In 1954, the Disney studio decided to undertake a huge and inevitably expensive project - “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Jules Verne’s classic tale of adventure seemed just the kind of project for the Disney studio to put on the silver screen.
During the filming, Walt called up an old friend of his, Art Linkletter, asking if he wanted to visit the studio to watch them film.
“Walt called me,” Linkletter said, “and he said, ‘How would you like to see a fight between a submarine and a monster squid?’ So I went over to the studio with Walt and saw the awesome battle!”
The scene was expensive but would be one of the must pulse pounding moments in the film. In it, the giant squid has got its tentacles around the surfaced Nautilus, which is bobbing upon the stormy waters like a cork. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo (played by James Mason), Ned Land (played by Kirk Douglas), and the rest of the crew, climb onto the deck armed with harpoons and hatchets in a scene that would put audiences on the edges of their seats.
The entire scene was filmed in an incredibly large water tank on the studio’s sound stage. It took 60 technicians to operate the numerous pullies and cables required to control the movements of the raging latex squid. Meanwhile wind machines and wave makers conspired to create a tempest in the middle of the Disney studio. That single scene alone cost a quarter of a million between construction and shooting.
“The scene took some time to film,” Linkletter continued. “There were closeups and retakes and finally the director came and said, ‘I think we got it.’ But Walt said, ‘The action on those tentacles wasn’t right. I could see the wires.’ So they had to rebuild the set and shoot the entire sequence again another day at enormous additional expense. Walt wouldn’t hesitate to spend the money to get it right. He was a fanatic about quality.”
In the end, it took $4,000,000 dollars to make the entire film. They had to delay the Broadway premiere because Walt wanted that single scene re-shot. But in the end, no one could see a hint of the cords and the movie, after premiering on December 23rd, 1954, amazingly quickly recovered its cost. All because Walt wanted quality.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 70s/80s we visited Disneyland on a regular basis and often after school, before "Annual Passes".