August 14, 2007

Oopsy Does It!

(Okay, a bit of a long wordy post here... with pictures. May take a little while to load. Sorry.)

About a year ago, as I was just finishing up at Disney on Kim Possible, I got a call from my agent to see if I was available to "punch up" a script. I was reluctant since I was really looking forward to having some down-time to work on some of my own projects -- but it's hard to turn down work. So I took the meeting.

The script was for a new Care Bears movie and SD Entertainment (who was producing the film) wanted me to do a general punch up on the story. Trouble is, I don't generally write for the pre-school age group and I knew nothing about the Care Bears other than that their plush forms are in toy stores and their ever-smiling mugs are on everything from greeting cards to bed sheets.

The Care Bears as plush, blankets, bedding and kickin' it Broadway style!
Too much sweetness... can't go on... must look away...

So, I read the script, and I have to say that it was... um...

Ach! Heinrich this trip has been a flaming success! need of a lot of work.

I'm by no means a great writer, but from what I could tell it needed more than a "punch-up". There was no time to start over with it, so I had about a week to rework the entire thing, however I had to keep their original story. So I scrambled through a draft as fast as I could, and despite my lack of knowledge with the Care Bears and their world (I got their genders all messed up -- yes, Care Bears do have different genders - don't think about that too much though) SD and American Greetings (who owns the Care Bears) were happy with my draft. So it moved forward and on into production. That was a year ago.

Flash forward to August 4th - the Care Bears film "Oopys Does it" is released in selected theatres across the US. Well, any chance to see something you've written on the big screen is an event, so Emily and I picked a Saturday to see it.

Oh, if it were only that easy...

As I said, Care Bears was playing in only select theatres. So we had to sniff it out and see where it was playing. And the closest location to me was out in Rancho Cucamonga (about a 50 mile drive from my house in the Valley). It was showing at 10:30 in morning, so we got to the theatre at about 10am.

There were plenty of kids and their parents headed toward the theatre when we got there. Emily wanted to get a picture of me next to the poster for the movie. Trouble was... there was no poster for Care Bears outside the theatre... nor any mention of it on the marquee... not even any sort of sign or leaflet posted in the ticket booth!

When I inquired about Care Bears to the person in the ticket booth, they knew nothing about it. Emily insisted that they'd advertised it the paper. So the booth person asked around and eventually came back and said that "yes" they were showing "Care Bears". I bought two tickets. And then Emily noticed a stack of post-card sized fliers tucked off to the side in the ticket booth and asked the booth person for a bunch of them. This person seemed utterly astonished to see the fliers, as if he'd never before seen bits of paper stacked in such a fashion. He gave us a two of them. I guess that constitutes "a bunch".

One of the fliers, nearly actual size.
Try to read my name in the
credits at the bottom, I dare you!

So everything seemed on track. We had our ticket... well, it was really more of a receipt. It even said so at the top. I should have suspected trouble when instead of a ticket you get something that looks like you'd find at the bottom of a grocery bag.

Hey, where's my double coupon discount?

So, with receipt in hand we headed into the lobby. I showed my "ticket" to the girl taking tickets and she seemed utterly baffled. "Care Bears? We're showing Care Bears?" She looked at me as if I'd just grown a third eye and winked at her. So before letting us in, she had to ask around to find out which theatre the movie was showing -- eventually we were told to go to theatre four. Whew!

Well, the tough part's over. All we have to do is get to our seats and watch the movie. And we had our pick of any seat we wanted, because theatre four was completely EMPTY!

Please sir. No standing in the aisle before the movie.

Even though we'd seen a steady stream of kids and their parents entering the theatre, none of them were coming to see Oopsy Does it. Which makes perfect sense considering that the theatre didn't seem to even know that they were showing the film themselves.

So we took the prime seats in the middle. A few minutes later, a young mother with her little boy came in and sat down. So now there were four of us!

The previews started. I was actually getting a little excited about seeing the completed film - and on the big screen no less! The previews weren't really what I would consider appropriate for a young, G Rated audience before a film with pre-school sensibilities... but they were all trailers I'd seen on TV. Oh well, the theatre must show the same trailers in each of their theatres... must be automated or so I figured.

And then... IT happened.


What we all thought was just another movie trailer turned out to not be. It was the film Hot Rod and it was just starting. Within the first 30 seconds the words "ass" and "shit" tumbled out from the speakers, which prompted the mother to jump up, scramble to grab her little boy and get out of the theatre fast.

At this point I couldn't help but be amused at how incompetent this theatre had been, and I was pretty much ready to give up trying to see the movie. But Emily marched out into the lobby and she and the mother tracked down a manager. Apparently the theatre didn't realise anyone was there to see the Care Bears movie. But they agreed to stop Hot Rod, and start up Oopsy Does It.

And so... a few minutes later the movie began.

Look! I got top billing!

With the movie rolling finally, we settle in to watch it. Oopsy Does It is a 3-D CGI feature. It's not Pixar, but it looks really nice. MUCH better than I had anticipated. The animation is really good, the designs are bright and soft. Everything looks like cotton candy. The story gets a little wonky in a couple of spots, but overall it holds together fairly well as a sweet film for the little ones. It be a nice DVD gift for the holidays.

And then IT happened again! (okay, not the same "it" but a different "it).

In the middle of the movie, all the lights came on in the theatre. The movie kept rolling, but the lights remained on. This lasted for about 6 or 8 minutes, and then FWOMP, the lights suddenly went out again. Emily and I just shook our heads at how crappy this movie going experience has been.

Now I remember why I hate going to the theatre!

The movie ends. It was fun, despite all the difficulties, I really liked getting to see it on the screen. I wish there'd been an audience to see it with. The one little boy with his mother seemed to enjoy it. He did appear to get a little frightened when the villain, Grizzle captures a couple of the bears (Oopsy and Cheer). Which made me happy. Not that he was frightened, but that he a reaction to the film. Okay, maybe I was a little happy he was frightened, he probably deserved it.

After the movie there was time for a little Q & A with the audience.

Yes, you there in the green... you have your hand up.

No. I was just stretching. And DON'T POINT AT ME!

I let my production studio and American Greetings know how much trouble it'd been to try to watch the film. They were glad I was able to pass along the info, but not at all happy to hear about our experience.

I've got no pithy or clever way to end this post, so I'll just throw in a plug for what I'm currently working on:

I continue to story edit and write on the 2-D animated Care Bears series that will be on CBS this fall.

2-D Care Bears

And then after this I've been contracted to write another 3-D Care Bears feature. But this time I won't be heading out to Rancho Cucamonga to see it when it's completed.

August 6, 2007

Comiconsequences and Batman Belts

Comicon sucks. There, I said it. But having said it, that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy Comicon (at least on some level). It just happens to be a rushed, crowded, sweaty, and frustrating ordeal each July.

Me and a biiiiiiig comic fan, who paved
a path for me into the con.

Every year a couple hundred thousand people from all over the world descend on San Diego for this uber-geek-fest of pop media. And I have to admit I get swept up in all the "gee-whiz, wow, that is so cool", vibe as much as anyone.

Is this the line to the bathroom?

I am NOT a comic book aficionado. Not even close. I'm ashamed to admit that I have a barely functioning knowledge of comics. Oh, I know the major comic characters, and I'm a huge fan of anything Alan Moore's written. But I'm soooooo out of the loop, especially in this - the super bowl of comic book information and memorabilia. I have to say, it's just overwhelming, and more than one day on the trade floor and I reach information overload.

I don't care if you ARE a Sith-Lord, use the Force to learn some hygiene.

Working in the animation world requires that I keep a functioning knowledge of what's going on in this industry. Comicon is not just about comic books, it's about art, animation, movies, TV shows, novels, posters, video games, toys, and anything else that can be attached to a broadcast or print property - especially if it's sci-fi, superhero, or horror. If it's in print, on TV, or in the movies it's probably represented here in some fashion.

I need to get back into reading comics, there's some really cool stuff happening, and I'm way out of the loop. It's just that it takes a $30 to $50 a week commitment to stay even moderately current buying what comes out each week.

My earliest geek connection to all this stuff had to be the old campy Batman TV series with Adam West. I wasn't even in grade-school yet, but it was one of my favorite TV shows. And my most prized possession at that time was my very own Batman Utility Belt.

Kid's love guns & bats, why not both together?!

Even as a kid, it always bothered me that my Batbelt came with a pistol (dart gun, if I recall) - because Batman never carried a gun. At the time this toy came out (1966 or so) it cost about $5. Me being just a little tyke and unable to understand the cost of things, a Batbelt became a unit of cash in my mind. I would ask my Dad how much certain things cost and he'd tell me, "that's about three batman belts" or whatever was appropriate. So this was my earliest recollection of learning the "value" of something.

But if I'd really learned anything about "value" I would have saved my damn Batbelt... the picture above is from a recent toy auction where that sucker sold for over 8 grand! That's more than 1,600 Batman belts.

As I grew older I discovered comic books. At the time - the early to mid 70's - I latched onto some of the basic characters: Batman (of course), Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and Superman, and many one-shot forgettable wannabe superheroes who never lasted.

But Batman remained my overall favorite. I guess what I liked was that Batman was a superhero who had no "super" abilities, other than his above-normal physical strength, his great agility, and his superb detective reasoning. The dark cape and creepy bat cowl didn't hurt either I suppose.

Fortunately I never saw THIS issue of Detective Comics. I'm pretty sure it would have turned me away from the Kilted-Crusader once and for all. I found this image online... and it just sends chills through my bones at how bad this looks.

Quick Robin, to the Haggis mobile...
And stop looking at my baterang!

And so that is was my start with comic books. Then I fell out of touch with them, but then around 1986 it was Alan Moore and Frank Miller who drew me back in, with Moore's Watchmen and Millers' re-imagining of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns.

Oh man is this some good stuff here!
Blood & lightning, how can you go wrong?

And understand, that all my comic references are painfully pedestrian to anyone who really reads comics. I was, and am, just a "tourist". However from the 80's on I would drift in and out of the comic book world. Much like I was drifting in and out of booths and panels at Comicon.

Wandering around the Convention Center at Comicon is somewhat daunting, especially since so much of what I see I have no connection with - but would really like to. There's just too much. So after awhile I just end up looking around, not at anything specific, but at this mass of geek-oid humanity. It's pretty amazing that so many people find the same stuff interesting and that it strikes such a passionate chord for some. Not unlike how die-hard sports fans are I suppose. The Comicon people are fascinating. There's all types, all shapes, all sizes, all temperaments, and a lot of them have time to come up with very impressive costumes.

And as you walk along the convention floor you never know who (or what) you'll see...

Holy crap! It's Henry Rollins!...

...and over there its... Joss Whedon!

Mr. Whedon, will you sign my lightsaber?
Um... sure, but I think you're confusing Firefly with Star--
Please don't hurt me...

I also run into plenty of people that I've worked with to like my buddy Zack Sherman

All systems are "go" for stupidity!
(Zack made me wear the helmet for the picture.)

Zack's cool, not just because he has a hairline that no human male should be allowed to have, but he also worked at ILM on all the new Star Wars films doing effects, and he wrote and published his own graphic novel Seal Team 7.

And if that wasn't enough, Zack's also directly related to this guy:

Gen. Tecumseh Sherman.
Careful, he bites.

Zack and I first met in the early 90's while we were both working our "survival jobs". We were employed at Electronic Boutique in the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square mall. Wait a second... the Sherman Oaks mall... Zack Sherman....? hmmm, that's fishy.

The first time we ever hung out was to eat coconuts and watch "Enter the Dragon". Seriously.


There are also plenty of panels and screenings to attend at the Con... it's just difficult to get into most of them due to the crowds. I was able to get into the Henson Company panel where they performed a little of their Puppet Up improv show. It's a live stage show where the performers improv skits with puppets. It's great!

Lisa and Brian Henson, looking far more
serious than they really were. Or maybe they
were just in a meeting with
Better check for bite marks.

And there's plenty of movie stuff to run into as well, like the Mark I suit from the upcoming Ironman movie.

Geez, I really need to get this thing ironed.

Comicon is after all one huge trade-show. With publishers, broadcasters, artist, and writers all exchanging info and collectors grabbing up their dogeared prizes or MIB toys that they can cherish. As for me? I was just glad I got to pester one unsuspecting costumed character...

Yo! Pikachu, check my cool coconut Kung Fu fighting moves!

And then next year, the madness all starts again.

August 1, 2007

Zladco Vladcik


The tiny Eastern European republic of Molvania was disqualified from the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Zladko “Zlad” Vladcik was to perform his very popular techno-ballad, “Elektronik – Supersonik” - described as “a melodic fusion combining hot disco rhythms with cold war rhetoric”. However, the 23-year-old singer was arrested at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport and immediately deported. While Eurovision does not normally test for recreational drugs, unfortunately for Vladcik, Turkish Customs do. On his return, “Zlad” apologised to everyone in Molvania for letting them down.


Zladko “Zlad” Vladcik rose to prominence in 2002 when he won Molvanian Idol in controversial circumstances - the other finalist, Ob Kuklop, pulled out due to a serious throat condition after one of the judges tried to strangle him. “Zlad” immediately released the megahit, “Juust Az I Amm” – hailed by Rolling Stone as the most incorrectly spelt song of all time. After barely 2 days on the Molvanian “Rhythm & Polka” charts, the track went platinum – remarkable considering it was only available on cassingle. Then, in an exciting move, “Zlad” formed supergroup Wow! But while on their very first tour, he decided to go solo again, citing the fact that the rest of the band was “moving in a different direction” (Romania).

Okay, maybe I'm a little late hearing about this guy, but here's the real info:

Zladko "Zlad!" Vladcik is a fictional character created by Australian comedian Santo Cilauro and is the unofficial mascot of the equally fictional nation of Molvanîa.

Even if this is all faked, a la "Borat", it's still pretty funny. And not too far off from a lot of videos from the 80's.