The 1960s: An Explosion of Creativity

A selection by Albert Ohayon


A triumph of film art, creating on the screen a vast, awe-inspiring picture of the universe as it would appear to a voyager through space, this film was among the sources used by Stanley Kubrick in his 2001: A Space Odyssey. Realistic animation takes you into far regions of space, beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, past Moon, Sun, and Milky Way into galaxies yet unfathomed.

From the playlist : The 1960s: An Explosion of Creativity

Universe by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low was so realistic that it would inspire Stanley Kubrick to make his classic sci-fi opus 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick would also borrow Universe’s narrator Douglas Rain to be the voice of HAL-9000 in the same film!

— Albert Ohayon

From the playlist : Colin Low: Recollections from a Distinguished Career

When I was in Paris in 1949, I met Berthold Bartosch, the famous pioneer animator. He was planning a new film that he said was on the cosmos. His equipment was very simple but very ingenious, and he showed me how he planned to execute it with three-dimensional models. I was struck by his audacity and ingenuity. Afterwards I thought about him frequently as our equipment at the NFB developed.

When Roman Kroitor told me about his idea for a film about an astronomer, he said, "Why not experiment?" So we started in an old garage behind the NFB. I remembered some of Bartosch's ideas on time exposure and the importance of extreme depth of field. The 35 mm rushes on asteroids began to look very good in action. The asteroids were clinkers from the furnace travelling on a panner that we built for Grant Munro for a puppet film that he was making. His cameraman was Herb Taylor, and Herb became one of the cameramen for Universe.

When we moved to Montreal, we had a good studio close to the Animation Department. Sydney Goldsmith could experiment with effects, and Gerry Graham and Des Dew found a British special effects expert from England, Wally Gentleman.

On and off we experimented, and our cutting copy looked better and better. When the first Sputnik went into outer space, management at the Film Board suddenly got interested. What was to be a little classroom lesson became a production! Roman Kroitor and Dennis Gillson had shot a great live-action sequence of the astronomer and the observatory. I had pushed for lighting that would match the spectacular effects.

Eldon Rathburn wrote the score and recorded it in England, and the narrator was Douglas Rain, a Stratford Shakespearian actor. The narration was written by Roman Kroitor and Stanley Jackson. Tom Daly was the watchful producer from the beginning. It was exciting to see it come together. I watched the film not long ago, and I think that Berthold Bartosch would have been proud.

Universe has a simplicity, clarity and accuracy that films from space and the computer have not quite managed yet. I think!

— Colin Low

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Film Credits

Roman Kroitor
Colin Low
Tom Daly
Tom Daly
Roman Kroitor
Stanley Jackson
Douglas Rain
Denis Gillson
Wolf Koenig
Joseph Champagne
sound editing
Kathleen Shannon
Eldon Rathburn

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  • wimawep

    “I remember this film because it was the first program selected to return to normal broadcasting on a station in NY,NY after the kennedy assassination.” — wimawep, 5 Apr 2014

  • vwvPHOBOSwvw

    “Would like to see the version with Burgess Merideth. Many thanks tho:)” — vwvPHOBOSwvw, 9 Apr 2013

  • kruscito

    “@Odnan: Have you tried watching the film in a lower quality version? If you click on the tab that says 'Standard Quality', you can select 'low' and the video should stream faster. If it's still a problem, let us know!” — kruscito, 3 Jun 2011

  • Odnan

    “Hi I'm from brazil, and i wanted to watch this movie but it just stop loading all the every 2 minutes then it loads again then after 2 minutes it stops, i never managed to watch it or load it entirely” — Odnan, 3 Jun 2011

  • Ms_Tre

    “I love this film! Just finished watching it on the Documentary channel and I'm watching it, on the website :) It reminds me of the movies they used to make us watch in school :)” — Ms_Tre, 16 Mar 2011

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