Category Archives: TV/Film

Phineas and Ferb Star Wars “intro lyrics”

With the recent development that the iconic Star Wars and the beloved Phineas and Ferb cartoon show were doing a crossover, my creative juices started flowing in odd ways. When a friend posted the announcement on facebook, I immediately followed with creating a few parody lyrics to the title sequence song that tell the Star Wars story. Then I went into overdrive and parodied the entire song.

First give the intro a listen:

There’s 104 days spent at Tosche station
And Vader’s along now to end it

So the Jedi who becomes the kid’s adoration
Joins the droids, the Wookie, and bandit

So onward!

Fly in the falcon
And go into lightspeed
Alderaan’s a meteor shower

Go out on a quest to save the princesss
Or cutting the tractor beam’s power

Kissing just for luck
Charging stormtroopers
Or leaving the Empire’s domain                       “use the force”

Flying a starfighter
Shoot the two meter shaft
Earning the sith lord’s disdain

As you can see
There’s a whole lot of trench runs
To destroy the Death Star                           “don’t get cocky”

So use the force cuz Skywalker and Han are gonna go so far
So use the force cuz Skywalker and Han are gonna go so far

 

The only thing missing is a good response for Candace’s final line, but I am open to suggestions.

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Tommy Kennedy, Found – An Interview with Jason Jansen

As I mentioned earlier in my first post ever, the Transformers fandom does not know much about the fifth season of the original Transformers series. It was to the point where the star of the intro segments, the child actor who played Tommy Kennedy, was elusive enough to be considered a “holy grail” by some of the Transformers fandom. All we knew was he was played by a Jason Jansen. People had searched the internet to no avail. He was truly Lost.

John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and Tommy Kennedy (Jason Jansen)

See what I did there? Jason Jansen is on the right.

Until he was found. Or, in fact, found me. A few weeks ago I received a comment on this very blog stating that he was indeed Jason Jansen. The first logical piece of information was that his birth name was Jason Jankowski and that Jansen was a stage name. That explained why internet searches would come up with nothing. After some inquiries I asked to do an interview and was glad to get an affirmative response. What follows are the responses I got to the questions I asked, for the most part in their entirety.


I’ll start by asking how did you find my blog entry I did with Tim Speidel? Were you googling yourself or did a friend point it out to you. I’m personally curious about that one.

Infrequently over the years, I have briefly googled “Tommy Kennedy”  or “Jason Jansen” or a combo of the two,  but it was your blog which I stumbled across recently.   

When did you start acting? I noticed from your SAG card you have been a member since 1985? How old were you at the time?

I had started doing commercials at the age of 9 –  had done around 10-12 commercials, some print work, some voice-overs, and then at the time went to LA and booked a one-time appearance on Highway to Heaven in 1988.   I believe some folks in the Fandom had talked about that.

How did you get the job working on Transformers? Being part of the age group, were you a fan of the show before the acting gig or was it just a chance to act?

It was around the time when I returned from LA back to the NY area that I auditioned for the spot on Transformers.   When I auditioned and filmed the episodes I was about 12 years old.     I cannot remember where exactly the audition was held but it was definitely in Manhattan.    I remember auditioning for Transformers in the late spring – and the process moving very quickly compared to other jobs.   When I was off from school and had the summer off is when filming began.   I figure June was the audition and July was the filming.   I remember being inconvenienced because all my friends had attended the area Sports Camp for years and I would be missing a week of it.   We filmed the series at Silver Cup Studios in Queens NY.   At the time SilverCup was hot from Cosby Show fame,  but also it was a kind of an “F YOU!” to some of the more expensive studios just across the east river in Manhattan.    I would have to reference back to Tim’s interview for the duration of the filming but it wasn’t more then 1 week for the Tommy Kennedy portions.   

My mother’s maiden name is Jansen –  it’s a Dutch name and back in 1985 we used it because my fathers name of Jankowski was a bit too ethnic at the time.   We almost went with Jason Williams (William is my fathers name and also my middle name).   Jansen stuck –  I remember casting directors asking me if I knew about “Jantzen” swim wear.  As a 9 year old I didn’t.   My mom is the one responsible for taking me on auditions, etc.  I grew up about 1.5 hours from NYC so it was a grind everyday.    I got into the business simply by answering an ad by an acting Manager close to the town I was raised,  Middletown NY.   We gave it a whirl and after booking some business we simply stuck with it.   I was getting some work, and as a middle class family I am sure my parents used some of the earnings for their life or college funds etc.   It made sense to continue.      

How was it filmed, from your point of view? How realistic did the stop motion Optimus Prime look up close? Was there much green/blue screen used for the background?

The filming was as professional as any production at the time would have been.   You are correct when you excuse me for the memory lapse (which is over 20 years) but I can recall a couple of things if I concentrate.    First off Tim Speidel,  when I read the blog and saw the name I definitely recognized it –     I actually sent him a note after finding him on FB but haven’t received a response yet.   During the filming my mother and I stayed with a girlfriend of hers on the Upper East Side of Manhattan – simply to make the commute easier, and to deal with the schedule of being at the studio by 8am in some cases.    Everybody was super cool during the filming.  I remember I thought the Key Grips, and Gaffers were younger guys who always were making me laugh.   They were “New York City Fahgeddaboutit” type guys.   To this day I see Gaffer and Key Grip during credits but have no idea what their real jobs are –  basically I think they are a Jack of all Trades type men/women on the set.   

On set,  I remember filming some scenes on a large, constructed out of wood,  Optimus Hand.   I remember being instructed to only sit on a certain portion/ or spot as this was the strongest to support me.  I was a normal sized kid so nothing strange there.   Other scenes were filmed on the shoulder of another larger constructed portion of Optimus’ shoulder.   Same deal,  watch your step!    Other random scenes were built (running through a vast wasteland) backgrounds were usually green screens, claymation for my flipping onto shoulders,  and HUGE fans blowing on my face for when Optimus was launching and taking me home.    

If you were a fan, how did it feel “talking” to Optimus Prime? Did they have a crew member say his lines off camera to help with timing or was Peter Cullen’s voice prerecorded?

When saying my lines (if i remember correctly)  there was mix of things that were going on.    At times someone off camera would recite Optimus Primes lines,  but I believe it was a member of the crew and not Peter Cullen.   Other times,  if the scene was shorter and the camera cut away,  I would just pause my lines while saying them to account for another voice to be inserted later.   I actually just read through the transcripts on the wiki and remember saying every single one of them – I was able to memorize quite a bit –  but I my memory serves me correctly I believe I definitely had some large cue cards up there behind the cameras as well.  They were color coded to help break up the lines.  

Optimus looked great –  up close you could tell it was made from wood and plastic,  but it was a real dam good job.    A little bit of info,  we had two puppeteers working Optimus Prime.   I believe one guy was inside his head and moving his mouth while another moved his head from side to side.   One of the guys was a famous puppeteer and had worked on Sesame Street inside of “Snuffalupagus”   not sure if I have spelled that correctly.   I remember he was known for his work.   

When talking with Tim Speidel, he mentioned a story about a camera crane falling right into the Optimus Prime hand that you were sitting in moments earlier. Do you remember that happening and if you do can you share your personal feelings?

My mother and I both remember the camera crane falling –  I believe I do remember seeing it close up –  but I also feel like I was off camera with a buttered bagel in my hand watching stuff when I was “off duty”.  I still remember seeing the guy who was on top,  he didn’t fall off the crane bc i believe he was strapped in (like with a seat belt)  and he kind of rode the collapse about 40 feet or so down to the ground and landing on his side.   Again – all very fuzzy but yes it did happen.   As for me not being on my mark and being severely hurt or possibly killed –  can’t recall that either.  If Tim said that was the case,  it was the first I had heard about it during your interview.   In other words,  I never overheard my mother telling my father back at home that this thing narrowly missed me.   I hope that guy is ok though.   

Are there any other on-set stories you can share with the Transformers fandom?

While on Optimus,  I’ll tell you,  it was pretty cool.   If I wasn’t a fan then,  being able to be a part of something like that turns you into one pretty dam quick.   I mean – I would go home and tell [my friend Rob] what happened that day and I could tell he was like – “Dude you own like 4 transformers!”   He was cool about it,  and made sure to tape everything.  I remember a younger woman was my stand in – had to stand in certain spots where Tommy would be and they tested lighting, angles, camera positions etc.   She was in her 20s?   and hung with my Mom a lot in a smaller back room they gave us to chill out when not needed on the set.   

I wish I could share more on set stories,  but I’ll promise you this,  I’ll check through my mom’s old files and see if there are any scripts or anything worth sharing with the Fans.  If so i’ll be sure to reach back out to you guys on that stuff.  

Over the years fans have done internet searches looking for you and have found little information. Have you moved away from acting? If so why? What have you been doing since then?

Personally,  Transformers was one of the last big jobs I did ,  I believe at the age of 13 I had done a Frosted Mini Wheats commercial (if you remember the lumberjack guy turning into the little lumberjack guy) but after that –  I was a late 1975 birth and entering High School I had told my Mom that I think I wanted to concentrate on school,  sports,  and probably girls 😉   I remember gradually stopping acting completely by the age of 14.   So in this regards,  some of the fans are correct.  Just an actor who got on with his life.    Some of the kids I would regularly see on auditions have made it big,  Joey Lawrence, Leo Dicaprio, and then later on Elijah Wood.   don’t regret a minute doing it.   I believe it helped mold me into what I am today.    Nobody in my life now really even knows about the Transformers or the commercial jobs I used to have.   I work at ABC Television so I am still very much in the entertainment business.   I work in the Sales department so you could say I can’t get away from these commercials!   

Once in a while a colleague will bring it up with clients (about our age) and a guy or girl will say “holy shit!  that was you!?”   and its always a fun experience to reveal yourself to a fan but it’s never the first thing that comes up.   

One major site dedicated to Transformers minutia, www.tfwiki.net, has labeled information on you a “holy grail.” As in, we know very little. You’re up there with Brazilian Transformers packaging, a limited edition Go-Cart giveaway, and translations of Japanese radio plays. What do you think about that?

Each year, Transformers fans from around the world gather at the official convention, Botcon (www.botcon.com). Would you ever be interested in attending in some form of official capacity?

When asking a few of my friends for addition questions, a few of them came back to me with this “Does he still have the sweet mullet and denim jacket?”

If the fans think that seeing Tommy Kennedy would be cool I would do it (at like a Botcon) – officially,  but of course I wouldn’t do anything which is going to turn off the fans.   The sweet Mullet and jean jacket!  hahahahah    the mullet is gone –  I think perhaps you saw a couple of pics on Facebook.    The jean jacket –  have to ask my mom about that one –   I don’t believe I have it –  it may have been an official “prop” or I probably gave it back when taping was done.   I usually got out of “wardrobe” at the end of the day and wore my street clothes home.   

All in all –  it was an awesome experience.  I hope I answered some questions,  or rustled up some new ones,  if so I am happy to answer more.   I think its great that you guys still keep it alive and just talking to you (over email) has really conjured up some memories I haven’t thought of in a while.

Currently – I live in The Bronx,  NY.   As I mentioned I work at ABC, and have a girlfriend.   I went to Fordham University in the Bronx and played soccer there.    I graduated,  began working for Grey Advertising/Mediacom in the Media Buying department.   Actually worked on the Hasbro business for a brief time.   In 2003,  left for a job at ABC Ad Sales.   Still here –  but my parents still live in Middletown NY,  I have a new place in Woodlawn in the Bronx (near Yonkers),  and basically spend my time working,  traveling, and up until now,  not really talking about the kid Tommy Kennedy.   I enjoy visiting family in Europe (when I can afford it), listening to Pearl Jam, and am a big NFL/MLB fan.           

Totally happy to keep the info coming,  happy to help be taken off the Holy Grail.  Again – very proud to be even mentioned in the same capacity as some of the other sought after pieces.  As for my thoughts on them?   I am going to ask Rob if he has anything which we can remove from there as well.  Again it’s pretty cool. 

I hope you enjoyed this read. It was quite lengthy, but with a revelation such as this I didn’t want to leave a single thing out. I’m happy to have done my small part for the Transformers fandom in bringing this mystery to light.


Disney’s Star Wars

I’m not usually one to do a knee-jerk reaction to any new news, especially as breaking as this. I usually prefer to look back at things that have already come to pass. But this is different.

http://news.yahoo.com/disney-acquire-lucasfilm-ltd-195100740.html

Disney is now going to own Lucasfilm and with it, Star Wars.

I can’t seem to process this information. Forget that there has been official Star Wars/Disney crossover merchandise and that Star Wars rides have existed in Disney theme parks for years. This is DISNEY OWNING STAR WARS. The fact that I have become a father in this last year was easier for my brain to comprehend. This doesn’t make sense to me.

And then there’ s the kicker. Star Wars Episode 7.

What? How do we analyze something like this? For years we keep hearing that there will be no new Star Wars movies, just television shows. After the Clone Wars film, that focus seems to be true. The Clone Wars is currently in its fifth season and every few months we hear more official Lucasfilm words about the supposed live action series.

But now there’s an episode 7 on the way in 2015.

Thinking logically, this could be a good thing. Lucas is now only going to be a consultant. He won’t be writing or directing this film. This leaves the opportunity for Star Wars to be taken in an interesting direction. Disney’s first Marvel film was The Avengers and Joss Whedon was put at the helm with glorious results. Maybe something similar can happen here.

On the other hand, as a Star Wars fan, I have considered the story done. Now, I have read a great deal of the novels that take place after Return of the Jedi, but my mind separates that from the “true” story. To have the story start up again just boggles my brain.

 

I can only hope something good can come of this, because it’s coming whether we like it or not. We can either hope for some quality films in the vein of the ones we grew up on or simply fear the coming of more prequels (personally I didn’t mind them, but I don’t want more).


A Page from Donald F. Glut’s Notebook

A friend of mine became friends with Donald F. Glut (DFG), a proflic writer of many cartoons (Transformers) from the ’80s and nonfiction dinosaur books. He also wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back. Well, somehow my friend was able to have a number of original notes and sketches sent to him by DFG. When he originally posted this on facebook, I commented on how awesome it was and how I wanted to see them once he had them in his possession.

He did one better. He must have contacted DFG before he received the pages, as one of the pages had a personalized message added to me reading “To Dave – A ‘True Fan’! Donald Glut 5/15/12.” That page was then forwarded to me. Holy Crap! I never thought I’d own a piece of Star Wars history like this. On reflection the page is “damaged” now that it’s been signed, but since it’s just going to in a frame (I gotta find a two-sided one) and be in my house, it doesn’t matter in the end.

I’ve attempted to decipher the handwriting, but can’t read numerous parts of his handwriting. Below is my best efforts, but it is incomplete. Included are (…) at points I couldn’t translate. I’ve included some high resolution scans of the pages themselves, so if anyone is better at reading some of this handwriting, e-mail me at gamergoinggrey@gmail.com and let me know of what I can update. Hopefully with a bit of crowdsourcing, we can have both sides of this notebook page entirely translated for the fans.

Empire Strikes Back Notebook page 2

Page 1:

[sketch of Boba Fett] Bobba Fett – goes (…) like

[sketch of Wampa] Wampa – body like Gorilla – about twice as tall as Luke or (…)

[sketch Vader’s Chamber] glow from inside – opens + closes – Mech “(…) descend from Top – Medidation cubicule like jaws – guy who approaches Vader (…)

Vader’s droid near end (…) ugly body + tall pointy head (as tall as Vader)

Han being tortured (sketch of stick figure) 45 [degree angle] – wearing jacket –

-When unwashed, Vader has studded leather hood around neck

Luke in x-wing speeder wears helmet w/ clear visor

Lando’s assistant – bald w/ gadgets clamped over each ear (like transistor radios!) – “Lando’s Aide” – in grey outfit with yellow “balloon” sleeves

Rebels on ice surface (…) fur caps + dark goggles

Imperial Probe Droid

Empire Strikes Back notebook page 1

Page 2:

in med-center – Luke floats all “Hood(…) torture”, (…) w/ (…) or breathing tube attached to his mouth –

other med. droid is shaped like a few (…) w/ appendages atop each other – Luke in shorts – tank is (…)

[sketch of bacta chamber] tubes

(…). Droid (…) – parent (…)

Luke has (…) scar on R. cheek + around right eye R. nostril – sitting up on bed, his back braced

Luke Trench is long + veers off in long directions

Bounty hunters as (…) ;

1) armored, human w/ bandages (face shows thru) like (…)

2) dark-colored, large (…), one eye

3) tall, lizardlike head + hands, (…), real tall

[sketch of Yoda] – bald – heavily-lidded eyes – flash (…)? Yoda

[sketch of snowtrooper] Stormtrooper w cold protection

[some crossed out unreadable stuff]

 


Star Wars Prequels: The Cultural Lexicon Impact

While the Star Wars prequel trilogy is generally considered inferior to the original, the films have made contributions to the cultural lexicon. The original trilogy did this in spades. Terms such as The Force, Jedi, and Death Star now go beyond the simple descriptions found in the film.

However, beyond the critical panning, the prequels are here to stay. Later this week The Phantom Menace is being re-released to theaters in 3D and it has been 13 years since its initial run in the theaters. In that time every person and their mother have pointed out every single little nitpick possible, so what is left to check out about these films?

The fact that the new film trilogy has been talked about ad nauseum has caused parts of the films to enter into our cultural consciousness.  I’ve picked out four concepts that have far surpassed Star Wars, despite their birth in what are known as sub-par films (I happen to find all three enjoyable in their own right, but I feel I am the minority). I could have done a top 5 list, but I did not want to force the issue just to fill out a nice round “list-friendly” number.

Jar Jar Binks

Yes, the much-maligned Gungan from Phantom Menace. Since 1999, every annoying sidekick character from any film has been compared to Jar Jar Binks, especially if they are rendered in CG. In the film itself, Jar Jar was entirely out of place next to the subdued performances of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman. He will forever be remembered as the single reason that Star Wars was “ruined forever.” One could wonder if the prequels wouldn’t have had such a rocky start if his role was diminished (not including him on the Tatooine scenes, perhaps), or entirely re-written. But, alas, Jar Jar Binks is forever the poster boy for  annoying CG characters.

Midi-chlorians

Did anyone want to know how the force worked before 1999? Weren’t we completely okay with the force being a mysterious “force” that was unexplained, but worked? Well, in The Phantom Menace we were introduced to small life-forms within Jedi cells known as Midi-chlorians that give their symbiote the power of the force.

Talk about over-explaining something. Heck, the Lost writers have referenced midi-chlorians multiple times when fans would keep agonizing over the lack of “answers” through the mysterious show. Sometimes it’s better not to know each and every little detail of a fictional fantasy world. From now on when a science fiction or fantasy author is asked something extremely particular about their created world, they can always fall back on midi-chlorians. Sometimes it’s best not to know.

Padawan

Now this term has proliferated into a more general lexicon than just terms being used to compare or describe literary works. Padawan is starting to be used in everyday life and sometimes even by those who are not big Star Wars fans. It has evolved into a catchall term for a member-in-training.

While at work I was witness to this firsthand. One of my managers was calling a new associate a padawan to trainer associate who was overseeing the new hire. The manager is not a particular nerdy person, but his use of the term made complete sense, at least to me.  I had to explain the term to the other associate, who did not get the reference, but I was amazed the manager would use that sort of reference in a work setting.

Had this been the first time I had heard “padawan” used in everyday life, it would not have had as much weight, but there were also many times in college that the term was used. I forsee “padawan” gaining legs as a word, especially as the younger generation grows and some of their vernacular is integrated into the general language.

Prequel

But prequels have been in existence long before the Star Wars prequels came to the screen, you say. Star Wars didn’t create them, you say.

Sure, the idea of prequels have existed long before the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but how many times did you hear the term in general conversation before the idea of the Star Wars prequels came along. Prequels, for the most part, were not labeled as such. In 1984, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released. For all intents and purposes, it was a prequel. George Lucas was rumored at this time in first coining the term, but the general public just thought of it as a sequel. Most works of this type were still considered sequels that just happened to take place before the earlier work.

The Star Wars prequels changed all that. Not only did it introduce the term into the cultural lexicon, but prequels were now marketable as popular films. The the years since, prequels have been released every year for every genre. There have been comedy prequels (Dumb & Dumberer) that have been critically panned, as well as critically praised blockbusters (X-men: First Class). The Star Wars prequels was the critical mass that have made the term “prequel” the immediately understood term that it is today.

The Star Wars prequels have left their mark on our society, despite many attempting to forget them. They are still powerful films. They performed strongly at the box office, packing the seats. Even if those movie-goers didn’t fully appreciate the films, they have still been affected by them after all these years.

Personally, I cannot wait to see them in 3D.