte artist as a time saver.  One such film was LOGAN'S RUN where Matthew Yuricich hand painted aging and decay over photo enlargements for a number of shots of the derelict, time ravaged Washington DC.

More of the photo mattes from MONKEYS GO HOME (1967) with the shots working most effectively.  Note the lower right frame has had hand painted additions of the tree help tie the shot together.


THE ADVENTURES OF BULLWHIP GRIFFIN (1967) although overlong (as were many Disney pictures), an entertaining, rollicking adventure.  Peter Ellenshaw was matte artist and supplied a few shots of harbours filled with tall ships - something of an Ellenshaw trademark specialty.

More from BULLWHIP GRIFFIN with some excellent matte work depicting times long gone.
My grandfather took me to see this when I was a kid (at the Starlight theatre, Papatoetoe, South Auckland for any fellow Kiwi blog readers out there...if there are any?).  Good laugh fest for younger audiences, though in recent times the laughs are superceded by the extremely fetching Nancy Kwan as Girl Friday...... oh, baby!!

Some nifty matte art plus a lengthy sequence with jaw dropping fx animation that thrilled me then as much as it still does today. 

LT ROBINSON CRUSOE, USN Dick Van Dyke encounters a beached Japanese submarine, with the long shots - and most probably the close views too - being painted by Ellenshaw.

The giant stone idol matte art.

Van Dyke's POV inside the stone idol is an entirely matte painted shot by Peter Ellenshaw, complete with tilt up

The shot with the natives interrupting Crusoe's Pacific idyll is a matte shot where the headland, sky and treetops have been painted in.

Matte art meets slapstick...

Just a handful of examples of the phenomenal cel animated effects shots in the wild, out of control fireworks climax by Disney's Jack Boyd and McLaren Stewart that remain a joy to behold.  You can keep all that CG of this era folks... this hand created magic remains timeless and enthralling.

..and so ends our Pacific idyll.  Most likely a miniature shot here, possibly augmented by foreground glass painted foliage?
Disney tried to recreate some DARBY O'GILL magic with THE GNOME MOBILE (1967), and while it doesn't meet DARBY's standing it's not a bad little show in it's own right.  Nice mattes, excellent small people opticals and terrific cel effects animated bubble sequence that's a standout.  In these shots I'm unsure about the suns rays blasting through the tree tops (it's seen several times throughout the film) but suspect maybe some optically added in painted rays perhaps?

One of Peter Ellenshaw's full paintings from THE GNOME MOBILE where I suspect the deer to be a Eustace Lycette sodium vapour live action element shot on a yellow backing and floor.

Matte art and at lower right fx animated bubble gags from THE GNOME MOBILE

There's Gnome place like home I always say.

Ellenshaw mattes of Mulrooney's menacing mansion in THE GNOME MOBILE

A sizeable effects showcase was Disney's THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (1968) where the matte department were obviously running at capacity in turning out the large number of mattes required.

Peter Ellenshaw oversaw the mattes, no doubt with assistance from Alan Maley and Jim Fetherolf - if he was still there. This is a wonderful tilt down matte shot, with almost all of the house being painted.
Effective evening matte complete with falling snow.  I like this matte a lot.


There's nothing like a jaunt through the countryside - even an entirely fabricated countryside rendered in the Disney matte department.

Still on that jaunt...

Multi-element shot with ocean plate, live action bit of road with car, and a major matte painting of everything else.
Pullback optical from near full frame matte painting -with live action on the steps and doorway.
Terrific, evocative matte art for the closing shot in THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE.

A highly entertaining little comedy, BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1968) featured many great mattes, with the evening approach mattes such as this being absolutely Peter Ellenshaw in style, design and execution.

Peter was long experienced at painting moonlit seascapes and cloudy night skies, both in cinematic terms and in his own gallery art that these BLACKBEARD requirements were second nature to Ellenshaw.
Another of Peter's moody night time approach matte shots.
Much matte art here...

Crazy architecture that's the bastard offspring of a weird three way between Long John Silver and Conrad Hilton by way of Gaudi, is rendered here in paint with some relish by Peter Ellenshaw I'd dare to say.  Love it!

Peter had stepped down from the matte department in the mid 1960's to pursue Production Design and other creative things.  Alan Maley (right) assumed headship of Disney's matte shot unit around 1966 and remained boss until 1974.  Although no longer head, Peter would still occasionally pitch in on some big shows.

THE ONE AND ONLY, GENUINE ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND (1968) is the sort of family friendly flick that wouldn't get so much as a consideration by a studio exec these days.... just too innocuous and un-franchise-worthy!
Alan Maley was matte artist on this show.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT (1968) was actually pretty good.  Funny, energetic and refreshing for a staple Disney picture that steps up the game somewhat more than one might expect.  Dick Van Dyke is good up against the great Edward G.Robinson of all people.  Few mattes, but what sensational mattes they are.  Alan Maley's night time cityscapes are a sheer delight.

New York by night has rarely looked as good as these Alan Maley matte shots.  Jaw dropping shot!

NEVER A DULL MOMENT pretty well sums up the film.
Some matte artists have tell-tale evidence of their particular hand at work.  Maley's was his tree work, which for me at least, has always been identifiable as 'Alan'.

I know I've covered this film ages ago in a stand alone blog, as well as other examples.  However, not all of the often invisible LOVE BUG mattes have ever been illustrated - until now!

A rare image of an Alan Maley LOVE BUG matte painting that most audiences missed entirely.  A full painting of San Francisco with the blank space reserved for a miniature car (pulled along on wire) to be composited in.
The final shot as it appears in the film's opening scene, and a shot I had never suspected until Harrison Ellenshaw sent me some great behind the scenes footage inside the old Disney matte department where this and a bunch of other old glass mattes were shown propped up here and there.  As Albert Whitlock once stated; ".The special effect is the one that nobody ever notices...that's the meaning of a special effect".  I couldn't have put it better myself.
Close up details from the above matte art.
The eccentric Fire Station abode of Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett was entirely fabricated by Alan Maley with the exception of the doorway and tiny piece of pavement where Herbie (the car) is parked.
Alan Maley's original matte painting. 
Close up detail of Alan's painting technique.
More LOVE BUG mattes.  The two freeway shots have been altered with signage and other minor features, and I suspect, split screened with additional location 2nd unit freeway footage I would summise.
Before and after (or, as in this case an 'after and before') shot with treacherous ravine and canyons etc.
One out of a series of wall to wall mattes which make up the 'lost Herbie' night sequence.  An especially well designed sequence to utilise matte artistry to maximum dramatic effect. Peter Ellenshaw and Alan Maley painted these.
Almost entirely paint on glass, with the matte line sited just above star Dean Jones' head.  I suspect the foreground car may also be painted too judging by the matte join .... just sublime.
My favourite matte from THE LOVE BUG and in fact one of my all time top ten mattes ever!  Just magnificent in all respects.  Doesn't this shot just inject a sense of sheer, unadulterated wonder into the viewer's cerebral cortex?
Same sequence... the top left frame I am sure is all painted, with the actor added in as a sodium matte element.
There are those who could paint with photographic realism, and then there were those few artists like Peter Ellenshaw  who instinctively understood not only what to paint and just how much (or how little) to paint to sell the shot completely.  
Same sequence.  Top frame has Dean Jones matted into a fully painted setting, and bottom frame has subtle painted additions such as street lighting and possibly the tree too.
Same sequence still, and a shot that most never really notice but is in fact 90% matte art!  Wow!

THE LOVE BUG - much more painted here than you might think.  Not only the whole top half of the frame but the entire right hand side with buildings and gardens as well.
More mattes, with the two lower frames being complex optical split screen shots of multiple cars racing in all directions at once, plus a gold miner added in as a sodium travelling matte by Eustace Lycette and Bob Broughton.
Matte for safety as Herbie very nearly overshoots the edge of the cliff.  Not sure if the background is painted or an actual 2nd unit plate split screened in.
Still more mattes from THE LOVE BUG
A hit film all the way thanks to an engaging cast, fast pace, good action and stunts, and of course not forgetting George Bruns' unforgettable, catchy and completely wacked out music score that lingers in the viewers brain years after the fact!

Now for the prize folks... just when you thought you'd seen it all we have this absolutely amazing LOVE BUG matte pull back that's all but invisible.  Just the main street and a little bit of the park are genuine, with everything else - and I do mean everything else - being painted back at Disney.  Peter Ellenshaw and Alan Maley, as well as assistant Deno Ganakes, all worked on the film's mattes so I don't know who did this incredible shot (maybe Maley??).  Harrison Ellenshaw told me about the painting still being at Disney when he started in 1970 though it vanished sometime after, though he hastened to add that he wasn't the lucky light fingered bandito in question.
Frame by frame pullback.
Detail showing the painted plaza, people, trees and cars. Some live action people have been combined in the upper part of this close up to lend credibility.
Close detail from the upper left area of the matte painting clearly illustrates loose painting technique for rendering traffic, buildings, signage etc with the introduction of shadow and dappled light being integral in bringing the trick to life.

The previously illustrated San Francisco street pullout dissolves into a significant overall city pullback.

The 1969 film RASCAL was another of Alan Maley's assignments.

An Oscar winner for best Special Visual Effects was BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1970)

The film is loaded with great mattes, largely by Alan Maley with newbie trainee matte painter P.S (Harrison) Ellenshaw on his premiere film engagement.

Some of BEDKNOBS many mattes...

Original matte art by Alan Maley and the final composite.

Frames from a massive tracking shot across London to Portobello road.  Harrison Ellenshaw recalled assisting Alan on the painting which measured some 12 feet or so in length.

More detail

Harrison told me that Alan was a great teacher as well as a great artist and that he loved film and would see everything that came out and loved to discuss all aspects of movie making.


Motion fx shot with camera move from painted house and landscape down to German sub and rowboats.

Some of the climactic matte art effects.
Alan celebrating his BEDKNOBS matte effects Oscar win with Peter who was also nominated in the best art direction category on the same film.
A minor though amiable comedy with some nice effects work.

When quizzed about following in the shadow of his famous father, Harrison replied:  "There was a huge amount of trepidation when I entered the matte business.  I felt that without any formal art training it would be very much in doubt that I could learn anything at all and become a competent professional.  Alan actually banned my father from the matte department for a few months in the beginning.  Alan was very protective of me and didn't want my father to interfere.  We laughed about it later."

Harrison Ellenshaw assisted Alan Maley with the matte duties.  I rather like that shot at top right.

I think this one is very effective, a full frame painting by Maley of a snowbound Amtrak train.  Nice.

Invisible matte trickery from SNOWBALL EXPRESS (1972)

A relatively unknown Disney picture, though a quite good one at that, THE WILD COUNTRY (1971) featured this impressive tornado reaching down an engulfing the farm.  Very well executed indeed.
I don't recall an effects credit though it's likely Alan Maley handled these shots.

The popular WORLD'S GREATEST ATHLETE (1973) had this matte by Alan Maley.

Another big Disney visual effects show, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN (1974) had alot of mattes, split screens, opticals and ingenious mechanical effects gags.  Alan Maley once again handled the matte work along with Deno Ganakes and Harrison Ellenshaw.


All painted except for the cars.

Some cleverly devised split screen work as Herbie escapes his pursuers. Note the earthen wall in the top right frame is a matte painting, as are the majority of the shot in the other frames.

Herbie takes a leap of faith.  Much artwork plus cel animated car.

Herbie checks out the Golden Gate bridge. A multi part effects shot employing miniatures, glass painted clouds, live action and optical combinations.

More HERBIE effects shots most of which involved various combined approaches to pull off.
I was curious about these shots so I asked Harrison Ellenshaw.  The best he could recall they were likely extensive miniature set ups as the camera POV involves a dizzying aerial dolly shot .

Keenan Wynn does a King Kong bit in this bizarre dream sequence where thick, black matte lines abound.

We all love a happy ending.  Lower half of frame is a stage set while the top half and distant city is matte art.

The same dramatic pullback as painted for the first LOVE BUG film is recycled here.  This is a close up from the matte showing the loose and impressionistic brush style.

...and, fade to black.

An odd little show here, THE MYSTERY IN DRACULA'S CASTLE (circa 1973) had some Alan Maley work in it though to my recollection, no castle (and maybe no damned 'Dracula' either?)  Possibly made for tv.  Bloodsucker weren't especially popular at The Mouse Factory.

Harrison Ellenshaw's first solo outing, albeit one without screen credit, had this beautiful matte shot to open the film. Initial plate photography on the Oregon location proved disastrous when the matte camera assistant loaded the VistaVision camera with the film twisted back to front, with the cell side to the lens instead of the emulsion side with the result being an unusable 'red' print.  Luckily the production had shot an a later additional take from the same camera position which was used instead. 

More of Harrison's matte work from THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG (1975)

A significant matte here where most of the frame, including the foreground structures, have been painted.
Close detail from Harrison's Quake City matte painting.

Harrison Ellenshaw painted a half dozen mattes for THE CASTAWAY COWBOY in 1974, and received his first ever on screen billing.  Alan Maley had by now left Disney to pursue his own fine art though would be sought after again later for a major Bond 007 film (the best one me thinks) and a couple of early ILM assignments.

Harrison's breakdown of the establishing shot which entailed two different live action plates, a still photograph of the sky and matte art.

THE CASTAWAY COWBOY - matted in sailing ship and horizon.

In the mid 1970's the Disney company resumed making films in Great Britain and utilised UK production facilities and personnel.  ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING (1975) was the first of 5 or 6 such productions and enlisted the services of Pinewood's resident matte and effects artist Cliff Culley.

Same film.  Cliff Culley began painting mattes and backings around 1947 at Rank and would work for several years alongside a budding matte painter named Albert Whitlock as well as other notable British artists such as Les Bowie and Peter Melrose.

Most likely a combination forced perspective set comprising several painted layers and a miniature steam train.

Miniature set and lorry.

ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING matte painted interior.

Some highly creative car chase scenes and physical action are on screen in NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN (1976).  Harrison Ellenshaw painted the matte shots.

Matte department supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw completes an important painting for NO DEPOSIT NO RETURN.

The 1976 adventure TREASURE OF MATECUMBE had this effects shot by Harrison Ellenshaw which combined a miniature Mississippi paddle steamer with a matte painted setting to good effect. I like the foreground trees, something that Harrison was always good at was foliage.

An undetectable Harrison Ellenshaw matte shot from HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO (1977).  The live action plate was filmed in the San Gabriel mountains in California while Paris and surrounding foliage were painted.  A beautifully crisp, clean matte comp that doesn't for a moment suggest rear projection comp.

Same film, with the same shooting locale in California transformed convincingly into the French Alps with matte art.
Stage lighting was always a dead giveaway in trying to simulate sunlight in those days.  Shot on a stage at the CBS-Radford lot which was formerly the old Republic Studios
This matte shot is actually from a different Herbie picture, HERBIE GOES BANANAS (1980), but I'll through it in here.

PETE'S DRAGON (1977)  was a big effects show and had some well employed matte shots by Harrison Ellenshaw.  British painter J.P Trevor was also on hand as assistant.

Some more of the numerous mattes in PETE'S DRAGON.
A sensational matte from the same film that combines matte painted houses and trees with a midground live action plate and a background photographic still.  I really like this.
A close in look at the detail and technique of Ellenshaw's matte art.

Another of Disney's UK based productions of the 1970's was CANDLESHOE (1978) which I found to be a highly entertaining, engaging and well paced little romp.  Pinewood's Cliff Culley provided the matte painted shots with the above shot being an actual location that has been extended from the main roof line upward with Culley adding some battlements, numerous trees and a rather nice sky.

The manor house in the distance is a painting matted into an existing English landscape.


The opening tracking shot where the camera moves through the trees from RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN (1978) was a multi-plane matte painting by Harrison Ellenshaw (see below).

Ellenshaw's painting on the matte stand.
May not be any matte art here, though the blue fringing is somewhat blinding.

The not particularly good CAT FROM OUTER SPACE (1978) was noteworthy for featuring not one, but two actors, both of whom played the Commanding Officer of the 4077th in tv's still excellent M*A*S*H - McLean Stevenson and his successor, the wonderful Harry Morgan.  Trivia of little or no value other than to fans of that great series I know.

No serious matte work other than these quite complex split screen shots which combined different LA locations as one, with some artwork to blend it together.  Harrison explained it as:  "I didn't have many shots on this show, but since we were using VistaVision rear projection it gave us the advantage of being able to combine two plates shot in completely different places.  But I have to say that they were tougher to do than they look... matching horizons, colour balance, time of the day, perspective, choice of lens and so on."

I'm a little messed up in my chronology here as this 1974 film should have been earlier in this article, but it's late at night and I'm tired so.........

A huge effects enterprise, and by and large a pretty successful one.  A massive load of mattes - some 93 in total - plus  tons of miniatures and sodium travelling mattes.

A rare look at one of Alan Maley's original matte paintings on a wall at Disney and the actual completed shot.
Another of the ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD paintings and a final composite.
Alan Maley was supervising matte painter, with Peter Ellenshaw, Harrison Ellenshaw and Constantine Ganakes also heavily involved.  As the workload got heavier Maley called in Matthew Yuricich to help out with some work for the films climax.  Peter Ellenshaw was also the films Production Designer.
A key scene from the film was this three part composite shot where live action shot at Burbank was composited with a Harrison Ellenshaw glass painting of the gateway, bridge, city and hill.  This in turn was combined with an actual photographic still taken in Norway by Peter Ellenshaw.  Also shown here are details where we can see just how much was painted.
A surprisingly loose though completely effective matte shot, possibly by Maley.

An extensive painting with just a tiny slice of live action on the track going up to the top.  I just love this school of larger than life Lost Horizon-esque stylised matte work.
More of the close on 100 mattes from the film.
The film was submitted to the Academy as a potential candidate for best visual effects that year but the Academy turned it down.

Despite an exceptionally dull cast the film is rather good of it's type - a sort of Jules Verne voyage of discovery.  It works well for the most part, with the mattes being for the most part excellent, with that top right crater matte being especially nice.  A film I'd love to get in high def BluRay.

Although it may not look it, this shot was an extremely complex visual effect.  The group of riders on horseback were shot in LA; the distant background is a photographic still taken in Norway; the main banks of trees were painted by Harrison Ellenshaw; the deer comprised a single second unit rear process plate that was projected separately for the foreground and then again for the mid-ground areas of the painting.

Matthew Yuricich contributed this matte art of the Whales Graveyard.  In his lengthy oral history article I published a few years ago, Yuricich said that he found it tough at first working in Maley's matte department as Alan and Peter always seemed to be taking nasty verbal swipes at each other - that is until Matthew caught on to the very, very dry British sense of humour (we Colonial types in New Zealand totally get it) that can often be misconstrued by our American friends who take it quite literally.  Before long Yuricich began to enjoy the frequent back and forth banter between Alan and Peter and although he didn't always 'get the joke', he found them to be really funny guys (for matte artists!.

A wide view of the Whales Graveyard.

The film was originally titled SPACE PROBE ONE and had been on the drawing board at Disney for years, even before STAR WARS had been released.  The huge success of the latter encouraged Disney to proceed with THE BLACK HOLE

Disney had a lot of faith in THE BLACK HOLE (1979) though the film was something of a misfire, despite all of the resources put into it.  Shown here is matte supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw at work on one of the 60 odd mattes.
Peter Ellenshaw was overall Production Designer in addition to Miniatures Supervisor.  The series of frames at left are from the show stopping camera move upon Harrison's wonderful matte painting known as The Observatory.
The matte art for The Observatory.  The bottom sides with black tape masking were deliberately left unpainted as this part of the frame would not be sen on screen as the camera started in close (the rectangular black box) with the actors and gradually pulled back and upward to reveal the wonder of it all.

Live action rear projected into painting as computer controlled MatteSCAN camera pulls out and tilts up in a single move.
Painting with nice lens flare.  The figures seen in front of the two globes were additional rear projected elements. Harrison was especially tasked with matching colour hues on the blue and red globes in that the rear screen process YCM plates didn't 'jump out' with obvious mismatch of hue once combined as the final take. Says Harrison:  "That match was difficult.  It took a long time to shoot it - something like a day and a half on the MatteSCAN - and it took us four or five takes before we got it the way we wanted it."
Harrison's painting of the power trench on the matte stand being photographed, with the final shot shown below.
Assisting Harrison on THE BLACK HOLE were noted artist David Mattingly and veteran Disney matte painter Constantine Ganakes. The top frame is a combination half inch scale miniature tunnel set with matte painted foreground structure and a VistaVision live action plate projected into the middle.

David Mattingly painted this shot and by Harrison's estimate probably contributed around 60% of the matte shot tally.

Great production design here complimented by superb matte work.

Spectacular effects do not a great film make.... Sadly, the script was juvenile and even with class acts like the great Maximilian Schell and the sorely miscast perpetual Norman Bates that was Anthony Perkins, the film fails.  And don't get me started on those two God damned droids... even Jar-Jar Binks was more welcome than these two metallic twats.

Mostly matte art with a pretty minimal set.  Nice fx shot.

One of the best mattes in THE BLACK HOLE.
David Mattingly's matte art prior to photography.

MatteSCAN composites which allow for computer controlled camera moves on shots involving matte paintings and any number of additional process projected plates.  Matte cameraman Ed Secek - a 20 plus year veteran at Disney - pretty much taught himself how to run the MatteSCAN system on the fly, was responsible for all of the demanding programming input to run the set up on complex shots such as this.

The film has never come out on BluRay to date, and the DVD's are pretty blah.  These screen captures were taken directly from an HDTV print and look better than ever.

Constantine Ganakes' matte paintings in action.
More class matte art, though I must state that I had serious issues with the sub par effects animation for lasers and so forth, which were extremely poor compared to the magnificent cel animated fx work the studio has previously been responsible for, and have been illustrated in this and other NZPete blog posts.

Great matte art by David Mattingly is marred by inclusion of those bloody 'cute' robots.  The film would have been so much better had they totally ditched those damned R2D2 mutant wanna-be's!
Selection of matte and miniature effects shots.  Pedantic I know, but the top left matte painting bleeds into the actors heads as they run for cover.

One of the excellent miniature/live action marry ups, in a sensational action piece.

The best sequence in the film, and so well executed by Art Cruickshank, Danny Lee and Terry Saunders - with the fleeing figures doubled in by Eustace Lycette.

Did you know that Black Holes drain in quite the opposite direction down here in the Southern Hemisphere?  True story.

Several BLACK HOLE matte paintings in various stages of completion.  Harrison mentioned to me that while Mattingly would work on a matte shot in a much different way to how he was taught by mentor Alan Maley, by the time it was finished it was stunning.  The top and bottom extreme left are the rough in and finished Mattingly painting of the so-called Umbrella shot.  The middle top is one of Harrison's paintings; the lower middle in another Mattingly shot.  The top right was one of Deno Ganakes' mattes; the middle right is another of David's mattes, with the bottom right unknown

Oh, Jesus....Don't creep up on me like that...  I thought you were that damned V.I.N.C.E.N.T droid tin can, but I see you're a Technirama camera, albeit one with a ton more personality that those BLACK HOLE droids.

Matte painter David Mattingly.  Harrison told me how David got the gig - by simply cold calling the studio one day and asking the operator to put him through to the matte department as he was looking for work.  Ellenshaw answered the phone to a very long silence on the other end of the line.  David told him later that he was speechless because it was just so easy to be put through to Harrison directly!  David was invited in for a job interview and brought in lots of illustrations he'd done and got the job.  In the photo above, note the collection of old Disney matte glasses in storage behind Mattingly.

One of Mattingly's glass paintings on the matte stand with the Technovision camera set up in the foreground.  This shot, though composited, never made the final cut.
THE BLACK HOLE matte unit.  From left, artist David Mattingly, Harrison Ellenshaw, process projectionist Don Henry, artist Constantine Ganakes, and matte cameraman Ed Secek at right.

The two Ellenshaws in the carpark (no limo's for technicians, sadly) of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as they head in for the 1980 Academy Awards ceremony.  Says Harrison of the night:  "I always thought we were a longshot in the best visual effects category.  At the Oscar ceremony we sat behind the STAR TREK nominees and in front of the ALIEN nominees.  The STAR TREK guys thought they were a lock in, so when the winner (ALIEN) was announced, the TREK guys just sat there, stunned.  I don't even think they applauded while the ALIEN folks went crazy...they just hadn't expected to win.  It was great fun.  That's the Oscars...when you think you know, you don't know."
Not in the slightest matte related but a nice photo of effects D.O.P Art Cruickshank,ASC photographing the large model Cyanus with the ACES Motion Control Camera for THE BLACK HOLE.

A sample of the third and final chapter in the Disney Matte Art Story.  Here is artist Paul Lasaine with the two Ellenshaws' in the matte department in the early 1990's.  Note the two old mattes from MARY POPPINS on show.

That's about it for Part Two.  I know I've missed out some films that had mattes as I just couldn't locate copies of some of them (SHAGGY DOG, SHAGGY D.A, NAPOLEON AND SAMANTHA etc).
I'm always welcoming of any matte shot 'gifts' that any of you might have, so please contact me by email if you have screen grabs (from anything!).

We'll be back soon with Part Three of the Disney Matte Art retrospective where I'll be looking at some latter day Disney matte shows (all pre-digital, naturally) with some interesting material already on hand.



  1. ...and just before any BLACK HOLE fans chastise me for mis-representing their favourite spaceship, I apologise for calling it CYANUS instead of Cygnus..... a genuine typo which has already caused titters of laughter among certain highly placed film industry people.


  2. absolutely fantastic! thank you very much! greetings from cologne, germany!

    1. Hi Johannes

      You are welcome... so glad you liked it.
      I loved Cologne too on the two visits I've had there.


  3. truly truly brilliant as usual...NZ Pete,i salute you



    1. Thank you so much William. Comments such as yours make all of this work seem very worth while.


  4. Would Harrison know what became of those "stacks" of matte paintings behind David ? What films are they from ? Will they ever see the light of day perhaps in your blog ?

  5. Wonderful insights! Thank you!

  6. I was hoping to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Candleshoe and the Parent Trap (Hayley Mills). I'll take 2 out of 3. Thank you!

    1. I haven't seen PARENT TRAP in 4 decades.... were there any matte painted shots? I know that Whitlock was on that production.


  7. Just great stuff Pete. I see a new post and there goes 3 hours! Wonderful. Takes me back when miniatures and mattes were really the special thing in movie making. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Bob.... Just assure me that you don't spend that vital 3 hours perusing the blog on a bloody cellphone/i-phone/blackberry/whatever other palm sized contraption. These mattes are meant to be enjoyed on the full PC screen.
      Glad you enjoyed it.


  8. Wow Pete, another sterling, in-depth piece---I had no idea the extent of the matte painting used on Mary Poppins especially-----however these revelations only enhance the appreciation of the undoubted skills that went into assembling these composites. Such a shame about the Blu-ray version of the film---I have no idea what the studio was thinking of, putting out a disc with this 'ambience' but it looks like I will wait 'til a more natural-looking version turns up---if ever. Many thanks for your inspiring work on analogue effects, which to me and many others are infinitely more tangible than what we are saddled with nowadays in movie-making.

  9. Hi Pete! Thanks for your blog!
    I can send you NAPOLEON AND SAMANTHA - either as video or do any screencaps you need.