PART OF the power of film is its ability to share ideas forward across centuries.
And today, so many flickering decades after Georges Méliès pioneered trick after effect after sleight of eye at the dawn of moviemaking, Google and its creative partners are listening to one of cinema’s first great wizards by tuning in across time.
On Thursday, Google has unspooled its first virtual-reality 360-degree Doodle to celebrate the French cinematic magician on the anniversary of his 1912 achievement, “On the Conquest of the Pole.”
More than 500 films are attributed to Méliès, who created groundbreaking special effects at nearly every crank turn, and whose filmic illusions included stop/start effects that allowed a new character to suddenly emerge or exit; repeat filmings over the same strip of film; and use of a black cache to make objects or backdrops instantly disappear.
Doodler and project art lead Hélène Leroux says in the Google Doodles blog that she — working with co-director Fx Goby of Nexus Studios — wanted to re-create a sense of Méliès’s handcrafted world, chockablock with nods to many of his famed special effects, while also creating a story that could be experienced as if a live performance, where “the spectator becomes the camera.”
To that end, Google visually references such Méliès works as “The Four Troublesome Heads” (1898), “Trip to the Moon” (1902), “The Mermaid” (1904) and “The Living Playing Cards” (1905).“
In doing so, Google has melded the future of the past, technologically and narratively, with the future of the now.
Méliès always appreciated the effects achieved through filmic overlaps till a seamless whole was achieved. Well today, Google has achieved a similar effect in terms of creative kinship, combining the tools of visual and storytelling experience from Méliès’s world with those that reside on the current cutting edge — which was always, of course, the French filmmaker’s favorite place to reside.
The VR Doodle — achieved in partnership with Google Spotlight Stories, the Google Arts & Culture labs and Cinematheque Francaise — can be viewed on mobile, Cardboard or Daydream via the Google Spotlight Stories app. It can also be watched without a headset via YouTube.