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Darby O’Gill: A 1959 Pot of Gold for Special Effects

DarbyO'Gillinset1You might remember “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” in some far reaches of your memory. Released in 1959, it’s a movie many of us saw as kids — maybe in theaters, or maybe on the small screen.

Set in Ireland, the movie has a strong fairytale feel, involving, as you might guess, leprechauns. Drawing on H.T. Kavanagh’s turn of the last century “Darby O’Gill” books, the movie has that classic Walt Disney feel, and reflects Walt’s long tradition of drawing on classic folktales and literature to create movie magic. The cast is solid, including Irish stage actor Albert Sharpe as Darby O’Gill, Janet Munro as Darby O’Gill’s cute-as-a-button daughter, and a very young Sean Connery as the young man who loves her. If you’ve ever wondered what Sean Connery’s singing voice is like, you’ll have opportunity to hear him bellowing baritone in the meadows in this movie.

DarbyO'GillHeroOne of the most amazing things about “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” however, is the groundbreaking special effects. The leprechauns in this movie are represented by average-height actors, but they appear one-quarter size. Using forced perspective and some other visual tricks, the incorporation of these “small” people is completely seamless. The “Little People, Big Effects” bonus featurette is a must-see. Repeat: the “Little People, Big Effects” featurette is a must see! If you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit,” you’ll be interested to know, as the featurette points out, that he used essentially the same forced perspective tricks in his films as this movie, made more than five decades ago, did.

“Darby O’Gill and the Little People” is available at the Disney Store.

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