AFI Movie Club: 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – American Film Institute
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Film Still - James Mason and Paul Lukas



20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA stars Kirk Douglas – recipient of the 19th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film. 

Movie Trivia about 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

DID YOU KNOW the film was originally conceived as an animated feature? It would become Walt Disney’s first American-made live-action feature. 

DID YOU KNOW the film was directed by Richard Fleischer, son of legendary animator Max Fleischer, who ironically was one of Disney’s greatest competitors? 

DID YOU KNOW that Disney’s diving technicians created a 225-pound suit that combined a diver’s helmet, a rubber suit and an aqua-lung that piped air through tubes into the diver’s mouth? It was considered the first practical, self-contained diving suit ever invented. 

DID YOU KNOW director Richard Fleischer had the ocean floor carpeted with hemp to prevent clouds of sand from obscuring the image? 

DID YOU KNOW Kirk Douglas was given guitar lessons by production designer Harper Goff for the musical number “A Whale of a Tale”? Douglas also taught himself the distinctive “throw the guitar and pull it back” trick used in the scene. 

DID YOU KNOW the final squid model weighed two tons, had eight 40-foot tentacles and two 50-foot feelers and required 28 crew members to control? 

DID YOU KNOW both RKO and Paramount vied for the chance to distribute the film, but Disney ultimately decided to release it through their new in-house distributor Buena Vista? 

DID YOU KNOW the film won Academy Awards® for both Art Direction and Special Effects? The film’s success also inspired a number of other Jules Verne film adaptations – including JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, which also starred James Mason? 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What is your favorite science-fiction film? 

-Have you seen any other Jules Verne adaptations? 

-What other Disney films can you name that are set at sea? 

-What did you think of the film’s special effects? 

-Do you consider Captain Nemo a villain or an antihero? 

-Do you relate more strongly to a man of intellect (Captain Nemo) or a man of action (Ned Land)? 

-How do you interpret Nemo’s last words: “There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass…in God’s good time.” 

-How would you rate 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA? 


Watch an exclusive clip from the AFI Archive of Kirk Douglas talking about his career in film:


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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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