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Actually previewed during a special IMAX event weeks before the film, one particular part of Doctor Strange really sticks with you when leaving the theater after seeing it. Dubbed by director Scott Derrickson as the "Magical Mystery Tour," the moment in question is the scene where the blockbuster's titular hero finds himself introduced to the multiverse while The Ancient One is throttling him through it. It isn't a terribly long sequence, lasting only a couple minutes, but it is the definition of dazzling, as it is utterly beautiful and breathtaking. Fans will surely watch it many, many times when the movie ultimately goes to Blu-ray, but here is the great news: there is a version of the sequence that is actually much longer.
How long? Well, according to Stef Ceretti, the Visual Effects Supervisor on Doctor Strange, the original version of the sequence actually lasted a full seven minutes (we clocked the theatrical version at a little over two minutes). I had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Ceretti earlier this month on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, and one of the most exciting parts of our conversation was about the Magical Mystery Tour. I inquired on how he, Scott Derrickson, and his team went about creating it, and he explained that a lot went into the scene, structuring it around mirroring beats from the movie. Said the filmmaker,
The Magical Mystery Tour was a bunch of lines of The Ancient One telling Strange that the world that he knows is just a little piece of the world that really exists. So we tried to tie visuals to all these beats... there were tons of other things that didn't make it in the script, with relationships with his past. The Magical Mystery Tour was seven minutes long!
More than "theoretically" being seven minutes long, Stef Ceretti confirmed to me that they actually did shoot all the material for the extended version of the Magical Mystery Tour sequence. Given that this certainly must have cost a bit of money to put together in full, I'd say that the chances of it winding up all on the Doctor Strange Blu-ray are very, very high.
After Stef Ceretti told me about the seven minute long version, I noted that I would watch a full two hours of that kind of trippy footage, but he noted that it ultimately just needed to be cut down because it was "too much" for the movie and impacted the flow. Following up, I inquired if he could even describe any of the extra Doctor Strange material to me, but he explained why it all basically goes beyond description:
You can't describe it with words. And that's been the problem all along -- there was no way to write it in the script. It was a visual script that we did. I put together a reel, and then we put it together with concept art, the pre-vis guys put it together with concepts I'd taken, and made a story out of it. The editor came into the process early -- before we started to shoot. That doesn't happen so much. We started to edit the Magical Mystery Tour before the other sequences of the film. So we had the editor editing the film before we shot it!
As a visual effects artist, Stef Ceretti is not only a veteran in the world of comic book movies, but has been working with Marvel Studios for years now -- working second unit on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World before moving up to become VFX Supervisor on Guardians of the Galaxy. That's a lot of experience - so it says a lot that Doctor Strange was a challenge unlike anything he's ever done, requiring new strategies in order to make it happen. To the credit of Ceretti and his team, the finished results are stunning.
Doctor Strange is in theaters now, and be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with the blockbuster's visual effects supervisor!