"To Introduce our Guest Star, that's What I'm Here to Do..." The Hensonverse Fan Contribution Thread

You know, I've been thinking: with the earlier exposure of child sexual abuse with regards to Alphy's Soda Pop Club and the Second Mile charity, I wonder how it affects the Erik and Lyle Menendez case (they murdered their parents, Jose and Kitty, in 1989 in OTL--let's assume things don't change in TTL), especially since it has come out that they were victims of sexual abuse at their father's hands. If their trial is taking place against the backdrop of the exposure of those two scandals, they likely get convicted of manslaughter once their father's abuse is brought out (if not outright acquitted), and I can easily see them becoming advocates for sexual abuse victims in TTL...
That is one movie I would have liked to have seen, IMO. Fun fact: in OTL, Gary Cole was apparently considered for the role of Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice. And, in OTL (and probably TTL), he played Jeffrey MacDonald in Fatal Vision (a RL Green Beret/doctor who was convicted of murdering his family and blaming it on Manson-style hippies), and Judith Barsi played his daughter, Kimberly, who was among his victims (in one of the worst examples of Harsher in Hindsight in OTL)...
Oh dear, that's not very fun to learn.
486 million would be one of the biggest films of the year, horror ornot! Also I think you meant exploitation rather than exploration.

What if a sequel featured a sibling of one of the Jones, out for revenge?
486 million would be one of the biggest films of the year, horror or not! Also I think you meant exploitation rather than exploration.

What if a sequel featured a sibling of one of the Jones, out for revenge?
As it currently stands, the next movie is actually a prequel that, as mentioned in the post, is criticized for being kind of batshit insane.

Heather herself says the best thing about it was that she met Jude Barsi, who she later begins a relationship with.
Last edited:
As it currently stands, the next movie is actually a prequel that, as mentioned in the post, is criticized for being kind of batshit insane.

Heather herself says the best thing about it was that she met Jude Barsi, who she later begins a relationship with.
I have to agree that the $486 million box office does seem a bit much, did you really mean $48.6 million? For a film with a $25 million dollar budget a box office of half this much is plenty.
What if a sequel featured a sibling of one of the Jones, out for revenge?
My original idea was to have a post credit scene of the house completely back to normal in a new neighborhood with the Jones still alive implying that the house itself was a supernatural slasher entity.
How Aquaman became the Success It Was
From the “ComicsCraze” Netsite by Noah Florence

Guest post by @Nathanoraptor, @Plateosaurus and @MNM041
This sounds terrific. I like the idea of Aquaman as a comedic character, but not a "joke" character. That is, now I think about it, pretty much how Peter David wrote him, and I loved that run.

I'm really sorry I keep doing this, but Nereus was created in 2013. The movie character could be named Leron, after the usurper who exiled Mera in her first appearance.

(Strictly speaking, Xebel itself was named in 2010, and before that Mera came from "Dimension Aqua", but they'd definitely want to change that, and deriving the name from DImension Aqua's chief scientist seems a plausible enough synchronicity.)
This sounds terrific. I like the idea of Aquaman as a comedic character, but not a "joke" character. That is, now I think about it, pretty much how Peter David wrote him, and I loved that run.

Yeah - although I've never read David's run (that's a massive coincidence).

I'm really sorry I keep doing this, but Nereus was created in 2013. The movie character could be named Leron, after the usurper who exiled Mera in her first appearance.

Shit - blame my lack of DC knowledge on that one. On the one hand, Nereus is the name of a sea god from Greek mythology, so I could hand-wave it as that... but I'll probably just change it. (Thanks for the catch).

(Strictly speaking, Xebel itself was named in 2010, and before that Mera came from "Dimension Aqua", but they'd definitely want to change that, and deriving the name from DImension Aqua's chief scientist seems a plausible enough synchronicity.)

Yeah - that's a good No-Prize (ironically, considering that was something Marvel did) for it. They needed a name for Mera's home kingdom and just picked the name that sounded coolest.
Last edited:
With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound...
2000: Godzilla Rules Again!
Excerpt from Kaiju Kingdom! A Brief History of Massive Movie Monsters, by Gogota “Go” Jira

The Production:

With the success of 1997's Godzilla, Universal and Toho were keen to continue collaborating – then-Universal chairman Jeff Katzenberg and Toho’s Shogo Tomiyama, in a joint press conference, announced a Godzilla trilogy, with the first sequel being scheduled for summer 2000, and theme park collaborations.

With the sequel, director Renny Harlin and screenwriter John Logan (replacing Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who were ultimately too busy working on City of the Sun and Iron Man with Disney-MGM to write the script) were eager to dip their beaks in the Toho library and have Godzilla face off against one of his classic foes. However, Toho's own revival of the Godzilla films, starting with 1999's Godzilla 2000, complicated matters, due to the studio's long-standing agreement that, aside from Godzilla himself, no two monsters could appear in the same film [1].

When monsters were being divvyed up for the sequel, Universal quickly earmarked Anguirus, Rodan and Mechagodzilla for the film (Katzenberg was initially reluctant to use the former - who had appeared in Elliott and Rossio's original outline - but Harlin and Logan reassured him that Anguirus enjoyed a sizeable fandom), but were unable to use Mothra, due to her appearing in Shusuke Kameko’s Godzilla vs. The Guardians - ironically, because Godzilla 2 meant Kameko was unable to use Anguirus[2]. Mothra would later appear in Godzilla 3.

Inspired by bulls, rhinos and hippos, as well as fossil dicynodonts/dinocephalians, Anguirus' more mammalian design is great, honouring the Toho versions whilst still staying true to real animal anatomy. Of the non-Godzilla Kaiju, it is he who gets the most – and the best – scenes - his emergence in Mexico and his role in the final battle against Mechagodzilla in Dallas granted him many fans in the early portion of the 2000s and gave the spiky Kaiju, absent from film for almost three decades, a much-needed boost in popularity.

Now, Rodan's role is much more minor (he could be replaced by an original Kaiju and not much would change), but he gets some pretty good scenes – in particular, his emergence from the Great Lakes (as sensed by an elderly Native man) is one of the best Kaiju entrance scenes ever.

The theme of the Kaiju being part of mythology (hinted at in the opening montage of the previous film, as well as in its Discovery promotional mockumentary[3]) in times past is reiterated with these two, as both are associated with mythological creatures in the places where they emerged.

Particularly, Rodan is associated with the Native American Thunderbird, emerging in Iroquois territory, where most Thunderbird myths originate and there's a scene where an old Native man (who appeared earlier in the opening) senses his awakening. Even his leitmotif uses Native instruments. Pay attention to this – it’ll be important later.

The Story:

Three years after Godzilla's emergence and battle with the Broodmother, the existence of giant monsters has been revealed to the world… and, aside from Godzilla, other kaiju (Anguirus and Rodan) have emerged in the intervening years - Rodan emerging from the Great Lakes, whilst Anguirus emerges in Mexico.

In the wake of this, an organisation, an organisation called the Kaiju Defence Force (KDF) has been founded to study and find ways to counteract the Kaiju. Dr. Henry Saperstein heads it, along with other scientists, in particular Dr. Lorelei “Lori” Andrews (Jennifer Aniston) - and Ben Wasserman (John Stamos) and the rest of his unit from the first film are members of it.

The film opens with Godzilla, suddenly and unprovokedly, attacking San Francisco – whilst the KDF manage to drive him off, a good portion of the city has been destroyed. After the attack, Larry Morton (Jack Black) is under the belief something’s fishy – because Godzilla would never attack a city unprovoked, a sentiment shared by Dr. Andrews. Wasserman, however, is unconvinced.

Shortly after the incident, Wasserman goes to see his father, John Wasserman (Robert Redford), a retired US general and decorated war hero. Father and son have a little philosophical debate - Ben defending Godzilla and the KDF, whilst John believes the KDF are side-stepping the issue of protecting people from these potentially dangerous giant monsters (and he's not entirely wrong, given that Saperstein, the KDF's head scientist, practically seems to worship them). It’s clear that there is some tension between father and son – and not just on the issue of Kaiju.

Shortly after his son’s visit, Wasserman is contacted by Joseph Wilkins (William Shatner), an old friend of his from their military days, and now a US Senator, who, after a bit of reminiscing, asks him for a little favour…

Taking Wasserman senior to a secret facility, bankrolled by him, Wilkins plays on John's belief that something needs to be done to protect people from Godzilla and other monsters, Wilkins argues that Godzilla is a destructive, dangerous wildcard, as are all the Kaiju - the Broodmother and her offspring coming close to wiping out the human race proved that. So, he concludes - shouldn't we have something that can stand against Godzilla in case he turns on us?

(This is all bullshit, I should point out - Wilkins doesn't give a rat's ass about protecting people. This is all to sate his greed and ego)

Wilkins reveals his solution - Mechagodzilla, a gigantic robot built in Godzilla's image that can give humanity the advantage it needs. The reason why he needs John is, ostensibly, good PR (because a decorated war hero endorsing the Mechagodzilla project is good for the optics) - however, secretly, it's so Wilkins can spy on the KDF. Convinced, John agrees.

As the film goes on, Godzilla, Anguirus and Rodan rampage across America, whilst the KDF struggle to contain them. During a press conference, Wilkins announces Mechagodzilla – “humanity’s new protector!” Ben starts to ponder whether Godzilla has, indeed, turned on humanity, as his father tells him – Larry, however, is unwavering in his faith and convinces Ben there’s something worth investigating.

Investigating the attacks, Ben, Larry and Dr. Andrews head back to one of the ruined buildings at the San Francisco rampage, they find a destroyed device that appears to be some kind of sonic transmitter. They also find that all the cities Godzilla, Rodan and Anguirus attacked have buildings owned by a shell/holding/whatever company… linked to Wilkins. In some of the other buildings, they find transmitters too.

Meanwhile, the finishing touches are put on Mechagodzilla – and it’s time for a “test drive”. Tracking Rodan to Wounded Knee, Mechagodzilla attacks the pterosaur Kaiju – whilst Rodan puts up a fight, he is quickly subdued and brutalised by Mechagodzilla. Horrified at the brutality, John attempts to convince Wilkins to stop – however, Wilkins refuses to listen, with a smirk on his face. Realising he can’t win on reason , John punches out Mechagodzilla's pilot before Mechagodzilla can land the killing blow, allowing the wounded Rodan to limp off.

Through their investigations, Ben, Larry and Lori have figured out enough to tie Wilkins to the Kaiju attacks – and the Mechagodzilla project. They are about to put together a case for their investigations when they promptly get a call from KDF HQ - both Godzilla and Anguirus have suddenly starting heading to Dallas… and their paths are looking to cross.

Meanwhile, Wilkins and Wasserman senior argue over the incident with Rodan. It is here that Wilkins reveals his ultimate plan – lure Godzilla and Anguirus to Dallas, using his neural transmitter, where the two will fight each other. Once both have been weakened (and enough of the city has been destroyed), Mechagodzilla will swoop in and finish both of them off. Disgusted at his old friend’s greed and dismissal of innocent lives, John storms off to warn his son and the KDF. Sneering at Wasserman as a “coward”, Wilkins heads to Dallas on a helicopter, saying, with a smirk on his face, “When Godzilla breathes his last breath… I want to be the one who spits it back at him.”

Meanwhile, Godzilla and Anguirus both arrive in Dallas – and begin to fight each other, with Godzilla quickly gaining the upper hand. Tracking down the facility in Dallas, the KDF, arriving on John’s warning, manage to subdue Wilkins’ men and find the transmitters, managing to deactivate them – smugly declaring that they are “too late”, Wilkins summons Mechagodzilla, who begins beating on the exhausted Godzilla and Anguirus, before running off. The KDF team manage to disconnect Mecha-G’s controls, causing it to stop in its tracks.

A few minutes later, however, Mechagodzilla reactivates on its own… before going on a rampage on its own accord – displaying a strange, and particular, obsession with killing Godzilla. However, Godzilla and Anguirus team up to take him down and, whilst Mechagodzilla puts up a good fight, Godzilla and Anguirus ultimately overwhelm it, eventually destroying it by ripping its head off.

Now, very briefly, we see a small, pulsing, organic brain inside Mechagodzilla’s cracked skull casing… before Godzilla crushes it between his jaws[4]. (This would come back in Godzilla 3 – in a big, big way). Godzilla and Anguirus roar in triumph at the felling of their mutual enemy… before giving each other a respectful nod and part ways.

There is a brief lull as everyone celebrates the victory… before an enraged Wilkins walks up to them, holding a gun, ranting about Mechagodzilla’s destruction, the failure of his plan and how “they chose the side of the monsters”. He prepares to shoot John - however, Godzilla crushes him before he can. An overawed John gives Godzilla a salute, finally understanding his son’s respect for the monster, which Godzilla seems to acknowledge.

The film ends with a montage of Godzilla, Anguirus and Rodan peacefully roaming about the US (Anguirus napping in a large canyon, Godzilla swimming though the sea and a healing Rodan drinking from one of the Great Lakes) as Saperstein gives a monologue to a group of Senators about how co-existence with Kaiju is necessary.

The Acting:

The humans of the film are a slight improvement from its predecessor. Most of the unit from the last film are back and do a pretty good job, with John Stamos and Jack Black as Ben Wasserman and Larry Morton providing wonderful interplay as their characters banter throughout the plot. Black gets significantly more to do – his firm and unwavering faith and admiration of Godzilla and the Kaiju, compared to Wasserman’s pondering on whether the great Kaiju has turned on humanity, as his father and Wilkins espouse, provides good foundation for some of the more emotional moments of the film.

Of the new characters, William Shatner is almost deliciously evil as corrupt US Senator Wilkins, whilst an against-type Jennifer Aniston is adequate, but largely forgettable as Dr. Lorelei "Lori" Andrews, a scientist for the KDF. However, she would get a far bigger role in Godzilla 3 so, as an introduction, it’s not half-bad.

For those who are mourning Robin Williams' absence, Robert Redford's John Wasserman, estranged father of Ben Wasserman, provides an apt substitute. Having the best character arc of anyone in the film, Redford imbues his character with paternalistic gravitas and conviction, conveying his growing disquiet with Wilkins' project (and his eventual disgust and defection spurred by the brutalisation of Rodan) perfectly.

However, as usual, it is Steve Buscemi's Dr. Saperstein who steals the show. Serving as the pro-Kaiju mouthpiece of the film, Saperstein gets all the best monologues, which Buscemi performs with all the dignity and conviction of a Shakespearean monologue, maintaining gravitas even when the content is a tad cheesy. A particular stand-out is his closing speech, to a committee of Senators at the end:

"I think the events of the last few weeks have made it clear, Senators, why the KDF is needed - and perhaps more importantly, why killing Godzilla and his fellow Kaiju is a fool's endeavour. Our history indicates that we co-existed in balance with them once - a co-existence that we have long since forgotten. And, faced, with our mismanagement of the planet in their absence, they have returned - the first gods, the old gods. The true gods.

Now, some may believe the Kaiju are destroyers - but I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. The Kaiju provide an essential balance to our world and their duty is to protect it and us - even from ourselves. Especially from ourselves. Senators, if we are to survive, we must find ways to coexist with them - as we did once. This is the dawn of a new age - or the return of a very, very old one. Or both. It all depends on your point of view. By looking at our past, we can learn how to live in our future."

The Themes

Whilst the first Godzilla told a (mostly) original story, Godzilla 2 serves as an in-spirit remake of 1974's Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. The two films have an identical premise - a normally benevolent Godzilla suddenly and inexplicably becoming destructive, because of Mechagodzilla.

When Mechagodzilla's revealed, he first explodes out of a mountain and tears apart a weaker kaiju before Godzilla challenges him. Mechagodzilla gives Godzilla a hard time and, at one point, has a beam war with him (and wins) and almost managing to bring Godzilla down, to the point where Godzilla has to team up with a mammalian kaiju to defeat him, and eventually ripping his head off.

However, there is one important difference in this Mechagodzilla - rather than being an alien creation, this Mechagodzilla is 100% American, a product of the military-industrial complex - the brainchild of corrupt Senator Joseph Wilkins (William Shatner). And this allows the film to analyse some very interesting themes…

An aside here, non-American friends of mine have often told me that they are unnerved by the borderline worship the US places on its military might – certainly, celebration of military might is a key component of American hyper-patriotism.

Unlike previous incarnations, Mechagodzilla is designed in a very Art Deco/World War 2 style[5], with weaponry that deliberately leans towards the ostentatious - yes, he's designed to fight giant monsters, but fourteen cannons is probably overkill. As well as this, Mechagodzilla has a powerful armour coating, which, as Wilkins emphasises, is made with white-hot, cold-rolled Pennsylvania steel.

Wilkins hypes Mechagodzilla as the world's new protector - reflecting the US' post-WW2 portrayal of benevolence on the world stage, protecting the world through its military power. However, it's made abundantly clear that Wilkins' rhetoric is bullshit - all Wilkins cares about is the money and the power, appealing to Wilkins’ greed and ego, mirroring the disturbing imperialistic subtext of certain aspects of US foreign policy.

As well as this, the Kaiju rampages that Wilkins proclaims Mechagodzilla is needed to stop were engineered by Wilkins himself, to drum up support for his anti-Kaiju movement, echoing conspiracy theories about various terror attacks in the previous years (in particular, Oklahoma City and the Disneyland shooting).

This theme is best shown during Wilkins' "test-drive" of Mechagodzilla, where the robot brutalises Rodan and is only stopped from killing him by Wasserman senior's interference. This choice is not accidental – and relates to a little bit of historical symbolism.

As mentioned before, Rodan is associated with the Native American Thunderbird. Therefore, Mechagodzilla brutalising him represents a darker aspect of US military worship - the US cavalry overcoming the Indian nation, which nearly wiped out the Native American people. The fact that Mechagodzilla's brutalisation of Rodan takes place on the site of the Wounded Knee massacre furthers the point – what Mechagodzilla represents was founded on the violent subjugation (and near-genocide) of a people.

Even when the symbolism is removed, there is nothing admirable about the scene – it is a wanton, unprovoked act of brutality, showing just how petty and cruel Wilkins really is and how unjustifiable his aims are. Even two decades on, the scene is horrifying - Rodan's pained screeches and the terror on his face have stayed with many 90’s kids, myself included.

The Release:

Godzilla 2 debuted at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on June 20th and received a wide release on June 23rd 2000 opened at the # 1 slot, knocking Aquaman off the spot … before being knocked off itself two weeks later by X3: Rise of the Phoenix. It would eventually gross $420 million worldwide on an $100 million budget, managing to perform quite well (being the highest-grossing non-Marvel film in the summer of 2000)

Despite out-performing its predecessor, its critical reception was rather more mixed, with critics praising the effects, performances (especially Redford and Buscemi), and action sequences, but the script and some of the characterisation were criticised. Roger Ebert said, “It is what you expect from a monster movie – bombastic, visually spectacular and enjoyable – but it is, regrettably, not boundary-breaking in any way.” It was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 2001 Oscars, but lost to Aquaman.

The Legacy:

Godzilla 2's impact cannot be understated - after the critical and commercial failure of Universal's own Creature From The Black Lagoon and the box office disappointment of Disney's Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time three years prior, studios worried that the Jurassic Park bubble had burst. Universal had put Peter Jackson's planed Kong remake on hold (after the film had already entered pre-production), Disney had put Dinotopia: The World Beneath on indefinite hiatus and Warner had been reluctant to greenlight their long-discussed Beast From 20,000 Fathoms remake.

However, the one-two punch of Godzilla 2 and Jurassic Park 3 a year later provided a boost to the genre - aside from completing their Godzilla trilogy, Universal put Peter Jackson's long-standing King Kong remake back into production, Warner finally greenlit their The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms remake and Disney defrosted Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

True, the boost was a temporary jolt - after the Godzilla trilogy ended and a planned Jurassic Park 4 took a decade to even enter production, even the hit that was King Kong and the minor success of Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The World Beneath weren't enough to save it slipping into obscurity for the next decade – before a grand revival (including the return of both Godzilla and Jurassic Park) as part of the 2010’s obsession with all things 90’s –but, hey, it was nice while it lasted.

– – – –

[1] – This is slightly different to OTL – the deal, IRRC, is that two Godzilla films can’t be in production at the same time.

Because of this clause, that each studio has “backup” choices in case they can’t use the monster they want – for instance, for this movie, Baragon and Varan were Universal’s backup choices in case they couldn’t use Anguirus and Rodan. (But of course, Katz would try and get the popular Kaiju right off the bat).

[2] – The GMK Ghidorah is butterflied – instead, Kameko makes a compromise, replacing Anguirus with Mothra and Varan with the also-obscure Manda. Now, Kameko wants to replace Baragon with Manda (so you’ve got Mothra, Varan and Manda – who were all guardian monsters in the films they were introduced in), but Toho won’t let him (because Baragon’s surprisingly popular in Japan), so he has to replace Varan with Manda instead.

[3] – At some point pre-ABC merger, Universal get a stake in Discovery – and they use that stake to make a promotional mockumentary. Basically, it’s Jeff Corwin searching for a mythical “Sea Titan” in the South Pacific (which is Godzilla) - the mockumentary ends with Corwin going on a sub to a deep part of the Pacific… and we get a Godzilla cameo.

There’s also a “Behind the Monsters” doc series, in which the reality behind various Universal movie monsters is shown. For example, the episode about King Kong, which ties into the release of Kong: King of Skull Island, has primatologists talking about the "killer gorilla" myth and how it relates to the portrayal of Kong in the 1933 film, before those same primatologists talk about what we've found about gorillas since then, with famous gorilla scientists and famous gorillas (e.g. Koko, Jambo, Bushman) being discussed, and how the portrayal of Kong in King of Skull Island reflects those changes.

In addition, cryptozoologists and folklorists discuss the notion of the wildman in world mythology and how that connects to the 1933 Kong, with things like Bigfoot and the yeti being discussed, aswell as this, the "lost world" archetype in fiction is brought up and how it feeds into the portrayal of Skull Island. Finally, palaeontologists talk about Gigantopithecus as sort of a "real life Kong" and you give information about it. It's also mentioned that Gigantopithecus wasn't discovered until two years after the original film's release.

[4] – As for the organic brain… all I’m going to say is that it’s a thread for Godzilla 3, which both delves into the history of the Godzillas and features a certain tri-headed Golden Demise. The Mechagodzilla brain is tied into one of those factors – and yes, it becomes a thing in TTL Godzilla media that Mechagodzilla has some sort of organic component (of various points of origin).

[5] - The designers look at things like aircraft carriers to make him seem like a piece of US military hardware, with a deliberate lean towards the ostentatious - or to put it in layman's terms, literally the only thing that would make him more "AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!" is if he were draped in the American flag.
Last edited:
For Henson’s Age of Disney, could be called like the Brass Age to resemble how it was like a new Golden Age, but tempered?
I think the leading argument will be what to call the Henson era besides that, the Henson era. Felt Era, Brass era, the Disney Renaissance, the Disney Rebirth, and so forth.
With the sequel, director Renny Harlin and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were eager to dip their beaks in the Toho library and have Godzilla face off against one of his classic foes. However, Toho's own revival of the Godzilla films, starting with 1999's Godzilla 2000, complicated matters, due to the studio's long-standing agreement that, aside from Godzilla himself, no two monsters could appear in the same film [1].
This part kind of bothered me because in OTL, Godzilla 2000 serves as a direct response to the poorly received 1998 Tristar film. Also toho was putting the Godzilla franchise on a 10 year long hiatus after 1995's Godzilla vs Destroyah film, but it was cut short because of the negative reception that is the 98 film.

Since ITTL Universal's Godzilla (1997) being way faithful to the character than in OTL Tristar. There's no reason for toho to revived it immediately unless there's some explanation to this.

The first few minutes of this video explained this:

That's my only problem everything else in the post is fine.
This part kind of bothered me because in OTL, Godzilla 2000 serves as a direct response to the poorly received 1998 Tristar film. Also toho was putting the Godzilla franchise on a 10 year long hiatus after 1995's Godzilla vs Destroyah film, but it was cut short because of the negative reception that is the 98 film.

Since ITTL Universal's Godzilla (1997) being way faithful to the character than in OTL Tristar. There's no reason for toho to revived it immediately unless there's some explanation to this.

My initial intent was that, TTL, the reverse happened - Toho were buoyed by the success of the '97 Godzilla's success that they decided to revive the franchise in Japan - but my headcanon now is that it's got something to do with the hellish production on Black Lagoon, which Toho followed closely ITTL. Toho start getting suspicious of Universal and cover their bets, so to speak - reviving the franchise on their own accord as a backup.
Beastly Kingdom in Disguise
How to Revive a Franchise—20 Years of Transformers Evolution!
Article 111, The Deston Basic, 04/07/2018 [1]
Post by @TGW and @Nathanoraptor

So, let’s lay out a hypothetical for you.

Recently, a combination of natural nostalgia for long ago days of happiness and an artificial blast from the past in the form of a very successful movie has triggered a desire to create a new incarnation of a well-known (though not perhaps highly regarded) franchise for a new generation. It’s been ten years, not exactly to the day but near enough, of the last time your franchise had a cartoon on the TV barring commercials for merchandise. And it ended on a pretty conclusive note, on the whole, at the recommendation of the much respected and much reviled Jim Henson. The comics too wrapped up albeit not too long ago, with perhaps a more open ended story than you might have expected but even so. [2]

And for whatever reason this silly little show struck a big chord in the youth of the eighties. The reason why the gravy train ran out can, in some respects, be placed upon the shoulders of careless executives who did not realize that while they saw toys to be removed from shelves, children saw characters getting slaughtered. [3] So you have the choice of sticking to the canon (But being beholden, to a certain extent, to the decisions of ten years ago which is creatively limiting) or going off on your own direction (which will piss off said invested fans and in the worsening climate, maybe that’s not a great thing).

You are Disney, and you are about to start work on Transformers.

How do you go about it?

Of course, we know the answers to this. Transformers: Evolution as it will become known will go on to run from late 1998 to 2004 in various forms from a proper animated series to a movie that flipped on a coin between being released theatrically and going straight to TV. [4] A whole new generation of fans will come to regard the show as ‘their’ Transformers, and while that will pay off dividends in terms of merchandise and in keeping the show running long enough to get to a conclusion, the battle between Geewuns and Geetooz [5] will not be resolved by the end of it. The staff on it will receive their due credit and the careers of many up-and-coming animators and writers will begin to take shape from the series. But back then, Isenberg was bluntly honest about not having a clue what to do.

So we’ve decided to create a guide to show the process of perhaps the most important first step. While never officially given a name, the first season of the show was a thirteen-episode arc that fans have come to refer to as ‘War in Heaven’. It is this first season we will focus on, as it is here that many of the decisions that will affect the series will be decided, where its strengths are discovered and tested.

So we’ll not be talking about the introduction of the Dinobots/Combaticons, or the arc where Rapticon dies and Packrat must grieve his death or even the infamous "Enemy Within" episode. We’ll not mention the Children of the Makers or the acclaimed “Heart of Energoa” finale. Perhaps another day, or perhaps not. No instead we will focus upon the twelve-episode, and what it has to say about how the series became so well loved.

The Staff

With the, admittedly somewhat vague, remit of a new Transformers show, the first step was to begin building the writers room. The aim was to build a mix of old and new, with veteran Transformers writers mixed in with “new blood”.


Some of these guys (Image Source: TFWiki)

The most notable of the “new blood” was Marty Isenberg, one of the earliest to be contacted, who had, by this point in his career, done several freelance scripts for all sides of the animation nation. From working with Greg Weisman on that show with the gargoyles to a brief stint on The Spirit to even dabbling a little in Y’allywood for a time. [6] Nonetheless, his body of work impressed the Disney execs enough to ask him to be co-showrunner – which was still at a nebulous stage as the Board had decided that while a revival of the series would go ahead, no one was quite how to handle it. He met with Jim Henson and the two had a frank conversation about the issues that were going to be faced. Following the discussion, Isenberg began gathering a ‘crack commando’ squad to work with him on developing the new series.

Three of the initial recruits were Transformers veterans. David Wise may have been busy working on the TMNT franchise but he had been equally as hard working on the Transformers during it’s peak. Despite his somewhat infamous reputation from cribbing off his own plots for various shows, he was well-regarded and seen as a good force to be reckoned with. The comic book writer Marv Wolfman had also wrote several episodes of the show, but this was a happy coincidence as Isenberg picked him due to his excellent runs on stuff like the Teen Titans. Despite some grumbles in the early 90’s, he had remained at Marvel following the conclusion of his work at DC and with his contract coming to a close, Isenberg was able to convince him to bring his genius back to the animated screen. [7]

However, for co-showrunner and lead writer, both Isenberg and Disney only had one name in mind – long-running Transformers scribe Simon Furman, “We picked Simon—” said Isenberg in an interview in 2008, “—because A: He was responsible for taking a lot of the stuff that the cartoon had created and running with it, and B: We knew early on we were going to be competing with stuff like Gundam and those Brave shows, the Transformers rip-offs….shit, is that going to get quoted? But anyway, if we needed an epic feel, he’d be the one to go to for that.”

Perhaps surprisingly, he initially turned them down. Recalling, Furman said, “The people at Toon Town called me and asked me to be the showrunner. I turned them down because I had no experience in showrunning or television writing. However, they said ‘You’re working with some of the best writers in the business and you know this material better than anybody else. You’ll do fine’. So I thought it over… and I changed my mind.”

In addition, one other would join who were quite fresh to the franchise but was no stranger to Hasbro. Christy Marx had worked on a lot of series over the years but had been responsible for the introduction of Jem and the Holograms into the world. [8] Her choice was deliberate as one of the things that Henson and Isenberg had agreed on was that the Transformers would be a little less boy-centric this time around. This caused some early friction amongst the team, one of the only acknowledged arguments that has been released.


The woman herself (Image Source: TFWiki)

“Simon is a great guy, I like him a lot. And he’s got some really interesting ideas about how the Cybertronians should be different to the humans. I want to stress that once we had the female Transformers, he never wrote them any less competently than the men, or never tanked them, or was never spiteful towards them. But he has this thing where he believes that you should always write the Transformers as….well, robots. Sometimes that works, he was the one who pushed for romances between Transformers of all genders because, of course, robots would have no moral hang-ups or consider such relationships taboo. We pushed that a little further than we might have done thanks to him. [9]

But that had its downsides, because he believed that there was zero point in having a robot have gender because why on earth would a robot have one? We did stymie him a little by asking why, in that case, they had to be all men but the argument continued. It was never anything unprofessional or mean-spirited but it was getting to a point where it might be. [10] In the end, we finally got him to calm down by putting forward two points. One, while in a technical sense it was true that there was no reason that a robot should have a gender, the kids are really, REALLY not going to be caring about that when they’re smacking the toys against each other and making “Pew pew” sounds. And two, we had the compromise that all Transformers were technically genderless, but, as they came into contact with alien races that did have genders, began identifying as whatever gender they thought fit them best. Having your cake and eating it too, it rarely works but it seemed to satisfy that very, very odd itch of his.” [11]

The Setting

“The important thing I remember in my meeting with Jim—” Marty remembers “—was that I came away with a real understanding of how he had come to terms with the Transformers in his first few years. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get why he was so against them at first, but the explanation he gave was one that sat in my head for a good while afterwards. I didn’t really get it until we started planning things out and it all just clicked into place, y’know?”

The meetings, made before the pitch was required, were useful in hashing out several details. Firstly, the story would not be a continuation of the original cartoon or indeed the comic. While Wise and to a lesser extent Wolfman made the argument for continuation, both Isenberg and Furman were in agreement that there had been too much introduced and established for their liking, or for the new audience to follow. In particular, the culling of the original 86 movie was something that was going to be hard to undo, especially given that many killed were the more famous Transformers that people actually liked. [12] However, references to the original would be littered throughout the show proper which we will get into in a moment. [13]

With a post-Rebirth series out of the equation, Isenberg found that the writers, Hasbro and Disney didn’t need to think for very long on the direction they wanted to take, “Hasbro, Disney and the writers room each wrote down our first idea for a new series on a piece of paper. Our unanimous selection was ‘Beasts’.”

Next was the matter of their preferred animation. On this, all were in agreement. If Transformers was to fit in the new world created by the influx of imported mecha anime, it would need to be animated in a style similar to it, preferably by a Japanese studio. In the end, Hasbro executives recommended that Ashi Productions and Trans Arts Co be used to animate the show proper. [14] The result was a very smooth and distinctive style that fit right in with the current market, but with designs unique enough to set them apart. And it was of those designs that the next decision was made.

The story took shape from each writer’s ideas. Marx proposed that while a downsizing of the cast was going to be necessary, it would be of some worth to have a good amount of characters to work with even in the first season. [15] Hence the unofficial ‘ten-a-side’ decision enforced across the series.

When it came to the setting of the series, the writers were conflicted – should it be set on Earth or on an alien world? Wolfman and Wise both raised points about how Transformers fans enjoyed different styles of episodes, Wolfman arguing for science fiction and Wise defending the traditional earth-esque setting. Furman suggested a compromise – an Earth-like “jungle planet” (later called Energoa), which would provide them with a degree of leeway on what animals the characters would be turning into. [16]

An increasingly rare meddle from Henson himself made a request for something to be included, as Furman recalls, “Jim [Henson] has always been interested in environmental issues – and he wanted to keep things grey in the series… principally because he’d been initially uncomfortable with the Sunbow stuff and wanted to avoid some of the notions he’d found uncomfortable… So he suggested this third faction of Transformers who want to preserve the natural harmony of Energoa… and who view both the Maximals and Predacons as negative influences. So we came up with the idea of the Makers and this third faction that came about from their tinkering stasis pods.”

The writers came up with a common theme in the series – putting individual differences aside in the name of a common good. Isenberg, Furman and others have repeatedly stated over the years that there was nothing metafictional about this at all (not many believe them, but still) With the players all decided, it was now time to cast them. Taken by Henson’s reading of the original Autobots, Isenberg put forward what he would later refer to as the ‘Commandments of Cybertron’ in tongue in cheek fashion. They were, more or less, the following:

1: Maximals carry weapons, but they are not weapons. Predacons have weapons built into them, always ready for battle. This carries over from their Autobot/Decepticon ancestors

2: Due to the extremes of the planet, the Maximals and Predacons must take on beast modes.

3: Maximals have much more respect for the nautral harmony of Energoa than the Predacons do - the Predacons seek to conquer and stripmine the place, whilst the Maximals try to stop them and preserve the planet's natural harmony (where they can, of course).

4: The Children of the Makers prefer more traditional melee weapons - almost no blasters/cannons/whatever.

5: A recurrent theme of the destructive consequences of war on the harmonious world of Energoa should be pushed.

He half expected to get laughed out of the room. But to his surprise, Furman loved the idea and noted that he had a few things he’d yet to work into his comics if they needed them. The presentation went better than expected and, after some consideration and haggling, the project was a-go. But there would be one final thing to work out, one last argument to be had and it's one that arguably changed the direction of the franchise forever.

About ten months ago at the time of this article, a book entitled ‘The Free Lunches’ was published which detailed the often frantic and harried discussions between animators, story editors, higher ups and the like during the ‘lunch’ break. Others not tangentially involved in the process itself would arrive and get to tuck in and get an additional show, hence the title of the book. One of the more infamous is a battle between David Wise and Simon Furman regarding the Transformers and K-I-S-S-I-N-G though whether or not they were sitting at the tree at the time is not known. Isenberg regards the whole thing with a laugh and an embarrassed shake in the head, but he gave us an explanation of what went on.

“We were talking, I think we were, about the Transformers and romance. I remember we’d had plans for the first season proper to introduce Elita-One who had been in the original cartoon, we thought it a good chance to bring her in and have someone for Prime to bounce off. It was Marv who’d come up with the idea to pair Pounce and Ursodiol up too. And that brought Simon out in one of his ‘creative’ moods. I say that like it’s a bad thing, it really wasn’t, but every so often he’d stick on a problem he had and never let it go. That problem being romance. Once again, why would a robot-based civilization have romance. But unlike the last time when we were all pretty adamant about having female Transformers, it was David who did the lion’s share of defending.

See, Simon never watched the original cartoon when he was writing the comic books and he thought them a little childish at the time. I’ve since learnt that the day after our argument he went out and bought a VHS of it and came back a convert. He shook David’s hand and everything, told him he loved Season 2. Fair play to the man, he got back on the good side soon enough. But anyway, he hadn’t done it back then because he'd written what he considered the more ‘adult’ version of the Transformers. [17] And I think someone must have mentioned that to David and something about it, the tone, the words, the implication that he’d done better work than David, something triggered this burst of anger. Particularly seeing that Wise had written two episodes that featured romance heavily, one with a human-transformer relationship and one where he’d done a sort of ‘Hero’s Journey’ thing with Optimus Prime and his girl back home Ariel, who later turns into Elita One. So I think Dave waged the war on that front.

Anyway, they start arguing with me stuck mediating. They gave very good points to both sides. Simon argued that whether they were factory drones like in the cartoon or created by a god like in the comics, there was no feasible point for the Transformers to have relationships of a romantic nature. He in particular indicated that the reason they could not was because there was no such relationship to be had without sex, and what the hell were they implying? David fired back that in that case there was no point to having the Energoans be a big part of the story since the fact they have kids clearly indicated that sex had occurred. He further pointed out that no one, except maybe the perverts and that was a smaller market than Simon thought, gave a damn about the Transformers having sex and if anyone thought that an innocent kiss on the cheek or holding hands equalled erotic and passionate love-making they were off their damn heads. “Every other show has something like what we’re offering and what, just because they’re robots we have to come up with all these weird justifications for it?!”

Then Christy slid a piece of paper across with both her and Marv’s handwriting upon it. “Will this do?” she asked casually, as though she had just finished dusting down the table or something. And that was where the ‘Sparks’ came into the story. Both of them were….well, mollified is a strong word but they both seemed to cool down a little bit. I added a little touch of my own, suggested we take a break and then went to find the nearest bottle of strong stuff that I could.” The Spark Document is, to the writer’s knowledge, the first time that a detailed description of the Transformers life-cycle was established. Previous writers had come up with little ideas here or there, the brain module from the Marvel comics or the corpse of a dead Transformer turning grey from the cartoons. But this was the first time that a step-by-step explanation was offered and while future incarnations would ignore it or reimagine it, all were now aware of it’s existence. For those wondering or needing a refresher on what the document contains, let’s break it down simply:

1: The Spark is the centrepiece of all Transformers life. Like our species, Transformers often attempt to work out whether their existence is the result of science or a higher power, so too is the spark regarded as potentially a highly sophisticated piece of machinery or clear proof of a ‘soul’. Sparks are typically found in a Transformer’s chest, buried deep inside, hard to reach and easy to destroy. They can be transplanted but the operation is not an easy one.

2: Sparks are a naturally occurring phenomena on the planet Cybertron. Depending on whom you believe, either the great god Primus planted an infinite multitude of sparks into the planet or they are a naturally occurring resource independent of anyone’s desire. In any event, sparks are harvested from the planet and taken to Vector Sigma. Again, depending on you ask, Vector Sigma is either a mystical being and the legacy of Primus made manifest or it is a very advanced computer that is merely doing it’s job. In any event, Vector Sigma manufactures a body for the spark and then places it inside. The activation of the spark causes the subconscious elements of the personality therein to alter the body for it’s own purpose. But soon a Transformer emerges. This explains why Starscream had the Seekers and Bumblebee had his many mini-bot clones, and so on and so forth.

3: The difference between the two sides and their approaches to Sparks cannot be more different. The Maximals believe in the ability of a single being to alter the course of their destiny, that there is no fixed role in society for a single Transformer and that said Transformer can experiment and learn what their own path is. Predacons have a semi-functionalist approach (ironically enough, given the most common origins for their Decepticon precursors), if you transform into a drill you are a construction robot, if you are a tank you are a warrior, a communications terminal takes you to news reporting etc, etc. (Obviously, the Preds we see, being a bunch of renagades, have since adapted out of this).

4: The Transformers have attachments but not as we know them. Transformers do not need to have sex to procreate, for the supply of sparks makes that a moot possibility. A Transformer lives for millions of years at the very least, so it is not a matter of keeping the population high. Sex does not enter into any conversation. Attachments are therefore based around connection, joy, a platonic love and desire to spend time with those important to you. Sometimes this takes the form of long term friends and colleagues, but in terms of what we humans call ‘romance’, two Transformers may decide to become colleagues because they feel that they make them a better person or because it brings them happiness that is not achievable with friends.

“Well, if we read all that out on the air, it would be damn boring wouldn’t it?” chuckles Isenberg, “No, we decided to make a joke out of it, I wrote the joke incidentally. The old ‘Pounce and Ursodiol learn about sex’ bit is one of those that I thought would get cut somehow. I suspect that Jim might have pulled a few strings, he laughed quite a bit when we showed it to him.” [18]

And what of Packrat and Rapticon? Two months after the Free Lunches was published, Wall Street Journal had their newscasters talking about an alleged plot to indoctrinate the children of the late nineties with gay propaganda thanks to confirmation by Furman and Wolfman that they’d come to write the two characters’ arc as a romantic one. Marty considers this for a moment and then shrugs, “Sure we did! It wasn’t intentional at first, they were just the whole Odd Couple thing – these two characters who bickered, but eventually became friends. But then someone, I forget whom, showed Rob and Maurice a piece of fanfiction of the two and we walked in on them acting it out. It was very funny, to be frank, and the person watching had clearly picked up on the characterisation very well! But as they read it, your mind starts to consider the possibility even just to mock it. And I can’t remember which one of us suggested that we…slyly indicate to the outside world that this was the case, but we were all giggling like kids when we did it.”

While the five of them wanted to drop the pretence by the end of their arc in Season Two (with Packrat telling Rapticon he loves him as the latter lies dying), in the end Disney went above them. But Chairman Henson was quick, in the nineties at least, to quell attempts to shut down the light amusement. “We were not as careful as we thought we were,” admitted Marty, “Myself, I blame Rob and Maurice. We’d give them two-takes each time – one time they’d do the banter as belingerently flirtatious… the other time, normal. But every so often the editor would get mixed up and put the other read in. It was never swearing or cursing or anything like that, it was all within the realm of innocence. But that bastard Falwell threatened to raise a stink, we insisted that it was all just two mismatched friends giving each other hell. Certainly it was nothing worse than, say, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Or some of those Tom Cruise movies. It was such a storm over nothing that even Jim defending us and insisting that Falwell was making something out of nothing didn’t make the headlines of the paper. He was all for them being a couple, but he gently and firmly insisted that we cool down a little bit. So we did….didn’t stop the animators finding a way to sneak occasional semi-romantic glances, or Packrat leaning against Rapticon. I’m amazed it took this long to be worked out!” [19]

The Plot

Before we continue to the cast, we may as well discuss the plot of the mini-series. We will be condensing the plot down considerably, there is as per always More than Meets the Eye (Yes, yes, I know!) with these episodes and we recommend you get your hands on a copy! So, let’s provide a quick synopsis as easily as we can so that we do not spoil anything for any newcomers.

In this continuity, the war between Autobots and Decepticons has been over for many, many years. The Autobots and Decepticons have ‘evolved’ into Maximals and Predacons – and an oft-uneasy peace has come between the two factions. Over the centuries, Cybertron has become isolationist, with the exception of scientific exploration. The series’ setting is the world of Energoa [20] – a mostly untouched, pristine world, home to dangerous wildlife and a race of multi-coloured beings known as Energoans who are at a roughly tribal level of development, who worship a race of mysterious aliens called the “Makers”. [21]

Over the course of the thirteen-episode first season, a group of Maximals led by Maximus Prime (at least initially) track a Predacon stealth vessel that lands on the planet and prepares to make it their new base of operations. With the planet’s energon fields necessitating them to take on new beast modes and mysterious structures indicating a mysterious presence on the planet, it seems that even when the battle is over, the war has just begun.

The focus here is primarily on two aspects, spectacle and character dynamics. In the former, every episode of the first season tackles a different kind of massive emergency from the first battle to the fifth episode’s long-since copied reunion of Primal and Megatron on the top of a waterfall in homage of the original G1 series to a tragic loss midway through the first season. Perhaps the most well remembered of all of these is the long fight that starts at episode ten’s end, continues throughout eleven and then finally concludes three quarters of the way through episode twelve. Beginning at the rim of an active volcano which (In a reversal of fortune from the original cartoon) the Predacon ship crashed into, the Transformers battle each other both in and outside, before it is discovered that the volcano is some sort of weapon – constructed for an unknown purpose. As the Maxies and Preds throw it down, Megatron and Optimus truly come to blows for the first time and the end of the world seems to be inevitable. Ending with the Predacons forced into retreat, Primal left with big shoes to fill and the Makers deciding that the Maxies and Preds have brought too much destruction to Energoa for them to not interfere, it made for a hell of an impact with the kids of the 90’s.

Character-wise however, a lot of focus was put on getting interesting relationships between the characters. Pounce and Prowl bicker over the direction to take the Maximals, while Pounce serves as constructive criticism and friend to Optimus. Optimus struggles with the chains of command, after (SPOILER) Maximus Prime’s death near the two-thirds-mark of the first season. The Energoa-bound Maximals argue with each other (Jawbreaker and Bumblebee in a brother and sister nature, the Maximals’ mistrust of the recently-defected Rapticon) but ultimately all love each other very much. Even the Preds get decent development. Megatron hates Lazerbeak but finds him amusing and useful in small doses, contrasted with his respect for Leatherwing, who in turn is loyal to his leader, whilst Scorponok schemes in the background, plotting his own agenda.

A short summary, simple and to the point. Have to watch the rest of the series to get the best stuff.



Elements of these two shows bleed through despite their elimination from the timeline (Source: TFWiki)

The Toys
The merchandising sales, as Isenberg recalls, were particularly important. “All that shit with the Shepherds happened just as we were breaking Season One and one of their attack points was that Disney was ‘wasting time’ on IP that hadn’t been relevant in years – the Muppets were a specific target in this regard, but Transformers was thrown in there too.”

Fortunately, the toys sold like gangbusters, with Isenberg fondly recalling, "Oh I loved them! Yeah, we actually got to test some of the toys with the kids which, I mean, thank gods we weren't all in the same room. Some of them were pretty easy, I seem to recall – I seem to recall Optimus Primal’s toy reused some of the transformation scheme from G1 Razorclaw. A few had this 'Gold Plastic Syndrome' which I'm told was a real nuisance from back in the day. And I remember that Darksteel was a big seller, people couldn't get enough of him!”

Hasbro, however, found some of them harder than others, “I remember we got a very polite letter from Hasbro half-jokingly asking if we could refrain from doing snake Transformers – because Coiler had been such a nightmare to manufacture! I thought they all looked great, they looked cool in both modes. Never saw all the problems people had with them but then I'm not a kid....well, in body anyway. I don't want to think about all the effort that got put into them, I hope whoever it was got compensated for it."

The Cast

You’d think the decision to make a clean break with the show’s past would make things easier when it came to casting. On the contrary, it did not – whilst some roles were easy to cast, others were not. Whilst many of the Disney animation talent pool (including original TF voice actors Frank Welker, Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche – and others like Jeff Bennett and Jim Cummings) were available, many American TV studios had begun working with Canadian studio the Ocean Group, to strengthen ties between the voice acting unions of LA and Vancouver – many of their talent pool (including future Evolutions cast members David Kaye, Scott McNeill, Venus Terzo and Blu Mankuma) had worked on the Disney-distributed dub of the Russian animated film Adventures of Mowgli.

In the end, while several actors who had performed in the eighties cartoon would return, none would appear as their original characters (or the equivalent of their original characters). Overall, and including the occasional comment by Isenberg and the alternate modes, the cast included the following:


Optimus Primal:
Rather than the veteran leader of the Autobots, this Optimus is new to the chains of command – having gained the role after the death of his superior, Maximus Prime, midway through the first season. Furman and the writers didn’t have to look far for inspiration, “We based him off Jim Henson, this constant battle to try and do the right thing even when the world is screaming at you. And Garry [Chalk] rose to the occasion beautifully.” [22] His beast mode was a lion.

Pounce: The cocky, snarky second-in-command (and literal “cool cat”), Pounce often acted as a foil to Optimus. Beau Bllingslea ultimately voiced the character, with Isenberg recalling, “Beau portrayed the character as a mix between Tupac Shakur and Little Richard”[23]. His beast mode was a leopard.

Maximus Prime: Deforest Kelley was the guest star for the first season, a role that would begin with Episode 1 and end with Episode 10, as essentially ‘Bones’ in metallic form. Chuckling, Isenberg remarked, “God bless him. He told me, wryly, that Leonard had suggested he ignore the whole thing but he needed the money. [24] Turns out he wasn’t too great in terms of health, but he gave it his all. It might have been how positive he was about the show, he did not have to do that by the by, that got Leonard back for the series. A dear, dear man.” [25] Maximus’ beast mode was a mammoth.

Hound: Voiced by Jerry Nelson [26], this Hound (a relic of the time when the G1 names were all being used) returning the character to his original significance albeit as a far more in-tune with the planet kind of person, described as the ‘cool but Kooky old uncle’ of the makeshift family. According to Furman, “We got Jerry entirely by accident, we were asked what the characters would be like and I think it was Christy who said that Hound was like Jerry. I’m really happy he was so willing to play ball, Hound could have been far more annoying if we hadn’t have had him.” Hound’s beast mode was a coyote.

Jawbreaker: Voiced by Cree Summer, Jawbreaker was conceived as a mix of the warmth and kindness of the original Arcee with the bloodthirstiness of a Whoopass Girl, of whom the character was conceived as a tribute to. Her beast mode was a spotted hyena.

Packrat: Rob Paulsen, portraying a snarky, Brooklyn-accented demolitions expert who provided much of the comic relief with his relationship with Rapticon. His beast mode was a pack rat.

Rapticon: Maurice LeMarche, using his Doctor Strange voice to portray the aloof ex-Predacon, who was more at home in his beast mode than expected. According to Isenberg, “Pairing up Rob and Maurice was an accident, but we thought we’d roll with it. Of course, it worked out great, as it always does.” His beast mode was a Utahraptor.

Hot Spot: Voiced by Ian James Corlett, a kid-appeal character in the Bumblebee vein, initially a somewhat impetuous rookie with a chip on his shoulder who had to develop into a better bot over the course of the series. As Isenberg chuckles, “Yeah, we struggled with names for him for a while, before someone came up with Hot Spot as a pun - because cheetahs have spots. I never said it had to be a good pun!” His beast mode was a cheetah.

Prowl: Steve Blum, marking one of his first big roles since his correspondence with actors Bob Bergen and Jack Angel [27], played the flustered and by the book strategist of the Autobots, with a darker role in the coming seasons. Furman gushed, “For his first big job, I think Steve did great! We were pretty sure he was going to be on to bigger and better things as the years went on.” Prowl’s beast mode was a wolf.

Ursodiol: Tress MacNeille, a pill-popping, energon-drinking, foul mouthed doctor who is perpetually on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Chuckling, Isenberg recalls “Learning that our equivalent of Ratchet was going to be a woman early on in the original treatment was, apart from a finishing blow to Simon, a good starting point. We wanted as chaotic a character as we could think of, and Tress delivered!” Her beast mode was a bear.


Razorbeast: Voiced by John DiMaggio, this surly, snarky warrior, noted for his tenacity and hot-blooded nature made for an entertaining addition to the series. His beast mode was a warthog.

Digger: Digger, based on G1 Cosmos, quickly became a breakout character, partly due to April Winchell picked to play a character who, if brought to series, would be recurring as opposed to a main. According to Isenberg, “We needed a comedy relief character, Digger was that way. We didn’t realize the little geek would be so popular, and that’s on us, again.” Her beast mode was a mole.

Grimwing: An honourable, chivalrous and somewhat aloof warrior, Grimwing slips into the role of Packrat’s straight man after the death of Rapticon (no romantic subtext here, though). Scott McNeill (who also voiced Stinger) was ultimately cast in the part, playing it with a combination of aloof dignity and humour. His beast mode was a gryphon.


Grimlock: Voiced by Clancy Brown, this Grimlock, unlike the Hulk-speaking primitive of the cartoon, was a powerful, aggressive and brutal warrior (but with an ultimately noble heart) – his take-no-orders attitude caused him to chafe with Optimus Primal, whilst his destructive, hot-headed nature led to clashes with Tigatron.

Slug: The Dinobot second-in-command - voiced by John diMaggio (doing a Scottish accent) - Slug was just as hot-tempered and aggressive (if not more so) than Grimlock. His beast mode was a Triceratops.

Snarl: Voiced by Jeff Bennett, Snarl was sarcastic, aggressive, rude and ill-tempered - despite this, he was good at spark. His beast mode was a Stegosaurus.

Sludge: Voiced by Bill Faggerbake, Sludge was the bruiser of the Dinobots, but with a sensitive, friendly side. His beast mode was an Apatosaurus

Swoop: Voiced by Rob Paulsen (doing a Groucho Marx-style voice), Swoop acted as the Dinobots’ scout/demolitions officer – and developed an odd friendship with Packrat.


Optimus Prime, but not as you know him (Source: TFWiki)



Basically this guy, yeeess… (Image source: TFWiki)

Megatron: This Megatron was cast in the vibe of Colonel Kurtz – a charismatic, ruthless, power-craving, would-be tyrant with vague pretensions towards godhood, who commands a small army of renegades on an isolated jungle world. Whilst many actors auditioned for the role, David Kaye was ultimately cast. Elaborating, Isenberg said, “We’d sent out a message looking for the guy who’d played ‘Grand Boss’ in one of the Braves and Shere Khan in Adventures of Mowgli - and David was pretty happy to test. I’m so glad he did.[28].” His beast mode was a dragon.

Lazerbeak: An ambitious second-in-command in the Starscream mould, Lazerbeak was a capable aerial warrior (deftly explaining why Megatron kept him around), with an arrogant, cowardly and buffoonish side. The character was ultimately voiced by Hank Azaria (although Charlie Adler was a close second choice). Laughing, Isenberg says, “I tell you, the arguments we had over whether we cast Hank as Lazerbeak (back when he was Starscream), was just…it was a really tough choice. I’m glad we did, but even so, I can’t help wondering what would have happened if we’d have picked Charlie instead…” [29] His beast mode was a Cearadactylus – the pterosaur made newly popular thanks to Jurassic Park.

Leatherwing: The Soundwave of the group, Leatherwing was the quiet communications officer/spymaster who had a fierce loyalty to Megatron. Paul Dobson ultimately voiced the character. His beast mode was a vampire bat, with Isenberg saying, “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what beast mode best fit him – and then we came on a vampire bat, hanging upside down in the bowels of the Predacon base. I think it’s as good a job as we could have done.”

Scorponok: The Predacon mad scientist (who was secretly serving his own agenda and would eventually go rogue), an against-type Rob Paulsen was ultimately cast, giving a surprisingly terrifying performance as a twitchy, deranged evil genius whose twisted demeanour and maniacal cackling caused even his nominal comrades to be wary of him (and gave a whole generation of children quite a lot of nightmares). His beast mode was (you guessed it) a scorpion.

Stinger: The comic-relief “butt monkey” of the Preds, Stinger’s buzzing, rambling speech, whining at his lot and constant bad luck would lead to him being a well-loved character. He would eventually quit, angered at his treatment, and join the Children of the Makers. His beast mode was a wasp.

Bludgeon: Portraying the fan favourite from the comics was one of the harder tasks, despite Furman pushing for it heavily. In the end, the decision to focus upon his own twisted honour was what finally triggered what they wanted to do with the character. His skeletal form, raspy, terrifying voice (courtesy of Jim Cummings), crocodile beast mode and his contribution to the body count of the series cannot be understated.

Manterror: The snarky, abrasive Manterror quickly became a fan favourite with his malicious quips. Most of this can be attributed to the performance of his voice actor Kevin Schon (doing an impersonation of Nathan Lane), as voice director Susan Blu recalls, “Most of Manterror’s quips were ad-libs from Kevin.”

Spittor: Voiced by Richard Kind, this disgusting Predacon toady (literally) acted as one of the comic relief characters of the series. His beast mode was a toad.


The Preds’ “bad girl”, Coiler was a smart, deadly and resourceful femme fatale – however, as the series went on, she became more sympathetic, eventually joining the Maximals. According to Isenberg, this was not planned from the beginning, but was changed due to her voice actor, Kath Soucie’s performance, “Kath brought a wonderful vulnerability and nuance to the part, which led to us rewriting her role somewhat”. Her beast mode was a cobra.

Darksteel: Voiced by Carlos Alzaraqui, Darksteel was a Latino-accented “street punk” with a motor mouth and a fondness for quips. “Concerns were raised of having a Latino-coded character who was this aggressive punk type”, Isenberg recalls, “These concerns were allayed when it turned out that Hispanic kids loved the character”. His beast mode was an amphithere (a feathered, winged serpent from European heraldry).

Silverhound: A Cockney-accented short-tempered bruiser who was often annoyed by Darksteel’s constant quipping. Fred Tatasciore was ultimately cast, with Isenberg saying “Fred and Carlos just had a wonderful energy together”. His beast mode was an amarok (a hulking, wolf-bear creature).


Corey Burton, doing his best Christopher Lee as the savvy tactician with his own private ideals and plans for his Combaticons. His beast mode was an Asian elephant.

Brawl: Voiced by Brad Garrett, Brawl was a dumb bruiser with a deep desire for battle and war, and a surprisingly philosophical side that he tries to hide as best as he can. His beast mode was a water buffalo.

Vortex: Voiced by BJ Ward, Vortex was one of the most terrifying Combaticons – a rather unhinged aerial warrior with the demeanour of an incredibly twisted little girl. Her beast mode was an eagle.

Blast-Off: Voiced by Chuck McCann, Blast Off was portrayed as a snobbish cyber-ninja with a surprisingly deadly move-set. His beast mode was a shark.

Swindle: Neil Dickson, doing his slick and savvy salesman schtick once again, this time with an additional hint of menace that bleeds through despite his efforts to remain affable, ”We tried to get Eric Idle, and let’s be real he did so many of the other shows at the time, but I think the movie might have scared him off. Or maybe they paid him more, that’s probably it.” [30] His beast mode was a rat.

The Makers and Their Children

Sheena Easton provided the voice for the most prominent of the Makers, who was friend and foe in equal measure to the Maximals. Isenberg recalls, "Sheena brought this wonderful enigmatic energy to Tikaani."

Tigatron: Blu Mankuma voiced the leader of the Children of the Makers, who, after their first encounter, developed respect for Optimus Primal's ferocity and fighting skills. Whilst somewhat aloof and holier-than-thou at times, he was ultimately noble. Beast mode was a tiger.

Airazor: Voiced by Venus Terzo, second-in-command of the Children, she was often aggrieved by having to deal with the other members. Her beast mode was a falcon.

Sabreback: Voiced by Dan Castallaneta, Sabreback served as the muscle of the "Children" - powerful, but not terribly bright. Despite his aggressive, dim-witted demeanour, he was strangely one of the nicer members. His beast mode was a Kentrosaurus.

Formikon: Voiced by Jeff Bennett, this kind of creepy member of the Children viewed the Makers as his "Queens" – despite this, he was somehow one of the nicer members of the team (after Sabreback). His beast mode was a fire ant.

Geochelyus: Voiced by Rob Paulsen (doing a Scottish accent), this aggressive, somewhat quick-tempered member of the Children often ended up butting heads with the Maximals. His beast mode was a snapping turtle.


The Makers are pretty much these guys… only a bit more sympathetic in intention (Source: TFWiki)

Native Energoans

Voiced by Dante Basco, Edo is a young Energoan warrior, who can be somewhat hot-headed at times. Despite initially mistrusting the Maximals, he soon develops a bond with Pounce, who is more than happy to take the young Energoan under his wing.

Penni: Voiced by Deedee Magno Hall, Penni is Edo’s twin sister and his opposite in personality – bubbly, friendly and optimistic, she is the first of the native Energoans to really start to trust the Maximals

Tomas: Ken Sansom, Penni and Edo's father, a former warrior, who lost his leg in a previous battle. The choice of actor was a deliberate reference, given his interactions with Hound (a character originally played by Samsom).

Dariella: Brigitte Bako, The daughter of Chief Bergon, who appeared cold and above it all despite her best efforts to be friendly due to her restricted childhood. A gradual thawing in the relationship with the Maximals sees her develop into a warmer character.

Chief Bergon: Voiced by John Stephenson, the chief of the Energoans initially mistrusts the Maximals, but eventually comes to respect Optimus for his leadership skills and bravery, “Very much inspired by Muska from Castle in the Sky.”

High Priest Jero: Voiced by Leonard Nimoy, the Energoan shaman/high priest initially mistrusts the Transformers for disrupting Energoa’s natural harmony… however, he warms as the series goes on, forming an odd friendship with Hound (due to their mutual admiration of nature on Energoa).

The Impact

Twenty years on, it’s rather remarkable how much of the series holds up. The animation is stunning, the story does a good job of reinventing the continuity, the voice cast is incredible and it’s ending (An all-out war the like of which the G1 cartoon could only scratch the surface of) is breath-taking to watch even with all the advances in technology. Multiple franchise-defining tearjerkers, not quite up to snuff with Prime’s death, but certainly close [32], it has plenty of laugh out loud moments, action, excitement and intrigue. All thanks to five people who nearly killed each other getting the show made. Let’s quote Marty Isenberg before we wrap up.

“People often ask me, are you proud of the series you made? I say, yes, of course I am, very much so. And then they ask me what I’d do differently. And I tell them it’s simple. I’d leave it the fuck alone.”

[1] In OTL we have Seibertron.com, but with the butterflies it’s possible that this takes it’s place, or it could be just a similar website.

[2] Given the somewhat open-ended nature of the previous post on Transformers The Movie, we've filled in the blanks a little. "The Rebirth’s" seven episodes end with Galvatron, Scorponok and all remaining Decepticon forces trapped within a pocket of time created by the Plasma Energy Chamber, to be watched over until the end of time by the Autobots. The comic series ran for 100 issues in the US (Of a four-issue mini-series, please note) and resulted in Furman getting to do his post Issue 80 plans properly with a hopeful ending of a new alliance between Cybertron and Earth.

[3] That this happens to be my own opinion does not mean that there is no truth to it, as attested by a good many sources over the years.

[4[ I think that the series would be popular enough to get a big screen movie but I can also imagine that being burnt so bad might prevent it so. I’ll leave that up to interpretation.

[5] Yeah, Geewun is a OTL fan term, Geetooz is my own creation. I am rather proud of it, in point of fact! It goes without saying that the OTL Generation 2 gets butterflied away, along with some truly excellently awful colour schemes for the new toys.

[6] OTL Isenberg did work on Gargoyles and Batman the Animated Series, and despite all the butterflies, it's not hard to imagine him still working on IITL counterparts/replacements/whatever easily.

[7[ In OTL, Wolfman had moved to Marvel by the time the nineties had rolled around but would later leave following a dispute over his ownership of the characters. He’d also started the decade working at Disney Magazine, so in IITL he’s given a better shake for his troubles and gets to return to a job he actually held in OTL.

[8] One of the authors was very tempted to bring Gail Simone into the mix, or someone of that ilk - but, from an intent to keep the butterflies relatively considerate with my butterflies, so Marx had to do!

[9] A combination of the slow and often halting acknowledgement of queer characters and the sense that you can do more with cartoon robots than with people means the conservative news apparatus doesn’t really target the show. At least, not until it’s too late.

[10] Unfortunately, there wasn't really any way to get around this - we're well aware that Simon Furman has some WEIRD views about fembots in his stories. Whilst, to his credit, he has never made a big deal about it (especially when he wrote stories with pre-established characters like Beast Wars and the like), the man is doggedly determined to stick to the idea that Transformers have no sex but if they did, they would all be male. We’re not even going to get into the mess that is IDW’s Arcee here, but a similar conversation came up in this and got shot down very quickly. It seems to be more of a bugbear than a particular animus against women….but then we're not the best people to tackle that. Now one of the authors (Nathanoraptor) would argue that a compromise about this would be to make gender in Transformers more a matter of identity than biology - "biologically" genderless, but male/female-presenting.

[11] Now, this too will go unnoticed for a while... before the internet decides to make Evolution a LGBT trailblazing show and basically confirms that TFs as a species are ‘non-binary’'.

[12] One of the authors (@TGW) debated about this a lot - it’s not as if the ideas is completely insane, stuff like Extreme Ghostbusters got made to pander to the nostalgia for the Real Ghostbusters era... but ultimately the leaps I’d have to make to get all the characters back onto a level playing field is just too much in the end.

[13] These are mostly allusions in the backstory – before the Dinobots and Combaticons show up in S2. Cybertron’s isolationism is mentioned to be due to “historical incidents” on Earth and Nebulos and there’s also a mention for the “Reintegration Act” after “the Nebulan Wars” (the Rebirth).

[14[ In OTL, both these studios will produce the Japanese exclusive Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo to fill time between the release of the original Beast Wars to Japanese shores. Incidentally, the more jokey jokey tone of the BW dub is butterflied away and Transformers remains a relatively strait-laced show in Japan.

[15] It would take a small miracle to have a bigger regular cast than G1 - the numbers are relatively close to that of Beast Wars during it’s runs.

[16] The name is used in OTL for Beast Wars II’s setting, but it’s a close enough name that it's hard not to imagine it being used.

[17] OTL according to an interview with Furman....which at present I am struggling to find but might be on the Beast Wars Season 3 DVD?

[18] Some of this would enter the franchise via fits and starts in Beast Wars, Animated and the IDW Comics, I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that some of these ideas would come up in conversation particularly seeing as Isenberg was a part of Animated at the very least.

[19] See, this might seem absurd for the nineties but in OTL Beast Wars there's an episode where the ghost of Starscream arrives and possesses one of the characters (Roll with it) who then forms an alliance with the treacherous femme fatale to scheme and do Starscream esque things. As they walk away, if you pay very close attention, Starscream's hand starts going in a downward direction towards....well, you're all adults, you work out where. The point being that if you can get away with the implication that Starscream was about to cop a feel, a little touchy-feely stuff between two male Autobots might (just might) go under the radar. For source, the episode is here and I reccomend focusing on the section from 11:40 to 11:46

[20] Now, the fact that the BW equivalent is very emphatically NOT set on prehistoric Earth leads to an interesting butterfly in the franchise down the line...

[21] AKA, having the cake and eating it too. Wacky and serious side by side, as it ought to be with Transformers.

[22] Chalk’s performance is similar to Optimus Primal’s OTL – however, there’s a bit more insecurity and nuance here, because, obviously, he’s got big shoes to fill.

[23] Billingslea is one of many voice actors who gets involved in more mainstream productions thanks to the animation boom.

[24] So why did DeForest take the role? The same as why he took a role in Brave Little Toaster goes to Mars per OTL? I’m not sure, though this does lead to a rumoured Transformers curse due to the deaths of Orson Welles in 1986.

[25] I’m not entirely sure when Nimoy stopped thinking of Transformers as a low point in his career and became more enthusiastic to return for Michael Bay’s films (I mean, that he’s related to Bay through marriage helped I’m sure) but it gets accelerated by Kelley having a grand old time in his last days.

[26] Possibly a little bit of a stretch here, but Nelson was clearly good at voice acting given his OTL duties to Sesame Street in the 2000’s and early 2010’s.

[27] As per OTL! Again, with a massive boom in voice over work, Blum turns pro earlier and gets involved in union-work a good fifteen years earlier than OTL.

[28] Basically, this is the beginning of quite a bit more collaboration between the voice-acting unions of LA and Vancouver (with quite a bit more cross-pollination than OTL)

[29] Charlie Adler does, in OTL, voice Starscream in the live action movies for all the good it does him.

[30] Eric Idle was going to be one of the authors' pick for the longest time before he remembered that he actually played Wreck Gar in the movie, which perhaps shows how little that particular performance had an impact.

[31] Maximus Prime’s death, a furious battle between himself and several of the Predacons to cover the Maximals’ retreat in a pitched battle before Megatron mortally wounds him whilst he’s distracted. He dies in the next episode, passing command to Optimus Primal and bidding a fond farewell to his friends.
Last edited:
I have a question for those who grew up in the 90's during the Hensonverse.

Did Devon Sawa and Christina Ricci eventually become a power couple after they worked together on Casper?
Jurassic Park is Frightful in the Dark...
Chapter 6: Jurassic Park III And Beyond
Excerpt from Life Finds A Way: The Inside Story of Jurassic Park, by Nathanial "Nate" Reptorr

Now, with the success of The Lost World, a third Jurassic Park movie would seem obvious – and, indeed, Crichton, Burton and Spielberg had been kicking around ideas for a threequel, with the finale of Lost World, with the T-rex pair rampaging across San Diego being taken from one of the outlines that had been suggested, and Raimi requested to keep the film open-ended for a possible third instalment. In June 1998, the announcement was made – a third Jurassic Park movie, with Spielberg and Burton returning as producers, with a summer ’01 release date pencilled in.

Of course, as we all know, 1998 was a contentious time for the Walt Disney Entertainment Company and, early on, Burton and Spielberg were met with lack of internal faith. At this, Burton sighs, “Dinotopia underperforming and Black Lagoon being a dud caused a lot of uncertainty. Once the ‘Shepherd Rump Group’ came in, the guy they sent to the Creative Committee meetings basically kept saying ‘Could you prove to us that this is going to be a success? Do monster movies still have a market?’ I pointed out that Lost World had beaten Fantastic Four in ’97, so it certainly could compete.”

So Burton began putting together what the story would be for the threequel. An early issue was finding a slot in the cast’s schedules. Pierce Brosnan and Winona Ryder were finding their commitments to the Marvel metaplot – playing Reed Richards and Lady Sif respectively – to be all-consuming and Geena Davis was busy with her new NBC series In The Ring, in which she played a female boxing manager. The only previous cast member whose schedule even vaguely lined up was John Leguizamo (who played Marty Guitterez in both the previous films) and even then, he couldn’t promise his full availability.

With these, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it is a credit to Burton’s determination that Jurassic Park III was made at all. Faced with the scheduling conflicts of the cast, Burton concocted a story idea that wouldn’t require any returning characters to play any prominent role, chronicling a group of teenagers becoming stranded on Isla Sorna, and would have dealt with the fallout of Sorna being revealed to the world in the last movie. In addition, in contrast to the vast ensemble that Lost World had required, Jurassic Park III, like the first movie, would have a much smaller cast – for most of the film, only five or six core characters would appear, enabling a greater focus to be placed on character interactions.

But who would direct it? Sam Raimi had apologetically ruled himself out, citing his growing commitment to the Marvel metaplot. Whilst Burton briefly considered returning himself, despite his longstanding opposition to directing sequels – aware that this might be his last chance - he ultimately decided not to.

But, then, who would take up the director’s chair? Burton came to this answer remarkably quickly. He had seen a promising script called Cabin Fever by two young writers named Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein – a story that got down pat the necessary horror and adolescent drama elements that Jurassic Park III would require. Elaborating, Burton said, “As soon as I read the Cabin Fever script, I knew that Eli and Randy were the perfect candidates to make Jurassic Park III.”

Contacting Roth and Pearlstein, Burton offered them an opportunity – to co-write the script based on Burton’s outline, and Roth to direct, for Jurassic Park III. Both fans of the previous two films, they accepted instantaneously. On Burton and Spielberg’s suggestion, Roth and Pearlstein immersed themselves into the world of Jurassic Park by accompanying Jack Horner on a dig in Montana. Pearlstein recalls, “We found ourselves pretty much prospecting for dinosaurs, getting a sense of the world of palaeontology and talking to palaeontologists – it gave us a lot of insight that would prove important for the script.”

When the time came to write the script, Burton and Spielberg had one requirement for Roth and Pearlstein – in Jurassic Park III, T-rex would no longer be the king of the jungle. As Roth recalls, “Tim and Steve really wanted to shake it up – the T-rex had been done, in their view. Cooked. So we needed to find a different big theropod to be the ‘heavy’ – one bigger, toothier and meaner than T-rex.”

For his reasoning, Burton elaborated, “I love the T-rex, we all do – however, I felt that there was nothing that we could really do with it that could top the San Diego rampage at the end of Lost World. Once you’ve had a pair of T-rex rampage through a major city, anything else would feel like an anticlimax – so I thought it was time for the T-rex to step aside and for a new dinosaur to take the spotlight.”

The film’s palaeontological advisors were questioned for possible candidates – Carnotaurus was in the running, as was Giganotosaurus, but eventually, they had their candidate. According to Roth, “We settled on the Baryonyx, which is this big theropod from the Early Cretaceous of England. Now, we fictionalised it a bit – in real life, it was an aquatic animal that mostly ate fish.” Burton adds, “I found the Baryonyx very visually striking – it had this very long, crocodile-like snout, which gave it this wonderful Brian Froud look. If there ever were a dinosaur that looked like it had been designed for Dark Crystal, it was the Baryonyx.”

To showcase the power shift, Roth and Pearlstein wrote a scene (which proved to be fairly controversial) where the main characters were chased by an adolescent T-rex… which is then met by the territorial Baryonyx who, after a brief scuffle, chases it off. Aside from showing the balance of power shifting, it also fulfilled the long-standing desire for the effects artists to have a dinosaur fight done in the style of Ray Harryhausen’s Go-Motion dinosaur fights.

The Baryonyx was also made the star of the film’s chilling opening sequence, where it brutally dispatches a luckless band of would-be poachers, who had snuck onto Isla Sorna to hunt the dinosaurs. Throughout the scene, we only see little glimpses of the Baryonyx, as it picks off the gang in the misty swamps it calls home, slasher-movie-style, with Roth saying “There’s that wonderful tradition in monster movies of the ‘slow burn’ – in the original Godzilla, we don’t see him until twenty-one minutes in and that’s just a glimpse. So I wanted to build up the Baryonyx before we actually saw it.”

The Creatureworks oversaw building an animatronic of this new monstrosity – which, at forty-four feet long and 2.4 tons, was one of the largest animatronics ever built by the Creatureworks… exactly the bigger, badder dinosaur that Roth and Pearlstein had envisaged. To distinguish it from the T-rex, according to visual effects supervisor Steve Williams, “The Baryonyx, unlike the T-rex, is something that’s more at home in water than it is on land – when it’s swimming, it moves very elegantly, but on land, it has this very lumbering gait. Kind of like a crocodile.” For several key aquatic scenes involving the creature (in particular a raft chase scene from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel), aside from the animatronic being adapted for water use, a scale model of the Baryonyx’s head was created.

The other franchise mainstays - the Velociraptors – had a rather different fate. Rather than being usurped, they were given an extended role. According to Burton, “I’ve always been fond of the Velociraptors – they hadn’t been all that prominent in Lost World, so I wanted to give them a bigger role in the story and portray them with a bit more nuance than they’d had before. We’d established that they are smart creatures – and me, Steve, Eli and Randy all wanted JPIII to further explore that intelligence and portray them as something more than just predators, as they had been portrayed before.”

So Roth and Pearlstein gave the raptors an anti-villainous role in the story, pursuing the protagonists after conniving, resentful beta-jock Deacon (played by Michael Rosenbaum) steals two of their eggs. And, in an inverse of the original film’s finale (where the T-rex killed the last raptors), it would be the Velociraptors who would save the day, arriving at the last minute to distract the Baryonyx long enough for Paul, Lisa and Heather to escape.

As they wrote the script, Roth and Pearlstein noted one crucial difference to the previous films. According to Pearlstein, “Jurassic Park III functioned more like a travelogue than the previous two. It was the characters trying to get back to the coast, travelling through the island and just encountering the dinosaurs. It enabled us to see more of Isla Sorna than we’d seen in Lost World – to get an idea of the artificial ecosystem that formed there when the dinosaurs initially escaped from Site B.”

Rather fittingly, a greater focus was made on individual set pieces – in planning out the action sequences, Roth and Pearlstein had the advantage that, in the years since Lost World, the advancements in computer-generated visual effects had enabled for increased detail in the dinosaurs – including accurate flesh simulation software that could replicate underlying muscle, fat and tendons as the creatures moved, and more complicated action scenes to be devised.

In addition, unlike Jurassic Park and Lost World, where clever editing and quick cuts had been employed to integrate the CGI and animatronic close-ups, both disciplines could be integrated in the same frame, with Roth saying, “As the script evolved, one thing that became crucial was that the transition between the CGI and the animatronics be as seamless as possible”. Elaborating, Williams said, “In JPIII, we could have CGI dinosaurs interact with animatronic dinosaurs in a way we’d never done before – in the other films we’d have to make a cutaway from the CGI to the animatronics. In this one, we could make physical contact.”

One particularly chilling one is the scene where Lisa, Paul and Trent must navigate the old Site B labs, where the raptors have made their home, repurposed from a scene with Grant, Marcus and Gennaro in the Jurassic Park novel and combined with a scene in the Lost World novel where Grant, Marcus and their team explore the ruined Site B labs, as Grant talks about the history of the island. On the scene, Roth stated, “The scene is like a haunted house movie – they’re navigating this dark, ruined building and they have to constantly watch their steps because it’s just crawling with raptors. I liked the ‘rats hiding from dinosaurs’ vibe in a lot of the action scenes in Lost World and I wanted to build on that.”

A set at the Disney-MGM studios, the Site B labs were designed to be, according to Roth, “this destroyed place, filled with history, with the feel of an abandoned castle. This was where the magic once happened but has since been abandoned.” Dead embryonic dinosaurs float in vats of greenish fluid, like some kind of failed experiment and old audio recordings from Victor Wu and Timothy Harmon chronicling the creation of the dinosaurs on Site B, as raptors stalk amongst the ruins of their ancestral birthplace.

Another sequence was the dinosaur stampede – pursued by the raptors after their escape from the Site B labs, the group run into an open field filled with herbivores that soon begin stampeding at the sight of the oncoming predators. The scene was the payoff to something that had long been foreshadowed, as Roth recalls “In the first movie, Mulroney offhandedly remarks that the raptors can run at 45 miles an hour – in this movie, we get to finally see that.” (The actors, for the record, found shooting the sequence quite exhausting).

And, of course, there was the grand finale, set in the Baryonyx’s swampy lair and where the main characters have their final confrontation with the beast. On the design of the lair, Roth recalls, “I really wanted the Baryonyx’s lair to be this dark, murky, claustrophobic place – there was that feeling that this huge dinosaur could be lurking anywhere and you wouldn’t be able to see it until it struck”. The scene is certainly terrifying – and has been the subject of many lingering nightmares for 2000’s kids.

In addition, Roth and Pearlstein, on Burton and Spielberg’s request, wrote a conservationist theme into JPIII, tying the consequences of revealing Sorna to the world into real-world conservation issues, with Roth saying “Tim and Steve really wanted to use JPIII to tell the story of Sorna being revealed to the world, and basing the world’s reaction to it on issues that face endangered species in the real world – things like people sneaking on to the island to poach the dinosaurs”. Based on this edict, Roth and Pearlstein added a dinosaur hunter to later drafts to give the film a human antagonist, as well as introducing the idea that the dinosaurs were beginning to spread out of Sorna due to overcrowding.

The ”dinosaur hunter” character eventually became Joe, a seemingly harmless, kooky castaway who turns out to be a ruthless dinosaur poacher. The character, who quickly became a fan favourite, was ultimately played by British comedy actor Adrian Edmondson (a suggestion from producer Burton, who had long been a fan of Edmondson’s comedic works), who could switch from the ‘eccentric, but seemingly harmless castaway’ to ‘unhinged, murderous hunter” to a degree that often surprised his co-workers. On his character, Edmondson said, “People always say that Joe was against type for me… but the reality is that he was no different to Eddie or Vyvyan – that sort of cheerfully violent dipsomaniac – the only difference is that he wasn’t entirely played for laughs.”

Initially unconvinced, Roth was won over by Edmondson’s audition, saying “Ade can push the crazy right to the point of unnerving… and, at the same time, be genuinely likeable and funny – in a way few actors can. He’s a really good, really unique actor.” This sentiment was reciprocated, as Edmondson says, “I had a bloody good time doing Jurassic Park III – Eli [Roth] is both an incredibly talented director, with a great eye for balancing comedy and horror, and a very nice chap, and it was wonderful to work with such terrific young actors as Cerina [Vincent], Tom [Welling] and Rider [Strong]. I’d never really done one of these big effects-y movies and Jurassic Park III was an incredibly fun, new experience for me.”

For the five core teenagers, Roth and Pearlstein wrote them around recognisable horror movie archetypes, with Roth saying “We looked at slasher movies and whatnot and built the characters around those familiar archetypes – we had the girl-next-door, you had the party girl, you had the charismatic big man on campus guy, the smart guy… we merged him with the comic relief, so we had a slot open for this resentful beta-jock guy”, with the aim of initially introducing them as stereotypical, but revealing their inner nuances as the story went on.

For heroine Lisa, many young actresses were considered before the relatively unknown Cerina Vincent was cast, with Roth saying, “Cerina captured that wonderful ‘feisty party girl with a heart of gold’ energy we needed for Lisa”. When asked for her motivation for taking the part, Vincent, who had previously mostly appeared in teen movies, smiled, “I wanted to make a film where I didn’t have to take my clothes off and I got to punch a dinosaur.” For her quieter, more conventionally feminine friend Heather, Jordan Ladd was cast after playing off well with Vincent in the chemistry tests. Roth described JPIII as “really the story of these two young women – Tim and Steve wanted to continue the ‘grand tradition’, as it were, of the films being female-led.”

For Paul, the comic relief smart guy, Rider Strong was cast, with Roth saying, “Paul, as we imagined him, was this kind of sarcastic smart guy – basically the nerd and the comic relief as a single character… and Rider certainly brought the sarcasm – and the underlying vulnerability – to the part.” His playing off Vincent and Ladd well in the “chemistry tests” also helped – to the point where Strong was romantically linked to both actresses by various aspects of the media in the wake of the film’s release.

The quasi-love triangle between the three characters was expanded on in later drafts – and left unresolved by the end, with Strong commenting, “The situation these three people are in the end is not exactly conducive to thinking about which girl’s bones you’re gonna jump.” For the record, Vincent and Ladd are each insistent he eventually ended up with their respective characters.

For manly man Trent, up-and-coming actor and male model Tom Welling was cast, because he, according to Roth, conveyed “that sense of all-American young masculinity” that they had been looking for. Welling, a fan of the previous films, was “amazed” that he had gotten the part – recalling, he said “I was unable to speak for a solid minute that I, Tom Welling, was going to be in a Jurassic Park movie.”

During casting, Roth and Pearlstein, at Burton’s encouragement, rewrote the characters’ around their actors’ performances. A particular example was Trent – originally, the character was more unlikeable, “basically this bull-headed, but charismatic, semi-well-meaning jerk – this guy who thinks he’s the hero… a sentiment that is, at least initially, shared by the narrative”, according to Roth, but Welling’s performance led to him being rewritten into a more intelligent, charming and slightly goofy character. Welling described him as “a natural leader”, saying that “he’s very sure of himself, very charismatic, very strong-willed… which can be a negative trait a lot of the time.”

Welling’s performance also led to Trent’s end, amongst others, being rewritten – originally, it was Trent, not Deacon, who would have been killed by the raptors in the group’s initial encounter with them, heroically attempting to drive them off as his “decoy hero end”, whilst Paul would be killed by the Baryonyx attempting to lead it away from Lisa and Heather. However, producer Burton found Deacon’s initial death (eaten by the Baryonyx in the group’s second encounter with it) anticlimactic and the chemistry between Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd and Cerina Vincent too strong to kill one of them off, so Deacon met his end at the claws of the raptors, Paul survived to the end of the film, and it was Trent who sacrificed himself drawing away the Baryonyx.

On his young co-stars, Edmondson was gushing in his praise, “Cerina, Jordan, Rider and the rest are all brilliant young actors – any praise they got was well-deserved, in my view. And we all got on very well – it wasn’t like when you hear about how Ken Branagh fucking hated Zachary Ty Bryan on the Star Wars prequels. That mindset that we all “have” to be in competition with each other or that I’m expected to treat Tom [Welling] like he's muscling in on my territory is completely ridiculous in my view – I never felt threatened or outshined by them, and I hope they never felt threatened or outshined by me, because we understood that we were all part of an ensemble.”

This praise was very much reciprocated as Vincent recalls, “Ade is one of the funniest, nicest guys you’ll ever meet. There were moments, working with him, where I almost passed out from laughing”. Welling agreed with this sentiment, “A lot of people – who only really know him from his comedic stuff – are surprised when I tell them that Ade is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with. The guy has incredible range – and it’s honestly a shame that not a lot of people seem to be aware of that.”

In addition, John Leguizamo appeared briefly as Marty Gutierrez at the end (on one of the patrol boats that ultimately picks Paul, Lisa and Heather up), whilst B.D. Wong and Christopher Lee appeared in vocal cameos as Victor Wu and Timothy Harmon (played on audio recordings in the Site B labs). Allegedly, Roth was unconvinced that they would get Lee for the cameo – whilst Lee had previously reprised his role for the opening miniseries of the Jurassic Park cartoon (set in an alternate continuity where he survived the events of the film), he had been replaced by Michael York – at Lee’s suggestion – for the series proper. However, Roth’s fears turned out to be unfounded, as Lee was “more than happy” to portray Harmon (even as a recording) for what could be the last time (and, very sadly, was).

Director Roth’s style, overall, was a hybrid of Burton’s “mid-century monster movie” style and German Expressionist set design and Raimi’s slasher film extreme zooms and whip pans, but with an added Mondo-style dirtiness explicitly inspired by infamous film Cannibal Holocaust, a favourite of Roth’s. The score – this time done by James Newton Howard – incorporated some of Danny Elfman’s classic themes, but used more tribal instruments.

Jurassic Park III performed well and got mixed-to-positive reviews overall, with critics praising some of the performances (especially Vincent, Ladd and Edmondson), the visual effects and the pacing, although criticism was drawn to certain aspects of characterisation and plot, with many comparing it negatively to the previous two instalments. Empire magazine put it best when they said, “Lacking the horror and pathos of the original and the grand scope of the second, Jurassic Park III is an above-average horror flick where dinosaurs jump out of the bushes and eat people – pity that’s all it really seems to aim to be”.

However, it performed significantly less than its predecessors, grossing roughly $400 million[5], a roughly $60 million drop from Lost World (if one discounts the R-rated cut). Many reasons have been mooted for this – the gradual decrease in popularity of monster movies (despite the success of Godzilla 2 the year before), the lack of recurring actors (aside from Leguizamo’s small cameo at the end) and a competitive summer slate with films like WB/DC’s Green Lantern and MGM’s own Captain America: Sins of the Past.

The replacement of the T-rex with the Baryonyx raised a few eyebrows among both paleo-enthusiasts and fans of the previous films, with some paleo-enthusiasts being angry at how “monsterised” the film had made the animal whilst others were simply happy that a non-tyrannosaur big theropod had appeared in a Hollywood movie. For the record, Baryonyx’s co-describers, Alan Charig and Angela Milner were, whilst flattered at their discovery making its Hollywood debut, disappointed at the various inaccuracies taken from the real animal and a little put out that no-one involved in the film had thought to contact them during production for consultancy purposes.

Meanwhile, some T-rex fans were angry that the series mascot had been treated as a glorified punching bag, just to show how badass the Baryonyx was, with the Baryonyx’s scuffle with the T-rex often becoming a source of Internet mockery - however, fans have mellowed to the Baryonyx in the years since the film’s release, coming to view it as a worthy replacement (the several terrifying sequences staring it certainly helped). It has become surprisingly common in dinosaur-themed works after the film to have a tyrannosaur (usually a T-rex) throw it down with a spinosaur (either a Baryonyx or a Spinosaurus) – in those, however, the tyrannosaur generally wins (possibly as a take that to the film).

Among those disappointed was Malcolm Morrison actor Johnny Depp (who was in The Shadow Over Innsmouth that year), who, on a publicity tour for Jimmy Rango two years later, when asked if he regretted turning down Lost World (and his character being resurrected), said, “No – in fact, I think I jumped off the bus at the right time. No offence to Tim, Steve or Eli [Roth], but look at Jurassic Park III - there’s none of the pathos, none of the majesty that we had with the first one… it’s just people running from a dinosaur that’s trying to eat them.”

Cast member Ade Edmondson was defiant, however, “When people nitpick and say ‘That wasn’t the best in the series’ or ‘You were in the one that was rubbish’, I pretty much think, yes, it may not have been the best in the series, but it was still better than most everything that was in cinemas that summer. We worked bloody hard on it and we were, and still are, very proud of what we made… so it always annoys me when certain subsets of the fandom try and play backseat driver.” This is a sentiment agreed by Roth, who said, “A lot of the fan complaints were more about the film not living up to their preconceived expectations than anything else.”

However, the film was enough of a success that Burton and Spielberg were talking about ideas for a fourth instalment – and, as the survivors watched a flock of pterosaurs fly off into the sunset (“in search of new nesting grounds”, as Guiterrez states), with the implication that the dinosaurs are overcrowding Sorna and beginning to leave, one was certainly set up.

Little did they know…

- - - - -

[1] – Now JPIII went through a long and contentious development OL –the “group of teenagers stranded on Sorna” plotline was a story idea that was actually going to be used. In addition, at one point, Alan Grant was going to have been secretly hiding out on Sorna – presumably, he’d have appeared in the “stranded teenagers story”… but we don’t know at what point Grant was going to return.

The take I have is that JPIII OTL was, in the early stages, written with the possibility that no returning characters would be available (before Sam Neill confirmed his availability). Here, Brosnan and Ryder are unavailable because of Marvel, Davis is unavailable because of her new sitcom/drama and Leguizamo cannot promise his full availability – basically, they’re 0 for 4.

[2] – Baryonyx was meant to be the dinosaur Big Bad OTL before they picked the Spinosaurus - I assumed that "giant theropod different from T-rex" semi-automatically points you to a spinosaur.

[3] – Yeah, all these people will be far bigger names than they are OTL. As for Edmondson, a lot of the 80’s British comedy names are far bigger in Hollywood than they are OTL, so it’s just the icing on the cake – even the film’s detractors will cite Edmondson’s performance as a high point.

[4] – Slightly better than OTL – but still not breaking the box office by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is still quite a success.
Last edited:
This is a might indulgent but when I created the Conan post I created an actress named Sarah Williams, who finds herself in demand because of her performance in Seasons 5 6 and 7. I was wondering if anyone would be willing to follow up on that, with her getting a big role in a blockbuster and than growing even further in popularity (her feelings on Conan are somewhat mixed; she’s eternally grateful it got her noticed, and she does love the character but she did get tired of having to constantly show off huge amounts of skin, and described the belly dance training she got as “exhausting”.)
I had a suggestion for her possible career path that I put in the Discussion Thread, @LordYam (by the way, kickass user name) - basically, she moves out of acting and into writing/directing after only being offered parts where she has to walk around half naked and/or take her clothes off.

This is partly because I'd had some ideas for TTL works (mostly in the horror/fantasy/sci-fi/monster genres) with female directors and partly because, to the best of my knowledge, none of TTL's "behind-the-scenes" POV characters are women.