You’re almost certainly familiar with Google’s Doodles. They’re an excellent, entertaining way to spend some time learning something new, in passing, every day. They also almost always point to some little known, but interesting backstory. Today’s Doodle is a particularly beautiful example of that. It celebrates Georges Méliès, and it is special for many reasons.
One reason is that it’s Google’s first Doodle that’s a 360° Video. Click on it, and it takes you to a screen where you will see this.
If you’re reading this after the Doodle’s gone, then check out the archived version of Celebrating Georges Méliès. As always, it looks better if you increase the video quality to the highest level that your viewing device will support, and you might need to watch it a few times through to catch all of the action and detail. There is also a link with the Doodle that goes to a special page Google published on how to experience the Doodle in virtual reality.
The video is fun on its own, but it is guaranteed to send cinema history buffs over the moon. If you don’t happen to be a cinema history buff, then it will take a bit of explaining to help you see why the Doodle is SO awesome. However, I’ll confess that, having taught cinema history at MIT and then other places in Boston over the years, it’s hard to know where to begin. It could easily be a semester long course, but here’s the shortest version I can manage.
The best place to start is with explaining why Georges Méliès was so special. Here’s a mini-documentary I use to introduce him. It’s kind of hokey, but it gets the job done.
If you happen to have seen Scorsese’s Hugo, then you’re already way ahead. That movie was a tribute to cinema history in general as well as Méliès specifically. Here’s a great review by Jack’s Movie Reviews that explains the myriad of ways that is true.
By the way, here’s Hugo’s fantastic intro. to cinema history.
It can’t be done any better than that! Now that you’re up to speed on Méliès and his role in cinema history, here’s a great “behind the scenes” look at how the Google’s Doodle, Spotlight Stories and Arts & Culture Teams all collaborated with Cinémathèque Française (Wikipedia).
By the way, this isn’t the first time that a Google team has collaborated with Cinémathèque Française to create a 360° video celebrating both Méliès and his role in cinema. The Google Arts & Culture Team also worked with them to create this piece entitled Kinoscope.
The video was created in conjunction with the the exhibit The Cinema Machine: from Méliès to 3D that ran at the Cinémathèque Française from October 5, 2016 to January 29, 2017. The show is no longer there, but here’s a very nice review.
Critic’s Notebook: Exploring the Nuts and Bolts of Filmmaking at the Cinematheque Francaise (Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter)
You can also see Cinémathèque’s Collection on Google Arts & Culture.
Find out more about cinema…