Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey

It’s 1964, five years before humankind makes its first steps on the Moon. It’s also the beginning of a long journey for Stanley Kubrick as he works on his next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Over the course of the next four years, Kubrick would be putting together a movie that would unexpectedly change film and give inspiration to future directors like Steve Spielberg, George Lucas, and many others. With many different opinions on the film, there is no doubt that the cinematography, special effects, and acting it took to create this film is celebrated and admired. Join me as we take a mini-tour of the Museum of Moving Image’s exhibition, Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey.

Before you visit the exhibition, I highly recommend watching the film first as there will be clips from the movie playing and you can fully enjoy just how much work went into making the movie.

As you make your way along the exhibit, you come across many different spaceships and they are in fact the same spaceships they used for filming the scenes when they were flying through space. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’d know that George Lucas used the same method for some of his films, where they would stop motion and smaller props to have them appear bigger in post-production. 


Some of the spaceships were on display above the exhibit. 


Seeing the small figure in the arms of the EVA (Extravehicular Activity Pod) above the exhibit felt unreal because when watching the film, it seemed like that was an actual person.

The picture below is a smaller version of what the exterior of the life-sized Discovery One looked like. The actual set was made by Vickers-Armstrong and it cost over $750,000 to make. Weighing at 30 tons and a diameter of 40 feet, it would rotate at three miles an hour. It was fully rigged with complex cameras, lighting grids, and graphic images projected onto screens to appear as if they were computer monitors.


At the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we’re able to see The Dawn of Man, and no worries, there will not be any spoilers for what happens. There will be, however, a complex explanation as to how they were able to film those scenes.

As we keep moving along the exhibition, we come across this:

This is Hal 9000, an AI (artificial intelligence) which also happens to be the film’s antagonist. In the film, we often hear his voice with a calm tone that is almost too scary at times. The voice for Hal comes from Douglas Rain but he wasn’t the first pick to be the voice. Originally it was Martin Balsam but it was changed due to him sounding “too colloquially American.” Rain, who is Canadian, was said to sound more “normal” so Kubrick was eager to have him record his lines and they were able to over a span of two days and 10 hours. 

Once you reach the end of the exhibition, we come across a wall full of quotes and some framed papers. A closer look will tell you that they’re reviews of the movie. The quotes are from famous actors, celebrities, directors, and Kubrick himself.

Those that are framed are from people who have visited the exhibition and there is a binder on the table where you can write what you feel about the movie. Here are what some people had to say about it:

“Ok- Sometimes it can seem kind of boring – But if you really pay attention you become mesmerized. I think we’re not used to having to pay attention to movies anymore – this one is worth it.”

“Dear Stanley Kubrick, Thank you for creating a film that doesn’t tell me what to think or how to feel. You controlled the production of this film – but I am in charge of what it means. Sincerely.”

Check out the exhibit. It’s a great way to see the work that went into an amazing film. You can also check out the other exhibits currently being shown at no extra charge. View The Jim Henson Exhibition where you can see some of his early work before creating The Muppets and props from movies adored by many from Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. Another exhibition is Behind the Screen, an insight into what goes into making movies and TV shows work and where you can create your own stop motion animation as I did.

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