Special Effect Moments in Christmas Carol

Each effect can be achieved in a number of ways. This document is just a guideline as to the numerous techniques that can be utilised in order to accomplish the effect. I will class the effect in SFX and FX on each method. (Including page references as to where they appear in the script.) Obviously, all these are thoughts and can be taken under the guidance of a magical advisor and/or FX builder. The document is merely to show what can be achieved to make each ghostly happening a little more special. There may be easier or more complex ways of achieving these effects when discussed with magic and FX specialists.

All sounds can be enhanced with the use of surround sound speakers to the sides and back of the audience.

Door Knocker Marley (Pg 24)

  1. FX: A neoprene or latex panel can be inserted into the door which allows anything that is pressed against it to stretch forward in a three dimensional way. Lighting from the front will pick out the features. A cast of Marley’s face can be moved behind the latex/lycra/neoprene to give an added dimension. The false panel can be painted to achieve the door effect. In addition, the cast can be lit within to produce an eerie glow. The lighting should be of an underworldy glow. Something green to accentuate the pallor of the long dead soul.
    SFX: There should be an unnatural distort of the voice of Marley as well as the sounds of creaking wood as the face stretches into the door and moves.
  2. FX: A two way mirror effect can be used so that the actor would be able to perform the part in the mirror plane.
    SFX: The same as above.
  3. FX: A gauze can be inserted into the door allowing, with the correct lighting, the actor to stand behind and perform.
    SFX: The same as above.
  4. FX: A projection of the face could be used on the door.
    SFX: The same as above.
  5. FX: A hologram could be used within the door. Eg. Musion Eyeliner 3D Holographic Projection (can be found on webpage) This may be something that can be utilised for the ghost of Christmas Past’s entrance.
    SFX: The same as above.

Marley’s Entrance (Pg 26)

As Scrooge is listening for the sounds after the bells have gone silent, suddenly a door flies open.
SFX: slamming loudly. This should cause a jump just before:

  1. FX: The actor is flown speedily up and over the gantry and his chains are pulled taut when he is in position. It should give the effect that he is tethered to something. The actor never really touches the floor but he hovers slightly above. The lighting effect should be underworld green. The use of dry ice could be utilised to add atmosphere. Shadows of chains and padlocks can be projected onto the cyclorama.
    SFX: The voice of Marley should be distorted still. There should be the hint of ice wind sound as Marley moves.
  2. FX: The fireplace could be raised slightly on a deck as with the whole of Scrooge’s bedchamber. This will allow slits in the fireplace (the mantle, the clock upon it etc) to spew forth dry ice as Marley enters through the grate stepping up so that the actor does not have to stoop. It also allows chains to be tethered into the fireplace and to be used to drag him back into hell. Green lighting state.
    SFX: Marley rises through the floor and upward by means of a trap and lift. This would allow for flame and smoke as if he were rising from hell. The floorboards around should open as if being split. If there is no "floor trap" available within the stage floor, then a portable "stair trap" can be built. This is a portable five-stair platform with a hole at the top for the Marley to appear through. A stagehand, seated directly beneath the contraption, cranks the elevator up or down the opening. A fog machine is then employed under the platform for the needed "steam effect".
    SFX: As above. Creaking and splintering wood.

Marley’s Departure (Pg. 31)

We should get the feeling that he is being pulled back to hell. During the song, the other ghosts could dangle their chains over the gantry so that Scrooge can be caught up like a puppet and moved accordingly in marionette style. The back of the stage could have the material blowers to represent flame as Marley is dragged back to hell.

  1. FX: Rising into the air, Marley’s chains are pulled taut and as he grasps at the air around he is pulled away into the lighting state offstage of gathering flame. It should feel as if he is going into the flame. The cyclorama could be used to give the feeling that the whole of the back of the stage is hell opening up. Even the moon could turn red.
    SFX: Howling and crying and flame crackle, also the wind once more all to finish with an almighty bang which should sound like a vault being closed for good.
  2. FX: The fireplace starts to billow dry ice and Marley’s chains are pulled taut, as he reaches for Scrooge he is pulled backwards into the fireplace howling as he goes. This could have the added effect of Scrooge being grabbed by hands that come from the fireplace pulling at him before he pulls free and they are gone. The reds and orange of the fires of hell are shining through the fireplace.
    SFX: As above.
  3. FX: FX: Marley is pulled back into the trap as the flames rise higher. There could be billowing material blown upward as he goes, lit to look like flame. He slowly disappears through the floor.
    SFX: As above.

Christmas Past Entrance (Pg. 32)

The curtains of the bed moving on their own can be achieved with a simple pulley system. Christmas Past should be clothed as a gentleman in white. His wig should have the feeling of a flame. A little like Jack Frost.

  1. FX: Christmas Past is seen through a ‘magic mirror effect’ (Snow White) but only vaguely as the light grows brighter, all is obscured and with a pyrotechnic, the ghost appears beside Scrooge, stepping from an unseen hiding place. This would probably require two actors, one as the ‘dummy’ Past and the real actor as the one who appears beside Scrooge. Again, fog or mist can be used behind the mirror. Pepper’s ghost effect. In order for the illusion to work, the viewer must be able to see into the main room, but not into the hidden mirror room. The edge of the glass may be hidden by a cleverly designed pattern in the floor. Both rooms may be identical mirror-images; this approach is useful in making objects seem to appear or disappear. This effect can also be used to make an actor reflected in the mirror appear to turn into an actor.
    SFX: Sound of crackling flame and the glissando of bells. Past’s voice when in the mirror should have the feeling of glass. There should be a bright blinding light during this sequence to be used to mask any movement of the ghost.
  2. FX: The curtains of the bed could be pulled in place by Scrooge and when they are opened once more by themselves the ghost in bright light could be sitting in the bed. A false back to the bed would be utilised. Maybe not as effective.
    SFX: Glissando of bells and crackling flame.
  3. FX: Lightweight white curtains can be used which are lit appropriately and billowed during which the actor appears between them.
    SFX: As Above.

Christmas Present Entrance (Pg. 48)

On the structure mentioned following, a large projection of Christmas Past’s face can be employed to start the proceedings fading out in time for the actor to reveal himself within.

  1. FX: A large pile of Christmas goodies complete with twinkling coloured lights is trucked on. It should take the shape of a Christmas tree with the top cut off and jagged with ‘goodies’. Within this structure, on wires, is Christmas Present. As Scrooge watches the spirit is drawn up from within until he takes pride of place at the top. A golden glow lighting state.
    SFX: Sleighbells. Voice to be booming.
  2. FX: The same structure but complete in the triangulation. It revolves to reveal Christmas Present sitting amongst the ‘goodies’.
    SFX: Sleighbells. Voice to be booming.
  3. FX: The same structure but Christmas Past’s costume is made to camouflage amongst the ‘goodies’ and he reveals himself at the given moment. A golden glow lighting state.
    SFX: Sleighbells. Voice to be booming.
  4. FX: The actor can appear at the back of the stage on wires, at first standing on the ground, until he is lifted and a detachable cape of goodies can rise up in tiers below him as he is lifted upwards. This can be jettisoned as the scene unfolds. It can then be pulled off by the stage hands, masked by the street crowds. This cape can be LCD lit as a starcloth. A golden glow lighting state.
    SFX: Sleighbells. Voice to be booming.

Christmas Yet to Come Entrance (Pg 66)

  1. FX: Below the gantry is rigged a dry ice machine, allowing for a ‘waterfall’ effect of mist. Upon this can be projected the ghost, allowing for the actor ghost to step through. The actor could use plasterer’s stilts to give height or be a shoulder puppet.
    SFX: An unearthly hiss to be heard round the audience. A death rattle. Whenever this ghost ‘speaks’ it is an unearthly hiss.
  2. FX: A shadow appears rising across the cyclorama of a cowled figure. A pile of rags rises from the floor to rise above Scrooge. An internal puppet affair. The rags could be over a trap and the figure grows under the costume by being lifted on the elevator. An actor within controls it.
    SFX: As Above.
  3. FX: A hovering spirit on a wire with internal light and trailing mist with it. Down lit and with maybe a gobo beneath giving the effect of swirling mist. The ‘puppet’ would be rigged with a mist machine and internal light. Arriving slowly from the flies. Projections across the cyclorama, like the gathering of crow, which fly off into the direction where the spirit will enter.
    SFX: As Above.
  4. FX: A large sized rod puppet, making sure that the ghost is always in half-darkness, controlled by a number of cast members in full blacks. This would allow the figure to float on and creep from behind scenery. Also allows for more interaction movement-wise with Scrooge. This should appear after a shadow across the cyclorama.
    SFX: As Above.

Gravestone (Pg 72)

  1. FX: A ground mist gathers. Dry ice and the gravestones are trucked on. The last one is trucked through the middle from behind. It is a large gravestone with a grim statue of the angel of death, wings closed around it. It appears to have no name on it. As a crack of lightning and thunder is heard, the name of Scrooge appears on the stone. This can be done with lights within the stone slowly fading up and shining through strategic cuts in the prop headstone unnoticeable to the eye. Icy blue light through the stone. As the writing comes to an end, the angel of death statue unfurls its wings suddenly. This can be achieved by a mechanism within the stone.
    SFX: Thunder and scratching like nails down a chalkboard as the writing appears and the sound of dry wings unfurling.
  2. FX: Atop the headstone, an actor can be disguised, somewhat like the Commendatore in Don Giovane (or ‘street statues’ actor) then at the given moment can unfurl it’s wings and loom over Scrooge. If needs be, the tombstone could rise through the stage.
    SFX: As Above.
  3. FX: The writing could appear in projection upon the stone.

Snowfall (Pg 85)

  1. FX: Usual snow box in flies. Or snow machine with evaporative snow.