|Cinefantastique, Volume 6, Number 1 (c)1977, pg. 40 - Land of the Lost by S.S. Wilson|
The fact is, however, that logical explanations did come forth in the show's first season. They were tantilizingly incomplete, but they were consistent. The pieces fit together. Facts learned in earlier episodes were often applied in later ones. For example, in "Hurricane" the Marshalls try to use the flashing signals of the skylons (flying, blinking beacons) to operate controls governing the movements of a drifting time doorway through which a terrific wind is blowing. In the earlier episode, "Skylons," they successfully followed the signals to stop a violent electrical storm. This time, however, the skylons' instructions make matters worse, and the Marshalls conclude the skylons are good for only weather control, not for the time doorway control.
In the same episode, the Marshalls climb a hill and catch a glimpse of themselves standing on an identical hilltop on the other side of the Land, and Holly remarks that this event is similar to their earlier discovery that the river in the Land flows in an unbroken circle.
The third season shows dispensed with such an intertwining of events and made more moral points than science fiction discoveries. (After a run-in with Medusa, Holly concludes, "That's the problem with vanity, anger and all those other vices. You never know if you might get stuck that way.") Furthermore, "rules" which had been established in the first season were disregarded. Whereas first season interlopers were held to a minimum, the third season was a parade of new characters who were not even limited to science fiction. Medusa, the Abominable Snowman, and the Flying Dutchman each stepped in. Others were ordinary earth types: a caveman, and Indian and pursuing Cavalryman, and a baloonist. The only one who seemed part of the Land's processes was a fellow named Blandings who claimed to be its "Repairman," but he was under a restriction not to answer most questions.
Another lapse in logic is that this new crowd seems able to get out of the Land with relative ease. The Dutchman's ship flies out, the baloonist drifts out, and the Indian and soldier just ride away on horseback (we don't learn if they get out or not)! The Marshalls remain inexplicably stuck, and in fact they seem to have given up on trying to leave.
Thus, the show turned away from the elements which made it potentially interesting to science fiction followers. Evidently, the Krofft organization didn't regard the science/mystery theme as playing any major part in the show's initial ratings success, having allowed the theme to depart with the man who was largely responsible for its development, first season story editor, David Gerrold. He resigned at the end of that season.
Gerrold is an established science fiction author (*When Harlie Was One*, *The Man Who Folded Himself*, forthcoming *Deathbeast* and others) whose first television credit was his "The Trouble With Tribbles" STAR TREK episode. LAND OF THE LOST was his first experience as a story editor, and it would seem he ran headlong into the old brick wall of art-by-committee which animator David Allen (speaking of the industry at large) once described as "that corporate 'we' which is unassailable and infuriatingly patronizing."
What Gerrold learned was that he actually has little power as LAND OF THE LOST's story editor. Obstensibly, a story editor sets the tone for a series, hires its writers (often providing story outlines for them), and maintains character and dramatic consistency. So Gerrold set about developing writers from the science fiction fraternity such as Dick Morgan, Ben Bova, D. C. Fontana, and Larry Niven.
Gerrold even attempted to deal effectively with the problem of a last episode (a problem because no one can predict how many seasons a series will run). He wrote "Circle," which ran as the final episode of the first season. In it he forged the last link in the dual-existence thread (note the incidents in "Hurricane," also by Gerrold). We learn that the Marshalls' escape is the event which triggers their falling into the Land. "Circle" concludes with one set of Marshalls escaping while the other set enters the Land (in repeat footage from "Cha-ka," the first episode). It's not entirely satisfying, but it's a program planner's dream, since it leads directly and logically into re-runs, though Rick Marshall's departure without re-entry is inconsistent. "Circle" can be regarded as the first *and* last episode of the series. In any case, it will have to do, for there are no plans for a more conventional escape by the Marshalls. Final episodes are thought to hurt future re-run potential, and dramatic "neatness" always takes a back seat to economics.
While Gerrold speaks highly of many who were involved with LAND OF THE LOST, his disappointment with the show was multileveled. From his own point of view, the uncontrolled rewriting which took place after "approved" scripts had left his desk was intolerable. NBC's Program Practices had a shot at them (his favorite story there involves a rifle which was changed to a cannon with the reasoning that children are less likely to imitate action performed with the latter). Also, the show's directors were granted total rewrite power, as is often the case in film and television production.
In addition, the pressures of low budget production took a toll. The live action production schedule of *two dates* per episode allowed for little more than a reading of the lines. The end product, in Gerrold's words, was "uncomfortable to watch-- embarrassing-- and we deserved the bad reviews we got everywhere, including from CINEFANTASTIQUE.
Unfortunately, the dinosaurs began to die out with the science fiction in LAND OF THE LOST. This is unfortunate because, in the beginning, the animation sequences often outclassed the live action (sound familiar?). Considering the time required for animation, and for tricky composite work, the very idea of doing both on a weekly series is ambitious to say the least. Nevertheless, that is what the Kroffts had in mind, and they engaged Gene Warren and Wah Chang, well known veterans of dimensional animation in feature films and commercials, for the job. The decision was made to do the animation on film, but to combine it with the live action on videotape, using electronic, rather than filmic means.
In feature film production the live action is usually photographed first. Then the animator holes up in a cluttered studio for a few months, meticulously matching the animation to the live action frame by frame, using any of several techniques for combining the images. Also the work is usually done in ways which minimize the need for expensive miniature sets. When miniature sets are used, they are often partial, built to blend with areas of the live action image. Minature flooring is often necessary so that the animation model will cast a realistic shadow in the final composite.
For LAND OF THE LOST, both norms were reversed. The animation was done before the live action, and several complete miniature sets were constructed.
The first phase was not too different from normal procedure. The small, talented crew at Gene Warren's Excelsior Animated Moving Pictures studio built miniature sets including the Lost City Plaza, the exterior of the Marshall cliff-face cave, a striking chasm with a stone slab bridge, tar pits, a swamp, and assorted jungles. Mike Minor, who did most of the background paintings for the show, worked on the sets along with Paul Kassler and Gene Warren.
Jungle foliage was made up mostly by reworking commercially available plastic foliage. Warren reports that the plastic has proved very durable. It holds its shape and does not bleach out under hot photographic lights, and of course it is rigid enough not to move about while the animators work around it. The only maintenance necessary is the occasional washing to remove accumulated dust. Strawflowers were used to represent some distant background trees. These are any of several flower varieties which can be dried without losing their shape-- once dry they are suitaby stable for use as animation set pieces, although somewhat fragile.
The animation models for the first season came from Wah Chang. He made available a few models he had built for his short film, DINOSAURS, THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS. He also designed and built several new ones. Later additions in the second and third seasons were built at Excelsior. They include Junior, the baby allosaurus (designed by Harry Walton); Lu Lu, a two-headed aquatic something; and Torchy, a flame throwing dimetrodon (note the creeping fantasy element).
Torchy, incidentally, really does spit fire. There was no money in the budget for film optical work, so Torchy was constructed with the appropriate feed tubes and igniting mechanism built in. Since fire won't hold still to be animated, Torchy had to come to a halt before he could shoot. The camera's animation motor was replaced with a live action motor, the fire burst was photographed at normal or slow motion speed, then the animation motor was returned and animation of Torchy continued. This seeming limitation of Torchy's movement was nicely overcome by animator Gene Warren, Jr., who deliberately gave torchy [sic] a kind of purposeful, tank-like motion. When Torchy halts abruptly to fire, one has the feeling he's just taking aim. Experiments were tried which involved loosening Torchy's joints (an animation model's joints are normally quite stiff, so it will hold its pose for each frame) allowing his head to be bobbed up and down by wire or rod when the flame jet was fired, but it was felt that this didn't add significantly to the action.