REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : Special Effects Director Looks Beyond Movies : Hoyt Yeatman’s company has won two Academy Awards. Now it’s expanding into projects that combine film and theme park rides.


Ever wonder what sort of job Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes” would grow up to have?

Spend half an hour with Hoyt Yeatman, co-owner of Dream Quest Images in Simi Valley, and you will quickly learn the type of adult the comic strip builder of mutant alien snowmen might turn out to be.

At 39, Yeatman is the driving force behind the special effects that garnered his company two Academy Awards, one in 1990 for computer-manipulated models that animated underwater action scenes in “The Abyss,” and another in 1991 for “Total Recall.”

He produced his first film at age 8.


“It was about a forced landing on planet Eggtron. I did the landscape with eggs and pipe cleaners.”

Hmm, sounds like Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff.

To hear Yeatman talk of his job as special effects director, to listen to the exuberance and speed with which he reels off special-effects arcana, is a little like watching film whizzing off a high-speed projector into a pile on the floor.

“We work in 35 millimeter, Vista Vision, 70 millimeter, 5, 8 and 15 perf. IMAX as well as high-definition video. . . . “


He goes on.

“We’ve been going through huge changes. In the last year we’ve switched from matte painting to doing backgrounds with computers and digitizing pens. In a period of eight months we went from glass to work stations.”

He takes a breath:

“Lots of the landscapes we still do with modeling. The ‘Batman’ set was a 110-foot-by-66-foot model of Gotham. . . .”


Yet even as the folks at Dream Quest refine the use of digital technology in combination with models, the Hollywood blockbuster formula has been changing. There’s a sense that audiences are getting tired of meaningless movies that rely solely on effects, preferring relationship and character-driven movies.

Consequently, Yeatman said Dream Quest has been expanding its work in “motion-based films” for theme parks.

When Warner Bros. finished filming “Batman,” they turned the set over to Yeatman to make “The Batman Adventure,” a roller coaster chase after The Penguin at the Warner Bros. Movie World theme park.

“The thing we like about the special venue projects is we get our whole hands on the project, like we had with ‘Total Recall’ and ‘The Abyss.’ But that’s happening less and less often with features. Studios are parting out their effects work. More and more it’s just like making pizza.”


Even if Hollywood is intent on making movies about real people (not a foregone conclusion), Dream Quest is angling for its new niche.

“I can see a time when multiplexes will have a simulator bay next to their regular theaters, where people could take a ride while waiting in line for a movie. The creative potential is very exciting.”