Movie Props. What do you think of when you hear that phrase? Everything you see in a movie is a prop. From the clothes to the furniture to the buildings to the ornaments to the papers to the … you get my drift. Ever since I can remember I’ve been fascinated by movie props. I’ve often dreamed of owning my own but so far it’s a dream I’ve never realized. Living in Australia it’s not easy to duck into Hollywood to go searching for them.
Cue Disney + and an 8 episode series that I discovered that’s all about movie props. Prop Culture is an awesome series that’s presented by Dan Lanigan, a self-confessed prop addict who lives in the right place to feed his passion for all things movie props. The series follows Dan as he travels the US in search of props from famous Disney movies and reunites them with the stars that made the movies so famous.
Here’s a brief recap of my memories from each episode.
Episode 1 – Mary Poppins
This classic Disney film is one that is as memorable as sliced bread to many generations. Dan delves into the Disney Archives to find Mary Poppins’ original bag and umbrella. He also reunites Karen Dotrice, who played the young girl, Jane Banks, with the original costumes she wore as a child and unpacks the horses they rode on the carousel.
Episode 2 – Tron
I’ve never seen this 1982 movie, but I have definitely heard about it. It was revolutionary at the time, merging live action with a cyberworld, and was like nothing else that had ever been done before. Dan finds the original costumes and helmets (made of hockey helmets and stickers) and reunites them with Bruce Boxleitner. He also finds the original frisbee and bikes that were used in the movie.
Episode 3 – Nightmare Before Christmas
What a classic movie. Nightmare Before Christmas was another groundbreaking movie. The stop motion process it used was inspired by movies from the 40s and 50s and was the birth of the style that’s distinctly Tim Burton. Some of the props that we see are the original sets along with the amazingly detailed figures that were so painstakingly used one frame at a time. It was amazing to see the original conceptual drawings of Jack Skellington, and of how true to the the final character they were. I also learned that Jack was voiced by Danny Elfman.
Episode 4 – Pirates of the CARIBBEAN
Now this one was good. I love these movies and have experienced the Disneyland ride on countless occasions. Some of these movies were filmed in Australia and I remember seeing one of the live sets when I visited Warner Brothers Movie World while it was being filmed. Dan seeks out some amazing props in this episode. He journeys to locations used for filming, finds scale model ships used in scenes, reunites costumes with their designer, and meets the maker of the swords. We also learn that an original trunk from one of the movies is actually in the treasure scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
Episode 5 – Honey I Shrunk the Kids
I remember this goofy movie. It was all about kids being shrunk by their bumbling dad. In this episode Dan tracks down the original Shrink Ray, which has seen better days – time for a little restoration. Other important props were the baseball that caused all the problems, kid puppets, and the Antie puppet used in the stop motion sequences. And it even reunites the grown up kids with Antie’s deteriorated head. A quick trip to San Francisco finds the original scorpion that was also used in the dramatic action scenes. I guess the highlight was the chat with Rick Moranis in New York.
Episode 6 – The Chronicles of Narnia
Narnia was such a memorable series of movies. In this episode we see the grown up stars and they are truly moved when they get to see and touch the weapons they used and costumes they wore as kids. Other props include swords (made by the same as craftsmen as the ones from the Lord of the Rings), the sleigh of the White Witch, the incredible head of Aslan the lion, the Minotaur animatronics, the amazing creature costumes, and of course, the wardrobe.
Episode 7 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
I’ve never seen this movie either, and I have to admit that to me the integration of cartoon and live action was so obvious. But it was a movie that set the bar for everything that came after it. Dan catches up with Christopher Lloyd and reunites him with his Judge Doom costume. Kathleen Turner, who voiced, Jessica Rabbit, is also genuinely pleased to reminisce about her time on the movie – although she is shown as uncredited on IMDB. There are chats with the animators, we drive in the stripped down Benny the Cab, and we meet the voice actor, Charles Fleischer, who used to dress up as Roger and stand at the side of the shoot calling out his lines to the real people.
Episode 8 – The Muppet Movie
I grew up with the Muppets, and the movie was one that I will always remember. That opening with Kermit sitting on the log playing his banjo… so cute. Dan tracks down the original poster art which led to the artist being the only person hired for Muppet posters from that day forward. We see Miss Piggy costumes and their designers and Fozzie’s famous Studebaker which lives in a museum. A trip to New York is rewarded with the original Kermit puppet. The highlight is reuniting Paul Williams, who wrote ‘The Rainbow Connection’, with the original banjo that was played by Kermit in that opening scene.
The highlight of the series is the nostalgia and catching up with the people who created the magic. Imagine where a job you love creates such amazing things for so many and then looking back on your work with such pride. This series brings out so many fond memories and emotions for these lucky people.
BONUS MATERIAL – My Visit to Paramount Studios in LA
While we’re talking props, here are some pictures I took on my trip to LA earlier this year. These are props at Paramount Studios. Click an image see the full picture.
Warning: Readers of this series will:
- Travel through time. If you suffer from motion sickness, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms.
- If you currently suffer from boredom, you will experience un-boredom.
- If you have a tendency to laugh-out-loud, you will annoy others.
- If you like action and adventure, strap yourself in for the ride of your life
- Please have a safe and comfortable place available for a rest once you have finished
- If you are a chicken, then please move on.