Rainbow (1996 film)

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Rainbow promotional poster.jpg
Rainbow promotional poster
Directed by Bob Hoskins
Produced by Robert Sidaway
Nicolas Clermont
Written by Ashley Sidaway
Robert Sidaway
Starring Bob Hoskins
Terry Finn
Jacob Tierney
Saul Rubinek
Dan Aykroyd
Music by Alan Reeves
Cinematography Freddie Francis
Edited by Ray Lovejoy
Ashley Sidaway (sup)
Filmline International[1]
Winchester (Rainbow)[1]
Release dates 1996
Running time 101 mins
Country UK
Language English
Budget US$8 million

Rainbow is a 1996 family adventure film directed by Bob Hoskins, written by Ashley Sidaway and Robert Sidaway and starring Bob Hoskins, Terry Finn, Jacob Tierney, Saul Rubinek and Dan Aykroyd. The story concerns four children and a dog whose journey in a magical rainbow results in an adventure that finds them on a race against time to save the world.

From a technical standpoint, it was also the world's first film to be shot in high-definition video.[1] Shot entirely with Sony's first Solid State Electronic Cinematography cameras and featuring over 35 minutes of digital image processing and visual effects, all post production, sound effects, editing and scoring were completed digitally. The Digital High Definition image was transferred to 35mm negative for theatrical release.


Mike "Mikey" Bailey is a rambunctious 10-year old living in Hudson Harbour, New Jersey. His notable family members include his grandfather Frank, a magician; mother Jackie; and older brother Steve who is a loner and wishes to join a local street gang. Mike encounters a stray dog who he names Mutt, who leads him to a spot where he seemingly witnesses a rainbow actually land. He attempts to inform his friends Pete and Tessy of his encounter and takes them to the landing site, but they do not believe his claims. At the site they find a thirty-metre wide triangular crater, Tessy taking a soil sample and testing it, the soil illuminating in colour and vanishing in her hand. Mike, Pete and Tessy prepare a scientific project to track down the next rainbow and properly examine it.

Eventually, on a rainy day, a rainbow appears and the three, along with Steve and Mutt, race across the town on their bicycles to get to the rainbow before it vanishes. Upon arrival, they witness the rainbow land and are sucked into a colourful pathway, taking photographs as they go. They then enter a dark area of the rainbow filled with gold, Steve taking three pieces which causes the rainbow to vanish and drop the group in a cornfield. They are revealed to be in Kansas, and are taken to the local sheriff's office at an airport. Sheriff Wyatt Hampton contacts Jackie to pick them up, but the group flee into the airport to print their photos of the rainbow's interior. Jackie and Frank come to the children's aid when they arrive back in Hudson Harbour, but no one believes their story except Frank. Steve sells one of the pieces of gold to a pawnbroker's, and another to the street gang, and attempts to join, only to be humiliated and rejected. The children's school science teacher, Sam Cohen, obtains the photos and discovers the childrens' project.

Eventually, colour begins to drain from the world and people either act aggressively towards each other or fall unconscious. The children, Frank, Jackie and Sam all deduce that due to Steve's removal of the gold pieces, the rainbow has been damaged and caused colour, oxygen and photosynthesis to be drained, and all life could be threatened. The group split up to retrieve the gold pieces. Mike and Frank break into the pawnbroker's and retrieve a piece of the gold, Tessy and Jackie gain results on where the next rainbow will appear, and Steve, Pete and Sam gain the other gold piece from the street gang. With time almost up, Mike, Steve and Mutt race out to the new rainbow's landing site. Mike and Mutt are absorbed by a faulty rainbow, but Mike tosses the gold pieces back into it, restoring the rainbow and the world to normality. Mike and Mutt then end up in a tropical rainforest, as the film ends.


  • Willy Lavendel as Mike Bailey, the main character who seeks to chase the rainbow.
  • Jacob Tierney as Steve Bailey, Mike's older brother who wants to join a local street gang.
  • Jonathan Schuman as Pete, one of Mike's friends.
  • Eleanor Misrahi as Tissy, Mike's other friend who shows great intelligence.
  • Bob Hoskins as Frank Bailey, Mike's grandfather who is a skilled magician.
  • Terry Finn as Jackie Bailey, Mike and Steve's mother.
  • Saul Rubinek as Sam Cohen, a school science teacher.
  • Dan Aykroyd as Sheriff Wyatt Hampton, the sheriff of an airport in Kansas.
  • Richard Jutras as Deputy Head, Hampton's silent deputy who spitwads as a running gag.


Principal photography began in Montreal on September 21, 1994, the start of a nine-week shoot that would take the cast and crew through to the end of November. This included two weeks of blue screen, or in this case green screen studio filming.

Clarenceville, a 30-minute drive from Montreal, was the site of the important cornfield scenes (doubling for Kansas), and the opening and closing of the film features aerial footage in New York and Hawaii. The remainder was shot in Montreal.

Montreal was chosen for the production site due its ideal mix of architecture and weather conditions, which closely approximated those in the script. "When the script was originally written, the locale was set in Washington D.C." Visual Consultant, 2nd Unit Director and Executive Producer David L. Snyder stated. "When we arrived in Montreal Bob and I made the decision to change the locale to New Jersey and not move the production around, as we had found everything we needed in Quebec. A fictional city located in New Jersey can be fairly nondescript and much less identifiable than Boston, New York, or Washington for that matter."

"Using composite photography, the view from New Jersey looks like New York. And Montreal was perfect in every way for our purposes; the suburb Outremont, where the school scenes are filmed, is an older, residential area, which had a choice of schools to shoot in. Montreal also has both that traditional 1950's downtown look you find in so many American cities and hi-rise contemporary structures & municipal complexes"

"There's a schematic geography to all this," adds Snyder. "And we have all these different looks we've been able to achieve, plus the interior of a TV broadcast studio (shot at the TVA building which houses working studios), commercial streets and the area where the diner and comic book store are. We wanted Jackie and her boys to reside in an urban environment at a specific economic level and we've been able to do that here."

Hoskins chose Snyder to establish the appropriate look after their experience working together on Super Mario Bros.

Pre-Production commenced at Ealing Studios, London prior to the move to Montreal. The Ealing conferences dealt with script readings and visual concepts, including some preliminary filming of various 'practical' man-made rainbows.

Bob Hoskins, Freddie Francis

Once in Canada, Snyder then met with Production Designer Claude Pare and asked him to turn his concepts into reality, which included design ideas for the Hudson Harbor settings. A primary task involved taking a French-Canadian city and replacing all the French language signage with English language graphics and signage.

For a film that’s featured set-piece is a ride through the Rainbow and whose story features the loss of color to the world, costume designer Janet Campbell's role was especially important. Said Campbell: "I'm trying to impart a timeless look to the characters, because the producers want the film to become a classic to be watched forever. So I've avoided that heavy grunge look so prevalent among kids today [1994]. Instead, I've given them a classic look."

Each character's look was also designed to reflect his or her individuality. "Steve is one good example," says Campbell. "He's older than the other kids and is a rebel, so the colors I've chosen for him are darker. But toward the end, when his true nature begins to shine through, the colors of his clothing become brighter."

"Another example are the uniforms of the Tigers, the gang that Steve wants to join. Although they're quite similar, each one sports something colorful that shows that member's individuality, like a patch, a vest, a shirt or whatever. Yet, you can still identify them as the Tigers."

The best example of Campbell's attempts to showcase color came in the guise of Jack The Prophet, the character which warns about the impending advent of doomsday. "The Prophet is a street person, so we decided to have him attach the objects he finds on the street to his coat. His coat becomes a mass of bright ribbons, buttons and other objects and when the color begins to fade from the world you'll notice that his coat will become desaturated with color."

"Those small objects are proof that a designer's job is as much about good shopping as good designing. You'll notice in the film that the photoshop attendant in the Kansas airport scenes is wearing a camera shaped bolo-tie. I wanted to give the character a fast-food sort of look and while lying in bed one night, I thought of that bolo as a way of accomplishing it. It's a little thing but it imparts an overall look to the character."

In early October, in the area of Montreal known as the Plateau Mont Royal, the cast and crew spent several days filming both the inside and outside of an authentic American diner. The Galaxie Diner, transformed for the film into Ynez and Charlie's Galaxie Diner, serving Spanish-Chinese food, plays an important part of the film. It's the site where the kids first see the colors in the Rainbow's soil.

On day thirteen of filming, October 9, the cast and crew moved to the center of downtown Montreal and Square Dorchester (which features imposing statues of two early Canadian Prime Ministers). The warm sunny conditions were perfect for shooting the film’s pivotal riot sequence.

About seventy-five extras were needed to portray a mob brandishing baseball bats, overturning cars and generally causing havoc, as the world turns headlong into disaster. Opposing them are 15 members of Montreal's actual SWAT team (many of whom had prior experience working on films) and several mounted policemen.

The eight-strong stunt crew included veteran, five-time world karate champion, Jean Frenette. He performed the motorcycle jump over a car and through the deadly ‘Wall of Fire’, with a pillion rider seated behind him. "It's very difficult because I've got another rider with me and I can't afford to slow down," Frenette admitted just prior to the stunt. "And I don't have a crash helmet. When the character sees the world coming to an end around him, he can't worry about the helmet."

To achieve the floating quality for the interior of the Rainbow, originally the traditional special effects concept of harnesses and wire rigs hanging the actors from the rafters was suggested. However, the film's Visual Effects Supervisor, Steven Robiner, brought in from Sony Pictures in Los Angeles, had a different idea. Robiner said "Aesthetics was my main concern; we wanted to show the kids really floating through the rainbow, and none of these actors were gymnasts so I felt strongly that it would be much easier for them to express this feeling of floating and weightlessness being underwater. It was also going to be much easier in the post production process to composite the children within the rainbow, and not have to worry about hand-painted wire-removal" Robiner's plan was to submerge a green screen inside a diving training pool that had an instructors window, under the water, at the side. Fortunately, a nearby Montreal university, located in Montreal's east end, had exactly the type of pool he was looking for. At first this underwater concept was questioned as being too radically different and untried, however after Robiner pointed out that this would also save the production about 3 days of shooting because more than 70% of the rainbow interior scenes could be all shot at this one single pool location with a locked off camera and lights, the producers agreed and the underwater shoot was accepted. Robiner said, "The underwater shots were particularly exciting. It was important because we had to accomplish that weightless look perfectly for the shots inside the rainbow. You can't do that by using a rigid harness. Just ask Bob, who was well aware of that, having spent two weeks wearing such rigs in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. It was very uncomfortable for him."

To help the children adjust to this potentially hostile environment, the producers engaged the services of aquatic consultant Daniel Berthiaume. "I had to go underwater and push or pull them to keep under at first," says Berthiaume. "Later, we used weight belts, but it wasn't easy at first."

"So to help them gain confidence, I asked them to do things naturally, the way they wanted to. After a while, they were more confident." Floating, she says, was the most difficult thing for the kids to master and they had to be at the right level for the camera. So in tandem with a scuba diving team who could help them take off their mouthpieces at the bottom of the pool and then float upwards for the camera, Berthiaume succeeded in helping the crew get the necessary shots. Members of the local swimming team were also used as doubles.

Shooting under water lasted for two full days and Berthiaume was in the water for periods of three to five hours at a time.

The last portion of the shoot continued on a large sound stage in Montreal, where the Visual Effects segments involving the kids traveling through the rainbow was to be filmed. The stage's 3-story high walls and floor were all painted with the special green colored paint necessary for the compositing process. Special mechanical seats, platforms and camera rigs concept designs were made by Steven Robiner and John Galt and then engineered and built by Special Effects Supervisor Antonio Vidosa and his crew. Robiner said, "Artistically and technically, Antonio is like a DaVinci, he's incredible -- working with him was a fantastic experience." For a shot in which the four kids are to float, spinning in the form a circle with each child holding the hand of the kid on each side of them, with their heads together and feet at the outer edge, then they let go their hands and each spin off and away from the others. Originally it was suggested to do this with the four actors hanging on wires, but Robiner rejected that idea because "hanging four kids on wires just seemed to be a dangerous and time-consuming idea, on top of being difficult for them to perform in..." Robiner continued, "...so, I sketched my conceptual design for how to handle this critically important shot using a custom-made large, radial, four-armed spinning platform where each arm would also have an elbow and another arm which in turn held each of the four kids lying on their chests and hips. I showed it to Antoni, and he got it right away, no further explanation needed... then three weeks later the entire rig was engineered and completed."

In order to produce a shot in which the kids are supposed to be spinning head over heals while floating in the rainbow, another rig was used that let the actor remain motionless while the camera rotated 720 degrees over his head, behind his back, and then under his feet and up again. The old style HD cameras had umbilical cables for power and signal transmission which needed to be carefully wound around a large spool as the camera rotated.

Royal connection[edit]

Autumn Kelly (age 17), later a member of the British royal family by marriage, has a small part as one of the Tigerette gang.


According to the staff of Halliwell's Film Guide, Rainbow was a "Heavy-handed, didactic children's film that strives for a fairy-tale quality, but too frequently falls flat."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Gritten, David, ed. (2007). "Rainbow". Halliwell's Film Guide 2008. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 969. ISBN 0-00-726080-6. 

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