September 28, 2006 22:43Lock Up Your Daughters
As if Pucca weren't enough of a phenomenon already, she's now in the process of invading Europe faster than Hitler on amphetamines. The original flash animation shorts have been available online for years now, but the new episodes we've been producing for Jetix are starting to crop up on Youtube. The first cartoons I caught were in Dutch, but I guess it's now airing in the U.K. because the latest ones to appear have all been in English. Among them is my Elan-nominated Treasure of the Comfy Sofa, making it only the second episode of something I wrote deemed worthy of piracy on the web (the zombie-nerd episode of Fries With That? popped my cherry two years ago).
This also marks the first time something I wrote has been censored by a broadcaster. A two-second nunchuck-to-the-head gag was snipped out, which is perfectly reasonable. In a cartoon series that encourages little pre-pubescent girls to be sexually aggressive and kick the shit out of anyone who gets in their way, the last thing you want to do is depict someone getting hit in the head in a slightly different fashion than all the other characters who get knocked in the head five thousand times per episode.
I'm hoping that sometime in the future we can look forward to a special-uncut-unrated-director's-extreme-restored-version-you've-never-seen-edition of Pucca on DVD that will feature all available footage and help warp your children even faster.
Other clips from the new Pucca TV series have also slipped out, including the Jetix promo that's currently on their top page, and this cool demo reel from Tony Cliff who worked on a couple of my episodes as animation supervisor. The infectious theme song is also worming its way into popular culture, and although some bands have expressed interest in covering it, the only covers I've seen so far are the kind that will get you beaten up by your classmates Monday morning at school.
For those of you who want to sing along, the lyrics to Plus-Tech Squeeze Box's insidious tune are:
Pucca loves Garu
He's a pretty boy
Ninjas eat noodles
Kissy chase, kissy face
Wham bam bam!
Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu
Pucca funny love.
Cole Porter would be proud.
Portuguese girls sport their Korean merchandise in Scotland.
It's the global village gone mad! Photo by Kirsten Newlands.
September 27, 2006 16:41Defeat Is Mine!
I know you're in terrible suspense, so I'll tell you what you've all been dying to know right off the top:
Yes. Watching The Shatner read off a teleprompter was every bit the transcendent experience I always knew it would be.
The evening began with me putting on a tuxedo for the first time in my life. I think most guys who put on a tuxedo for the first time get just a little excited thinking, "I'm totally going to look like James Bond." And it's true. When I looked in the mirror, I totally looked like Paul Giamatti as James Bond. Which, I'll admit, is a poor piece of casting, only slightly less disappointing than Daniel Craig as James Bond.
The official Studio B group left from the production offices in two stretch-limo SUVs, thirteen to a car. The disco lighting inside added enormously to the feeling of luxuriant high-class, and for a moment I knew just what it felt like to be a hip-hop producer on my way to an east-coast/west-coast nightclub shooting with all my bitches and hoes in tow.
Of course, if you're going to travel in a stretch-limo SUV that gets three blocks per gallon and sports lighting effects that make it look like the last Pink Floyd concert, there's only one appropriate destination to be heading to – a big-ass casino. That's where they were giving out the Elans, and the venue did not disappoint. To show solidarity with the film community, the place had numerous movie-related props and signed posters on display. Thematically, most of them tied in with the whole casino motif by having movies like…well…Casino in evidence. Oh, and Reindeer Games. You gotta have at least one Santa suit with a gaping shotgun wound from Reindeer Games. But they didn't limit the movie tie-ins to simply gambling-related productions. The entire spectrum of organized crime was celebrated, so no one, not even the loan sharks or the kneecappers, felt left out.
The Shatner made an early appearance at the pre-party, talking to television reporters about important issues like the 40th anniversary of Star Trek and the fact that he's been stuck talking about goddamn Star Trek for 40 years now. Being the host, he was dressed for the occasion. The official word from the awards organizers had been, "dress for a black-tie Oscar-calibre event." Being an awards show for animation and video game production, I had expressed concern that writers and animators and game designers could barely be trusted to not eat with their feet, let alone hose themselves off and dress up for a capital-E Event. Most of them managed it, though. But there were a few notable exceptions, including the first winner of the evening who opted to come dressed as an unemployed lumberjack.
This was the sort of awards ceremony where they seat you at big round tables and serve you a meal while the show is underway. And let me tell you, nothing helps your appetite along like knowing you might have to get up in mid-bite to stand on stage and address seven hundred people, about as many digital cameras, and a couple of videographers taping for TV filler.
I knew the moment of truth had arrived when I saw a clip from my nominated cartoon for the first time. I hadn't seen any of it yet. The fact that the clip got a laugh from the audience was encouraging. And then the celebrity presenters – either Ginger from Ginger Snaps or Smoking Man from X-Files, I was too out of it to notice which – announced that the winner was…someone other than me.
In the space of one second, two distinct thoughts pass through your head at a moment like that. The first is, "Thank God I don't have to get up and speak in front of all these people." The second is, "Fuck! I lost!"
Thankfully, even though all the nominees were Studio B people, I wasn't seated at the same table as the winner. So I didn't have to make that "Congratulations" face you see about five thousand times every Oscar night. Which is good because I'm just not as skilled at faking sincerity as, say, Martin Scorsese.
Amidst the celebrity presenters, there was one celebrity recipient. Marv Newland was given the first lifetime achievement Elan. If you don't know the name, you know his work. He was responsible for the immortal short, Bambi Meets Godzilla, back in 1969. And I'm sure, of every film he's ever worked on, he's most sick of talking about that one. The fact that not a frame of it was cut into the career retrospective that played for the audience seems to back me up on this. I'll bet you a decent sum of money that he made it a condition to his accepting the award.
"Sure I'll come down, but if you even mention I had anything to do with that fucking film, you'll be presenting your trophy to an empty chair."
In the end, we must all end up hating the work we're best known for. Marv never returned to his seat at our table after making his speech. He was probably backstage with The Shatner, polishing off a bottle, and commiserating about Bambi, Godzilla and Captain Kirk.
The after party capped the evening with more desserts and booze to top off all the other booze and food and booze we'd had so far. It was around 1:00 am by the time we all piled back into our block-long pimpmobiles and drove home. Although I had a splendid time, the evening was officially deemed a non-event by The Shatner Homepage. If you look, you'll notice Thursday, September 14, 2006 is a big blank space on his official calendar. It's like it never even happened. Oh well, at least he beamed down to Earth to hang with the little people for a couple of hours.
Pucca was shut out at the 2006 awards, but the P-Team plots to kick ass next year.
Left to right: Your humble blogger, Kirsten Newlands (producer), Greg Sullivan (director), and Dallas Parker (assistant director).
September 12, 2006 02:54Solid Or Liquid
A SPECIAL 9/11 RED ALERT EDITION
Don't worry. Everything's cool. They caught me in time.
As I went through the final airport check on my way to catch AC195, our brave boys in security blue turned their eagle eyes on my x-rayed belongings and instantly spotted the most dreadful threat to liberty and democracy ever to infiltrate a piece of carry-on baggage.
Tearing it free from its packaging and exposing it to dozens of watchful security cameras, the bag checker fingered his sidearm and gravely asked:
"What is this?"
Quite a poser. I knew liquids were banned from carry-ons, but surely this was a solid. I hesitate to call it food. I was pretty sure it was benign. Nasty but benign.
The jar of Vegemite began its journey in Australia where they're still savage and backwards enough to eat this sort of thing. It was muled to Montreal by way of Hawaii. I was to take it the last step of the way, to answer the craving of a Vancouver-based Vegemite addict.
But it was not to be. The ban didn't draw the line at liquids, but extended to pastes, oils, and any otherwise goopy substances that could be employed in a midair terrorist attack or, God forbid, a damn messy food fight that might spoil the finery of the valued executive-class passengers.
Alas, the long Vegemite journey was at an end, confiscated by our front line of defense in the war on terror that has cost so many of us our breakfast spreads, and left our toasts, our bagels, our English muffins barren, alone, and without hope.
When will the madness end, Osama, you bastard? When!?
The Vegemite was carefully disposed of in a bin, not unlike a trashcan. I can only assume it was properly dealt with later, escorted onto the tarmac, and summarily executed by firing squad.
At least that's what I hope happened. I admit to a strong sense of relief as we took to the air and I watched the isle of Montreal fade into the distance. Who knows? That jar of Vegemite may be reaching critical mass as I write this.
Pray I don't return to a smouldering crater that was once my home town.
September 10, 2006 15:46The Shatners
Actually they're called "The Elans" – the Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts. To me, geek that I am, they will always be "The Shatners" because everyone's favourite madman from Montreal, Big Bill Shatner, will be hosting this black-tie event. And I'll be there, tuxedo and all, at one of the VIP tables, wolfing down a $250 plate of salmon and hoping to hear The Shatner call out my name when the "Best writing in an animated production" category rolls around.
I'm nominated for an episode of Pucca I wrote called, "Treasure of the Comfy Sofa." Since I'm only one of three nominees in the category, I figure my chances of winning are a little better than average. If only because it will be relatively easy to arrange untimely accidents for the two competing writers, thus forcing their forfeiture. I hope the days I'm spending in Vancouver leading up to the awards will afford me enough time to arrange for a tux rental, take as many work-related meetings as possible, and cut a couple of brake lines. It should be a busy schedule.
I'd be lying if I said one of my top motivations for flying out there on September 11th (always the happiest day of the year to fly) wasn't to see The Shatner in person. I'm enough of a Star Trek nerd to call myself a Trekkie, but not enough to call myself a Trekker. I grew up watching syndicated reruns and original-cast movies. It was with some measure of delight that I followed local-boy-made-good, The Shatner, as he reinvented himself decade after decade. From James T. Kirk, to T.J. Hooker, to insane fibre-eating parody of himself in breakfast cereal commercials. There's just something endearing about a celebrity who rearranges his late-period career into an artistic statement that declares, loudly and boldly, "I'm a big star and I totally don't give a fuck."
Win or lose, I'll get my The Shatner fix. And that's what's really important here. That and writing more Pucca cartoons. The show has been renewed for another thirteen episodes, and we should start milling them out in October. We'll be well into the new season by the time I find out if another episode I wrote, "The Itsy Bitsy Enemy Within," triumphed at the Bradford Animation Festival in the U.K. Yes, another nomination. I'm getting a lot of mileage out of a little Korean girl who steals kisses and kicks people in the head.