In 1974, Land of the Lost began to take America by storm. Although the innovative Saturday morning television series was the fifth children’s show created by the famed entertainment duo of Sid and Marty Krofft, it had begun to take shape decades earlier, when the brothers’ father took 11-year-old Sid to see Hal Roach’s prehistoric epic, One Million B.C. A master puppeteer, Peter Krofft passed on his passion and talent for the craft to his sons, who went on to combine live action, puppetry, and stop-motion animation in some of the most beloved children’s shows of all time, including H. R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
Land of the Lost was one of many Krofft creations to become firmly cemented in American pop culture. The show ran for three seasons from 1974 to 1977, presenting over 43 episodes the outrageous adventures of Rick Marshall and his children, Will and Holly. Will, a park ranger, is leading his kids on a canoeing expedition when a freak accident sends them careening through a portal to a separate dimension where dinosaurs walk the earth. But that isn’t the only threat to the Marshall family in this mysterious new realm, where alien-like creatures, unfamiliar geography, and mysterious technologies spur a number of adventures as the trio attempts to find their way home.
Featuring Sid and Marty Krofft’s iconic puppetry, scripts by multiple Hugo Award winners, and even an alien language created by an expert linguist, Land of the Lost quickly became a cult classic that spawned a vast array of merchandise and sparked the imaginations of a generation. Decades later, producer Jimmy Miller—widely known as Will Ferrell’s manager and collaborator on projects including Step Brothers (2008) and Elf (2003)—began formulating plans to revamp the classic show for new audiences.
Joined by the Krofft brothers as fellow producers, Miller sought out the writing team of Dennis McNicholas—a former head writer on Saturday Night Live—and Chris Henchy (The Other Guys (2010), The Campaign (2012)) to rework one of their favorite childhood TV shows into a feature-length film. The result is a fun-filled, CGI-enhanced adventure comedy starring comedic icon Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, and Jorma Taccone.
The cast and crew worked closely with the Krofft brothers to create a film that did justice to the original Land of the Lost, carrying out a production of unprecedented proportions as they recreated the Kroffts’ fantastic world. Here are five incredible facts about this massive cinematic endeavor:
Land of the Lost was the largest production ever filmed on the Universal Studios lot.
A great deal of planning and effort went into recreating the surreal sci-fi world of Land of the Lost. At one time, the project occupied six stound stages at Universal Studios. Under the guidance of production designer Bo Welch, the art department worked quickly to build and deconstruct each set in accordance with the project’s stringent schedule. This production style was an exciting change for many cast and crew members, including Will Ferrell, who described the project as a partial “throwback to the old Hollywood stage movies” and recalled, “Every few days we would move to a new set that was even bigger and better than the last.”
The crew repurposed several set pieces to create multiple stylized environments.
The Land of the Lost production team drew on their creativity and resourcefulness to remain on schedule and budget for the massive project, redesigning trees, roots, rock faces, and various other props for inclusion on multiple different sets. All the while, they strived to add a slightly surreal flair to their fantasy world. Production designer Bo Welch noted, “The fact that it was another dimension was always in my brain. Even though a tree was a tree or a cave was a cave, I knew I would exaggerate it slightly and stylize it so that it had its own flavor.
One set piece required all 28 of the crew’s professional sculptors.
One of the film’s sets featured massive red rock walls, which required the expertise of the production’s full sculpting crew. All 28 set sculptors worked to saw, shape, and refine every nook and cranny in the 32-foot Styrofoam structure.
The iconic raft scene took place in a 200-foot man-made tunnel, requiring 40,000 gallons of water.
Harkening back to the original series, the main characters in Land of the Lost accidentally venture into another dimension while rafting through unexpectedly choppy waters. For this key scene, the art department constructed a 200-foot long tunnel with 13-foot-high ceilings, multiple twists and turns, and a water-proof rubber coating. To generate earthquake-induced rapids severe enough to launch the trio into another dimension, the production team pumped 40,000 gallons of water through the elaborate set at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute.
In addition to the project’s elaborately crafted sets, the Land of the Lost crew also filmed several exterior shots at noteworthy outdoor locations.
The Land of the Lost crew had the unique opportunity to film at La Brea Tar Pits and the nearby Page Museum, and they were the first crew to ever have access to the region’s famous tar lake. Additional exterior filming locations included the vast expanse of the Dumont Dunes near Baker, California, as well as the Trona Pinnacles salt flats—an ecologically significant region heavily protected by the federal Bureau of Land Management.