Friday, 4 January 2019

Executive Decision 1996

This film has two applaudable features, one, Steven Seagal's character dies early in the film and two, it has very well crafted miniature aircraft sequences.

There is some very nicely done aerial photography in this film and the miniature work is so well matched it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. The only difference I detect is the model is a bit dirtier than the fullsize 747. In fact the fullsize often looks like a model as it is so clean. The visual effects supervisor was Peter Donen who always managed to produce quality work.
The sunset sky colour grading features predominately in the movie but all the still photographs of the aerial photography show blue skies. There is a cheap TV movie, called Nowhere To Land (2000), that uses aerial shots from "Executive Decision" where the colour has been left as it was, without the orange hue. There was some aerial footage genuinely captured at sunset with one particularly noteworthy shot where the sunlight shines through the windows when both sides line up.

Aerial shots as they appear in the movie.

Aerial still photograph showing 747 with F14 Tomcat in the foreground. In between the two is a Lear jet that was probably the camera plane for the aerial cinematography.
Both sets of windows lining up to let the sunlight through in a genuine sunset shot.

Three 1/12th scale 747 models,  two for the shoot and one less finished to test out the rigs, were built at Grant McCune Design under chief model maker Montgomery Shook. They also built a lower half 747 with motion controlled landing gear and gear doors. A 1/6 scale nose section and docking tunnel for shots of the separation destruction and two 1/6 scale F117's rounded out the build. One of the F117s had an extendable and articulated tunnel and hatch rig. There must also have been at least one F117 at the same scale as the 747 models. See the note below about a YouTube video.

The tail plane has the same markings for the "Executive Decision" but the side has something else, "Concorde Air" The Executive Decision model was re-used for "Flight of the Living Dead" (2007). Note camera in bottom left shooting up at nose.

One of the 747 models, complete with an attached F117, was fitted for motion control work and attached to a large custom mount . The model, mounted at the tail, allowed for banking and pitching maneuvers as well as rotating around the aircraft's centre of gravity. The Motion Control sequences D.P. was David Stump.

When the transfer tunnel breaks free there is a 1/6th scale Steven Seagal figure that goes flying out.

The Landing sequence at the end of the movie has a one of the large miniature 747s crashing through a number of parked civilian aircraft miniatures with some very effective scenes of destruction. For the landing the model 747 was attached to a trolley that traveled along two heavy cables strung up between two cranes. It had working flap mechanisms as well as spinning fan blades.
The civilian aircraft models, towing rig  and the miniature setting were furnished by WKR productions' Tad Krzanowski and Robert Wilcox. The shoot lasted around a week to capture all the action needed for the sequence. The Miniature crash landing sequence D.P. was Alex Funke.

Note: There is a very interesting video on YouTube showing the set up of the landing sequence. It reveals just how fast the big model is winched down the track for the high speed shoot. In the description that accompanies the video is a list of the models made at Grant McCune design (GMD), however I feel that there may be an error in the reported scales. My guess is that the close up nose section would have to be 1/6 and not 1/12 as stated so that it matches the 1/6 F117 models.

I get the feeling the 747 is real in these shots and the F117 is a model shot motion control.

Both miniatures.

Both miniatures.

Both miniatures.

I get the feeling the 747 is real in this shot and the F117 is a model shot motion control.

Both models.

Both aircraft models.

In this shot again probably real 747, with a barely visible comped in F117 model.

Back to all miniature.

Mini Seagal pops out to wave at the camera.


The following three frames may well be the actual 747 as they added a painted on hole on the fullsize flying plane.

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