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The Wall film - the original concept Print E-mail

A while ago, we were fortunate enough to borrow an outstanding book (full details at the foot of this article) which the Pink Floyd put together when they were trying to get backing for the movie of "The Wall". The book is one of a mere handful that would have been produced. It is a large A3 size format in thick glossy card, which sets out exactly what was to happen in the film, alongside lyrics and Gerald Scarfe illustrations, most of which have not appeared anywhere else. What follows is the original film, as told by the book:


"The Wall" is a musical biography of a character called Pink. Pink is a fictional character created to represent a rock group like Pink Floyd. The Wall has already been performed live in Los Angeles, New York and London with great success, and some of the live performances are incorporated in the film script. However, film is a more flexible medium than live theatre and using a combination of narrative, live action and animation we are able to tell Pink's story to even greater effect than was possible in concert.

A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF THE STORY

Our hero is a war baby. His father was killed in action before they met. His mother devoted herself to him in a suffocating way. He attends a school that subjugates the children rather than educating them. His response to these alienating experiences is to start to build a defensive wall around his feeling to shelter them from further hurt.

He leaves school already feeling isolated from other people and joins a rock band. Being in a band gives him a feeling of power which he equates with invulnerability. As he is a fatherless child he needs a woman to vest him with authority so he marries his childhood sweetheart because she is conveniently available.

He devotes himself to rock and roll, attracted by the "money and fame" which insulate him against his nagging feelings of seperation, not only from his wife and friends, but also from himself. This is a life of diminishing returns. Like an addict with his junk, Pink needs bigger fixes of applause. As the bands success grows, the tours get longer and Pink is at home less and less. The shit hits the fan when, with Pink away on his zillionth tour of the States, his wife falls in love with another man.

Stripped of his authority, Pink cracks up and incarcerates himself in a hotel room with a handful of pills and a groupie. In a rage he smashes up the room and frightens the girl away. Alone now and drugged with only the TV for company, he starts to see himself as an unfeeling demagogue, for whom all that is left is the exercise of power.

By chance an old war movie comes on to the TV and in his deranged state, Pink conjures up a chorus of service men and women with whom he sings to help purge himself of his guilty feelings. His manager, concerned with the forthcoming show brings a doctor to the hotel. Pink incorporates the doctor into his hallucination. The doctor straightens him out enough to get him downstairs and into the limousine which will take him to the show.

Pink, still hallucinating wildly, imagines himself the leader of an immense neo-fascist rally. As the rally reaches its climax, Pink suddenly realises he has become an ally to the very forces of tyranny which killed his own father. This proves too much for the core of human feeling within him and he rebels.

The internal self-trial which follows, illustrated in animation, provides the climax to the story and the film. The judgement that he makes is that he must "tear down the wall" before his isolation leads him to the moral decay of his recent vision.

The presentation [below] is a visual aid to understanding both how the film will be made, and how it will look when finished. Of the drawings that follow, some are stills from animation already completed but the majority are impressions of live action selected from the script. Alongside the drawings are presented the lyrics of the songs which carry the story line as the film is largely mute; and short extracts from the script as clarification. This presentation should be read as an adjunct to the script itself.


"OVERTURE"

The Anzio bridgehead in the winter of 1944. In a sandy scrubland a few miles from the beach a platoon of Royal Fusiliers is dug in, in a forward position. It is dawn, and very cold - in a hollow a corporal is brewing tea over a petrol fire. The platoon has been waiting all night... a bird sings. The faint rumbling and squeaking of approaching armour is heard, the bird stops singing, the corporal kills the fire with a handful of sand.

"IN THE FLESH"

A Stuka dive bomber appears in the sky and approaches. At the end of its dive - just before the bomb hits the ground - the platoon commander, a second lieutenant, hurls himself towards the field telephone. His final movement is frozen and we hear on the soundtrack a baby crying as the screen fades to black.

"THE THIN ICE"

Out of the blackness the Pink Floyd stage set-up appears in wide wide shot to establish the scale of the staging and the beginnings of the wall growing at the sides.

"ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL"

Young Pink now aged 4, has been taken to a playground by his mother. She sits apart, seperated from him by iron railings, knitting, while he ventures alone into the playground. The playground contains swings, a roundabout and some slides. There are other children, some of whom are playing with their fathers, who are either still in uniform or ill-fitting demob suits, obviously just out of the services. Young Pink is extremely jealous of these other children whose fathers have come home and attempts to join in the play between one particular father and his son. He starts asking the father to lift him up onto the swings and help him up onto the slides. He follows the father and son round the playground. After a while this stranger becomes irritated by this invasion upon this relationship with his own child, and makes it clear that little Pink is not welcome. Pink goes off alone. He just manages to climb onto one of the swings, but without help from an adult he can't make it go, and rocks impotently backwards and forward. His mother, who has seen his unsuccessful attempts to adopt the stranger, tries to help, but brushing her aside angrily, he leaves the swing and goes to a roundabout grabbing one of the bars and pushes it round, faster and faster, the tears welling up in his eyes.

"THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES"

Pink, now 7, and two other small boys are throwing apple cores and stones from a bridge at a goods train passing through a cutting. The cutting runs through a town and the sides are overgrown banks retained by engineering brick walls, blackened and grimed by the soot of passing steam engines. Egged on by his friends, Pink descends the embankment to put a penny on the line (the idea being the penny is dramatically squashed by the first passing steam engine). A train approaches and passes over the penny. Pink has to flatten himself against the side of the tunnel, where he has been hiding whilst waiting for the train. The train passes in a great roar. In the aftermath of swirling steam and smoke we hear the school teacher shout "You - yes you - stand still laddie", and see the grotesque figure of the school master puppet back lit at the other end of the tunnel.

In the moment Pink hears the dreaded voice and turns towards it, we glipse his face, transformed into a round pink mask, his fear expressed by amorphous black shapes representing the wide eye and slack jaw of terror.

"ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART 2"

The teacher puppet has now arrived very close to Roger who sings the first few lines of "The Happiest Days". After the line "hurt the children any way they could", we use animation of the teacher forcing children into a mincing machine built in the shape of a school. The children emerge as worms.

"MOTHER"

A phone rings incessantly on a bedside table. There are some figures, out of focus, in the background of this shot under a blanket, but they do not answer the phone. On the bedside table, beside the phone, is a copy of "Time Out", an empty wine glass and a gold ring. The song "Mother" will be shot simply as a stage performance using to its full advantage the inflatable of the mother. A new inflatable device, an extension of the mothers puppet arms, will expand towards the end of the song, to completely wall Roger in by the line, "Mother did it need to be so high".

"GOODBYE BLUE SKY" (Animation sequence)

A tree, which is also a human forearm and hand, grows, in a decaying landscape. A skylark sings, a dove flies out of the tree up into the clear blue sky, a vapour trail creeps overhead. "Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky". The sky darkens, we approach the tree, it's rotten inside. On "Did you see the frightened ones" a Germanic eagle bursts bloodily from within the dove and menaces the land. The eagle turns into a bomber, which makes a kamikaze attack on the tree, killing it. The wreckage of the plane metamorphoses into an animal skeleton, decays and bleaches in the brightening light. The war is over. A new healthy tree springs up. It unfurls and flexes its fingers, feeling the air. In the distance the wall of post war, reindustrialisation, grows. It overshadows the tree of human feelings and crushes it beneath the weight of its inexorable cycle of production and consumption. Trapped within it human cogs climb the walls of a high rise prison. There is an atmosphere of rancour and despair. In the gloom beneath the wall, beyond the reach of the TV's thin flicker, two flowers of repressed sexuality sink their roots into the barren ground.

"EMPTY SPACES"

A rose and a lilly grow and blossom, they are attracted to each other and caress. They make love, but the force of their passion turns to violence. They fight, break away and form themselves into an Art Nouveau picture frame. A wedding photo of Pink and his wife appears in the frame, the figures metamorphose, Pink turns into an ineffectual pink puppet and his wife into the characature from the Trial scene. These two figures then re-emerge as the rose and the lilly. The conflict continues, triggered by the list of diversions, and finishes with the female flower consuming the male one, she then turns into a pterodactyl which flies away over the wall of consumption, prejudice and obsession.

"YOUNG LUST"

At the bottom of the ramp leading to the back of the building two teenage girls, in heavy make up, stamp their feet in the cold, outside steel roller shutters. A cadillac sways down the ramp flashing its headlights, the girls smile into the glare. They try to see who's in the car. It sweeps on into the lit backstage area. There is a security guard in a booth just inside the doors, he beckons the girls up to his booth, and starts to chat them up. One of them goes into the booth, and the other one leans on the wall outside. The first girl disappears below the sill of the guard's booth. He goes a bit glassy eyed for a while, then he picks up a phone and grins into it, winking at the girls. A roadie arrives, grinning. He peels two back stage passes off a wad he carries, done up with an elastic band. He gives them to the girls who follow him into the backstage area. The roadie leads the girls through an area with several parked tractor-trailers and piles of equipment up some steps, and drawing aside a curtain gives them a brief glimpse of Pink Floyd performing Young Lust on stage. The first roadie shrugging his apologies leads them back the way they've come, to the backstage area and shows them up the steps to the side door of one of the trailers. As they go in, a bucket of ice and water, which has been set up as a booby trap over the door, cascades down onto the first girl. There are several other roadies in the trailer who crack up, and turn away in embarrasment, this practical joke was not intended for the girls. The wet girls anger is soon dissipated in the jolly atmosphere and she accepts a drink. The interior of the trailer is a scaled down version of the room in which the group entertain, it has a small bar and a TV, and several easy chairs. The wet girl pulls at her soaking dress, the roadies slyly ogle her. She responds by slowly stripping. As Young Lust nears it's end, redressed she is smuggled by the giggling roadies into the back of one of the limos, waiting in a line to take the band back to their hotel.

"ONE OF MY TURNS"

It is a lavish but phoney American penthouse suite, bedroom, drawing room and bathroom. The door opens; silhouetted against a glare of light from the corrider is the girl from backstage. She enters and explores the suite making her speech. Pink enters, unseen, behind her, and switches on the TV. As the vocal of the song starts we switch from watching her to watching him. He sits in a chair singing the song and the camera moves slowly round him watching the performance from all sides in very stark lighting. From the words "run to the bedroom" on, we see his violence expressed in her fear and her reaction. The camera follows him manically following her round the suite smashing things up. She is terrified. Towards the end of the sequence there will be one shot of the pink mask distorted into a hideous howling contortion of rage. The final shot will be this image mixed with an exterior shot of the television set flying out through the window, and in slow motion falling towards the pavement, where it smashes.

"DON'T LEAVE ME NOW"

We cut back to the hotel room with Pink still slumped in his chair and using the back projection technique, mix from the final shot of his wife in orgasm and go to a series of still drawings depicting painful areas of Pink's experience, particularly the pain of his relationship with his wife. As this scene continues we steadily pull back until Pink, slumped in his chair, is tiny in the face of these ghastly images from his past.

"ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART 3"

"Don't think I need anything..." The wife and lover orgasm again and again.

"GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD"

The final brick is placed in the wall and Pink's isolation is now complete.

"HEY YOU"

Before the introduction of "Hey You" starts we see the band, the promoter, the manager and all the hangers-on backstage indulging themselves in a sumptuous buffet, caviare, champagne et al. In an office backstage someone is counting money, stuffing notes into a black briefcase with a combination lock. Between mouthfulls of caviare, Roger looks at his watch, nods to the doorway to a waiter who is quivering with anticipation. The waiter approaches carrying a remote control button on a silver tray.

"IN THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE"

The hotel room in the wall at the concert slowly opens. Strapped to a chair, watching the TV is the dummy of Pink. The camera will at first only see his back view, but slowly we shall travel around to the front of the figure, where the dummy face of Pink slowly decays with intercuts of the audience looking on, its hands swell to enormous proportions.

"NOBODY HOME"

Roger now sits in the chair in which we previously saw the decaying figure of Pink. He sings "Nobody Home" with the light of the same television flickering on his face. He begins the song in the very tight close-up, but as the camera pulls back we see that the chair he is sitting in, and his standard lamp, are in a desolate waste land. This waste land contains stunted trees, twisted metal and barbed wire. The back of the set will be used to project Gerry Scarfe's drawings, expressing Pink's alienation. Towards the end of this song we will back project a TV screening part of "The Battle Of Britain" movie. There will be swirling smoke and mists, to give us the opportunity of cutting to our next scene.

"VERA"

Young Pink looks through the railings giving onto the railway platform. A train arrives and squeals to a stop with clouds of steam and smoke. Doors are flung open and men in uniform descend. They are greeted by their families. Pink is looking for his father. He runs up to one man, who has his back towards him, the man turns around. It is not his father. The men have gone, young Pink is alone on the platform. There is a poster advertising Vera Lynn on the station wall.

"BRING THE BOYS BACK HOME"

The camera moves to the beat of the drum, past service men and women in World War 2 dress. As we pan along the rows and pull out we see that we are in a similar landscape to the one described in "Nobody Home". The swirling mists, twisted metal and barbed wire.

"COMFORTABLY NUMB"

As the car doors lock automatically, the dummy, Pink feels trapped, and starts to react. His hands swell to enormous proportions filling the rear of the car. He twists and turns from one window to another, seeking the way out, but is confronted on all sides by nightmare spectres from his past. Bits of his massive pink exterior begin to peel away. His mother grabs his hand, and the surface of the arm comes away in one piece, like a ladies evening glove, to reveal a black shirt and armband underneath. In flashback, the dummy is subjected to violence - cuffed by the schoolmaster, scratched and spat upon by the wife, kneed in the balls by anonymous people on tube trains.

"THE SHOW MUST GO ON"

Preceded by security guards, Pink strides purposely through the stark corridors and tunnels towards the stage, his ankle-length coat billowing, cloak like, behind him. Guards stand to attention as the entourage passes them. Through an open door we see the room with the buffet we have seen before. Finally they reach double doors, at the end of a corridor, which are flung open.

"IN THE FLESH"

We see a stage, set like a political rally. Arranged on rising terraces behind a central podium, of chorus of robed figures chant the last line of "The Show Must Go On"; they are dressed in long robes. The set should look like an unholy marriage between Nurenburg in 1936, Red Square on May Day, and a Ku Klux Klan meeting. The stage is festooned with "crossed hammer banners".

"RUN LIKE HELL"

Between "In The Flesh" and "Run Like Hell" the audience shout "Pink Floyd - Pink Floyd!" in unison, whilst clapping their hands over their heads. As "Run Like Hell" starts, the audience and the chorus on stage go into a disco routine. They are now all wearing identical masks. Occasionally a mask slips, revealing a hippy or a black who is taken away. Some are removed for simply having different masks.

"WAITING FOR THE WORMS"

Columns of guards march into the arena and line the aisles. The audience now chant "Hammer - Hammer!" A row of torches burst into flame along the top of the wall on the first note of the song.

"STOP"

"THE TRIAL"

The prosecuting council delivers his indictment in the manner of a music hall fop, but behind his foppish manner his teeth are sharp. He performs on the stage of worms, behind footlights. As he finishes his gown turns into vampire wings, and he flies up, alighting the top of the wall, to call his first witness the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster, portrayed as a marionette, is dropped over the wall by his gross wife. He gives his evidence, and at the finish metamorphoses into a hammer. Appearing, snakelike, from a crevice in the wall, the wife spits out her attack on the passive Pink. She turns into a scorpion, and stings him, and then adopting a more human form she picks him up and wears him like a stole. He slips to the ground as she, her hair bursting into flame in her fury, asks the judge to give him to her to punish. The Mother erupts from the wall, like a bursting boil. She flies, dive bomber like, to Pink's rescue. Metamorphosing into a pair of giant lips, she sucks him up, and via the form of a large cushion, turns into herself, cuddling him in her arms. As she finishes her plea, her arms turn into a hug wall. The worm judge rears up over Pink and rants at him. We see that he is a huge asshole on legs wearing a judges wig. Walking ponderously backwards, he approaches Pink, who is now walled in so tightly that he lies at the bottom of a cylinder formed by the wall, which completely surrounds him. But there is no escape from his own conclusions about himself. The judge squats on the cylinder and shits images of his past life on him, whilst screaming at him to tear down the wall. The chanting of "Tear down the wall!" reaches a crescendo, and the walls start to fall. The wall of cardboard bricks in the real gig falls, the stadium in the animation falls, the masks of the followers crack and crumble. The stage in the rally cracks and breaks up. There is a lot of dust and smoke.

"OUTSIDE THE WALL"



Above, we detail the original concept of the film of The Wall, as told by an extremely rare book. The following article, by Stamford Thompson, gives some background relating to the book, and is a fascinating look at the genesis of the project...


It was during a visit to London in 1983 whilst trying to buy concert posters for my fledgling poster business that I found myself rummaging around in a dusty East End warehouse, the fifth floor of which was being rented for storage by a local printer. I had been taken there to, hopefully, find some unused concert posters from live rock events staged in England’s capital city for which I had a ready market in my home area some 250 miles north of London. But what I found was something completely unexpected and much more exciting to a teenage Pink Floyd fanatic.

In a dark and dusty corner of this crumbling Victorian pile, I almost literally stumbled over some Gerald Scarfe prints of his artwork for the movie "The Wall". On closer investigation they turned out to be the pages of some sort of book. The pages were in piles, just as they had come off the press. They had not even been collated yet. I asked what they were all about and was told the outline of the following story. You can imagine that I could hardly believe my ears and eyes.

Back in 1971, Pink Floyd first approached Gerald Scarfe (one of England’s most celebrated cartoon artists) to produce some animated films for their live concerts but it took nearly four years of talks and persuasion before he finally agreed to the idea sometime in 1974. He did some work on "Wish You Were Here" for the tour program as well as an animated film to accompany their live performances of "Welcome To the Machine" in 1975.

The album "The Wall", released in 1979 was followed by the hugely successful tour in 1980 and became the best selling double album of the decade before that year was out. From its inception, Roger Waters had seen this work being produced in all forms of media: album, concert, movie and musical theatre. All Earls Court concerts in 1980 and 1981 were filmed, but more notably the 1981 UK shows - from which clips of the band were going to be included in the evolving movie.

Roger's concept had already been turned down by EMI in November 1980 who said, in light of all the rock operas which, when converted to the big screen from the West End theatres, had flopped as overblown, egotistical disasters, "This is something we can’t do right now". He then hooked up with director Alan Parker who, although very busy with "Shoot the Moon", agreed to help out where he could in finding another backer.

In February 1981 Scarfe produced a storyboard book which included stills from his animation, live band shots from the June 1981 London shows, accompanying lyrics and excerpts from his script that would be used to illustrate the film concept and storyline to potential investors.

In the meantime, Alan Parker made a few unsuccessful calls to his contacts in the film industry looking for support, and was already suggesting a change in cast. Roger had obviously seen himself as the big star of the film, but Parker rejected all the live band footage as "a total disaster - five chances all muffed" and broke it to Waters that as an actor he was completely inept. Roger also had to reluctantly agree that any live footage of the band would be too confusing when mixed with the animation sequences and the live action.

Thus the whole band were squeezed out of the film. It was shortly after this, and with Bob Geldof cast in the leading roll of "Pink", that MGM Studios stepped in to back the project.

MGM's surprise move made the storyboard book, over which Scarfe, Parker and Waters had sweated and battled for weeks on end in Cheyne Walk, completely redundant. The storyboard had been printed and twenty or so sets of pages were distributed to the band members, Harvey Goldsmith, Steve O’Rourke and other interested parties with a view to a meeting at which they would have selected which pages were to be included in the final presentation to potential investors. But, because MGM stepped in with the money (albeit underwritten by the band) this meeting never took place and the pages of this work lay gathering dust on the floor of the printer's warehouse.

The last minute frenzy by Waters and Scarfe to see, in person, the pages coming off the press were evidenced by some signed tour books and a poster which had been lovingly framed by the proud printer and had been hung on the humble walls of the old warehouse - the sight of which had seemed so strange to me at the time.

The books, which are complete, but not spiral bound, start with two alternative title pages, a listing of the stars (Pink Floyd), the producers (Waters and Parker) and the directors Scarfe and Serensin (Serensin later dropped out of the project). The next page is an introduction to the character "Pink", a brief synopsis of the story and this note:

    "This presentation is a visual aid to understanding both how the film will be made and how it will look when finished. Of the drawings that follow some are stills from animation already completed but the majority are impressions of live action selected from the script. Alongside the drawings are presented the lyrics of the song which carry the story line as the film is largely mute; and short extracts from the script as clarification. This presentation should be read as an adjunct to the script itself."

To follow are around seventy pages which include 17 live band shots, complete lyrics to all the songs, and 29 excerpts from the script. The storyboard is illustrated by 50 of Gerald Scarfe’s drawings. The final page shows the demolished wall at a live concert as the milling crowd disperse from the stadium.

What is so unique about this volume is that it shows the band starring in the film, which was, of course, not the final outcome. It also includes some previously unseen artwork by Gerald Scarfe which was never included in the film nor in any subsequent publication. There are also some duplicate pages which offer alternatives for certain scenes or simply offer alternative presentations of the same image.

In one sketch, Harvey Goldsmith (England’s premier concert promoter) and Steve O’Rourke (the band manager) are illustrated as characters in the story, but Goldsmith was thought to have found his caricatured features too unflattering and asked for them to be removed. The following page shows precisely the same scene with the two of them airbrushed out.

The previously unseen artwork incudes a sketch done by Scarfe at the February 1981 Dortmund concert of the bomber flying down across the stadium towards the stage; a banquet scene which was never included in the movie; a menacing sketch of "Pink" as the dictator, his exaggerated coat ballooning into wings (this sketch clearly has Roger’s facial features); and a double spread of the rally at which "Pink", the great orator, indoctrinates the adoring masses. One of the most sensitive sketches is one of the weary soldiers and airmen dragging their tired feet away from the battlefield. There are also two alternative animation sketches for the railway station sequence which was eventually filmed as live action.

It was not a publication for commercial release. It was produced as a selling tool to potential investors and was not for public view. Just under one hundred were printed and, as stated before, were never even circulated. They were produced in full colour on A3 (16"x 12") card stock and the surviving copies, of which there are only about sixty, are all that remain of the early struggle to get this historic work off the ground.

As a piece of Pink Floyd and movie memorabilia, this presentation is a unique snapshot of a project in progress. It recaptures all those endless weeks of creative wranglings at the premises in Cheyne Walk in London when all the drawings and the writing of the 39 page script resulted in the production of a lavish, oversized full colour storyboard. I can almost place myself there as a fly on the wall to the proceedings.

In leafing through the mesmerizing pages of this storyboard, I get a sense of all those struggles, and the characters of the three huge egos which formed this masterpiece is reflected in each powerful image.

 
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