The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (1980)

G | 98 mins | Adventure, Children's works | 9 July 1980

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HISTORY

According to production notes found in the AMPAS library files, five B-29 World War II-era planes were needed for filming. However, only two operational B-29 planes were known to be in existence. Of the two, Disney was able to rent one plane owned by Ralph Johnston in Oakland, CA. For the other planes needed, Disney bought “four scrapped models” from the “Navy’s China Lake Facilities in the Mojave Desert.” Two planes were taken apart and shipped to Hawaii to be reassembled, where one was used for filming in the ocean “off Waikiki Beach,” during the day. The second plane was used to simulate the crash site on Kauai, HI. Two other planes were sent to the Disney Studio in Burbank, CA. The fuselage of one plane was rebuilt so that interior shots could be filmed. The second plane was filmed floating in an outdoor tank at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “to simulate nighttime ocean sequences.” When the Disney production finished filming with the planes, the law required that they be “returned to the Navy.”
       Production notes stated that locations used for filming included a private beach on Kauai, various parts of Los Angeles, and an old airfield in the desert near Victorville, CA. The B-29’s interiors and many night scenes were filmed on Disney Studio sound stages. In a sequence calling for the B-29’s crash landing, which mangles and snaps palm trees, about twenty-two artificial palm trees were shipped to the islands for use during filming to avoid damaging native fauna. Scenes on the open sea were filmed “off Kauai and Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach.” A sound stage tank built originally for 20, 000 Leagues under the Sea ... More Less

According to production notes found in the AMPAS library files, five B-29 World War II-era planes were needed for filming. However, only two operational B-29 planes were known to be in existence. Of the two, Disney was able to rent one plane owned by Ralph Johnston in Oakland, CA. For the other planes needed, Disney bought “four scrapped models” from the “Navy’s China Lake Facilities in the Mojave Desert.” Two planes were taken apart and shipped to Hawaii to be reassembled, where one was used for filming in the ocean “off Waikiki Beach,” during the day. The second plane was used to simulate the crash site on Kauai, HI. Two other planes were sent to the Disney Studio in Burbank, CA. The fuselage of one plane was rebuilt so that interior shots could be filmed. The second plane was filmed floating in an outdoor tank at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “to simulate nighttime ocean sequences.” When the Disney production finished filming with the planes, the law required that they be “returned to the Navy.”
       Production notes stated that locations used for filming included a private beach on Kauai, various parts of Los Angeles, and an old airfield in the desert near Victorville, CA. The B-29’s interiors and many night scenes were filmed on Disney Studio sound stages. In a sequence calling for the B-29’s crash landing, which mangles and snaps palm trees, about twenty-two artificial palm trees were shipped to the islands for use during filming to avoid damaging native fauna. Scenes on the open sea were filmed “off Kauai and Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach.” A sound stage tank built originally for 20, 000 Leagues under the Sea (1954, see entry) at Disney Studio was used to film underwater scenes. A special effects team reconstructed the crash of the B-29 in miniature.
              A 30 May 1979 Var brief announced that principal photography began 25 May in Honolulu, HI, and the last scene of the film was the first scheduled to be shot.
              Reviews were mostly positive. In his 9 Jul 1980 LAT, review, Charles Champlin noted that the film represented an attempt by new Disney management to move beyond “where the old Disney left off,” but was not entirely effective in doing so. A 16 Jun 1980 Box review by Gerald Lawrence praised the film for being “family entertainment at its finest” but also pointed out that the ending was “a bit too pat.” Robert Osborne’s 6 Jun 1980 HR review described the movie as “a frisky little adventure film” with a “gritty and realistic look,” achieved by location shooting in HI. Osborne also thought Elliott Gould, not a typical casting choice for Disney, brought “a tremendous amount of warmth and fun” to his role as pilot.
       On 2 Aug 1980 in the NYT, Janet Maslin was less enthusiastic, calling the movie “dull but inoffensive,” while a 6 Jun 1980 DV review (by Har.) stated that families who regularly sought out Disney entertainment would support the film. In contrast, a review by Michael Sragow in the 9 Jul 1980 LAHExam criticized the film for being “a sad little movie” without “wit” and called Charles Jarrott’s direction “lackluster.”
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1980
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1980
p. 3.
LAHExam
9 Jul 1980
Section B, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1980
p. 7.
New York Times
2 Aug 1980
p. 10.
Variety
30 May 1979.
---
Variety
11 Jun 1980
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc..
From Walt Disney Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Prod mgr
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Animals handled by
Animals handled by
Animals handled by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Half Of Me," sung by Alexandra Brown, lyrics by Hal David, music by Maurice Jarre.
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 July 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 9 July 1980
New York opening: 1 August 1980
Production Date:
began 25 May 1979 in Honolulu, HI
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
26 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA81096
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Photophone Sound Recording
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Benchley and Coslough, two thugs, break into pilot Noah Dugan’s home to collect a $50,000 gambling debt that Noah owes their boss, Mr. Parker. They demand Noah pay $5,000 in twenty-four hours, and the rest in a week. Noah tries to raise the money by getting a pilot job but has no luck. At a dilapidated airfield, Mr. Stoney, Noah’s old acquaintance, offers Noah a job to fly Bernadette Lafleur, a missionary, and a menagerie of animals to an obscure tropical island in a World War II-era B-29 bomber. Noah takes the job but quits when Petey, the duck, bites him. However, he has a change of heart when Benchley and Coslough follow him to the airfield. Noah loads all the animals, including a stubborn bull named Brutus. Although Bobby and Julie, Bernadette’s orphaned children friends, say good-bye to the animals they helped raise, they sneak aboard the B-29. When Parker’s men realize that Noah is escaping in the B-29, they drive onto the runway to abort the flight, but the plane evades them. In the air, a wandering Petey the duck appears in the cockpit as Bobby and Julie chase it. The adults are surprised to see the children, but have no time to chastise them for stowing away because the plane has wandered off course. A magnet in Bernadette’s portable radio has compromised the plane’s navigational system. Before Noah can straighten out the flight plan, the plane runs out of gas and crash lands on a small tropical island. Bernadette tells Noah that they must build a corral for the animals, look for food and water, and convert the plane into sleeping quarters for the ... +


Benchley and Coslough, two thugs, break into pilot Noah Dugan’s home to collect a $50,000 gambling debt that Noah owes their boss, Mr. Parker. They demand Noah pay $5,000 in twenty-four hours, and the rest in a week. Noah tries to raise the money by getting a pilot job but has no luck. At a dilapidated airfield, Mr. Stoney, Noah’s old acquaintance, offers Noah a job to fly Bernadette Lafleur, a missionary, and a menagerie of animals to an obscure tropical island in a World War II-era B-29 bomber. Noah takes the job but quits when Petey, the duck, bites him. However, he has a change of heart when Benchley and Coslough follow him to the airfield. Noah loads all the animals, including a stubborn bull named Brutus. Although Bobby and Julie, Bernadette’s orphaned children friends, say good-bye to the animals they helped raise, they sneak aboard the B-29. When Parker’s men realize that Noah is escaping in the B-29, they drive onto the runway to abort the flight, but the plane evades them. In the air, a wandering Petey the duck appears in the cockpit as Bobby and Julie chase it. The adults are surprised to see the children, but have no time to chastise them for stowing away because the plane has wandered off course. A magnet in Bernadette’s portable radio has compromised the plane’s navigational system. Before Noah can straighten out the flight plan, the plane runs out of gas and crash lands on a small tropical island. Bernadette tells Noah that they must build a corral for the animals, look for food and water, and convert the plane into sleeping quarters for the night. As they work, two Japanese soldiers stranded on the island since the end of WW II observe the shipwrecked crew from afar. When Bernadette and Noah search for water, Bobby and Julie guide the bull back to the plane after he runs away. The children see the soldiers’ camp and show the adults. Soon, the Japanese soldiers surround the plane with their rifles pointed and plan to take the crew as prisoners of war. They throw a grenade that fails to explode and Noah chases the soldiers with a flare gun, scaring them away. Afterward, Noah takes command and decides that the adults will take turns guarding the plane. In the morning, Noah searches for a missing Bernadette who visits the Japanese soldiers’ camp with her bible, announcing that she has come in peace. Before the soldiers harm her, Bernadette informs them that WW II is over. As the soldiers and Bernadette eat lunch, Noah hears her protest “no more” and thinks she is being tortured. He breaks up the party and is almost killed by one soldier’s sword. Bernadette introduces her new friends, Cdr. Hiro and Lt. Cleveland, who speaks English and was named after his mother’s favorite American city. They have been shipwrecked on the island for thirty-five years without radio contact. Returning to the plane with food from the soldiers, Noah is angry that Bernadette disobeyed his orders. Later, he apologizes and kisses her. Noah wants to build a raft to get off the island, but Bobby says it will not work, and Hiro and Cleveland agree, however, they suggest converting the plane into a boat instead. The soldiers use their explosives to break apart the plane. After the plane is reconfigured with palm tree wood and rope, the soldiers donate their Japanese flag to use as a sail. Then, Julie cries upon learning that the animals will be left behind, however, Noah relents and agrees to transport them. Bernadette paints the name “Noah’s Ark” on the side of the plane and, during a romantic walk on the beach, Noah and Bernadette embrace. Soon, the “ark” is ready to launch and the vessel rolls gently into the sea. When the soldiers miss the launch, they swim out to the vessel. Sailing away, the crew writes a message and Petey the duck becomes a carrier pigeon. The crew gets milk from Melinda the cow and eggs from the chickens. Noah reprimands Bobby for giving “people food” to Brutus and reminds him they only have a limited supply. When the food dwindles to emergency rations, Bobby suggests that they rig lights at night to catch fish, but they attract a shark that they try to get rid of using their last fish as bait. Noah, Hiro and Cleveland struggle to capture the shark but lose their grip. When Bobby moves closer to watch, he falls in the ocean. Noah rescues Bobby, but the shark follows them, and Bernadette kills it with a flare gun. Afterward, Noah compliments Bernadette on her shooting and gives her a pep talk when she realizes their troubles are her fault. He is optimistic that search planes must be looking for them since they never arrived at their destination. As the vessel sails into a storm, parts of it are swept into the sea but the crew survives. Afterward, Brutus becomes ill, but Bobby cannot bear to see him killed. Hiro strokes Bobby’s head and speaks tenderly to him in Japanese, and Bobby kisses the bull goodbye. However, just as Hiro is about to shoot Brutus, they are interrupted by the horn from a Coast Guard ship. As the ship tows Noah’s Ark to shore, the Coast Guard captain marries Noah and Bernadette at sea. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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