As Sky Captain Harry Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (Jude Law) and Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) fly submerged with "The Amphibious Squadron", they "overfly" a sunken steamer named "Venture". It's the ship used to bring King Kong to New York City. It even includes, on its deck, a cage large enough to confine Kong; implying perhaps that this is the original Skull Island.
The "World of Tomorrow" portion of the title is a reference to the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, which was named "The World of Tomorrow".
While the project was still in early development, writer and director Kerry Conran originally wanted to produce it as if it were a lost serial from the 1930s, with the movie featuring unknown actors, shot in black-and-white, and divided into chapters, each ending with a cliffhanger. All of these ideas were subsequently abandoned in an attempt to gain bigger box-office appeal.
In addition to the hologram towards the end of this movie, the old photographs of Dr. Totenkopf were actually of Sir Laurence Olivier. They were modified to add the Unit Eleven logo, as well as to replace Vivien Leigh with Bai Ling.
During the Giant Robots scene, you can see King Kong climbing the Empire State Building in the background.
When Polly is on the phone to her editor, reporting the advance of the giant robots, her line is "They're crossing Sixth Avenue... Fifth Avenue... they're a hundred yards away...". This is a direct lift from Ray Collins' lines in Orson Welles' "The War of the Worlds" broadcast of 1938 as Collins plays a reporter on the roof of "the Broadcast Building" reporting the advance of the Martian tripods.
The Giant Robots that attack New York City are an homage to the Max Fleischer "Superman" cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s. The robots were taken from the episode "The Mechanical Monsters". In both instances, the robots were remote controlled by radio signals.
In preparation for her role as Franky, Angelina Jolie met with and interviewed dozens of British World War II veterans and pilots in order to adapt the proper mannerisms of her character. She also tweaked the script by adding bits of slang that were used during the era.
This movie used a unique combination of Adobe After Effects Plug-ins applied to achieve its unique look. No new technology was created to achieve the stylized look of this movie.
An emergency distress call is transmitted to Sky Captain by means of visible radio waves, coming from a radio tower that is unrealistically large and out of proportion in relation to the size of the Earth. This is a reference to R.K.O. Radio Pictures, Inc., whose logo features an abnormally large radio tower sitting on top of the Earth, emitting visible radio waves.
After seeing the first six minutes of the original short upon which this movie was based, Gwyneth Paltrow agreed to sign on at an indie wage without a script.
The use of Sir Laurence Olivier's image was Jude Law's idea. Law said he had always wanted to work alongside the actor, so writer and director Kerry Conran "granted" his wish.
When they come across an abandoned mine, on the top of the mountain, there is a sphere-shaped figure with a tall prism next to it. These are the Trylon and Perisphere, which were famous icons in the 1939 New York World's fair.
Early drafts of the script called for Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) to be covering the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) at Radio City Music Hall. The plot was later changed so that she meets with a scientist at the theater, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) playing in the background. However, a copyright agreement could not be settled with Disney, so the movie was changed to The Wizard of Oz (1939).
To increase flexibility with this movie's editing process, writer and director Kerry Conran shot each of the dozens of extras (who weren't physically interacting with the main characters) individually on the bluescreen, so that he could manipulate them in the final shot to his own liking without having to re-shoot the entire scene.
In this movie, when they show all of the headlines from newspapers around the globe, you can see Godzilla's outline on the Tokyo newspaper. In one of the newspaper shots, you can see an "Iron Eagle", which defines the Nazi regime to be in power in Germany, although there is no sign of a preparation for war.
The entire movie was shot against bluescreen, with everything except the main characters computer generated. This was one of several movies to take that approach (although which was first is debatable), including: Immortal (2004), Casshern (2004), and Sin City (2005), the last of which was shot on high-definition digital cameras, like this movie. Because of this movie being completely shot against bluescreen rather than via orthodox locations and sets, filming was completed in just twenty-nine days. Normally with sets and locations, filming could have taken the better part of a year to finish.
Writer and director Kevin Conran originally intended to have Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling) wear an eyepatch, but after Angelina Jolie signed on, it was decided that an eyepatch would look much better on her character.
Dr. Jennings' (Trevor Baxter's) lab is suite number 1138, an homage to George Lucas.
When Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Sky Captain) investigate Jennings' ransacked lab, they discover a live, miniature elephant in a glass cage. This echoes a similar scene in Michael Crichton's novel "Jurassic Park", which described John Hammond's proud accomplishment of a dwarf elephant, created by his scientists. This may also be an homage to Dr. Cyclops (1940), which featured a mad scientist creating miniature animals.
"Dr. Totenkopf", the name of the mysterious scientist, is the German word for "death's head/skull".
The paint job on Sky Captain's plane is that of the "Flying Tigers", a group of American fighter pilots (supposedly) paid by the Chinese government to fight the Japanese in Burma. The "Tigers" got the idea from Royal Air Force planes based in Africa in the early part of World War II. Joe briefly mentioned flying for them while arguing with Polly Perkins about his sabotaged plane. The Flying Tigers were revealed in 1991 to have been a "black" operation of the U.S. Armed Forces under direct authorization by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
As the machines are blasting away at the street to get to the generators, the sound effect used is the same as the Martians' guns from The War of the Worlds (1953).
Much of the production design was inspired by artists from the 1930s, such as Hugh Ferriss, Raymond Loewy, and Norman Bel Geddes. Renderings of New York City by Ferriss were models for the art deco New York City seen in this movie, and the Flying Fortress was designed after drawings of ocean liners imagined by Bel Geddes (note the ship-like qualities of the Flying Fortress in this movie). Many other objects and settings used the stream-line designs of Loewy's works.
In the shot where Polly gets out of a taxi at Radio City Music Hall, this movie's teaser poster can be seen on one of the building's walls.
This movie originally started out as a six-minute reel put together by writer and director Kerry Conran of CGI robots trampling through New York City, The World of Tomorrow (2003). Producer Jon Avnet came across the reel and was deeply impressed, so he approached Conran with the idea of turning it into a full-length production.
The first Chronicle newspaper shown in this movie contains several actual articles from The New York Times, found in October 7 issues from various years in the late 1930s.
At one point in this movie, Sky Captain recites, "And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by." This is a line from John Masefield's poem, "Sea Fever".
Writer and director Kerry Conran never went to New York City while making this movie, and had never been there. He digitally re-created the entire city by referring to old photographs, some of which are even inserted into the digital environments as backdrops. Originally, the plan was to have every New York City backdrop be a colorized photograph, and that idea remained in effect until mid-production, until it was decided that 3-D renderings of the city would allow the camera more of an opportunity to move around.
There actually were a few sets built. The only full set constructed was Polly's (Gwyneth Paltrow's) office, used during the scene where she is confronted by Editor Paley (Sir Michael Gambon) before leaving to meet Dr. Jennings (Trevor Baxter). Dr. Jennings' lab contained many real tables and props, with bluescreen backgrounds, and his office was almost entirely real with the exception of the exterior seen through the window which Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling) used to escape.
According to producer Jon Avnet, the dinosaur-like creatures that Sky Captain and Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) encounter on Dr. Totenkopf's (Sir Laurence Olivier's) island were designed by Stan Winston.
During the first robot scene, a movie theater is seen called the "Densmore Theater". This is named after Densmore Street in Van Nuys, California, which is where this movie's post-production studio was located.
The names of people who worked on this movie appeared several times. On the first issue of "The Chronicle" that reports the docking of the Hindenburg III at the Empire State Building, multiple headlines contain references to Kerry Conran and brother Kevin Conran (headline "Conran Ministry Force Deal"), Darin Hollings ("Dr. Hollings Speaks"), Omar McClinton ("McClinton seeks license to halt sanctions"), Brian LeachZack Petroc ("Leach and Petroc Break Over Budget"), and Stephen Lawes ("Lawes Held Ready to Aid U.S. Peace Action"). In the issue of "The Chronicle" with the headline "Giant Machines Steal Refineries", the article is shown to be written by Marsha Oglesby, one of the executive producers. Although dim lighting makes it practically invisible in this movie, there is a list next to the giant wall map in the Flying Legion base, which contains the last names of several crew members.
The logo for the Flying Legion is a winged lion with a banner reading "Ille Caelum Fremitus", which is Latin for "Yon roaring of the skies". The Latin form "caelum" is an unusual, poetic contraction of "caelorum".
Early in this movie, Polly runs around a corner. The wall of the building has graffiti which says "Victor Fleming".
A moment after the encounter with the hologram of the face of Dr. Totenkopf (Sir Laurence Olivier), Sky Captain, wondering if the door is still booby-trapped, asks Dex (Giovanni Ribisi): "Is it safe?" This appears to be a reference to the line "Is it safe?" asked repeatedly by Dr. Szell, the villain of Marathon Man (1976), who was played by Olivier.
During the robot attack in the early part of the movie, the sound made by the robots when they fire their weapon is identical to the sound the Martians made when they fired their weapons in The War of the Worlds (1953).
Dr. Totenkopf's name, derived from the German for "Death's Head", and his machinations were based on Hitler's infamous SS-Totenkopfverbände, who ran Nazi Germany's extermination and concentration camps. The S.S. unit was known for creating new ways of making the camps more efficient and deadly. They also assisted the camps' doctors who experimented on prisoners in much the same way the diseased man in Shangri-la is afflicted.
The interior of Radio City Music Hall was actually not computer generated; rather, the background was composed of digital photographs taken by Darin Hollings and Eric Adkins, merged together to create a panorama backdrop. The same was done for the lobby of "The Chronicle" building, which was actually a combination of multiple different building interiors edited together.
WILHELM SCREAM: Construction worker on scaffolding destroyed by bat-like flying robots pursuing Joe and Polly through New York City.
Sky Captain flies a late-model P-40, the six gun version of the P-40N. However, his has a few "Hollywoodifications": - The rear decking behind the pilot's seat, and the fuselage fuel tank under it, were removed in order to add a second seat (for Polly). This was actually done to some real P-40s for flight instruction. - The pop-open bays for the cable launcher and magnet bombs are right in the middle of the centerline fuel tank (which fills the interior of the wing between the main wheel wells). - The small underwater engines under the horizontal stabilizers would retract right into the tail wheel gear well, and into each other. - When going into underwater mode, the ostensibly solid-metal propeller blades collapse down into the prop spinner, and into a different section of space-time. The real plane's prop spinner is a shell that goes around the collars and gearing of the prop hub assembly. - Roughly five thousand horsepower appears to have been added to the one thousand two hundred horsepower Allison engine.
When Sky Captain and Polly first arrive at the uncharted island, and Sky Captain floats the plane, exits, and stands on the wing assessing their situation, you can clearly see the number on the side of the plane as "h11od". When viewed upside down, spells the name "Polly" backwards (the reflection was flipped for obvious reasons). Since in that era the call marking on a plane became a personalization of the pilot, this alludes to who really was meaningful to Joseph Sullivan: Polly Perkins.
Speaking German in the opening blimp interior scene is a porter who takes a note from the scientist. The Porter was played by writer and director Kerry Conran.
The first screening of the finished movie was shown to a select audience on July 22, 2004 at the San Diego Comic-Con. On July 24, Jude Law, Bai Ling, Giovanni Ribisi, Kerry Conran, Jon Avnet, and Marsha Oglesby appeared in a panel to promote this movie.
Polly's (Gwyneth Paltrow's) article reporting the disappearance of Dr. Vargas (Julian Curry) reads: "NEW YORK-German Scientist and mechanical engineer Professor Jorge Vargas mysteriously vanished after arriving in New York aboard the Hindenburg III. Professor Vargas was scheduled to lecture at the American assembly with two other scientists. This marks the third disappearance in as many months of important figures in the science community. Demands have been made for a resolution to this problem. Professor Vargas was to deliver a paper on efforts in Norway and South Africa."
The "hit list" shown near the beginning of this movie shows the names of the Unit Eleven scientists to be: Dr. Otto von Funderburg, Dr. Matthias Hargett, Dr. Arler Kessler, Dr. Herbert Braun, Dr. S.L. Aufkäuser, Dr. Jorge Vargas, and Dr. Walter Jennings.
The platform on which Joe and Polly land is platform 327. Platform 327 is also the number of the platform on which the Millennium Falcon landed in Cloud City in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Sky Captain's revolver is an Enfield No. 2 Mk I chambered for .380/200 (a.k.a. .38 Smith & Wesson). The automatic he periodically uses (the one which magically transforms back into the revolver when he loses it on the log bridge) is a nickel-plated M1911 .45 (most likely a Colt).
The first scene filmed was the scene in which Sky Captain enters his office to find Polly waiting for him there.
This movie was originally slated to be released on June 25, 2004. However, it was moved to September 17 so as not to compete with Spider-Man 2 (2004) and to give more time for the production staff to fine-tune the finished product.
While set in a "real" New York City, the history is obviously changed. The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Wuthering Heights (1939) references put the year at 1939. Despite being 1939, there is no sign of Germany preparing for war. There is also no sign that America is in the grips of an economic depression. All-in-all, not only is the technology "fantasized", but the entire history is idealized as well.
Although it is never stated in this movie, Dex's (Giovanni Ribisi's) last name is Dearborn and Editor Paley's (Sir Michael Gambon's) first name is Morris, according to the novelization by Kevin J. Anderson.
It was originally announced that Casey Affleck was going to play Dex. Giovanni Ribisi was added to the cast as Dex after filming had begun.
WILHELM SCREAM: During the attack of the giant robots in New York City. You can hear the scream in the shot following the shot where the robot squashes a car under his foot.
Jude Law and Sir Michael Gambon have played Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
Russian paper article was taken from russian paper Izwestia (2004). You can read it here izvestia.ru/news/286042
Dr. Totenkopf used a death's-head logo on all of his robots; "totenkopf" means "death's head" in German.
The full name of Sky Captain as stenciled on his office door is "H. Joseph Sullivan". The "H" stands for "Harry".
The scene where the protagonists use an enormous log to cross a chasm on the island is another reference to the original King Kong film.
Polly Perkins' initials are PP, which is also that of "Pepper Potts", another superhero sidekick that Gwyneth Paltrow ended up playing.
Both Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law have played opposite Robert Downey Jr. Paltrow in the Iron Man/Avengers movies, Law in the Sherlock Holmes movies.