A Brief History of Movie Special Effects

Everett Collection

The Wizard of Oz — Matte Paintings
If you've seen a movie, you've likely seen a matte painting. An essential part of many films produced before the CGI era, matte paintings were actual projections or paintings placed behind foreground objects to trick audiences into believing the actors were in a different location. Without these pieces of art, there would be no Statue of Liberty jutting out from the sand in the shattering last scene of 1968's Planet of the Apes, no Emerald City awaiting Dorothy at the end of the yellow brick road — even the majestic mansion Tara from 1939's Gone with the Wind was half matte. Through most of the 20th century, studios housed their own matte departments, which dutifully painted around the confinements of reality until the early 1990s, when digital matting techniques became the norm.

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