An impressive miniature that made it to the screen featured in a later flashback where Parnassus recalls his first encounter with Mr. Nick in a remote mountaintop monastery.
The production filmed the monastery approach with a horse and rider on a Vancouver soundstage using a section of the Mountain of Enlightenment set dressed with fake snow.
Peerless generated Terragen cliff extensions and atmospheric effects to create a vertiginous mountain valley, and added digital flying snow and digital snow dislodged by the horse’s hooves.
Ian Menzies shot miniature elements of the mountain path and monastery, which is revealed as an immense edifice carved out of a cliff.
“Terry and Dave Warren gave us drawings for the monastery buildings,” related Leigh Took. “There was a huge Buddha, with elephants around its base, stacked up into the rock. We built our model in two halves, about ten feet tall at 1/100-scale. We happened to have a large cardboard tube lying around, so we used that for our central building and then built clusters of buildings around that. We spun a plaster dome to go on top of that, made a quick mold and then inscribed bricks and tiles.
We sculpted one elephant in clay, made a silicone mold, knocked out three of those, sculpted and cast the Buddha and sat him the middle. All the rock was polystyrene over timber with plaster carved on top. We covered that with rickety scaffold, a lot of which we built from stirring sticks from Costa Coffee -- we grabbed handfuls of those every morning on the way in to work – along with bits of bamboo roller blinds and hacked up fiber mats. We then gave it a good sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda and a bit of caster sugar to create snow.”
“We had to build the move on the monastery and scale it to the foreground,” explained Paul Docherty. “We used a lidar laser station to locate each piece. We shrunk the locked-off plate of the full-scale horse and rider to quarter-scale, fitted that to the foreground element that the horse was walking on, and then scaled that to the multi-pass shoot of the monastery. It was a real brain-burner.”
The camera swooped past the rider up to a monastery window, following a fanciful flying bird. “The bird started as a bald eagle, and then Terry had some very fantastic pictures of flamingoes and things with long furry tails. We kept coloring it up until he said ‘stop!’ It ended up as a bird of Terry’s imagination.”