CONSTRUCTION, COACHES AND COSTUMES OF THE AUSTRALIAN WEST ARE AUTHENTICALLY RECREATED ON "FIVE MILE CREEK"
Disney Channel viewers will discover that entertaining drama and attention to detail have successfully been combined for historical adventure and romance when "Five Mile Creek" airs exclusively this November on the family-oriented premium service. "Five Mile Creek" is a bold adventure series that dramatizes the stagecoaching and pioneering era on the Australian frontier in the 1860's. The thirteen, hour-long episodes are being produced entirely on location in Australia by Henry Crawford, producer of the award-winning Masterpiece Theatre mini-series, "A Town Like Alice."
Crawford and American executive producer Douglas Netter, scouted many locations to recreate the Australian outback of the 1860's. "We discovered that just thirty kilometers north of Sydney," said Netter, "in a clearing called French's Forest, we had enough geographic diversity to build three major outdoor sets. All we had to do was clear a road."
Those three free-standing sets are the Five Mile Creek stage stop station; Wilga, a booming gold rush town; and, Port Nelson, the coastal seaport on the Pacific Ocean. All of them recreate a period reminiscent of the opening of the American West, with brawling miners, saloons, bath houses, "bushrangers" (outlaws), and skillful stagecoach drivers. While construction workers labored to rebuild the 1860's, Disney designers were charged with locating an authentic Concord coach.
The Concord coach, so named because it was first built in Concord, New Hampshire, revolutionized pioneer travel in the United States and Australia as well. Unlike English steel-brace coaches, the Concord was well-suited to rugged terrain and provided good lateral stability. With a team of six horses matched for strength and pace, a Concord coach could easily maintain speeds of ten to fifteen miles per hour.
John Mansbridge, director of the art and set decorating departments for Walt Disney Productions, called upon his 21 years of experience to find rare artifacts for "Five Mile Creek." "We had to find an antique Concord," Mansbridge said. "And, we were very lucky." Because the Concord coach has offset spokes in its wheel, the cost of building a new Concord coach would be very expensive. "Besides," said Mansbridge, "the machinery to build the Concord is virtually non-existent."
Four weeks were spent of research, color specifications, upholstery sample selections, wheel and axle lubrication and reconstruction. Mansbridge estimates the coach's value to be a "conservative" $35,000. "This is the finest stagecoach in the United States today," he claims. "Certainly, the most authentic in the world."
Disney designers shipped the coach in a cargo container via ocean liner. Included in the container was a full-sized "mock-up" and a rocker. Mansbridge explains, "Many times a director needs interior coach scenes. For that reason, we buld just the interior and use a rocking device to simulate motion."
Australian Jenny Arnott, whose previous credits include Crawford's "Eureka Stockade," designed the costumes. Ms. Arnott and her staff of three did extensive research on frontier clothing styles. They combed fabric warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne, discovering remnants of dated textiles. All clothing was handmade because a frontier costume department does not exist in Australia's film community.
Ms. Arnott enjoyed recreating the look and feel of the 1860's. "I've always been attracted to the period style," she said. "I suppose it's the romanticism I enjoy, and I love the patriotism of it all. Through televised series, Australians as well as Americans receive an accurate account of our history."
Producers Crawford and Netter credit the success of the costuming to the enthusiasm of the group. With time at a premium, they labored long into the nights to complete the extensive wardrobe assembled for each character. "In fact," confided Jenny, "time was the only obstacle we had to overcome."
"Five Mile Creek" is produced by Valstar, Pty., Ltd. exclusively for THE DISNEY CHANNEL.
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