Google Doodle celebrates French ‘Cinemagician’ Georges Méliès

Most of us are used to seeing special cinematic effects – and for that, we have Georges Méliès to thank.

The trailblazing French illusionist and film director pioneered several film techniques, and created some of the earliest science fiction films.

Today marks 116 years since the release date of ‘À la conquête du pôle (The Conquest of the Pole), which is considered to be one of Méliès’ greatest masterpieces.

To celebrate, Google has launched the first ever virtual reality/360° interactive Doodle.

Who was Georges Méliès?

Méliès was born in Paris in 1861, and lived there until he died in 1938.

While he was predominantly an illusionist and film director, Méliès was creative in a much wider range of ways.

In a post about the Google Doodle, Laurent Manonni, Director of Heritage at The Cinémathèque Française, said: “The title of one of his films, L’Homme-Orchestre (The One-Man Band, 1900), perfectly captures all that he was: a cartoonist, painter, caricaturist, magician, director of Robert-Houdin theater, set designer, comedian, writer, actor, technician, fantasy enthusiast, visionary of more than 500 films, and owner of the first glazed studio designed for the cinema.

“He was involved in ALL aspects of production for his works, from drawing set concepts to directing actors.”

What were his most famous films?

Méliès produced, directed, and starred in over 530 films from 1896 to 1914.

Sadly, most of these films are now lost, and only 200 remain, including:

1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)

His most famous film is arguably A Trip to the Moon, which is widely regarded as the first science fiction film.

Lasting 15 minutes, the film was one of the longest at the time, and includes the iconic shot of a spaceship landing on the moon’s eyes.

2. The Vanishing Lady (1896)

One of Méliès’ earliest films is The Vanishing Lady, which utilises one of his special effects – jump-cut.

Méliès discovered the technique by chance after his camera jammed while filming a street scene, transforming his cab into a hearse.

3. The Four Troublesome Heads (1898)

In The four Troublesome Heads, Méliès wowed audiences by using special effects to make it seem like he had removed his head and thrown in in the air.

4. Joan of Arc (1900)

Joan of Arc was one of Méliès’ most famous narrative storytelling films, which told the entire saga of Joan of Arc.

The film used several advanced special effects, including dissolving and superimpositions.

The Google Doodle

The Doodle highlights several tricks Méliès pioneered, while also transporting the viewer into a magical world and story.

It features a cartoon version of Méliès performing tricks – including multiplying himself, switching characters and making elements disappear.

By making the Doodle a 360 degree video, the researchers hope it gives you the feeling of watching a ballet or play at the theatre, which you get to choose where to look.

The virtual reality elements are available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

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