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Filmmakers Shoot Additional Prologue for ‘Black Stallion' DVD

13 Aug, 2004 By: Fred Topel

Many movies now come out on DVD and video with extended cuts of the film, but those are usually planned while the film is in production. For Disney's Imax feature The Young Black Stallion, filmmakers actually mounted a new production to expand the film. Shooting for five days with only horses, this new prologue will go on the home video versions of the film before the theatrical film begins.

“Imax format is shorter than a feature-length film,” said Jeanne Rosenberg, director of the new footage. “So when they were thinking about doing the DVD release, they said, ‘Do you have more footage so that we can make the film longer?' And [producer] Fred [Roos] asked everybody and said, ‘There really isn't more footage to make the film longer. It's kind of the right length. What else can we do?' And we spun ideas and presented them to Buena Vista and said, ‘Hey, we can do this prologue to the prologue.’

In the mountains of Calabasas, Calif., a crew filmed two horses, one black and one grey, performing simple behaviors from turning their heads to walking down a rocky path. When edited together, these shots will tell the story of the romance between the young black stallion's mother and father.

“It's really a standalone piece,” Rosenberg said. “It doesn't have to be tacked onto the beginning of the movie. The movie stands alone, and this actually stands alone. We initially thought it would be a separate chapter, a different button you'd push and you could go there if you wanted to see this prologue. I'm not sure how it will turn out ultimately.”

Since this sequence will only appear on smaller screens, the crew did not have to use Imax cameras to match the footage from the original feature. “We're shooting Super 16,” Rosenberg said. “We went back and forth, were going to try to do HD [high-definition video] because we thought that would make sense and we were all interested in exploring that. And it turned out that Super 16 has a latitude that video just isn't going to have, and it would match. It would just be more appropriate to go with the Imax image.”

In addition to the five-day film shoot, the home video release will include a narrated segment of paintings illustrating the back story of the white horse's owner. The story about the sheik horse breeder is told through flashbacks during the war in North Africa.

“We show some paintings of war action and [explain that his] fortunes go downhill,” Roos said. “He has to sell off his horses little by little until he has almost none left. He tells this story at the beginning of the film. We actually show it through these paintings. Over that will be narration and music. At one point, he's down to his last horse, this beautiful white horse Gina that we're going to see here. And rather than sell her to his rival, another sheik, he goes to the desert and releases it into the desert. So that's where this [film shoot] begins.”

Rosenberg explained that they decided to tell the first portion of the story in stills because they could not afford to mount a film production with actors. “We didn't have a budget to bring actors back,” she said. “We didn't have a set anymore, and we weren't in Namibia, so the only way to include that, to speak about that, for me what first came to mind was let's draw it. We can draw it.”

Simon Wincer, director of the Imax film, was originally offered the additional film shoot. When he was unavailable, Rosenberg, the film's screenwriter, stepped in to make her directorial debut. “We have his best wishes, and he gave lots of advice. In that respect, he has been involved, but he's busy doing something else so he couldn't be here. We miss him, but we're carrying his advice with us.”

The Young Black Stallion streets Dec. 21 from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

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