3D films earn their name by trying to provide an illusion of depth to the image that you see. Over time, several processes have been used to create the effect, but the endgame has always been about trying to thrill and captivate the audience. The latest - Sony/Columbia's animated adventure <b>Clouby with a Chance of Meatballs</b> opens Friday. <p>Here are ten films that serve as milestones along the road to modern 3D.
Confirmed as the first 3D film shown to a paying audience, this one debuted at L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel. From a technical perspective, the film's projection was accomplished in dual-strip in what is commonly called the red/green anaglyph format. It's almost the first known film of this type to require glasses. Unfortunately, the film is now considered lost.
A short film that was made for the Chrysler Motor Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, <b>In Tune</b> demonstrated the assembly of a '39 Chrysler Plymouth. The short, the first commercial 3D film in the U.S. to use Polaroid, turned out to be extremely popular. The following year, it was remade in color for the Fair and retitled <b>New Dimensions</b>. RKO reissued it in 1953 under a third name, <b>Motor Rhythm</b>.
Two crucial features near the beginning of the Golden Era of 3D in the '50s were this film noir and horror classic duo. Columbia's <b>Man</b> featured several critical scenes at a 3D-friendly amusement park. <b>House</b> boasted the hat trick of 3D, stereophonic sound (which was still new) and Vincent Price. The movie made Price's horror rep, and began an association with 3D that he would continue in several other films.
Disney finally got in on the act with this short. It became a regular feature at Fantasyland Theatre in Disneyland in 1957, along with 3D companion <b>Working for Peanuts</b> (which starred Chip, Dale, and Donald Duck). 3D has been a regular concern at Disney parks over the years, including Michael Jackson's <b>Captain Eo</b> and <b>Honey, I Shrunk the Audience</b>.
Did we say this was the Golden Era or what? What's actually most interesting about this one in retrospect isn't the 3D; rather, it's the ultimate revelation that the aliens that landed on Earth aren't invaders, but rather need help. That was quite the twist for the science fiction movies of the paranoid '50s, wherein anything from Anywhere Else was considered the enemy or, at the very least, worthy of suspicion.
Here's a film that's so well-know and has such a solid reputation through the decades that many forget it ever appeared in 3D. Nevertheless, it did, and in the polarized format (although later re-released downgraded to anaglyph). <b>Creature</b> today is considered one of the Universal Monsters classics. It also holds the distinction of having its first sequel, <b>Revenge of the Creature</b>, also produced in 3D. A remake is reportedly in the works, though there's no word on whether a 3D version will be available.
This classic Hitchcock take on the Frederick Knott play was shot for 3D, but wasn't shown much in the format during its release as the '50s fad was already abating. However, a 1980 revival at San Francisco's York Theatre (in dual-strip) did extremely well. This led to a 1982 run in the single-strip version. Whether you ever see it 3D, it hardly matters; this is a great, classic mystery, residing at #9 for the American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 film mysteries.
The third entry in the slasher series arrived in 1982 to much fanfare. A 3D revival was afoot, and the popular franchise jumped in with a 3D film and a memorably styled poster of Jason punching a machete toward the viewer. For fans of the series, this installment is very significant for one reason: it's the one where Jason finally gets his hockey mask. Home video versions were originally done without 3D. However, the Deluxe DVD and Blu-Ray of this year make the 3D version available, going so far as to include two pairs of red and blue glasses in the package.
We regretfully skip over the mostly-fizzled 3D sci-fi films of the '80s (though we have a sense of loss over <b>Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn</b>, wherein Jared Syn is not destroyed). We do, however, proceed to a high-water mark (no pun intended) for the process. This James Cameron documentary followed him and a crew to the wreckage of the Titanic. The film was shot for IMAX 3D and produced by Disney and Walden Media. It should be noted that this was a sort of synthesis of all of Cameron's interests; while shooting his fictional film <b>The Abyss</b>, Cameron and his crew developed several new pieces of equipment for use in water-based filming.
So, we haven't seen it yet, but we've been hearing about for years. Cameron's new magnum opus was always intended to be a 3D piece, but all of the other film technology surrounding the idea has matured dramatically. Cameron used his own Reality Camera System for the 3D process; it's essentially a pair of Hi-Def cameras in one that create the depth required for the image. A non-3D trailer for the film is viewable online. Overall, the film has been hugely expensive to make; it remains to be seen if this will push an ongoing 3D agenda in Hollywood.