"In the early 1990s Barton “Bo” Boyd, the President for Consumer Products of Walt Disney Entertainment, had an epiphany: girls love Princesses." - easy to snipe this line, but lets see where the article goes.

"Even fishy, snake-y, ogre-y, bamboo-y, and dragon-y Princesses!" - thankfully!

"Whatever your preferences as a little girl (or even little boy) there was a Princess for you." - or adult who likes collecting too much!

"Your parents could spend their whole paycheck every month for a year and still not claim everything associated with even a single Princess in the line, none the less the Whole Lineup." - the Power of Merch, always leave them wanting more!

"Surely with the right marketing – the type of marketing that saw boys play with dolls in the form of GI Joe – you could make a parallel line?" - damm right!

"Perhaps even get boys and girls to play together?" - don't overdo it now!

"Why? Because they don’t know each other. They inhabit different worlds!" - logical really. Of course they do, therefore don't know each other!

"Thus, Princess Squad and then Hero Squad, developed to answer Bo’s call for a new show to push merch, went into production." - ah Merch again.

"to save them all from the evil Murq, Bringer of Darkness and Despair, who had assembled a Villain Squad of his own, of course!" - got to sell Merch to the kids who support the bad guys. Look at sales for Imperials in Star Wars!

"I wanted every little girl to look at those Disney Princesses with new eyes, not as damsels to rescue or toys to collect to impress your friends, but as tough chicks who can take care of themselves when they need to, and not necessarily by fighting.” - Awesome take on the responsibility!

"Jim reportedly had tears in his eyes when he smiled and nodded his approval." - picked the right clip there!

"Roy Disney was reportedly “torn” - I am with Roy on this one.

"Princess Squad did far better than Hero Squad, which lasted only two seasons" - not totally surprised, if a little disappointed.

"Princess Squad lasted for a spectacular nine." - that is really good going. Wonder what replaced it in 2005?

"the decidedly not officially sanctioned “Princesses Kick Ass” shirt and signs that sold widely across the internet." - there will be a *lot* of TPublic and similar site 'fan art' places trading off this show!

"the Princess Squad and Hero Squad series and toy lines are something that has definitely earned its place in the history of toys, and in the history of animation." - ITTL me might have caught some of it, but he's the wrong age for it really.

"Not bad for a shameless cash-grab!" - Gift shop is over there, right?

Fun chapter there @Geekhis Khan
 
Ooh, who's the actor? And is it Barry or Wally?
Hadn't gotten that far in my thinking, honestly. Good guest post fodder for whoever wants it.

Although, technically, it's worth mentioning the witch-hunting mania was more an early-modern phenomenon than a medieval one. As I understand it, if a medieval farmer told his priest that he believed someone had put a curse on his crops, he'd be the one charged with heresy, for believing it was even possible for Satan to interfere with God's plan in this way.
More or less correct. The "witch mania" was 1400s-1600s and officially sanctioned by the church, though vigilante-style witch hunts happened in medieval times even as the Catholic Church kept trying to prevent them. Why else would the Church keep having to tell people not to kill suspected witches if people weren't still doing it? Also, plenty of burnings for heresy and Paganism, which had a bit of overlap with witchcraft. And even if they're not murdering you for being an uppity old lady with too many cats, you were still feared and talked about. Either way, not a great time to be that uppity spinster with a creepy cat.

Not according to the TV Tropes page Sleeping Single, which says they were one of the first sitcom couples who did share a bed. It's been a long time since I saw an episode, but I found a clip that seems to confirm this:
Looks like Ms. Duckworth and Mr. Tuatode were working on memory there, or more concerned with making a point than being technically accurate.

Hrmm. Much as I love fantasy fiction, and I'm sure TTL me would be deeply into the Witch Craze, I'm always suspicious of works that say there really were witches in Salem. Even if they're the good guys.
Honestly, I'm kind of miffed at that Salem one. I seriously hope the 2000s and 2010s see a re-look at witches, with interpretations that are more in line with actual history, instead of 'cool science lovers/magical girls but edgier who are persecuted by the fearful religious' and more 'random women who were fucked over because of local feuds, property rights, wealth or hysteria over catastrophe'.
So, a more historically accurate drama based on the real persecutions of innocent women in the witch hunts. I can do that.

Something like a remake of The Crucible or Maid of Salem, perhaps.

Of course, with a returned focus on witchcraft came a returned focus to the witch hunt, and the Salem Witch Trials in particular. There was a 1997 remake of The Crucible from Columbia and a remake of the 1937 period melodrama Maid of Salem.
Huh...whadaya know? :winkytongue:

Okay so I have a question... Well to be honest I have 2
1.Was Duck Duck Goof ever formally introduced?
2.What is it about?
It was first mentioned way back in the late 1980s in A Hippie in the House of Mouse. It's basically Duck Tales meets Goof Troop.

So, Harry Potter still exists, albeit with some alterations?
More or less. Stay tuned.

A very interesting overview of one of the original genre breakouts of this TL @Geekhis Khan! It's fascinating to see how the different political climate has ballooned out and influenced pop culture TTL. I especially love On Spectral Evidence, it sounds so fascinating every time you bring it up - definitely would be a must watch for me!
I'll pass on your compliments to Mrs. Khan, OSE was essentially here idea.

No doubt someone's going to program a very non-licenced Street Fighter clone with Disney characters (Sleeping Beauty has a mean wake-up super) that'll spark an official game perhaps made with Nintendo and - oh, did I just back-door Smash Bros. as Disney Princess merch?
And I thought that Princess Squad was already a good show, with nine seasons and revolutionizing the Disney Princess brand. But to get a Disney Smash Bros. out of it down the road? That would be even better!
Wait what?

An Disney Smash Bros?

Who shot who in the what now?
Sounds like a guest post forming!! Go for it.

I love this chapter, because wisely you addressed the two big perspectives regarding this kind of work. On the one hand, as a kid I'd have loved seeing all these characters together and interacting, this would have been right up my street. And as someone who really enjoyed all kinds of Disney takes, the multitude of styles and genres coming together would have been fascinating to see come out. And NINE seasons!? Definitely a big deal, definitely something I would have gotten a little over passionate with in my youth.

But as an adult you do recognize that a lot of this is merch driven and is intended to get kids to buy, buy, buy! And so there is that tendency to write off this kind of stuff as pure commercialism and desperately made to sell toys and to make a Brand out of them. Which, you know....yes, absolutely it is. But at the same time, when it comes to a TV production, commercials need some level of investment on the part of those making it to make it a true success. There's a reason that the first Care Bears movie beat the Black Cauldron at the box office, and it was not just as a result of Disney being in something of a slump. Having re-watched the Care Bears recently, it's roots as a commercial for the toys are present but they are always kept within the frame of a competent plot with a talented director, a good voice cast and animation/backgrounds that ranges from 'okay' to 'oh shit that's actually pretty damn good'. Those behind it wanted a commercial, but the best commercial is a good movie first and foremost.

Same goes with the original MLP special, or the Transformers (There is a reason that everyone remembers Optimus Prime and the outcry of his death, because Peter Cullen one hundred percent commits to this idea of the gentle giant and that hit with a lot of people, and it's still hitting to the day) or the Real American Hero comic. Going above and beyond the base line is picked up by the public. Commercials, for all their faults and flaws and for however much it might reflect our societal issues, are not just some low effort thing that automatically succeeds because we're gullible fools. They need to actually work and be functional and, yes, to engage our minds. And also, it would help if we were gullible fools but I digress. In this case, as much as 'brand' has come to take a very negative term in this day and age, an ability to reflect upon what these imperfect movies meant and to translate that for a new audience and to help them experience it too is a good and healthy thing to do. Henson is very understandable here, and I love that it's when he could see real passion and thought was being put into it that he relented.

Also, it's interesting to see that Roy seems to be growing further and further apart from Jim. It's natural of course, Henson may be doing less to encourage the press than Eisner and is in fact deliberately trying to avoid comparisons to the figurehead, but Roy seems naturally insecure about that kind of thing. Part of me does wish that Henson had at least one backer in the boardroom given the sparring between Roy and Diane, I do wonder if something is about to come to a head at some point.
Thanks, TGW, that's exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this one. The whole mixed bag of merch. On one hand it's rather exploitive of the innocent, but on the other hand every child has a deep and abiding love for the toys of their youth. Even knowing that Hasbro and Sunbow were "manipulating" me doesn't change my fond memories of the shows and the toys. In OTL Jim Henson struggled a bit with the whole "merch for kids" thing. Sesame Street merch in particular was a hard sell, but one he went with because it ultimately helped support Sesame Street's mission, not just make him rich. Here he was sold on the idea by how the platform could also be used to teach valuable lessons and encourage socialization between different girls.

The Disney Princesses line can be seen as exploitation, or as a chance for girls to explore their own hopes and dreams. Two sides of the same coin. And in Roy's case, he has the extra stressor here of being incredibly arch-protective of Walt's legacy, so the whole idea of having Snow White and Cinderella team up to fight villains is to him a cheap ploy. I'm not surprised that a lot of people are torn on this one. I'm torn making it to some degree.

And yet in some ways it's cruel to not merchandise things. How much would it have sucked to love Transformers and not get to play with Optimist Prime? Or dress up as him for Halloween? Or have him on your lunch box?

And then there's Watterson's Dilemma, as I call it, named for Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes. He famously rejected all merch other than reprint books of his comics, which sucked for any of us who'd have killed for our own Hobbes plushy, or at least a poster. And yet by refusing to merch, he ironically voided his own copyright protections, leading directly to the 1990s flood of unlicensed "Calvin pissing on a _______" stickers and the like. Sadly, Calvin today is most associated in a lot of minds not with a cute and clever and deeply philosophical comic, but with Chevy owners expressing how much they hate Fords and vice versa.

Thanks for using my DATA logo, Geekhis. This "Princess/Hero/Villian Squad" idea is very coolbeanz. ;)
Thanks for making it.

Side note: I'm guessing Sélena, Nicté Há and Longzhu are from movies that haven't released yet?
Coming soon to a theater near you.
 
Whoopass Rolls Along
Whoopass Girls (Cont’d)
Excerpt from Tech Grrls: The Rise of the Female Technologists 1990-2015 by Dr. Marina Sparks, PE


The success of Whoopass Stew gave Whoopass Studios – relabeled for kids’ programming, at least, as Kickin’ Productions – carte blank to design their next series. First would come Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, another of the Cal Arts creations, which became a huge hit for Cartoon City in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Dexter’s Lab became iconic in its own right and one of Cartoon City’s most popular and beloved lines. Like Whoopass Stew, Dexter’s Lab combined the simple-yet-elegant midcentury UPA style and tropes and mixed it with Anime style action and tropes. Genndy’s mastery of perspective and three-dimensional animation, even with the simple forms, made the series stand out among its fellow animated series, most of which still adhered to some derivation of the Hoerk & Gatty formula. But Dexter would not be alone.

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In 1998 PFN launched a Whoopass Stew quasi-spinoff cartoon featuring Rat Phynk’s Street Rats, which became a huge hit with teenage audiences thanks to its street-smart coolness and hip-hop soundtrack, and which won recognition for its diverse voice cast. While they originated in the “Whoopass-verse”, the Street Rats’ only remaining ties to the original series was through occasional appearances by the Gangrene Gang, who were a sort of rival to the rebellious but honorable Street Rats. The success was so great that Rat Phynk and his crew bought out their membership in Whoopass Studios and founded the allied Rat’s Nest Studios, also in Van Nuys, which followed a similar business model as Whoopass and ultimately became a successful creator space for Hip Hop and Reggaeton music, clothing lines, urban art, and other artistic pursuits.

“I loved the Whoopass team and was glad to have worked with them, and I still thank them for giving us our big break,” said Rat Phynk, who to this day refuses to go by any other name, “Les even offered me a buy-in to full partner, but we [the Street Rats crew] reached a point where we needed to be our own thing. We still team up with them for cross-promotion and help securing jobs and funds. We even teamed up with Damon [Albarn] and Jamie [Hewlett] in the early ‘aughts for a Rats-Gangrene-Gorillaz[1] team-up special. I even got to meet Banxy. We teamed up for that thing on Wild Street, you may recall. And no,” he added, seemingly deadly serious, “I ain’t saying who he is, so don’t ask!”

3dcbd6604eedb24eda0a98a6867b5784.jpg

(Image source Good Reads)

And speaking of Jamie Hewlett, Whoopass was soon approached by Filmation to develop an adult animated action series based upon Hewlett and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl comic, whose cult film was having a huge resurgence within the counterculture. Genndy Tartakovsky took the lead, with Tank Girl: The Animated Catastrophe running on FX from 1997-2003. With animation that was a mix of Hewlitt and Martin’s “standard” look and various animation and multimedia styles for “general wackiness” purposes, TG:TAC became a cult hit.


Whoopass rolled along. In 2000 Neptune began playing Rob Renzetti’s Drac & Mina about the adventures of Count Dracula and a little girl named Mina Harper, which would last 3 seasons and sell plenty of T-shirts through Spenser’s Gifts and Hot Topic. And with five animated series ongoing by 2000, Whoopass began to expand and hire more animators, writers, and voice artists. It would ultimately lead to numerous other series for Craig, Rob, and Genndy, launching their individual names. “We started having to outsource more and more of the animation to partnering studios or Rough Draft Studios,” said Rob, “Just to keep up with the demand!”

The animated shows were soon followed by the Heather Henson produced live action series Hacks, a youth sitcom about two teen girls and a teen guy who were White Hat hackers battling against a group of bumbling adult Black Hat hackers intent on doing ill deeds, all the while living secret double lives as bullied high school students. It would air afterschool on PFN and gained a growing audience while also winning several awards from science and educational organizations for its scientifically and technically accurate portrayal of computers. Commodore became a corporate sponsor and Jeri, clearly the inspiration for the main character of Jax (Laura Bertram), got to meet Jack Tramiel of Commodore, a sort-of childhood idol of hers (or at least she idolized the engineers that he’d hired!), who was in turn so impressed with the young lady that he offered her a job leading his new R&D division. She counter-offered that he could hire Whoopass any time he wanted as subcontractors, consultants, or fixers.

“A woman after my own heart,” Tramiel said, shaking her hand.

The late 1990s also saw the arrival of Lauren Faust, a clever writer and animator who was previously working for Disney on Princess Squad and Hero Squad. Faust, a fan of the Whoopass Girls, had been hoping to find a slot at Whoopass Studios for a while, and a chance meeting with Craig McKracken allowed the “love connection” to happen. A literal one…eventually. But for the moment, the relationship began professionally.

Faust settled in quickly at Whoopass, writing and doing art for Whoopass Stew, soon taking over from Craig as the show runner. But she had ideas of her own.

“I really wanted a set of toys that would let girls express who they are, rather than try and tell girls who they should be,” she said. “The whole concept would be a sort of ‘what girl are you?’ with several different personality types represented. The challenge became what concept to frame them around. At first, I had an idea about the girls being the anthropomorphic personification of stars and planets and the like; Milky Way, The Moon, Jupiter, you get it. Well, I made some concept art, stitched together some sample dolls, and ran the idea by the group at the Funding Pool and they liked the general idea, but then someone saw the planet-theme and said, ‘Oh, so they’re like Sailor Moon,’ and I was like, ‘well, crap!’”[2]

Faust struggled to find a new concept, even briefly exploring individual elements from the Periodic Table or the fundamental forces of nature like gravity and electromagnetism, when one of the “drum circle chicks” suggested the Zodiac. “Each girl a constellation, each personality type represented.”

“I liked the general idea,” said Faust. “I could even still use the name ‘Galaxy Girls’ since they were all stars, and, well, All-Stars, but I didn’t want to make it all Astrology-based. One of the main missions of the characters was to help girls define themselves, and not be defined externally, and let’s face it, Horoscopes are deterministic and very defining: ‘you are when you were born.’ So, I dropped any Zodiac connections and just went with constellations in general. That also opened up some really cool constellations like Draco, Pegasus, and Ursa Major that aren’t in the Zodiac. I still got accused of trying to push Astrology on kids, even though we flat-out say ‘you are not defined by when and where you were born, but by who you are at heart,’ because some people are idiots, but most people get it.

“Besides,” she added, “‘Zodiac Girls’ kind of sounded like the victims of the Zodiac Killer or something.”

girlaxy_9804.jpg

Close, but not quite this; Clockwise from Top Left (spiraling inwards): Scorpia (Scorpio – with guitar) the tough punk rocker, Cassie (Cassiopeia – with star earrings) the popular and fashionable girl, Lyria (Lyra – with headphones) the musician and dancer, Tara (Taurus – running) the competitive athlete, Ursula (Ursa Major – with her many rescue pets) the caring and protective girl (not shown: her little sister Cubby – Ursa Minor), Capri (Capricorn – on surfboard) the beach-loving adventurer, Peg (Pegasus – in all white) the melancholic Emo poet, Draxi (Draco – jumping and winking) the fun-loving party girl, Vira (Virgo – with heart earrings) the vain and somewhat naïve material girl, Leia (Leo – with sunflower earrings) the brave and outgoing natural leader, and Aria (Ares – with book) the stubborn and snarky intellectual bookworm (Image source TV Tropes)

Faust and her hand-picked team put together a whole collection of constellation-based tween girls who adventure in the heavens and save the day while dealing with the trials of Celestial Middle School and growing up. Not only did you have Zodiac-based constellations, like the hot-headed activist Shelly, representing Cancer, and the twins Tori and Polli, representing Gemini, but non-Zodiac constellations, like the laid-back Cruz, representing the Southern Cross, and the ever-singing Diva Cyndi, representing Cygnus the swan. And notably, the attitudes of the Zodiac-based ones did not always alight to Zodiac stereotypes, with the tough goth-punk Scorpia being loud and crass, but loyal and always there for you in contrast to Scorpio’s “treacherous” reputations.

And with 88 IAU-recognized constellations, there was “room for expansion” beyond the original 16. They quickly added boy characters too, like the outgoing jock Ceph (Cepheus), the brave activist Percy (Perseus), the outdoors-loving Ori (Orion), and the sensitive and emotional Pai (Pisces), which allowed for some soap opera like romantic melodrama and a possible “way in” for any boys, should they choose, to watch and play.

s-l500.jpg

The True Power of the Galaxy is the Power of the Schwartz (Image source EBay)

Galaxy Girls would debut on Neptune, fittingly enough, in the summer of 2003 where they struck a chord with young girls of all types and lasted 5 seasons. Olmec Toys ultimately secured the merch license along with the rights to the Street Rats, two lines which solidified their ongoing solvency as an independent company[3] and led to ongoing partnerships with Whoopass and Rat’s Nest. Lessons on the advantages of diversity in appearance and personality were staple lessons for Galaxy Girls on top of the usual “learn to love who you are” and “play fair and be honest” and “respect and dignity” lessons. With a wide variety of personalities and interests and appearances, every girl could find someone to see a part of themselves in, though Faust herself would eventually regret the lack of “body diversity”, with all the girls notably thin[4], an aspect that she’d remedy in the 2016 remake.

Beyond animation, Heather’s Phantomia immersive puzzle attraction became a local hit, and in 1997 she was hired by Warner Brothers to design and implement their new Looney Land walk-through multimedia puzzle attraction, which became a fan favorite at Warner Movie World parks. Similar attractions, usually designed by Whoopass, appeared in Kings, Busch, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal, Columbia, and, of course, Disney parks, the latter in the form of an Alice in Wonderland puzzle attraction that made heavy use of real-time digital puppetry so that the guests could directly interact with animated versions of the Disney Wonderland characters. Roger Rabbit’s Toon Town Experience would follow in 2002. Heather would even return to her Tech Grrl roots, teaming up with Jeri and the Makers to design and build the first commercially viable immersive walk-through holographic environment[5], naturally called the Phantomia System, which was licensed for tens of millions of dollars to Commodore, Virgin/Atari, Imagine Inc., and Apple, among others, in 2002. Fans call it a “Holodeck”.

Whoopass/Kickin’ Studios would go on to become a bantamweight powerhouse in television and even spawned a Whoopass Stew animated movie in the early 2000s, distributed by Warner Brothers. Leslie’s documentaries gained renown and soon studios like Disney were hiring her to produce documentaries for them, most notably The Hand that Made the Mouse about her grandfather Ub Iwerks in 1998 and a documentary about Chris Ishii and other Nisei animators in the 1940s by Ishii’s daughter in law Susan and executive producer George Takei. Leslie also helped grow the business, the de facto CEO in all but name (the “original six” remained co-equal “partners", soon to become seven with the addition of Abagail Disney). “We expanded with sound stages, recording booths, editing equipment, more ‘Jeri-rigged’[6] DIS stations, more Render Farms, more animators, more crew, and the like,” said Leslie. “We became a player.”

But at the heart of this growing indie studio were Jeri Ellsworth and Heather Henson, two Tech Grrls from completely different backgrounds who found in each other kindred spirits.

“I remember it was sometime in the mid ‘90s,” said Jeri. “On a drunken dare I had Skynz give me a tattoo of Bit and Byte [the IC Muppets] on my right shoulder blade. Heather saw them at the pool and we started to talk about Bit and Byte and the Commodore at EPCOT special and suddenly it all fell into place like dominoes. I’d known that she was the daughter of a Disney Executive and I knew her last name, but, I don’t know, duh, it just never registered. I guess I was too caught up in my hacks to pay much attention to who was running what big-ass studio. All this time that teenage girl I’d seen learning to use a C64 with those IC Muppets became the young woman who worked with teenage me on Curse of the Dark Crystal in High School. And then we became business partners along with Les and the boys. What a crazy damn world!”

“Jeri kept the company afloat long enough for Craig and Genndy and Les to break out,” said Heather. “We literally wouldn’t have made it without her, and she did great things for the community in Van Nuys, too. I’m really glad that fate brought us together.”

In the year 2002, with Jeri’s face now on the cover of Commodore Central following the success of her C64-DTV game console, distributed in partnership with Commodore, Heather and her father Jim and brother Brian presented Jeri with a special 10-year employment gift: one each of the original Bit and Byte Muppets, lovingly restored by the Muppet Workshop. She has them on prominent display in her “hack space” at Whoopass Studios, which is still in the original Van Nuys converted garage long after a less locally-focused studio would have moved to Burbank or Hollywood.

“I’ll take those guys over a gold watch any day,” she said, pointing a thumb to the two Muppets.



[1] In our timeline Ace from the Gangrene Gang briefly joined the Gorillaz as a guitarist.

[2] In our timeline Faust stuck with the planet-theme, leading to Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls, which she has been trying in vain to get launched as a cartoon/toy line for decades. While pitching the idea to Hasbro, they ended up hiring her for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’m not sure how familiar that she was with Sailor Moon and whether the thematic resemblance was coincidence, deliberate homage, or cryptomnesia, but in this timeline with the Disney/Rainbow Bridge dub of Sailor Moon much more popular she runs into the likelihood that her idea would be seen as a rip-off rather than a spiritual successor, whatever the original intent.

[3] Olmec Toys went bankrupt in the mid-1990s in our timeline. Recall in this timeline they also did the toys for the Star Snakes. Hat tip to @Goldwind2 for bringing Olmec to my attention.

[4] She’s expressed such regrets about Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls recently in our timeline.

[5] Essentially a CAVE type concept converted into a scalable multi-projection system that can be customized to any space.

[6] A term that means custom quality to those who use it, not bailing wire and duct tape.
 
Just the existence of Whoopass/Kickin’ Studios is causing sooooo many ripples of the butterfly wings, they are almost as important at the Jim at Disney themselves!

So many projects, so many lives touched by their studio, so much product and merch!

Of the stuff you mentioned I think ITTL me would likely only watch Tank Girl: The Animated Catastrophe!

I am surprised that no one thought of body shape for Galaxy Girls given the other changes - guess unconscious design there.

Good to know Commodore are still relevant in 2002. Computing is very different ITTL.

Nice chapter @Geekhis Khan
 
First would come Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, another of the Cal Arts creations, which became a huge hit for Cartoon City in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Dexter’s Lab became iconic in its own right and one of Cartoon City’s most popular and beloved lines
I'm glad that Dexter's Lab still exists in a recognisable manner and that it's still on this Timeline's Cartoon Network. Although thanks to the project being creator owned we don't have to worry about the worse 5th Season existing.
In 1998 PFN launched a Whoopass Stew quasi-spinoff cartoon featuring Rat Phynk’s Street Rats, which became a huge hit with teenage audiences thanks to its street-smart coolness and hip-hop soundtrack, and which won recognition for its diverse voice cast. While they originated in the “Whoopass-verse”, the Street Rats’ only remaining ties to the original series was through occasional appearances by the Gangrene Gang, who were a sort of rival to the rebellious but honorable Street Rats. The success was so great that Rat Phynk and his crew bought out their membership in Whoopass Studios and founded the allied Rat’s Nest Studios, also in Van Nuys, which followed a similar business model as Whoopass and ultimately became a successful creator space for Hip Hop and Reggaeton music, clothing lines, urban art, and other artistic pursuits.
I don't remember those in PPG soni assume they never crossed over in OTL but it sounds like an interesting project and I'm glad that Whoopass is actively encouraging members to create their own businesses in Van Nuys
We even teamed up with Damon [Albarn] and Jamie [Hewlett] in the early ‘aughts for a Rats-Gangrene-Gorillaz[1] team-up special. I even got to meet Banxy.
Cool would love to see that. I guess that unlike in OTL Ace actually is allowed to "officially" be recognized as his counterpart from Whopass Stew without getting into any legal troubles. I also hope that means that the Gorillaz can expand into more tv series thanks to Whoopass.
with Tank Girl: The Animated Catastrophe running on FX from 1997-2003. With animation that was a mix of Hewlitt and Martin’s “standard” look and various animation and multimedia styles for “general wackiness” purposes, TG:TAC became a cult hit.
That also sounds awesome.
The animated shows were soon followed by the Heather Henson produced live action series Hacks, a youth sitcom about two teen girls and a teen guy who were White Hat hackers battling against a group of bumbling adult Black Hat hackers intent on doing ill deeds, all the while living secret double lives as bullied high school students. It would air afterschool on PFN and gained a growing audience while also winning several awards from science and educational organizations for its scientifically and technically accurate portrayal of computers.
Love it. Sounds like a real life Superhero story, will probably get lots of 2000s kids into hacking themselves.
“I liked the general idea,” said Faust. “I could even still use the name ‘Galaxy Girls’ since they were all stars, and, well, All-Stars, but I didn’t want to make it all Astrology-based. One of the main missions of the characters was to help girls define themselves, and not be defined externally, and let’s face it, Horoscopes are deterministic and very defining: ‘you are when you were born.’ So, I dropped any Zodiac connections and just went with constellations in general. That also opened up some really cool constellations like Draco, Pegasus, and Ursa Major that aren’t in the Zodiac. I still got accused of trying to push Astrology on kids, even though we flat-out say ‘you are not defined by when and where you were born, but by who you are at heart,’ because some people are idiots, but most people get it.
I'm glad Lauren Faust is here and I guess that's her MLP:FiM, but creator owned and waaay earlier. Wonder if it will have a similarly devoted adult fan base tho.
Galaxy Girls would debut on Neptune, fittingly enough, in the summer of 2003 where they struck a chord with young girls of all types and lasted 5 seasons. Olmec Toys ultimately secured the merch license along with the rights to the Street Rats, two lines which solidified their ongoing solvency as an independent company[3] and led to ongoing partnerships with Whoopass and Rat’s Nest. Lessons on the advantages of diversity in appearance and personality were staple lessons for Galaxy Girls on top of the usual “learn to love who you are” and “play fair and be honest” and “respect and dignity” lessons. With a wide variety of personalities and interests and appearances, every girl could find someone to see a part of themselves in, though Faust herself would eventually regret the lack of “body diversity”, with all the girls notably
thin[4], an aspect that she’d remedy in the 2016 remake.
Hey at least it's not an 80s toy cartoon where half the characters are just palette swaps with the other half just having a unique headsculp. But I'm glad the Reboot addresses this issue. Also can't wait to see what Olmec toys will turn out to be.
Beyond animation, Heather’s Phantomia immersive puzzle attraction became a local hit, and in 1997 she was hired by Warner Brothers to design and implement their new Looney Land walk-through multimedia puzzle attraction, which became a fan favorite at Warner Movie World parks. Similar attractions, usually designed by Whoopass, appeared in Kings, Busch, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal, Columbia, and, of course, Disney parks, the latter in the form of an Alice in Wonderland puzzle attraction that made heavy use of real-time digital puppetry so that the guests could directly interact with animated versions of the Disney Wonderland characters. Roger Rabbit’s Toon Town Experience would follow in 2002. Heather would even return to her Tech Grrl roots, teaming up with Jeri and the Makers to design and build the first commercially viable immersive walk-through holographic environment[5], naturally called the Phantomia System, which was licensed for tens of millions of dollars to Commodore, Virgin/Atari, Imagine Inc., and Apple, among others, in 2002. Fans call it a “Holodeck".
Sounds wacky and also futuristic. Wonder if the "Holodeck" will be available for home use.
In the year 2002, with Jeri’s face now on the cover of Commodore Central following the success of her C64-DTV game console, distributed in partnership with Commodore, Heather and her father Jim and brother Brian presented Jeri with a special 10-year employment gift: one each of the original Bit and Byte Muppets, lovingly restored by the Muppet Workshop. She has them on prominent display in her “hack space” at Whoopass Studios, which is still in the original Van Nuys converted garage long after a less locally-focused studio would have moved to Burbank or Hollywood.
Ok that's just wholesome and a striking contrast to the lion pen that is the Disney Boardroom right now. I hope Jim isn't spending the rest of the Timeline envious of his daughter's job🤣

Great chapter @Geekhis Khan
 
Ok that's just wholesome and a striking contrast to the lion pen that is the Disney Boardroom right now. I hope Jim isn't spending the rest of the Timeline envious of his daughter's job🤣

Great chapter @Geekhis Khan
Honestly, I coupd see Jim resigning st some point and after a few years of Disney floundering about, they'd beg Jim to come back.
 
Here's an idea. Cartoon City, in an effort to compete with Gundam, dubs Legend of Galactic Heroes (there was an attempt of dubbing that never really went anywhere). It would have to play late at night but I can easily see them using it to compete. It's well regarded so I can see it being a smart move.
 
Oh okay, do you plan on ever formally introducing it in a post?
At this point, no. Seemed pretty self-explanatory. But if someone wants to do a dedicated guest post go for it.

I am surprised that no one thought of body shape for Galaxy Girls given the other changes - guess unconscious design there.
Well, not many people were addressing that issue until recently. And the 1990s in particular were bad about that.

I'm glad that Dexter's Lab still exists in a recognisable manner and that it's still on this Timeline's Cartoon Network.
Well, it was Tartakovsky's college project from the early 1990s, so I figured it was somewhat butterfly-resistant. There will be notable differences from OTL, particularly individual episodes, but mostly the same.

I don't remember those in PPG soni assume they never crossed over in OTL but it sounds like an interesting project and I'm glad that Whoopass is actively encouraging members to create their own businesses in Van Nuys
The Street Rats are a TTL creation.

Sounds wacky and also futuristic. Wonder if the "Holodeck" will be available for home use.
Not unless you're hella-rich. It's a lot of large and expensive equipment at this point and takes a lot of work to calibrate and maintain, so industrial/entertainment use only at this point.

Here's an idea. Cartoon City, in an effort to compete with Gundam, dubs Legend of Galactic Heroes (there was an attempt of dubbing that never really went anywhere). It would have to play late at night but I can easily see them using it to compete. It's well regarded so I can see it being a smart move.
Interesting idea. Feel free to discuss on the Speculation Thread.

 
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I like this timeline but I'm not sure Ford would return to Star Wars. Howard Kazanjian kinda had to do some behind the back negotiating with Harrison's agents son to get him to come back and I think Ford was bitter. He only returned for TFA because they agreed to kill him off.
 
Thanks again, all! Time for another Third Rail as I touch the still-controversial Prequels. Fell free to speculate in the speculation thread (cough), but the posts are already written, so your "ideas" aren't likely to see the light of day unless you've "guessed correctly".

More on all of that in a future year.


Literally answered your question in the prior day's post. Focus, grasshopper. :winkytongue:



McCallum works for Lucasfilm as per OTL (he produced the Prequels iOTL). Lucas and Henson are Executive Producers. Spielberg is set to direct the first film. It's an Amblin/Lucasfilm co-production, Fox distributing (and Lisa helping on the story), and Lucasfilm retaining all rights.


TTL's Hey Arnold, basically.


The film originally just called Star Wars first became "Episode IV" in 1980 following the release of ESB, which was called "Episode V" from the start (after beginning as just "Star Wars 2"). According to Kaminski, they'd debated adding "Episode III" to the opening crawl from the start as a joke (since it was all a postmodern salute to the old King Features serials) but were afraid they'd confuse the audience. After Star Wars went Full Phenomenon and multiple films became more likely, Lucas came up with his "9 film plan", which then got trimmed to a "3 film plan" after RotJ, then to a "6 film plan" in the 1990s.


Well, now that you've read Sunday's post you hopefully now realize that Lucas' "Master Plan" for Star Wars was far more fluid and changeable than he's tried to maintain after the fact. Also, not really too constraining here. What have we learned: he has "at least one apprentice" at some future point? Not really locking in a major plot point there, IMO. You can do a thousand things from there. Does Halixiana become a Jedi? Does she go to the dark side? Does she die in a blaze of glory saving the New Republic? Does she drop out of her training to pursue musical theater? Only time will tell.

Far less constraining than Shadows of the Empire in either OTL or TTL (which locked in the fates of all three main characters, introduced kids, and gave Luke a love interest; the very existence of SotE shows just how little George cared about his "grand vision" in the late 1980s), which Lucas just totally ignored iOTL anyway when he came up with whatever his ST plans were (that Disney ignored anyway). Lucas can always "adjust course" as he sees fit (as he has a thousand times iOTL) and can always retcon it out of existence. Right now it's part of the second-tier "T Canon" (T for TV) as opposed to the premier (and only truly Canon) "G Canon" (G for George), which only covers the completed films and "whatever he's written in his notebook at the moment". The Shadows of the Empire cartoon is T Canon too, though on the edge of slipping into "C Canon" (Continuity) with the rest of the EU. And as OTL has shown, lower Canons can and will be retconned as George sees fit.


Welcome aboard, and glad you made it.



Well, let's just say that Fox and Cameron are not going to touch that particular aspect in the adaption, and will instead focus on the dragons and the melodrama (amazing effects and sappy melodrama? It's practically perfect for Cameron!).

And yea, those were (sadly) somewhat common misconceptions at the time, and are even still lingering on the US political right, and being used as justifications for new laws. Remember, the DSM still listed homosexuality as a Mental Illness as late as 1982.



Den, you of all people should know the park schedule! :winkytongue: Yes, just announced the plan, no ground broken yet.



She'll have a mezzo-soprano voice for the most part, but still able to do high, girly voice work for characters such as Pip on Gargoyles.

There's an upcoming interview from her in 1997.


Next year in "1996" when it debuts. Roughly a few weeks in RL time. Patience, grasshopper. All will be revealed in its time.


I didn't know that, but yea, that's perfect.
I don't think Peter Kaminski is an entirely reliable source. He seems to have a genuine hate on for George Lucas so some things need to be taken with buckets of salt (for instance the reason Kurtz was fired was because he not only went over budget but lied about it to the point where the bank was about to pull the plug until Kazanjian worked out a last minute deal.) Things like Vader being Luke's dad and Luke not going dark were all him and they were brilliant.


PS: I know this is a tall order but I'd like to think that in this universe the Central Park 5 didn't have their lives destroyed for no reason; maybe when Reyes attacked his victim on April 17th the police actually followed up and put him in custody before he attacked Meili.
 
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Whoopass Girls (Cont’d)
Excerpt from Tech Grrls: The Rise of the Female Technologists 1990-2015 by Dr. Marina Sparks, PE


The success of Whoopass Stew gave Whoopass Studios – relabeled for kids’ programming, at least, as Kickin’ Productions – carte blank to design their next series. First would come Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, another of the Cal Arts creations, which became a huge hit for Cartoon City in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Dexter’s Lab became iconic in its own right and one of Cartoon City’s most popular and beloved lines. Like Whoopass Stew, Dexter’s Lab combined the simple-yet-elegant midcentury UPA style and tropes and mixed it with Anime style action and tropes. Genndy’s mastery of perspective and three-dimensional animation, even with the simple forms, made the series stand out among its fellow animated series, most of which still adhered to some derivation of the Hoerk & Gatty formula. But Dexter would not be alone.

MV5BMzdlMDMxNzItNmViNS00NDRkLTg3OWMtNjliZGIxY2M5N2YyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTA4NzY1MzY@._V1_.jpg


In 1998 PFN launched a Whoopass Stew quasi-spinoff cartoon featuring Rat Phynk’s Street Rats, which became a huge hit with teenage audiences thanks to its street-smart coolness and hip-hop soundtrack, and which won recognition for its diverse voice cast. While they originated in the “Whoopass-verse”, the Street Rats’ only remaining ties to the original series was through occasional appearances by the Gangrene Gang, who were a sort of rival to the rebellious but honorable Street Rats. The success was so great that Rat Phynk and his crew bought out their membership in Whoopass Studios and founded the allied Rat’s Nest Studios, also in Van Nuys, which followed a similar business model as Whoopass and ultimately became a successful creator space for Hip Hop and Reggaeton music, clothing lines, urban art, and other artistic pursuits.

“I loved the Whoopass team and was glad to have worked with them, and I still thank them for giving us our big break,” said Rat Phynk, who to this day refuses to go by any other name, “Les even offered me a buy-in to full partner, but we [the Street Rats crew] reached a point where we needed to be our own thing. We still team up with them for cross-promotion and help securing jobs and funds. We even teamed up with Damon [Albarn] and Jamie [Hewlett] in the early ‘aughts for a Rats-Gangrene-Gorillaz[1] team-up special. I even got to meet Banxy. We teamed up for that thing on Wild Street, you may recall. And no,” he added, seemingly deadly serious, “I ain’t saying who he is, so don’t ask!”

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(Image source Good Reads)

And speaking of Jamie Hewlett, Whoopass was soon approached by Filmation to develop an adult animated action series based upon Hewlett and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl comic, whose cult film was having a huge resurgence within the counterculture. Genndy Tartakovsky took the lead, with Tank Girl: The Animated Catastrophe running on FX from 1997-2003. With animation that was a mix of Hewlitt and Martin’s “standard” look and various animation and multimedia styles for “general wackiness” purposes, TG:TAC became a cult hit.


Whoopass rolled along. In 2000 Neptune began playing Rob Renzetti’s Drac & Mina about the adventures of Count Dracula and a little girl named Mina Harper, which would last 3 seasons and sell plenty of T-shirts through Spenser’s Gifts and Hot Topic. And with five animated series ongoing by 2000, Whoopass began to expand and hire more animators, writers, and voice artists. It would ultimately lead to numerous other series for Craig, Rob, and Genndy, launching their individual names. “We started having to outsource more and more of the animation to partnering studios or Rough Draft Studios,” said Rob, “Just to keep up with the demand!”

The animated shows were soon followed by the Heather Henson produced live action series Hacks, a youth sitcom about two teen girls and a teen guy who were White Hat hackers battling against a group of bumbling adult Black Hat hackers intent on doing ill deeds, all the while living secret double lives as bullied high school students. It would air afterschool on PFN and gained a growing audience while also winning several awards from science and educational organizations for its scientifically and technically accurate portrayal of computers. Commodore became a corporate sponsor and Jeri, clearly the inspiration for the main character of Jax (Laura Bertram), got to meet Jack Tramiel of Commodore, a sort-of childhood idol of hers (or at least she idolized the engineers that he’d hired!), who was in turn so impressed with the young lady that he offered her a job leading his new R&D division. She counter-offered that he could hire Whoopass any time he wanted as subcontractors, consultants, or fixers.

“A woman after my own heart,” Tramiel said, shaking her hand.

The late 1990s also saw the arrival of Lauren Faust, a clever writer and animator who was previously working for Disney on Princess Squad and Hero Squad. Faust, a fan of the Whoopass Girls, had been hoping to find a slot at Whoopass Studios for a while, and a chance meeting with Craig McKracken allowed the “love connection” to happen. A literal one…eventually. But for the moment, the relationship began professionally.

Faust settled in quickly at Whoopass, writing and doing art for Whoopass Stew, soon taking over from Craig as the show runner. But she had ideas of her own.

“I really wanted a set of toys that would let girls express who they are, rather than try and tell girls who they should be,” she said. “The whole concept would be a sort of ‘what girl are you?’ with several different personality types represented. The challenge became what concept to frame them around. At first, I had an idea about the girls being the anthropomorphic personification of stars and planets and the like; Milky Way, The Moon, Jupiter, you get it. Well, I made some concept art, stitched together some sample dolls, and ran the idea by the group at the Funding Pool and they liked the general idea, but then someone saw the planet-theme and said, ‘Oh, so they’re like Sailor Moon,’ and I was like, ‘well, crap!’”[2]

Faust struggled to find a new concept, even briefly exploring individual elements from the Periodic Table or the fundamental forces of nature like gravity and electromagnetism, when one of the “drum circle chicks” suggested the Zodiac. “Each girl a constellation, each personality type represented.”

“I liked the general idea,” said Faust. “I could even still use the name ‘Galaxy Girls’ since they were all stars, and, well, All-Stars, but I didn’t want to make it all Astrology-based. One of the main missions of the characters was to help girls define themselves, and not be defined externally, and let’s face it, Horoscopes are deterministic and very defining: ‘you are when you were born.’ So, I dropped any Zodiac connections and just went with constellations in general. That also opened up some really cool constellations like Draco, Pegasus, and Ursa Major that aren’t in the Zodiac. I still got accused of trying to push Astrology on kids, even though we flat-out say ‘you are not defined by when and where you were born, but by who you are at heart,’ because some people are idiots, but most people get it.

“Besides,” she added, “‘Zodiac Girls’ kind of sounded like the victims of the Zodiac Killer or something.”

girlaxy_9804.jpg

Close, but not quite this; Clockwise from Top Left (spiraling inwards): Scorpia (Scorpio – with guitar) the tough punk rocker, Cassie (Cassiopeia – with star earrings) the popular and fashionable girl, Lyria (Lyra – with headphones) the musician and dancer, Tara (Taurus – running) the competitive athlete, Ursula (Ursa Major – with her many rescue pets) the caring and protective girl (not shown: her little sister Cubby – Ursa Minor), Capri (Capricorn – on surfboard) the beach-loving adventurer, Peg (Pegasus – in all white) the melancholic Emo poet, Draxi (Draco – jumping and winking) the fun-loving party girl, Vira (Virgo – with heart earrings) the vain and somewhat naïve material girl, Leia (Leo – with sunflower earrings) the brave and outgoing natural leader, and Aria (Ares – with book) the stubborn and snarky intellectual bookworm (Image source TV Tropes)

Faust and her hand-picked team put together a whole collection of constellation-based tween girls who adventure in the heavens and save the day while dealing with the trials of Celestial Middle School and growing up. Not only did you have Zodiac-based constellations, like the hot-headed activist Shelly, representing Cancer, and the twins Tori and Polli, representing Gemini, but non-Zodiac constellations, like the laid-back Cruz, representing the Southern Cross, and the ever-singing Diva Cyndi, representing Cygnus the swan. And notably, the attitudes of the Zodiac-based ones did not always alight to Zodiac stereotypes, with the tough goth-punk Scorpia being loud and crass, but loyal and always there for you in contrast to Scorpio’s “treacherous” reputations.

And with 88 IAU-recognized constellations, there was “room for expansion” beyond the original 16. They quickly added boy characters too, like the outgoing jock Ceph (Cepheus), the brave activist Percy (Perseus), the outdoors-loving Ori (Orion), and the sensitive and emotional Pai (Pisces), which allowed for some soap opera like romantic melodrama and a possible “way in” for any boys, should they choose, to watch and play.

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The True Power of the Galaxy is the Power of the Schwartz (Image source EBay)

Galaxy Girls would debut on Neptune, fittingly enough, in the summer of 2003 where they struck a chord with young girls of all types and lasted 5 seasons. Olmec Toys ultimately secured the merch license along with the rights to the Street Rats, two lines which solidified their ongoing solvency as an independent company[3] and led to ongoing partnerships with Whoopass and Rat’s Nest. Lessons on the advantages of diversity in appearance and personality were staple lessons for Galaxy Girls on top of the usual “learn to love who you are” and “play fair and be honest” and “respect and dignity” lessons. With a wide variety of personalities and interests and appearances, every girl could find someone to see a part of themselves in, though Faust herself would eventually regret the lack of “body diversity”, with all the girls notably thin[4], an aspect that she’d remedy in the 2016 remake.

Beyond animation, Heather’s Phantomia immersive puzzle attraction became a local hit, and in 1997 she was hired by Warner Brothers to design and implement their new Looney Land walk-through multimedia puzzle attraction, which became a fan favorite at Warner Movie World parks. Similar attractions, usually designed by Whoopass, appeared in Kings, Busch, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal, Columbia, and, of course, Disney parks, the latter in the form of an Alice in Wonderland puzzle attraction that made heavy use of real-time digital puppetry so that the guests could directly interact with animated versions of the Disney Wonderland characters. Roger Rabbit’s Toon Town Experience would follow in 2002. Heather would even return to her Tech Grrl roots, teaming up with Jeri and the Makers to design and build the first commercially viable immersive walk-through holographic environment[5], naturally called the Phantomia System, which was licensed for tens of millions of dollars to Commodore, Virgin/Atari, Imagine Inc., and Apple, among others, in 2002. Fans call it a “Holodeck”.

Whoopass/Kickin’ Studios would go on to become a bantamweight powerhouse in television and even spawned a Whoopass Stew animated movie in the early 2000s, distributed by Warner Brothers. Leslie’s documentaries gained renown and soon studios like Disney were hiring her to produce documentaries for them, most notably The Hand that Made the Mouse about her grandfather Ub Iwerks in 1998 and a documentary about Chris Ishii and other Nisei animators in the 1940s by Ishii’s daughter in law Susan and executive producer George Takei. Leslie also helped grow the business, the de facto CEO in all but name (the “original six” remained co-equal “partners", soon to become seven with the addition of Abagail Disney). “We expanded with sound stages, recording booths, editing equipment, more ‘Jeri-rigged’[6] DIS stations, more Render Farms, more animators, more crew, and the like,” said Leslie. “We became a player.”

But at the heart of this growing indie studio were Jeri Ellsworth and Heather Henson, two Tech Grrls from completely different backgrounds who found in each other kindred spirits.

“I remember it was sometime in the mid ‘90s,” said Jeri. “On a drunken dare I had Skynz give me a tattoo of Bit and Byte [the IC Muppets] on my right shoulder blade. Heather saw them at the pool and we started to talk about Bit and Byte and the Commodore at EPCOT special and suddenly it all fell into place like dominoes. I’d known that she was the daughter of a Disney Executive and I knew her last name, but, I don’t know, duh, it just never registered. I guess I was too caught up in my hacks to pay much attention to who was running what big-ass studio. All this time that teenage girl I’d seen learning to use a C64 with those IC Muppets became the young woman who worked with teenage me on Curse of the Dark Crystal in High School. And then we became business partners along with Les and the boys. What a crazy damn world!”

“Jeri kept the company afloat long enough for Craig and Genndy and Les to break out,” said Heather. “We literally wouldn’t have made it without her, and she did great things for the community in Van Nuys, too. I’m really glad that fate brought us together.”

In the year 2002, with Jeri’s face now on the cover of Commodore Central following the success of her C64-DTV game console, distributed in partnership with Commodore, Heather and her father Jim and brother Brian presented Jeri with a special 10-year employment gift: one each of the original Bit and Byte Muppets, lovingly restored by the Muppet Workshop. She has them on prominent display in her “hack space” at Whoopass Studios, which is still in the original Van Nuys converted garage long after a less locally-focused studio would have moved to Burbank or Hollywood.

“I’ll take those guys over a gold watch any day,” she said, pointing a thumb to the two Muppets.



[1] In our timeline Ace from the Gangrene Gang briefly joined the Gorillaz as a guitarist.

[2] In our timeline Faust stuck with the planet-theme, leading to Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls, which she has been trying in vain to get launched as a cartoon/toy line for decades. While pitching the idea to Hasbro, they ended up hiring her for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’m not sure how familiar that she was with Sailor Moon and whether the thematic resemblance was coincidence, deliberate homage, or cryptomnesia, but in this timeline with the Disney/Rainbow Bridge dub of Sailor Moon much more popular she runs into the likelihood that her idea would be seen as a rip-off rather than a spiritual successor, whatever the original intent.

[3] Olmec Toys went bankrupt in the mid-1990s in our timeline. Recall in this timeline they also did the toys for the Star Snakes. Hat tip to @Goldwind2 for bringing Olmec to my attention.

[4] She’s expressed such regrets about Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls recently in our timeline.

[5] Essentially a CAVE type concept converted into a scalable multi-projection system that can be customized to any space.

[6] A term that means custom quality to those who use it, not bailing wire and duct tape.
All of this.

AWESOME!!!!!

I wish Whoopass Studios/Kickin' Productions much luck into the future.
 
A Family Film
Getting to Know The Fantastic Four (1997)
Interview with Cheryl Henson, Leonard Nimoy, Stan Lee, and Joss Whedon for Getting to Know You with Houtha Faqaryu, July 23rd, 2012

Int – Studio (Chromakey)

The three guests sit in director’s chairs across from the host, Houtha Faqaryu. The chromakey screen shows an image of the movie poster for The Fantastic Four (1997)[1]. A jazzy instrumental version of the song “Getting to Know You” from The King and I plays as a theme.

TITLE CARD: “Getting to Know You, with Houtha Faqaryu”

Houtha
Salutations and welcome again to Getting to Know You, the show where we get to know the people behind some of your favorite productions of film, television, or stage. And with me today are four of the names behind the hit 1997 superhero action-comedy The Fantastic Four, released fifteen years ago, can you believe it? It was the number three hit of the summer and the number five highest grossing film of the year, earning a $444.4 million international box office total. They are a “fantastic four” in their own right, Producer Cheryl Henson, Director Leonard Nimoy, Screenwriter Joss Whedon, and Marvel Chairman and Fantastic Four co-creator Stan Lee. Welcome! Let’s get to know you. We’ll start with producer Cheryl Henson, daughter of the great Jim Henson and an award-winning producer, author, and costume designer. Cheryl, can you tell us about how The Fantastic Four came to be?

Cheryl
(nervous) Um, certainly, Houtha. It honestly began when we first merged with Marvel back in the, ah, mid-eighties. While the first Marvel movie was a long way away at the time, we’d been releasing animated shows like Spider-Man and X-Men. Eventually, when Warner released Batman in ’89 – directed by my former brother-in-law Sam Raimi; small world! – dad and the rest decided to pursue a superhero film of our own. Obviously, Spider-Man was chosen first, as Spidey is probably the most iconic Marvel character, but we also talked about the X-Men and The Fantastic Four as options. Once Spider-Man proved a hit, [Executive Producers] Stan [Lee] and Margaret Loesch greenlit a string of Marvel films, including The Fantastic Four.

Houtha
And how did you get chosen to produce?

Cheryl
Well (laughs, obviously a little nervous in the spotlight) Margie made me do it. I’d never led production on a major film before. I’d produced some stuff for TV, but since the early ‘90s I’d mostly gotten in to costuming and design. But Margaret had pulled me in to assist on Spider-Man 2’s production and then on 3’s and then X-Men, so in her mind it was the natural next step for me. I’d have been happy to do the costuming. I suspect my sister Lisa put her up to it. She’s always wanted to see me excel as a producer like her; I think she’s trying to strike a blow for women in Hollywood. Anyway, I approached Frank Oz to direct, but he suggested that I talk to Leonard. (looks pleadingly to Leonard)

Leonard
Ah, yes, I’d worked with Frank in the past, of course. He and Cheryl figured that I had the right set of experience with both effects-driven films like Star Trek and family comedies like Three Men and a Baby, so they sent me the screenplay, and I thought it was a great story, so I signed on.

Houtha
You mentioned your experience with family comedies being an important point for them. Why is that?

Stan
If I may interject, The Fantastic Four is and always has been about family. The Four may not be related by blood, save for Sue and Johnny, obviously, but they are a family and their story is a family story. Reed Richards is the father figure, Sue the mother, and Ben and Johnny the kids, brothers.

Joss
Yes, Stan was very clear to me about that as I worked on the screenplay. He kept pushing the family aspect: “family, family, family…” I almost got sick of hearing it. (laughs)

Stan
(puts hand on Joss’ shoulder) He knows he loves me!

Joss
(pushes hand away) Forever and ever and always! Anyway, as a fan of the comics myself, this family angle was second nature to some degree, but it was good to keep that focus. As such, rather than pick one of the four and make them the Lead and the other three Supporting [roles], which I’m pretty sure most studios would have done, I made The Family the Lead character, as if all four of the heroes were aspects of a single character.

Houtha
Joss, in the VCD commentary you talked a lot about the “Four Temperaments” as the basis for the characters. Can you briefly explain to the audience what this is and why this is important?

Joss
Yea, sure, so this is old stuff here, like classical Greece and Aristotle old. It’s the idea that we’re all made up of some combination of four temperaments based on the four “humors”: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. Each is tied to an element (earth, air, fire, water), each is tied to a color, each is tied to a fluid in the body, yadda-yadda. Medical science dumped it centuries ago but it’s still used by psychology. Jungian archetypes, Meyers-Briggs, and all that. Anyway…the idea is that when the four humors are balanced you get one perfect human being, but nearly everyone skews to one or two of them more than others. Reed is, like, textbook Melancholic: he’s intellectual, reserved, logical, can be disconnected, callous, and cold, and he hides his emotions even as they boil inside him…

Leonard
That sounds like a character near and dear to my heart! (all laugh)

Joss
It should, of course. Mr. Spock is another textbook case. Sue is more Phlegmatic: she’s caring, hardworking, modest and shy, likes the simple things, but she’s in constant need of validation from others and can feel invisible. Johnny is Sanguine in that he’s brave, adventurous, outgoing, friendly, talkative, and makes friends easily, but he can be a bit of an arrogant prick. And finally, Ben is Choleric: he’s dour, serious, argumentative, opinionated, and obtuse. He seems to lack the standard Choleric stereotype of being ambitious and self-serving, but then I considered Ben Grimm the man before the incident that made him The Thing. In this telling Ben Grimm is an ambitious, outgoing type who’s going to be a CEO or other bigwig, but now the incident has taken not only his humanity, but his future as he sees it. So, each of the Four alone is a flawed individual, but when they come together as a family, they become whole and able to achieve the impossible.

Stan
(wryly) Yea, which was totally what Jack [Kirby] and I had in mind all along! Four Temperaments! He’s not overthinking it at all! (all laugh as he playfully hits Joss on the shoulder)

Houtha
Leonard, casting the Fan Four, you brought in Pierce Brosnan to play Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic, Michelle Pfeiffer to play Sue Storm a.k.a. The Invisible Woman, Keanu Reeves to play Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch, and Tommy Lister, Jr., as Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing[2].

Leonard
Yes, all excellent actors, every one of them. The goal was, of course, finding actors that could show both the “before” and the “after” of the characters in a way that was human rather than campy. Pierce was just masterful in capturing the spirit of Reed Richards. He’s naturally charming in that Old Hollywood way: rather old fashioned, and strong but reserved, like a Clarke Gable or Rock Hudson. He could show all of the callous, science-absorbed antisocial tendencies of Reed at the beginning and later the warm, open, and accepting father figure of the end. Michelle was, and is of course, fabulous. I’d seen her in The Witches of Eastwick and had seen how well she could portray shy and vulnerable but also demonstrate real strength and resilience. Keanu is, of course, a charming guy who can play cocky and competitive but also show a sweet, reluctant tender side. He’s also an excellent action actor and did a lot of his own stunts and is a consummate professional. Finally, Tiny…Tommy…well, I’d seen him in a few other, smaller productions. He’s certainly physically imposing and he can play the cocky king of the universe very well, but what attracted him to the role and by extension me to him for the role was the opportunity that he saw to play an angry, damaged man robbed of his humanity and ambition. He admitted to me that it was a special treat for him to play a character with depth and not just “the heavy”. His role was, honestly, the hardest and most memorable role for all of the pathos that it brought.​

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The Fantastic Four (L-R): Johnny Storm, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and Ben Grimm (Image source “cinemablend.com”)

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(L-R) Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lister all c.1996 (Image sources “themysteryallianceeviansaga.com”, “piercebrosnan.com”, “pintrest.com”, & “ignboards.com”)

Cheryl
Yea, I love Tiny in that role. It’s almost sad to see him just playing a thug or prisoner after his role in Fantastic Four, though he does tell me that he is occasionally hired to do dramatic roles now, so I’m happy for him. He does get more opportunities to play characters with depth and feeling, but outside of our studio it can be hard for a large black man to play anything but a narrow set of roles even today, but the other studios are getting better.

Houtha
The film is actually set in 1961, the year the original comic came out, rather than in the present day, which was a creative risk. It famously begins with a credits scene that introduces the characters and their world through images on a mural painted in that old midcentury NASA art style, all while Danny Elfman’s iconic theme plays[3]. The images on the mural tell us the events in the character’s lives prior to the film and introduces the characters in media res flying into space to repair a faulty NASA satellite while the Soviets look on. The mission is a success, but it nearly ends in disaster. Why?

Stan
Because, frankly, the Four nearly screw it up! Reed’s too busy checking the scientific data to pay attention, Ben is teasing and egging on Johnny, who is the one out in the spacesuit doing the repairs, and Sue sees what’s wrong, but is afraid to speak up! We get to see the flawed humans that lie underneath the powers. And let me say how pleased that I was that they set the film in the sixties. It not only honors the original comic, but it made the movie stand out against all of the other superhero films of the era. It also brought back some great memories for me!

Leonard
This opening scene is critical for me. Joss and I wanted it to introduce the audience not only to the situation and setting, but to give them some establishing character moments for the Four. The Four return to Earth and get a tickertape parade in Manhattan, and you can see how the fame is only amplifying their negative traits. But, of course, there’s a new mission awaiting them.

Houtha
Let’s watch what happens next, as I think it tells the story.​

The camera moves to the chromakey screen, which starts to play a scene from The Fantastic Four. Soon the whole screen plays the film.

Interior – The Baxter Building – New York City – Day
THE FOUR walk through the wide-open lobby of the Baxter Building with its vaulted, atrium-like feel. In the background, security is pushing back the crowd of reporters and admirers. Elsewhere in the background we see the Mural from the opening credits.

Johnny
Did ya’ see that?!? Bam! It was all starting to go wobbly, but I kept my wits…

Ben
What there are of them…

Johnny
…and I got the sparky thingie back into…

Sue
Um, Johnny, I think it would have gone better if…

Ben
(cuts off Sue; laughing, tussling Johnny’s hair) Yea, little Johnny’s growing up! Someday soon if you keep eating your Wheaties you’ll be a big handsome man like me, kid!

Johnny
Hey! Easy on the hair, you big rock!

Ben
This ‘rock’ is gonna be your boss one day, so mind your manners!

Sue
I really think that we need to re-evalua…

Reed
Now-now, you two. Not in front of the media. (smiles and waves to the camera people)​

Two men in suits walk up.

Dr. North
Mr. Richards? Dr. Norman North, National Aeronautics and Space Association. This is Howard Stark, an independent consultant. The government congratulates you on the success of the Pegasus mission, but something has come up.​

North thrusts a file to Reed, who looks through it, showing blurry telescope pictures of a comet.

Stark
This comet displays a unique power signature that is of interest to the US Government and you are the only one in America who can reach it.

Sue
(looking over Reed’s shoulder) The comet will take months to complete its orbit, why the rush?

Dr. North
Because Victor Von Doom, the leader of Latveria, has already announced his plans to bring part of it back to Earth. Worse, he's working in partnership with the Soviets.

Johnny
Where the hell is Latveria?​

CUT TO

Interior – Doom’s palace – Latveria – Day
Dr. Victor Von DOOM, wearing a fancy, Old World suit (no mask), marches along a vaulted hallway with a troop of Latverian Soldiers. Harsh light and long morning shadows slice the scene diagonally, causing DOOM’S face to pass in and out of shadow like a strobe. They march past row after row of suits of medieval armor. DOOM reaches a balcony overlooking a wide plaza full of screaming, cheering people. ZOOM IN on DOOM’S handsome, smirking face as he looks over the crowd.

Doom
My people.​

Clip ends. Returns to Houtha and the guests in the Studio.

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Doom Unmasked vs. Ralph Fiennes c1996 (Image sources “pintrest.com” & “reddit.com”)

Houtha
And who can forget the great and menacing Ralph Fiennes as Victor Von Doom. What is a good superhero team without a good nemesis?

Leonard
Yes, Ralph was a pleasure to work with. Just a dominating presence, which is absolutely critical for a villain of Doom’s, well, magnitude! The same cold, brutal efficiency Ralph has shown as James Bond, but now adapted to the villain. Getting the lighting right in that hall scene was quite the challenge. We wanted a hard morning light that cast ominous shadows, but we had to avoid the shadows blocking out Ralph. We wanted some shadow to imply duality and hidden depths, but you still needed to see his face! Some fans complained that we showed his face right from the start, but first, you don’t hire Ralph Fiennes and hide him behind a mask for the whole film and second, it was critical to show Doom before the Incident and get a chance to see him as he sees himself.

Joss
Doom was a blast to write for, but also a challenge. Not to mention I had to resist slipping in Bond jokes when I heard that Ralph was getting cast. Doom was relatively unknown outside of comics fandom before the film, but he’s one of the top three comics villains on most fan surveys and number one for many and I was terrified of pissing off the fans, but I also had a duty to do right by the film and the film audience, who have different expectations. I also had to make Doom the literal antithesis of the Four. If the Four are Family, then he had to be the anti-family, or more precisely a dangerous narcissist who’s all about himself. The “me” vs. the “we”. He shows a great love for “his people” and treats them quite well for a maniacal dictator, but that’s really only because he sees them as an extension and reflection of himself.

Stan
Yea, and Temperaments. As I always told Jack, Doom’s really all about Temperaments! (hits Joss playfully on the shoulder; all laugh)

Joss
Actually, yea, that came into my writing. If the Ideal Human balances all humors, then the anti-ideal swings wildly between their extremes. Doom thus swings constantly between the mania of extreme Sanguinity, the rage and megalomania of the extreme Choleretic, the sullen self-loathing of the extreme Phlegmatic, and the cold, merciless detachment of extreme Melancholy. I was afraid he’d come across as too campy and Vaudevillian, but Ralph just…inhabited the role. He could be so friendly and charismatic one moment and then instantly snap to murderous rage and then to icy calm within a quarter minute and sell it.

Stan
I like to pick on Joss for overthinking things, but he really captured the soul of the characters. Far too often Hollywood forgets what makes the characters work. They try to reshape the characters to meet popular archetypes rather than look at who the characters were and why people like them. Joss and Leonard could have tried to make Doom into a corporate CEO or changed his name to something less campy, but Cheryl didn’t let them. Great job, you guys! (pats Joss on the back)

Cheryl
Aw! Thanks, Stan! So, yes, one of the biggest challenges in this job is to balance between the different audiences. You have to find that Goldilocks point that’s mainstream enough to bring joy to millions but not totally alienate the core audience. That’s hard. Lots of what works in a comic will never play on the big screen and vice versa. I mean, superheroes are kind of absurd when you think about it, but at the same time they’re, like, modern day Heroes of the classical sense, larger-than-life beings that represent who we are or what we wish that we were. I see The Thing or Mr. Fantastic as right there with Hercules or Gilgamesh in our shared story-space.

Leonard
Adaptations are a knife’s edge, and I’m glad that Cheryl and [Executive Producer] Margie [Loesch] gave us the creative space to experiment rather than force us down a preset pathway.

Joss
Hear hear!

Houtha
In the next set piece, the Four rocket back into space and are in a big rocket race to the comet with Doom. What happens?

Joss
Well, it’s a mess. Sue is admonishing them to be careful, but Ben, a cocky Korean War fighter ace and the ship’s main pilot, is feeling competitive and Doom in the Latverian rocket is enraged at the competition and screaming threats across the radio. Reed is quipping back at him, enraging him further, and Doom and Ben are soon trying to run each other off course. Ultimately, Reed makes a critical comment about Latverian rocket design, sending Doom into a rage. Doom rams the Four’s rocket, causing Doom’s console to explode in his face. His copilots take over the rocket and return to Earth despite his raging to continue on to the comet. Meanwhile, a celebratory Ben flies to the comet. Of course, once they reach the comet and start to explore, there’s a surge in the strange energy, flooding the ship with radiation, giving the Four their powers…and I’m rambling, my apologies (all laugh).

Houtha
This was a slight shift from the Four’s origins in the comics and a major change to Doom’s story. Did this create any issues among the fans?

Joss
Does Superman hate kryptonite? Yea, we got a lot of angry email for that one, but less than you’d think. Sure, some fans would rather we drag the film to a grinding halt for fifteen minutes while we explain in detailed exposition or flashback how Victor and Reed went to college together and how Reed tried to point out Victor’s mistakes in a machine intended to talk to his dead mother, but that Victor ignored him, leading to the experimental system exploding in his face and scarring him. He blames Reed and vows revenge, yadda yadda, but… (fakes a loud yawn) …seriously, you have only about a hundred minutes to tell a complete three act narrative. Literally every second counts and for everything you add in you need to take away something else out, perhaps something critical to the story or character arcs. I think most fans know this and accept a pragmatic change as long as you don’t try to change the character too much. Besides, it’s more or less the same origin, just moved in space-time.

Cheryl
I thought that it was a good Goldilocks approach, but yea, I still get an occasional angry fan confronting me about Doom’s origins not being the same as in the comics and trying to explain to me why it matters to the heart of the character that they love. I mean, I honestly sympathize with them, everyone has their passions, after all, and I really appreciate their passion for the characters they love, but like Joss said, we need to choose our minutes very carefully.

Houtha
When the Four return to Earth, clearly going through inexplicable changes from the radiation, they soon discover their new powers while on the other side of the world Doom tries to literally save face. Let’s take a moment to look at a quick scene of this:​

Exterior – Doom’s palace – Latveria – Day
We see Doom’s palace in Latveria. The two unresisting CO-PILOTS who turned around the rocket against his orders are getting put in front of a firing squad. PAN UP AND IN on a window and CUT TO…

Interior – Doom’s palace – Surgery Room – Day
A SURGEON is attending to DOOM’S face (hidden from the audience).

Doom
(thrusts out a hand) Show me!!

Surgeon
Your Excellency, the wounds are not yet…

Doom
SHOW ME!!!!​

The SURGEON hands DOOM a mirror. DOOM looks. He silently rises from the chair, face hidden in shadow

Surgeon
Your Excellency, the wounds are still fresh! They will heal if you give them time! There will hardly be any scarring at…​

DOOM grabs the SURGEON around the neck. The SURGEON starts to choke.

Doom
YOU DID THIS TO ME!!! YOU MADE ME THIS…MONSTER!!!!

Surgeon
I…can’t…breathe…

Doom
A MONSTER!!!!​

The SURGEON chokes and dies. DOOM, face still hidden in the shadows, drops the dead man and turns to the camera, only his angry eyes visible. He throws the mirror against the wall, where it shatters.

Doom
(frighteningly calm) Reed…Reed Richards…you did this to me.​

DOOM looks over to where a suit of medieval armor stands by the wall. ZOOM IN on the familiar face mask as ominous music plays.

WIPE TO…

Exterior – Field – Day
REED’S smiling face is in the foreground, a look of childlike amazement in his eyes. PAN BACK to reveal that his amazement is for his arms as they bend and twist and expand like rubber. The Four’s Rocket is in the background, plowed into the earth from the crash landing. JOHNNY is flying through the air engulfed in flames, cheering loudly. SUE is looking on, confused. She looks at her hand as it goes invisible and back to visible.

Reed
Fantastic, isn’t it darling? Think of what I can do in the lab with this amazing level of flexibility!

Sue
Reed, where’s Ben?

Reed
Ben? Over there somewhere beating up rocks. (points elastically with a foot while continuing to be amazed with himself)

Johnny
(flying by with a streak of flame) This is the best thing ever!!!​

SUE walks away from REED. She can hear BEN yelling and the sound of smashing rock. She walks over (camera PANS with her) to BEN, seen only from the back, who is now covered in orange stone-like skin. He is angrily smashing the rock on a cliff face with his fists. SUE walks up. BEN turns, rage in his eyes, his entire face also stone, and screams as he raises a rock. SUE shrieks and vanishes. BEN immediately looks scared and guilty and drops the rock.

Ben
Sue? Sue! I’m sorry Sue!! Sue, where are you?!? Are you OK?

Sue
(reappearing) Ben, I’m fine, are you OK?

Ben
Oh, Sue! I was afraid…I…am I OK?

Sue
(puts both her hands on his face) Are you OK?

Ben
(beat) No. No, Sue, I’m not OK. (shakes off her hands) How can I be OK? Look at me!! LOOK!!! I’m a MONSTER!!

Sue
You’re not a monster, you’re still Ben. We all had things happen to us when the…

Ben
“We?!?” Reed’s playing jump rope with his own damn arms! Johnny’s having the time of his damn life flying around like a flaming fool! You don’t even have to be seen if you don’t want to. And all of you look just the same as you did before!! Y’all are still human!! I’m just some…stupid ugly thing!!! (punches the stone, cracking it)​

Return to the Studio

Cheryl
Wow…Tommy was just so good in that…

Stan
If only I’d known Tiny back in ’61, I would have totally made Ben look like him! Let the jerks complain about the race change all they want, Tiny nailed Ben. I’m sure Jack, God rest his soul, would have agreed. And on a side note, yes, geniuses, there are Black Jews in real life. Ever heard of Sammy Davis Jr? How about Ethiopia?

Leonard
Yes, and special notice should be given to editor Jim Miller for the excellent cross-cutting he did as well. The way it sets up a connection between Victor’s self-loathing and Ben’s with Reed there in the middle managed to capture the larger story in a few seconds of run time.

Cheryl
And a nod certainly goes to the director as well, Leonard. You pulled brilliant performances form the actors.

Leonard
You’re too kind, Cheryl. I had great actors to work with.

Houtha
Not to mention that you had Stan Lee, whom we all just saw in a cameo as the Latverian Captain leading the firing squad!

Stan
Hey, it served them right, not listening to the Boss!​

Audience laughs.

Stan (Cont’d)
All jokes aside, it was a fun role. Compared to having The Hulk smash my car and Sabertooth and Wolvie burst through my living room walls, it’s a definite step up!

Houtha
(laughs) So, the Four, with their newfound powers, start fighting crime, but they’re still not functioning well as a team. They’re a hit in the press, who now dub them “The Fantastic Four”, and it’s clearly going to Reed and Johnny’s heads while Sue and Ben try to avoid the cameras. Then the government comes to them with another job. Latveria is attempting to sell some of its high technology to the Soviets and the CIA wants to stop him. The effects for this film were praised, particularly in how the old Soviet vehicles were brought to life.

Cheryl
Yes, the I-Works by this point had mastered computer effects and were rivalling or even surpassing ILM. My brother Brian was once again the creative lead there. Johnny and Sue and Reed were mostly done with computer effects, of course, but Ben was done like The Hulk with both CG and animatronics plus some prosthetics for dialog scenes and close-ups. We even reused the Hulk animatronic rig literally reskinned for Thing. We were able to source many of the ground vehicles through various companies around LA whose entire business is restoring or recreating vintage tanks and the like. But the real challenge was the Migs. MiG-15s weren’t exactly in common supply in ’96. So we had to rely on a combination of physical and computer models. The self-styled Computer Nerds had a blast developing the dogfights between the Migs and The Human Torch. The effects still hold up well today.

Houtha
The Four fly to Crimea to confront Doom, now revealed to be wearing his iconic mask and armor. They break up the weapons sale to the Soviets, but as the Four battle the Red Army, Doom escapes with some radioactive substance traded by the Soviets for the weapons, largely because the Four get distracted from their central mission while they fight the Reds. The Four have to regroup and start learning to overcome their individual limitations and work together as a team.

Joss
(dryly) Well, that’s certainly the entire fifty-minute Second Act in a nutshell. Of course, the plot isn’t the point. It’s the characters. It’s how the Four interact with one another, not just that they learn how to function as a team, but how they manage to. That latter point is often lost with other films, in my opinion. They toss in a throwaway line or show a “Go Team” montage and that’s it, so they don’t earn the lesson or character growth.

Houtha
Let’s take a look at some of that critical dialog.​

Interior – Baxter Building – Night
REED is in the lab, his long, elastic arms simultaneously performing a half-dozen tasks all at the same time. SUE walks up.

Reed
(focus still on the chemicals he’s mixing) Just a minute, dear, I’m in the middle of important work.

Sue
The work can wait, Reed. You need to talk to Johnny and Ben. They haven’t spoken together since Crimea.

Reed
They’re grown men, Sue, they need to take care of it themselves.

Sue
(scowls, walks up and grabs Reed by the rubbery neck, pulling his face directly to hers) They’re your friends, Reed! They’re your employees! You’re like a father to them! They look up to you, and you’re just…playing with your toys!! Man-up and talk to them, you stubborn, inflexible man!!​

SUE throws REED’S head away, and he has to pull it back to his body. The pipe drops from his mouth and a look of shocked realization sets in.

WIPE TO…

Exterior – City Street – Night
JOHNNY is confronting BEN in an alley. BEN is awkwardly trying to hide his form behind a trench coat and fedora.

Johnny
(points) Don’t you dare walk away from me, Ben!

Ben
(turns head) Don’t you mean ‘Thing’?

Johnny
(sighs, shoulders sag) Look, I’m sorry! It was a joke. I didn’t think that the press would run with it!​

BEN snorts and starts walking away. JOHNNY ignites and flies in front of BEN.

Johnny
(flames fade as he’s talking) You think it’s been easy for me, Ben?!? You think I just waltz through life?! You never gave me a chance! You always put me down and pushed me aside! Like I was nobody!!! What in the hell did I ever do to you?!?

Ben
(looks him in the eye) You scared me, alright?! You scared me! I’d worked all of my life to overcome the way people saw me. All that they saw was my skin, not my soul!! I worked my damn ass off to get to where I was in Reed’s company! And I had to work three times harder than anyone else!! And then in comes ol’ Johnny Storm, the handsome, charming young wunderkind, the little brother to the boss’s girlfriend. Do you think for a second that Reed was going to give ol’ Ben a second look when it was time to name his successor?!? And now, my skin is holding me back again. Can you see this face greeting the board of directors?!? (puts on nasally suburban white accent) “Hey, folks, don’t let the stone face fool you, I’m just a happy, snappy guy!!” It wasn’t just my beautiful face I lost that day; it was my life. My future!!

Johnny
(tears in his eyes, puts hand on Ben’s shoulder) Ben, I was never a threat to you. I didn’t come in wanting your job. I just wanted your respect! You’re not a Thing, you’re my friend, you big, stupid rock!​

Crying softly, the two share a brotherly hug as the camera CRANE PANS away. Triumphant music starts to plan. PAN AROUND to show REED and SUE, wearing their Fantastic Four suits, walk into the alley.

Reed
Well, gentlemen, it’s just fantastic to see you back talking to one another. I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. But I am now. It’s past time that we all realize just who we are, not just co-workers, but as friends!

Sue
No, not friends…a family!​

Return to Studio

Cheryl
Tommy and Keanu are so great there! Tommy gets a lot of well-deserved credit as Ben, but I think Keanu just captured Johnny’s free spirit and devil-may-care attitude and also his deeper pathos. The fans had a fit when we announced the casting, but I think that he won most of them over in the end.

Leonard
Keanu is a delight to work with as a director. He’ll show up on time and work harder than anyone else. Playing Johnny required the free spirit of his role in Bill & Ted and the intensity of his role in Point Break, so seeing him able to marry those two performances and then do just so well with the action made it work.

Houtha
The celebratory moment of the team coming together is short lived, of course, because Doom has used the radioactive substance to empower his armor into a walking weapon with super strength, laser blasts, and force fields, and he has constructed atomic-powered lasers for his soldiers. He believes that with these weapons that he can destroy the Fantastic Four. He assembles a force to assault Fantastic Four HQ at the Baxter Building and kill the Four, setting up the final showdown. He launches his attack on the Baxter Building later that night in the final showdown.

Stan
I liked the final battle. It’s just not a proper Fantastic Four story unless the Baxter Building gets attacked! And Wilford Brimley did a great job playing the ever-abused building owner Walter Collins.

Leonard
We were a little concerned that after battling tanks and Migs at the midpoint, the smaller, more intimate battle would be anticlimactic, so we doubled down on the intimacy and the emotion of the fight. This time it was personal. No more international intrigue, this was Victor Von Doom very directly and specifically targeting the Four. Doom and his commandoes cut the power to the building and bust in. The battle is thus in the dark, cramped corridors of the building. This neutralizes a lot of the Four’s power advantages and makes Doom’s atomic lasers all the more effective. Doom himself has now empowered himself with various weaponry and robotic strength within his suit. The Four now truly need to work together as one to defeat the Latverian commandoes and Doom himself.

Stan
Yes, and the effects and fight choreography team really worked together well to make it happen in ways that reflected the comics, with a few scenes right out of Jack’s old artwork. We got to see Thing throw The Human Torch like a football, Mr. Fantastic reaching around a charging Thing to grab and redirect a laser rifle, and Sue sneaking up behind the commandoes while invisible and kicking some ass!

Cheryl
And I loved that in the end Sue gets to save the team and defeat Doom.

Houtha
Let’s see that scene.​

0f175d72de23933037ecd3ada713f119.jpg

Sort of like this (Image source “pintrest.com”)

Interior – Baxter Building – Night
THE FOUR stand at the end of the hall. DOOM has managed to use the powers from his suit to hold off the FOUR and weakened them all.

Doom
You pathetic fools! Even united you are no match for Doom! The poets of Latveria shall write sagas about this moment…​

DOOM gathers a huge surge of crackling energy power in his hands and fires a blast of raw energy at the FOUR. SUE shrieks and holds up her hands. A Force Field ignites and blocks the blast, saving the FOUR. DOOM pauses, shocked, and blasts again and again. SUE and her field start to weaken.

Doom
You can only delay the inevitable, you weak, simpering shrew!​

DOOM charges up and blasts again. SUE grunts and grimaces under the onslaught. ZOOM IN on her face as the fear turns to anger and resolve. Her eyes start to glow and she brings her hands together as if gathering up the power in herself, then screams and thrusts her hands outwards. The Force Field flies outwards like a shockwave, shaking the hallway and flinging DOOM though the window, where he plummets silently to the concrete below. REED extends his neck and peers out the window. DOOM’S lifeless body lays still on the ground below. REED’S head reels back and looks at SUE.

Reed
Well, my dear, your powers are certainly coming into their own!

Sue
Smiles smugly. Yours too, dear.​

Return to Studio

Joss
I was glad that we could make Sue into one of the more powerful and effective members of the team. To be honest originally Sue was just kind of there, no offense to Stan, I mean, it was the sixties and this whole ‘women are people’ thing was still kind of novel. To Stan and his team’s credit, in more recent years they’ve given Sue more power, more spotlight, and more independence, and made her not just an appendage to Reed.

Stan
Yea, we all have lessons to learn and ways to grow. Even us old guys! I still like to think that Sue was ahead of her time back then, at least a bit. (laughs)

Houtha
Before we go, the success of The Fantastic Four of course led to two sequels. The final moments of the film help set up these sequels, of course.​

Exterior – Street Outside of the Baxter Building – Night
A bunch of police cars and uniformed officers stand around the still body of DOOM, now being roped off with police tape. Sparks shoot and smoke rises from the joints of the still body. DOOM seems to quietly talk.

Doom
Reed…Reed…Reed…​

The camera slowly ZOOMS IN on the still body, closer and closer to the masked face, ominous music playing. A pool of liquid slowly expands on the concrete below the head, but it’s not red like blood, but a bright neon green, like some sort of industrial coolant. DOOM’S words get slower and lower pitched, like a recording slowing down.

Doom
Reeed…Reeeed…R-r-r (crackling static) Reed….Reeeeeeeeed……Reeeeee……​

A short burst of electrical sparks shoots from the left eye of the mask. A light seems to fade from the right eye.

CUT TO CREDITS

Return to Studio

Houtha
A robot all along, not the real Doom.

Stan
Of course. We didn’t say anything at the time, and your average audience member was debating what the sparks and voice and coolant meant, but the comics fans knew a Doombot when they saw one!

Houtha
And as a final note, the four of you really seem to have come together as a team yourselves to make this film happen. Four dare I say ‘Fantastic’ folks from vastly different backgrounds all working as one to make the magic happen.

Cheryl
Not just us four, Houtha, but the hundreds of us, from Margie as Executive Producer, Jim Shooter over at Marvel helping Stan and me with the designs, all the way to Brenda, who did the catering. It was a team far bigger than just the four of us.

Leonard
Not just a team, Houtha…a family!

Joss
Oh, come on, we can’t end this interview on that cheesy line!

Stan
You’d prefer a dance number?

Houtha
(laughing) That’s all for today’s episode of Getting to Known You, I’m Houtha Faqaryu, and I’ll see you next time!​

The camera ZOOMS OUT and the lights dim as the closing theme music plays. Houtha and the guests continue to talk silently in the background.

Title Card: “Getting to Know You with Houtha Faqaryu”

Fade to commercial



[1] Dr. Doom helm-tip to @nick_crenshaw, @Pyro, @ TheFaultsofAlts, and @GrahamB for the assist in developing and casting this film.

[2] And a special AHitHoM salute to Thomas Duane "Tiny" Lister Jr., a.k.a. Debo, a.k.a. Zeus, who passed away in 2020 as a result of complications from COVID-19. One of millions lost to the dreadful virus.

[3] Think more his triumphant, horn-heavy score for Batman (1989) than his stereotypical “bouncy” sound in Beetlejuice or Men in Black.
 
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