35 Years Since John Candy Invented 3D TV

35 Years Since John Candy Invented 3D TV

It was the 25th anniversary of John Candy's untimely death this week. I always found his brand of humor hilarious. Little known fact: did you know that John Candy helped to invent a 3D motion capture process that didn't need 3D glasses? Although his early work in this field was designed for T.V. only, the sky could've been the limit.

Of course, this quick scene is from a time shortly before the current era of animal protections during production. One wonders if something like this today would even be possible. Instead, we have to settle for so called live-action remakes of other animation classics like The Lion King.

An example of how far SCTV would go for the 3D effect.

Long before Spielberg and Cameron attempted to reignite the 3D market, Candy and his colleagues at SCTV, Harold Ramis and Eugene Levy, pushed the '50s era technology they inherited to new heights. Candy started investigating how to make 3D work without the ubiquitous red and blue glasses, because Candy felt that the $18 (1984 dollars) price tag was too much to ask of home audiences. 

Although many critics found their 3D horror series to be too frightening for early-evening TV, the medium managed to help make SCTV a household name across North America. The following is from archives, which means the clip isn't the best quality, but, it does give you a feel for how terrifying this effect could be.

If you'd like to see the first full thriller, you can find it here:

Shortly after their initial success, SCTV abruptly stopped producing 3D content. At the time, there were whispers that the overtly political 3D short, House of Representatives, crossed the wrong lines and annoyed the wrong people. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but does it seem that Candy is doing a great Alec Baldwin impression?

On the other hand, many industry insiders felt that Candy was pushing the technology too hard and too fast. There was talk that Candy was hurtling towards a confrontation with the makers of profitable 3D glasses. I can't remember if it was Kevin Costner or Oliver Stone who said:

You're a mouse, fighting a gorilla.

In later years, while discussing the intrigue, Martin Short, a latecomer to SCTV, but a big supporter of Candy, was quoted as saying: 

I don't think I want to know a six-year-old who isn't a dreamer or a silly-heart,

In my opinion, it wasn't the industry infighting that ended the experiment, it was his plans to make the blue movie, The Canadian Mounted, that pushed production to shutdown. 

The original novel of the erotic blue movie The Canadian Mounted

Despite all the uproar, Candy's closest friend, Eugene Levy, maintained:

There was nothing going on between us, it was only sex.

Although they were eventually shutdown, the team from SCTV had worked very hard for several years. Apparently, there are dozens of unseen films sitting in dungeons around Canada. It's interesting to note that Candy's team was actually notorious for working their talent to the bone. Surprised by journalists after 47 straight hours of testing, Steve Martin was quoted:

My dogs are barking.

It's funny though, all that work sitting in storage, just waiting to be rediscovered, you can't help but feel exactly like Mel Brooks when he exclaimed: 

That's gonna leave a mark.

I adore this photo of Candy working on the 3D camera.

I realize that everyone isn't going to be a fan of this type of work, but, to quote Candy himself:

If you get the pole out of your keester, we're going to get along just fine.

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18 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

I'm pretty confused. Something here is supposed to look 3D?

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

It certainly isn’t two warm pillows! Of course I tease. I’m assuming you aren’t familiar with Second City or John Candy. It’s just a joke. I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s not really 3D.

Michael Jin's picture

I'm vaguely familiar with John Candy, but being 34 and not having watched much TV as a child (or ever...), I can't really say that I saw much of him. And I've certainly never heard of Second City either. For a person who grew up in the USA, I have rather large holes when it comes to pop culture knowledge. LOL!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Second City was (still is) a comedy troop in Chicago. It spread to Toronto and gave rise to the likes of Candy, Martin Short, and, Eugene Levy. They were pretty influential for a time. But, you’re right, it was a long time ago.
If you’re interested, I’d suggest Planes Trains and Automobiles and Best in Show. Not sure how dry your humour runs. Best in Show can get pretty dry. Especially if you don’t love a terrier.

Michael Jin's picture

For once in a long time now, I feel young. LOL! It's like that time in 10th grade when someone first told me about the Beatles. (Sadly not even making that one up...) and I STILL haven't watched Breakfast Club. :O

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Youll love it!

Paul Asselin's picture

I always enjoyed Johnny LaRues School of Speed Drinking . . . Everybody MAMBO!!!!!!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Loved that character.

Did anyone notice Catherine O'Hara (the mom from the Home Alone movie series) in the first YouTube clip?

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Good eye! She was born and raised in Toronto and actually won an Emmy for her early work on SCTV. Little known fact, she was Gilda Radner's understudy with Second City here in Toronto before they went on to TV.

Aaron Reizner's picture

This is very, very well done. SCTV was a bit before my time, but I came to know and enjoy John Candy through his films. Thanks for the great laugh.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Thanks Aaron! SCTV was more of a rerun thing for me (and I'm old). I wasn't sure who'd get it!

Paul Asselin's picture

SCTV was filmed at the ITV Studios in Edmonton for its first few seasons in the early 1980's before moving east for its final years. The production facility kinda shared a parking lot with a new restaurant called Earl's, a sort of wing joint that years later would become a chain of higher end restaurants. It would not be unusual to see Candy, Levy, O'Hara, or other SCTV personalities there for lunch or after hours. To this day I believe the SCTV troupe were the funniest on TV. Check out their foreign film parody 'Rome, Italian Style' if you can find it. Simply genius. It is too bad they didn't get a wider audience in the US. In Canada they were wildly popular.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Didn’t realize they spent some time filming in Edmonton. Also, funny connection to Earls. Great story!

While researching, I found a great snippet from Akroyd talking about how they drove out to LA together. That would have been a funny trip!

Mrs. Falbo, Count Floyd, Guy Cabillero, Johnny LaRoue, Sammy Maudlin. All awesome.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Chet the Vet, though that gets a little grotesque! So much fun.

Funny article. Thank you. I love seeing John Candy getting attention again. I just showed my son Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and now he's a big fan of him too. Passing on the torch.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Nice. I'm happy to hear that he's making to another generation! Thank you.