Google products are integrated so thoroughly throughout the entirety of my miserable existence that the only time I visit the original search engine homepage is when there’s a new doodle. And today there is a new doodle.
“Back to the Moon” is a beautifully animated homage to the works of famed illusionist, director, and cinematography pioneer, Georges Méliès. We covered some of Méliès groundbreaking work in combining magic, theater, and film to produce some of the earliest examples of “special effects” on the anniversary of his birthday last year.
Not only is the short a wonderful work of animation, it’s also the first ever interactive virtual reality and 360-degree doodle. Once you’ve pressed play and the jaunty cartoon version of Méliès has finished setting up the projector, try clicking on the action to pan the camera around. There’s a cute story line that’s easy to follow and pays homage to the tricks and techniques Méliès used in his films, but there’s also a collection of extra animations hidden around the virtual environment. You’ll definitely need at least a couple of play through to catch everything. It’s all very charming.
Georges Méliès was born on December 8, 1861 to a family of bootmakers, and would go on to become one of the most influential illusionists and filmmakers of all time. He fell in love with stagecraft and magic at a young age through the works of John Nevil Maskelyne and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, but his father encouraged him to continue working in the family business. Méliès put his dreams aside until his father passed away, when he took the money he earned from selling his share of the business to his brothers and purchased Robert-Houdin’s theater. There, he spent his time tinkering with his own illusions and experimenting with a brand new invention: the cinematograph.
His work in film was legendary for its time, experimenting with camera movement and operation in combination with his stage inventions to create special effects that were previously unheard of. When everyone else was more interested in making documentaries, Méliès created surreal works of pure imagination, dabbling in science-fiction, fantasy, and everything in-between. All of this culminated in one of the most significant works of early cinema, A Trip to the Moon, which you can watch in full in the video above.