As a filmmaker, imagination may quite possibly be one of the most important things during the creation process.
In your mind, your imagination plays the fiddle. An epic story of heroics and villainy. The light of God cast on your characters. Music so sweet the Sirens themselves sang it. Visuals so stunning that Rembrandt would be impressed.
But the root of our imagination begins in our childhood. Recently on ‘The Fortress of Dorkness’, we discussed the comic series, Saga. Creator Brian K. Vaughn crafted Saga over a number of years, a result of his imagination when he was a child.
Today I’m going to speak of something that inspired my own imagination, Mattel & Filmation’s Masters of the Universe.
The Eternian adventures of the scantily clad barbaric hero, He-Man, and the villainous bone-headed wizard Skeletor, was perhaps the most important cartoon produced in the United States in the 1980’s.
On the surface, MOTU, as it’s often abbreviated, was your typical cartoon about good vs. evil. GI Joe was doing it. The Thundercats were doing it. My personal favorite, Transformers was doing it.
But when we dig a little deeper we see that Masters had something…more. Another layer down we have a story where barbarians, wizards, robots, cowboys, vampires, and a ton of other beings lived in the same universe, letting my imagination soak it all in.
A little further, and we start seeing the deep roots of the stories. Masters wasn’t just another cartoon where toys were being forced down our throats. It was threaded with a rich, fantastical tale of heroism, loss, pity, consequences, and, yes, even lust.
Look at the infamous episode ‘The Problem with Power’. Skeletor tricks The Most Powerful Man in the Universe into thinking he accidentally killed a man, causing He-Man to relinquish the power bestowed upon him. He beats himself over his own negligence, and regardless of the outcome or the circumstances, a strong lesson is learnt about the consequences of wielding such power.
Or perhaps we can look at ‘The Search’, where He-Man is overcome by the cosmic power of The Starseed, and must rise above his own temptations of destroying Skeletor. And who can forget ‘Prince Adam No More’, where Adam puts his own desire to be approved by his father above his duties.
Stories like these sparked the thought process for me, where heroes could be damned by their own actions. I learnt that you could still make a fun story about fantasy and science fiction, and retain a solid, character driven tale, with strong moral implications.
Credit has to be given to Filmation. Lou Scheimer and his team pushed the boundaries of a cartoon in a way that I, as a fan of animation, had not seen in any other cartoon of that period. Yes, other cartoons ended their episodes with a short moral snippet, but the consistency of Masters was unmatched in the western market.
To give you an idea of the impact of this cartoon, look at some of the names involved: Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Bob Forward, Haim Saban, David Wise, J. Michael Straczynski, and Larry DiTillio. These guys went on to spearhead some of the most memorable cartoons, television series, and films ever, even winning numerous awards along the way.
He-Man and The Masters of the Universe is by far one of the important pieces of media to ever be produced. Though it’s faced moderate success with its many attempts to come back, the series, comics, and the films it spawned following it may be good, but lack the soul that made the original so special.
With another film in the works, I hope that they remember the heart of what made the Filmation series so unique, and not make it another mindless action film to appeal to a ‘grittier’ audience (I myself would love to see one done with this flavor in the styling of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal).
The potential now exists to bring that same heart & soul out for the imaginations of the modern age, and hopefully, we’ll all be a little more inspired.
Check out the press release for 'The Fortress of Dorkness'! We're so happy to finally get this going. We're now nearly a month into it, and we're already in Production for month two, Pre-Pro for month three, and post for month one! We love the feedback we're receiving for the project, so please keep watching and we hope to keep entertaining you!
And remember, Never Fear The Dork Up Here!
Our new episode helps the viewer differentiate between the variety of cuts in film! It's a fun episode for the movie buff out there, so have fun! Alfred Pennyworth features too.
Enjoy the second episode of The Fort, this one is about hidden treasures scattered throughout the film, The Goonies!
I've been off the grid for a few months. I absolutely have. Today I get to happily explain why.
Creator and Exec. Producer Christian Villarreal, Producer Ryan Burke, and of course Lead Writer and Director myself, have been working together to create 'The Fortress of Dorkness', a weekly resource channel for trivia, general knowledge, and analysis of everything in the world of geek.
I'm proud to say that we launched today. It has been a collaboration between Christian, Ryan, and me. The show is hosted by Christian and Beth Damiano.
Since The Fort is a continuing project, you'll see frequent videos, posts, and updates about it right here on my website between my other work. I might even throw in some behind the scenes goodies for you guys. So I hope you guys enjoy the channel, please follow us, like and subscribe to our social media (linked below) and link the bard says; Never Fear The Dork Up Here!
Last weekend, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Cinematography at the 87th Academy Awards.
Birdman, which was a weird and gratifying film, falls into a genre that is close to my own heart, and what defines a number of my stories. I’m speaking, of course, of Magical Realism. With Birdman’s big win I felt that this might be a good time for me to speak briefly on the genre.
Magical Realism is taking fantastical elements and portraying them as commonplace in the ‘regular’ world. This is not the same as a story where a character enters a separate, fantasy universe, such as the Chronicles of Narnia or Peter Pan.
In those cases, the character is leaving the rational world and leaps into a strange land filled with mystery, or rather the unknown. Magical Realism, on the other hand, takes the same wondrous components and makes them out to be everyday occurrences in the real world. The metaphysical becomes physical.
Imagine Aslan the Lion around every Wednesday for coffee.
Perhaps you’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth, Big Fish, or Amélie? These flicks are examples of the genre, the latter two being in my top films. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Hayao Miyazaki are two famous names you might recognize whose films contain, surprise, surprise, Magical Realism.
Birdman presented Magical Realism as an imaginative element brought out into the real world. The film, though it followed a number of themes and players (for the most part), is a visual account of the outlandish mind of Riggan Thomson, represented by this Birdman character. These sequences were a daydream extended into real life.
I like to tell stories about the mundane world with an added sprinkle of the spice of the fantastical, thus my devotion to the genre. Storytelling can be an extension of our own experiences; the worlds that I build are the same that you and I live in, with the same history, the same events, but off-kilter.
This genre allows me to portray my message, whatever it may be, in a way that opens it to a broader gallery of people. Perhaps what I love most about this genre is one of the ingredients that makeup the core of it: acceptance.
It represents accepting the bizarre and otherworldly into mundane lives, and in doing so, juxtaposes humanity and individualism as a whole. That supernatural beast we see is nothing more than a reflection, a divine mirror image, of ourselves. We escape our lives. We let loose.
Remember, we are all different and the same. We are all bizarre and human.
And that’s where the magic of storytelling comes from.
I recently saw Big Hero 6, Disney’s 54th animation in their coveted Animated Classics range of films, based on an obscure Marvel Comics property from the 90’s.
I was very excited for this film, which the creators made clear is not a Marvel comic book movie, going so far as to not have the Marvel logo play before the film, it delivered on many levels, and for a film not released under its high profile creator’s banner, it still had a fun cameo by Marvel legend, Stan Lee.
Even before I walked into the theater, I was considering this film a milestone.
Because of exactly what I mentioned above; Big Hero 6 is a Marvel property, taken from its mother franchise, and given new life to be immortalized as a Disney classic.
This is a major win for the comic book world.
Disney is known for adapting fairy tales, folk tales, and classic novella as part of the sacred Animated Classics films, but as with 2012’s Wreck It-Ralph, Disney has, post-millennium, been experimenting, and in recent years they’ve made strides in the right direction.
Big Hero 6 is the accumulation of The Great Comic Book Boom we are experiencing in our theaters and on our televisions. Disney was quick, since their acquisition of Marvel, to put this film together as a Disney property.
It’s impact and importance is that the 14 years of streamlined comic book productions since X-Men has finally branched itself out of the stigma of being just comic book movies.
Removing its ties to the comic company that founded it, on the surface at least, as members of Marvel were still involved in the creative process, was a bold move. Yet Disney managed to handle it with respect and create something unique for their own branding.
Those of us who always loved and indulged in comics as a reading medium now get to experience watching the general audience entertain the seriousness of our passions, whether labeled officially as a comic film, or inspired by a comic.
Our comic book world is expanding in a big way.