Three times 3D got it right

Hollywood thinks we’ve been watching moving, talking pictures in color for too long and it’s time to take moviegoing to the next level.  Producers think 3D spells the future. Never mind that Hollywood tried stereoscopic film in the 50’s and it never quite caught on.  Forget that 3-D films give some people headaches, and are virtually unwatchable for 64% of the U.S. adult population. Plus, audiences aren’t gung- ho to pay nine dollars for a movie ticket, and we sure don’t feel good about paying the 3D fee on top of that.

Regardless, studios keep pushing 3D films into theaters.  Here are three flicks that got it right.

Honey, I Shrunk The Audience

Honey I shrunk the audience graphic

1993-2010 | 23 minutes  | Dir. Randal Kleiser | Disney

 Honey, I Shunk The Audience! played in theaters at EPCOT, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney for various periods from 1993 until 2010.  In 2010, Captain EO Tribute replaced Honey, I Shrunk the Audience following the death of Captain EO’s star, Michael Jackson.   Disneyland parks used the 3D theater concept developed for Honey on attractions like MuppetVision 3D at Disney’s California Adventure (enhanced by real- life Muppets) and Mickey’s PhilharMagic 3D concert at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Honey, I Shrunk The Audience used characters and plot devices from the 1989 film Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. The story revolves around scientist Wayne Szalisnki (Rick Moranis) and his famous shrink ray.  Wayne is about to receive an award for Inventor of the Year when the apparatus goes awry and shrinks the audience.

Disney Imagineers designed Honey I Shrunk The Audience to wow audiences with 3D technology.  The custom- built theater certainly helped enhance the experience.  The whole audience sits on a moving platform that goes up when one of the Szalinski kids “picks” the audience up.  The theater floor has air jets that make you feel like you have mice crawling all over your legs, and at the end a big dog sneezes and the audience gets wet.  Most scenes had some object that came straight off the screen, like a vicious python or a lion.   Plus, the attraction’s audience doubles as the award show’s audience, so participants feel like they’re actually in the movie.

Honey I Shrunk The Audience was super gimmicky and cool, which works because 3D is a gimmick.  Even without the simulated dog spit and the levitating platform, Honey, I Shrunk The Audience felt like a cool, fun, 3D movie.


Avatar graphic

2009 | 162 minutes | dir. James Cameron | 20th Century Fox

Special effects wizard James Cameron waited twenty years to make Avatar.  The legendary director of box- office hits like Titanic, True Lies and Terminator 2 conceived the 3D odyssey back in his 20s and wrote Avatar’s first treatment in 1995.  By 2008, technology still hadn’t caught up to Cameron’s ambitions.  So Cameron gave technology an extra push.  He shot Avatar with 3D cameras he developed and fine- tuned performance capture technology to animate the film’s catlike Na’avi characters.  Avatar revolutionized 3D filmmaking and catalyzed other special effects, such as the swing camera and a camera rig that makes CG faces look more lifelike.  Plus, it made over two billion dollars.

I’d call Avatar the greatest 3D experience of all time.   Sometimes I watch Avatar at home and I still feel like it’s 3D.  On top of that, it’s a damn good movie.  Cameron’s other movies didn’t need 3D to make a gozillion dollars and this one probably didn’t either.  Critics say the film rips off Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves, but both of those movies are GREAT.  Words can’t even describe the awesomeness of Avatar.  I think it’s one of the best films ever made, with or without 3D.


Prometheus 3D Ridley Scott

2012 | 124 minutes | dir. Ridley Scott | 20th Century Fox

In 2012, director Ridley Scott reestablished the Alien franchise’s credibility after nearly a decade of Alien gore- porn. Scott and James Cameron, who directed Aliens, developed ideas for a prequel to Scott’s 1979 movie Alien.  For Prometheus, Scott used the same the 3D cameras Cameron used in Avatar.  Special effects artists blended their CGI magic with location footage from England, Iceland, Spain and Scotland.  The film received critical acclaim and was one of summer 2012’s highest- grossing movies.

Prometheus probes the central nerve in every human’s brain that wants to know why we’re here and where we came from.  It’s a mind trip.  On top of that, it’s terrifying.  Astronauts land on an unexplored planet that promptly starts eating them.  One character cuts an infected fetus out of her own womb.  Another succumbs to a flesh- eating virus while trapped in a spacesuit.  And throughout the whole thing, you know you’re going to run into that hideous alien.  Highlights of the 3D format include the opening scene when the Engineer jumps off a waterfall and the scene where Michael Fassbender taps into a database and unleashes a virtual universe. The whole film flourishes in 3D.  The 3D format made the extraordinary look more extraordinary and the gross look unbearably disgusting.  Prometheus is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

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