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Rufus Ward: Josh Meador and the 'Forbidden Planet'

 

A concept drawing by Josh Meador of the Id monster for “Forbidden Planet.” This image was loaned to the Columbus Library by Meador’s son, Phil, for a 2009 exhibit celebrating his father’s legacy.

A concept drawing by Josh Meador of the Id monster for “Forbidden Planet.” This image was loaned to the Columbus Library by Meador’s son, Phil, for a 2009 exhibit celebrating his father’s legacy. Photo by: Provided

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

An early drawing of a scene on another planet by Josh Meador. This scene predates by decades the now common visions of other worlds. This image was loaned to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library by Phil Meador.

An early drawing of a scene on another planet by Josh Meador. This scene predates by decades the now common visions of other worlds. This image was loaned to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library by Phil Meador.
Photo by: Provided

 

Josh Meador, self-portrait.

Josh Meador, self-portrait.
Photo by: Provided

 

 

Rufus Ward

 

Last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar people) celebrated the innovative special effects and technology of the 1956 movie, "Forbidden Planet." In the MGM science-fiction classic, a space crew from Earth lands on a distant planet searching for survivors of a space ship that had landed there 20 years earlier. What they found were two survivors, a robot and a strange freighting Id monster.  

 

On July 16, there was a program in Hollywood that focused on " the film''s breakthrough effects sequences" including how Joshua Meador "created his animated Id monster effect" and "combined it with live-action photography." The presentation was by Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Craig Barron and Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt and was held at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. 

 

Josh Meador had been part of an special and visual effects team that also included A. Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe and Irving G. Ries. The effects they used and developed for "Forbidden Planet" paved the way for "Star Trek" and the great films of science fiction that followed. 

 

In addition to the program there was an exhibit that ran until last week in the foyer of the Pickford Center''s Dunn Theater that illustrated "the complexity of the film''s production methods" including Meador''s Id monster. That raises the question of how in the world did Meador, an animation effects supervisor for Walt Disney, wind up doing special effects for an MGM outer space movie and what does Meador have to do with Mississippi. 

 

Joshua Meador was born in Greenwood in 1911. When he was 7, his father the auditor for the Columbus and Greenville Railroad, moved the family to Columbus. Josh married his sweetheart from Stephen D. Lee High School, Elizabeth Alston, and always considered Columbus his home. He returned almost every year of his life to visit with family. His mother was active at First United Methodist Church and his brother, Laws, was the engineer for Columbus'' first radio station WCOC and later ran a printing business. 

 

So how does an animator known for his creative visual effects in Walt Disney productions such as "Snow White," "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "Bambi," "Dumbo" and "Cinderella" venture over to MGM to do a live-action science fiction movie. 

 

In 1954 the Disney effects team, headed by Meador and John Hench, won for the Studio the Academy Award for special effects for Disney''s live-action feature "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Also in 1954, MGM Studios contacted Walt Disney and asked him to lend them his "best effects man" to help with the special effects in a ground-breaking soon to be made science fiction movie, "Forbidden Planet." 

 

Disney presented the project to Josh Meador and asked him to take it on as a challenge. Meador hesitated at first but then accepted the assignment along with his Chief Effects Assistant Dwight Carlisle. In the movie, Meador created the animated Id monster. It was a creature considered so frightening at the time that in some states its image was edited out of the film so as to not scare children. 

 

Science-Fantasy Film Classics Magazine in a 1977 special issue "Three Decades of Film Classics" featured three movies, "Forbidden Planet," "2001 A Space Odyssey" and "Star Wars." The article on "Forbidden Planet" not only mentioned the Id monster but added; "Disney animator Joshua Meador did the fantastic matte paintings of the Krell power plant." Meador had even painted some of the color sequences with a pallet knife, a technique he used in painting landscapes. In addition to the Id monster, Meador also provided the visual effects for ray gun blasts "pressure beams," and disintegration scenes.  

 

The movie and its special effects were nominated for an Oscar, but lost to "The Ten Commandments."  

 

However, Forbidden Planet became the inspiration for many later science fiction programs and features from the "Star Trek" series to the movies of Lucas and Spielberg. "Forbidden Planet" has become a cult classic and in a 1996 review by Washington Post movie critic Lloyd Rose mentioned Josh Meador''s work and called the movie one of "the best fantasy films ever made." As recently as February 2008, Meador''s Id monster graced the cover of Classic Images Magazine. 

 

Rufus Ward is a local historian. Email your questions about local history to him at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment lm commented at 8/21/2011 1:37:00 AM:

Forbidden Planet: One of the most innovative Science Fiction movies ever. In addition to the Id, so many new ideas. The robot which was used later in other movies and TV shows (ie., Lost in Space). The Krell Teaching machine which was later copied in Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain" (September 1968). The crew's hand weapons and communicators. Plus, the overall movie theme of interstellar travel to investigate the unknown.

 

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