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“We Make Our Own Destiny” reveals how Disney’s “Prince of Persia” movie actually came together

“We Make Our Own Destiny” reveals how Disney’s “Prince of Persia” movie actually came together

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When discussing a new summer blockbuster like Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” it’s hard not to get caught up in all the details. Like those 1,200 visual effects shots that you’ll find in this Jerry Bruckheimer production. Or the action sequences that Mike Newell chose to stage 8,200 feet up in Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a Jerry Bruckheimer production
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry
Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

That’s why it’s great that Michael Singer was the author that the Studio recruited to write this new making-of book, “We Make Our Own Destiny: Behind the Scenes of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (Disney Editions, April 2010). Given that Mr. Singer’s written a number of these sorts of books before – among them “Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Batman Returns: The Official Movie Book”) – Michael has a gift for taking the creative chaos that you typically find on a film set and then turning that into a compelling narrative.

Prince of Persia book cover
Copyright 2010 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

By that I mean: Singer’s quick to point out some of the more compelling behind-the-scenes characters that you’ll find on the set of “The Sands of Time.” Take – for example -- Jordan Mechner, the creator of the video game version of “Prince of Persia.” Back in 1989, when Mechner was first monkeying around with his Apple II, trying to get his 40 pixel-high hero to run, jump and defeat that evil vizier, Jordan never dreamed that his creation would wind up as the title character in a major motion picture.

Which is why – given that he thought this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – Mechner tried to be on set whenever he could …

Jordan Mechner, the creator of "Prince of Persia" video game, on set in Morocco
Jordan Mechner, the creator “Prince of Persia” video game, on set in
Morocco. Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry
Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

… using his sketchbook to record what it was actually like to be on location on the Merzouga sand dunes. Where temperatures sometimes soared to 125 degrees.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry
Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, after two months of dealing with the heat & the dust, Newell took his cast & crew to the U.K. Where “Prince of Persia” then shot for another three months on 9 different soundstages at Pinewood Studios. As production designer Wolf Kroeger worked with the movie’s visual effects team to make sure that all of these interiors were a perfect match for the exteriors that had previously been shot in Morocco.


Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry
Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

It’s in this part of “We Make Our Own Destiny” that Singer’s intimate knowledge of the film-making process really shines. As Michael explains how it can sometimes take hundreds of sculptors 14 weeks and 400 tons of plaster to translate a dazzling concept painting like this …

Prince of Persia, Sands of Time
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

… into a fantastical physical film set like the Temple of Water. Which was the very first sequence that Newell and the cast & crew of “Prince of Persia” shot upon their arrival in England.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time concept art
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry Bruckheimer Films. All Rights Reserved

If you’re a film fan and love highly detailed, behind-the-scenes stories, then you should definitely pick up a copy of Michael Singer’s “We Make Our Own Destiny: Behind the Scenes of Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time.” For this 176-page paperback does a superb job of moving past all of those over-the-top statistics that Disney’s PR department typically touts when it’s promoting a tentpole picture like this (EX: 500 background players were featured in “The Sand of Time” ‘s battle scene. 7000 costumes were made for this Jerry Bruckheimer production. As were 3,500 weapons. Swords, daggers, shields, arrows, axes, quivers et al) …

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Disney's Prince of Persia
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
All Rights Reserved

… and just talks about the movie itself. Which – according to Mike Newell – attempts to create this extremely romanticized version of Pre-Islamic Sixth century Persia, “ … where the mysterious, the magical and the mystical all co-exist.”

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