Karel Zeman Museum

Meet the master of special effects from 1950s science-fiction films.

Czech film director Karel Zeman (November 1910 – April 1989) was a master of deceit. By mixing animation with live-action footage, he created some of the most unique special effects and science fiction films of all time.

Zeman started his career producing satirical cartoons, short films and even an animated TV soap ad. It wasn’t until 1955, however, that Zeman started working on the feature-length films that would define his career. The first of those films was Cesta do pravěku or Journey to the Beginning of Time, a fantastic story inspired by Jules Verne‘s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Zeman used 2-D and 3-D models, as well as stop-motion and miniature models of some of the boats and even the actors. He also designed large models of dinosaurs and life-size models of giant trees and plants.

photo courtesy of Karel Zeman Museum

Zeman experimented with other techniques in later films. For example, he used hand-drawn stop motion and cutout animation to produce Ukradená vzducholod (The Stolen Airship), also based on Jules Verne’s books. 

photo courtesy of Karel Zeman Museum
photo courtesy of Karel Zeman Museum

Zeman’s museum in Prague is a magical place where you can find many original props, miniature objects and photographs taken during the filming of the movies. There are also plenty of opportunities for trick photography, where you can become part of the action by placing yourself into a cutout or small stage. Jump on for a ride on a flying machine, take over the controls of the submarine from The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, or try out some of the many sound and visual effect exhibits.

photo courtesy of Karel Zeman Museum
photo courtesy of Karel Zeman Museum