Special Guest Submission: Superman: The Movie Storyboards

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One area of Superman collecting that I have managed to steer clear of (so far) is movie props and related ephemera. I’m more of a toy guy and I’m fairly cheap with a dollar and risk averse. I’d imagine it would be difficult to snag a bargain in the prop field without the gamble that the item you are buying is inauthentic. I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying something expensive like a film prop unless it’s sold by a dealer or auction house with a great reputation; those folks tend to get top dollar for their items and rightly so. So when Collecting Superman reader Anna W. contacted me offering to submit something to show the readers of this site, I jumped at sharing these film storyboards she has from the first three Superman films: Superman: The Movie, Superman II, and Superman III. Because there are so many of these, I’ll be doing II and III as a separate post. The next post is here.

Anna says, “The complete sequences are photocopies of original pencils, but are the original photocopy packets given to the production crew for use during filming and scene blocking. They are usually assigned to a crew member and stamped or printed with the crew members name, along with various other tidbits like scene# sequence#, etc.

“Mine came from Wally Veevers, the visual effects artist who worked on the flying systems and process projection. Mr. Veevers has an extensive visual effects career including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, and, oddly enough, Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“That’s why a lot of the story boards feature sequences that never made it to the final film. Mr. Veevers would review what the director wanted to see, and either do it, or veto it due to inability to physically do it. Like the handstand/flip Superman was to do on the wing of the plane during the Air Force One sequence, would have been impossible with the flying rigs they had. Fast forward to Supergirl’s aerial ballet sequence, and you’ll see how that simple flying sequence was heralded as a visual effects breakthrough. Today, they’d green screen and CGI it.”

Here are some of the storyboards Anna shared, and what I’ve done is go through my Superman: The Movie DVD and grab screen captures so you can compare the storyboard with the finished product.

Spaceship to Earth sequence

In this scene, the ship carrying baby Kal-El is flying toward Earth. I wasn’t 100% sure about the match for the frame where it appears the ship is about to collide with a meteor. There’s an additional sequence where the ship flies into a comet (which turns the scene inside the spaceship red).

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Air Force One Rescue sequence

In this scene, lightning strikes Air Force One during a raging thunderstorm, destroying one of the engines. Luckily, Superman is around to save the day.

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In Anna’s storyboard packet, there were some additional pages that did not make it into the final cut where Air Force One landed at Metropolis Airport and a throng of reporters was waiting on the tarmac, including Lois Lane.

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Discussion with Jor-El sequence
From the extended special edition

Some of the cuts shown on the storyboards were shuffled around a bit in this scene. The last shot shown below was originally supposed to be between the two above it.

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Hoover Dam sequence

In the original storyboards, it doesn’t appear that Hoover Dam was crumbling as Jimmy was taking the photos. They did use some of the storyboard ideas for how to frame the shots, however.

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Instead of landing on Hoover Dam and grabbing Jimmy as portrayed in this storyboard page, Superman caught him after he fell off the crumbling dam and they flew away to safety.

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Slightly different from the finished cut, Lois made it out of her car alive without Superman’s help. Not really sure how that was supposed to work, to be honest… this page was actually between Superman landing on Hoover Dam and he and Jimmy flying away.

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I had a lot of fun doing this. As much as I like Superman: The Movie, I’m not an expert on its background by any stretch, and I really enjoyed seeing these storyboards and comparing them to the finished film. Thanks for sharing this, Anna!

If you have something you’d like to share with the readers of Collecting Superman, please drop me a line.

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