Trivia / 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Book Version

  • Executive Meddling / What Could Have Been: Verne originally wrote Nemo as a Polish nobleman, who lost his family to the Russians. Verne's publisher was wary of portraying the Russians (France's ally at the time) in a negative light, and didn't want to lose sales in Russia, so he persuaded Verne to make Nemo's nationality a mystery note . Also an example about Tropes Are Not Bad: Revealing Nemo's Back Story left him only a menace against a single nation, but leaving Nemo's nationality anonymous not only defines him (Nemo means Nobody) but also makes the reader realize that any nation, even the reader's nation, could have committed the alleged crimes against Nemo and his family. Even more, it implies that no ship of any nationality was safe for navigation. The new backstory also approved to many readers, lent Nemo more sympathy and recent adaptations have pretty much embraced the image of Nemo with a turban and an awesome beard.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • The world's first nuclear-powered submarine, which would become the first submarine to transit the North Pole while submerged, also bore the name Nautilus. While it wasn't the first ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name, the choice probably wasn't entirely coincidental.
    • The inventor of the first truly functional submarine, Simon Lake, was caught in a storm, and recalled a moment in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea where the Nautilus dives a few feet underwater to avoid the storm. He then repeated the technique and survived, and sent Verne's great grandson a telegraph thanking him.
    • The book is famous for also inspiring Ernest Shackleton, William Beebe, Robert Ballard and Jacques Costeau.
  • Science Marches On:
    • The chapter "Sperm Whales and Baleen Whales" has Nemo use the Nautilus to rescue some Baleen Whales by slaughtering a pod of Sperm Whales, that Nemo calls: "cruel, destructive beasts, and they deserve to be exterminated." A couple of chapters later the Nautilus has its infamous encounter with giant squid: animals that we now know are favourites in the Sperm Whale's diet. They do not eat other species of whale.
    • The North Pole is placed in the Arctic Ocean. The South Pole is placed in Antartica, a sheet of ice thousands of feet thick, and most of it on a solid continent. The Nautilus could have reached the North Polenote , but not the South Pole.
    • The other Wiki notices that Physiognomy (see Beauty Equals Goodness) fell from favor in the 20th century, but is now being revived once more.
    • Electricity being presented as an amazing source of energy, these days it's commonplace.
  • Technology Marches On: Electricity was imbued with almost magical power, and a lot of the technological wonders Verne describes seem downright quaint to modern eyes. Still, credit where credit is due, he did get the fundamentals of how submarines would work in the future essentially right.
    • The Nautilus was supposed to make 50 knots on Bunsen batteries. The only modern submarine which could approach 50 knots needed 30 000 kW for the main engine. To get 30 000 kW from Bunsen cells their combined size would exceed Nautilus entire hull in size by a few orders of magnitude.
    • Also, an in-universe example of Schizo Tech: despite the usual rotating electric motor with brushes being known and used in the 1860s, Nautilus main engine is an oscillating electric motor ( "where large electromagnets actuate a system of levers and gears that transmit the power to the propeller shaft") - less efficient and a royal waste of space.
    • The new technology of double hull seemed to solve most problems in an age when most vessels were still wooden sailing ships, so Verne become enthusiastic about Nautilus double hull able to withstand the pressure "in the deepest ocean trench". No double hulled submarine can go below 1300 meters, specialized deep-diving vehicles are small craft with 5-inch thick shells.
    • The Nautilus' primary armament being a ram was typical of naval thinking at the time: this was right after Monitor versus Merrimack, and it was thought that since ironclads could not hurt each other with cannon fire, the only option would be ramming one another. At this point breech-loading heavy guns were new and untested, nobody had yet worked out how to fire a high-explosive, high-velocity shell without blowing it up, and nobody had fired a self-propelled torpedo in combat. It would not be until World War I that the submarine's role as a torpedo-carrier was cemented.
    • Nautilus crew diving suits are an autonomous version of the heavy helmet of Verne's lifetime, yet all these had been used only to very shallow depths. To use them hundreds of yards deep with no decompression stops would only make the divers succumb to decompression sickness. Illustrations, including the original's, however, show them as having air tanks rather than tubes that could break.

Film Version

  • All-Star Cast: A first for a live-action Disney film. James Mason as Nemo, Kirk Douglas as Ned, Peter Lorre as Conseil, and Paul Lukas as Arronax.
  • Channel Hop: Originally a 20th Century Fox project, Fox studio manager Sid Rogell personally sold the film rights to Walt Disney, who apparently returned the favor by having some scenes filmed on Fox's backlot.
  • Fake Nationality: Arronax is French, and Paul Lukas is Austrian-Hungarian-born.
    • The same goes for the German Peter Lorre, who plays the Flemish Conseil.
  • Playing Against Type: Peter Lorre as a Plucky Comic Relief. And it works.
  • Throw It In!: When filming the scene where Ned and Conseil get in the boat to row away from the cannibals, Kirk Douglas expected the boat to be low in the water. He didn't lower the oars far enough to catch the water, and when he started to row, he fell on his back. Director Richard Fleischer thought the shot was so funny he left it in the film. When Ned starts to row, he clearly tips back, and his legs shoot up in the air.
  • Wag the Director: The scene at the beginning of the film where Ned Land strolls up with a beautiful girl on each arm to the lecturing sailor and the ensuing fight was added at the suggestion of Kirk Douglas, who wanted to preserve his image as a macho action lead.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Walt Disney originally considered making this film as an animated feature; the detailed pre-production sketches by artist Harper Goff, as well as Goff's enthusiastic suggestion that it be done as live action feature, convinced him otherwise.
    • Gregory Peck auditioned for Captain Nemo.
    • The first tests for the final battle took place against a beautiful sunset, on a calm sea. The first Giant Squid had stuffed tentacles held up on wires; these grew heavy and hard to control as they took on water, and the bright sunset made the wires painfully obvious. Disney himself was appalled at this first footage, and demanded a reshoot. This reshoot nearly forced the studio out of business, but proved worthwhile when the film earned a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards.