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Secrets of Life

Secrets of Life(1956)

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James Algar's onscreen credit reads" "Written and directed by." Husband-and-wife marine biologists and photographers George and Nettie MacGinitie's credit reads; "George and Nettie MacGinitie." The film begins with the following written statement: "This is an authentic story of nature's secret world...of her strange and intricate designs for survival...and her many methods of perpetrating life. These intimate and unusual scenes were made possible through the development of new photographic techniques...and through the skill and patience of many scientist-photographers." Although most of the film was projected at a standard ratio, the final scenes, of volcanoes erupting, were shot in CinemaScope. In Secrets of Life, as in the other "True-Life Adventure" films, an animated paintbrush "paints" the opening scenes and illustrates transitions from one section of the film to the next.
       The Hollywood Reporter review points out that, unlike the previous "True-Life Adventure" films, Secrets of Life has few comic sequences and thus less distortion of the original material. Despite this, the film contains many visual tricks, including animation effects, time-lapse and stop-motion photography, and a tracking shot from the point of view of a bee. As noted in the press materials and reviews, the filmmakers made use of many contemporary innovations in photography and lighting in order to portray the familiar subjects with a fresh perspective.
       Studio press materials list the individual contributions of each photographer, including Stuart V. Jewell's exploration of the honey bee; Robert H. Crandall's shots of ants via a photo-microscopy set-up in his Altadena, CA home and garden; George and Nettie MacGinitie's lensing of underwater life; John Nash Ott, Jr.'s time-lapse fruit development; and Roman Vishniac's microscopic photography, using state-of-the-art lighting techniques and color rays. A November 1956 Hollywood Citizen-News article explains the fine points of Crandall's ant photography, while a November 1956 New York Times article details Jewell's bee footage. For more information on other feature films in Disney's "True-Life Adventure" series, please consult the Series Index and the above entry for The Living Desert.