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OSCAR WATCH Inside Scoop On Early Contenders

CALENDAR A Complete Day-to-Day Guide to 59 New Films

STEPHEN KING 16 Movies He Loves

PLUS

On the Set Of LORD OF THE RINGS BIG FISH CAT IN THE HAT HAUNTED MANSION ELF LAST SAMURAI

Props like this telephone, says McDowell, help the audience

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Props like this telephone, says McDowell, help the audience recognize that you're still in the house ''and see just how much has been distorted.''

The water is not a CG effect! Big foam shapes, underwater lighting, pink filters, and a milky fluid made the rosy river run through it.

DR. SEUSS' NEIGHBORHOOD

The final shot was realized on a 13-acre ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., where McDowell and his crew spent four months planting the grass, paving roads, and building 22 houses proportioned to appear large to children. ''It was really like doing a tract-home development,'' he says. ''Except that all the houses were purple and 50 feet high.'' A greens crew cobbled together the flora from fake leaves and flowers. The lawn trees, dubbed ''mullet trees,'' are based on those seen in the Seuss book; the swirling clouds and sunset were added in postproduction. ''The idea,'' says McDowell, ''was that the film should look like an illustration.''

Originally posted Nov 14, 2003 Published in issue #737 Nov 14, 2003 Order article reprints