|Cinefantastique, Volume 6, Number 1 (c)1977, pg. 47 - Land of the Lost by S.S. Wilson|
Right: Will (Wesley Eure) flees from Lu Lu. This is not a chroma key composite, but merely a simple front projection shot made especially for publicity purposes. Bottom Right: The animation model of Lu Lu. The water is a special plastic material. A hand puppet model of Lu Lu was also used.
Lu Lu appears most often, in composites which are so clumsy they are laughable. Shots of her are simply repeated with actors running this way and that in the foreground. Save for a single composite with Will in "Survival Kit," she doesn't even look at the actors, or even seem to be aware that they are there. The scripts for the third season were not developed until after the animation had been ordered and completed. Excelsior's animators had to work without knowing what their characters were supposed to be doing, let alone what the actors would be doing with them. No wonder Lu Lu looks a little confused! Torchy seems less confused, but his only job is to incinerate everything in his path. Krofft allowed three months for the first season's animation effects, four weeks for those in the third season.
In spite of the abuse of the animation stock footage, one attempt was made to use an old shot of Grumpy in an imaginitive way. The original design called for live actors running from Grumpy to split into two groups moving on diverging paths, leaving the befuddled tyranosaurus looking first after one group, then the other. The animation portion is used again in "Medicine Man," when the Indian, Lone Wolf (Ned Romero), encounters Grumpy. However, a large rock, behind which Lone Wolf crouches, is added to the foreground (this is a full scale, natural color prop placed on the stage with the actor). The rock significantly changes the composition of the shot, and it looks, more or less, like Grumpy might be trying to peer over or around the rock.
The problem with re-using animation is that it is easier to re-use if it contains only general movement. The more specific the model's action, the fewer situations to which it can be applied. On the other hand, if the action is vague enough to apply to any situation, it's bound to be inherently uninteresting unless considerable thought has been given, prior to animation, to all the ways in which it will be used.
Ironically, or understandably, the best composites of the third season don't include dinosaurs. They are "animation plates" with some new miniature sets. One shows Will felling a tree to span a gorge ("Abominable Snowman"). Another shows Cha-ka stranded in a field of geysers ("Time Stop").
While LAND OF THE LOST might be termed a noble experiment in technique, it seems unrealistic to hope that television will underwrite any major efforts in dimensional animation. However, experiments are under way aimed at bringing the advantages of electronic visual effects to film. At least two agencies in Hollywood are working on printers which will use special high resolution video systems to accept images from film original, transform them electronically, and "print" the new images back onto film. It is claimed that they'll do anything a modern TV effects unit will do and more. If electronic Composite Printers, as they're called, prove practical (some say they'll cost far too much to operate), we might see a real boom in cleaner, fancier film effects.