Darby O’Gill And The Little People

61 years later the special effects in this movie are still convincing – when you even notice them

Sean Connery and Janet Munroe in 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People'

Our St. Patrick’s Day treat this year was watching Disney’s ‘Darby O’Gill And The Little People’, a 1959 fantasy tale of a frenemy relationship between an old Irishman and the King of the Little People. AND for good measure, a romance between young Sean Connery and Janet Munroe.

The old Irishman has just lost his job, and contends with the Leprechaun King to solve his problems. And not incidentally get his daughter on Sean Connery’s radar.

Think about movie making in 1959: no computer graphics at all. If you wanted to show a full-sized human among tiny leprechauns, or the inside of a leprechaun cave, you had to use mechanical and optical special effects.

The video above is a 10-minute special feature explaining how they did it! The craft and precision of the matte paintings are absolutely incredible. And while I knew in a general, abstract way how forced perspective shots were done, this is on a level I never considered.

Walt Disney invested a lot in this blockbuster, even going so far as to devote a teaser episode of Wonderful World of Disney to the idea that he got actual Leprechauns to act in the movie. I couldn’t find it for this post unfortunately.

If you dig moviemaking history, or just want to see Connery & Munroe in glorious 1959 Technicolor, worth the trip

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Older technology guy with photography and history background