Monday, May 30, 2011

Power Rangers: SPD in Japan!

To celebrate Super Sentai's 35th Anniversary in Japan, Toei Channel will air Power Rangers SPD, dubbed in Japanese! The American version will be re-voiced by the original DekaRanger cast members! All 38 episodes will air beginning next month, and Toei has been using this trailer to promote it:

I was really excited to hear about this. I know Bandai and Toei are very protective of their property, and rarely do they ever bring any of the American franchise back to Japan. I have always been proud of our work on SPD, and I am even more so knowing that it has been so widely received around the world.

I personally think the trailer is really good, too. I found it interesting, the elements they chose to focus on. Sam in particular, and Z as a child. It's a short piece, but action packed. It stirred a lot of memories, as they seemed to have crammed all the emotion of the season into that one minute.

So I've decided I would celebrate SPD, too. I'm going to blog about what I consider the greatest team of Rangers there has ever been!
Photo 1: Admittedly, I'm biased, but you have to admit, these guys were pretty good Power Rangers. I thought that as both a team and a cast, they brought a wide range of personality and interest to the show. I spent a lot of time with Brandon, Chris, Matt, Monica, and Alycia while I was producing and directing the show, but I also had the good fortune to become very good friends with them on a personal level. We did so much together even off the set, and there are so many stories to tell. Too many for any one blog. So I think I will show you some Behind the Scenes of SPD one Ranger at a time. We'll count backwards from 5...

Photo 2: You may recognize her as the Pink Ranger, but if you run in to her in real life, cal her Alycia! Miss Purrott was actually the first person to audition for Syd, and she nailed it immediately. 300 other girls read for the part, but our conversations always came back to Alycia.
Photo 3: The key to Alycia's approach that made her so perfect for the role was the way she acted unfazed by the situations surrounding her. She didn't play it as a dumb blonde, or a snobby sorority girl. She was just Syd, perfect in every way, perfect at everything, but never thinking less of anyone that can't quite keep up with her.

Photo 4: Syd decides to join the SPD academy because she feels that she has conquered everything in life and needs a challenge to keep balanced. Her character was important to me, because I wanted to show kids that even the people who seem to move through life effortlessly still need to work for things. People may perceive Syd as spoiled, but she worked hard for what she had, and worked hard to be part of the team. Alycia really captured the essence of that.

Photo 5: Alycia also worked really hard to portray the character. The show was months of grueling conditions, foul weather, long workouts, insanely early mornings bleeding into painfully late nights. And there was no ramp up period, either! It was just a few days into filming when I had the team shoot the obstacle course scenes for episode 3!

Photo 6: The mud was fun until everyone got really cold. But they had to stay muddy for continuity! But you know what I always say: If you're gonna shoot with Chris Violette, get'em muddy! (Sorry, that's actually a Labou joke!)

Photo 7: All the hard work paid off, though, and Aly, uh, or Syd, finally got to be the Pink Ranger. She had an opportunity to be the leader of the group, but she really preferred the color pink. I took this photo the very first time she tried her spandex suit on.

Photo 8: When you weren't working hard on set, you were waiting to work hard. Which is very hard. I personally would rather constantly be working that waiting around, and I think that is the very thought Alycia was having as I snapped this shot.

Photo 9: There were only a few breaks in the shooting schedule, but we all made the most of them when they arrived. One holiday weekend, everyone decided to take a trip up north. Most of the group booked flights, but New Zealand is such a beautiful place, Alycia and I decided to rent a convertible and drive across the North Island (on the wrong side of the road. And the car...). It looked like Jurassic Park! The view around every corner was straight out of a dinosaur book I had as a kid. Oh, and we stopped at "Sheep World". Yes, we did.

Photo 10: One of the main questions I get after any project is "How much is the actor like the character?" In the case of SPD, there are a lot of astonishing parallels. Partly because we searched the world over for the perfect actors to fill out the characters we created on paper, but mostly because the actors so strongly influenced the way the characters developed over the season. Like Syd, Alycia is strong willed, independent, amazingly beautiful inside and out, and determined to be successful at everything she does. She is, by all rights, a princess.

Photo 11: If I had to pick one quality Syd has that Alycia doesn't: A singing voice! She did not like having to record her song!

Photo 12: I know so many of you who read my blog are SPD fans, and I've posted a bunch of BTS pix before, so I thought it would be different to show you some more casual or unusual moments from our year in NZ. I'll never forget this one: Alycia and I were playing video games at a local arcade in Auckland, and her purse got stolen! She lost everything, keys, ID, phone. We ended up standing out in the rain for hours as she tried to get it all sorted out. She was like, "Why are you taking pictures!?!" I don't know, so maybe someday I can blog about it?

Photo 13: The best thing about Alycia, even when times are tough, she's always smiling!

Photo 14: We had many an adventure together. Again, I could go on for hours, but I'll save some for the panels.
Photo 15: After all the fun, it was time to put the uniform back on and get to set!

Photo 16: While working, everyone was very serious.

Photo 17: Until it was time for Alycia to play dead, and the laughing fits started!

Photo 18: Posted without comment for the fans.

Photo 19: Even after all the filming was done, there was still lots of work to do. Here's a rare photo of Alycia doing ADR for a Pink Ranger fight scene.

Photo 19: One of the statistics Disney gave me was that SPD raised female viewership in Power Rangers. I think Alycia and Monica were responsible for that. Girls always gravitate to the Pink Ranger, and I think Alycia gives them a real life role model they can look up to.

Photo 20: SPD was a great experience, and I had some of the best times ever with Alycia. It is an honor and a pleasure to have her in my life. I'm lucky to have ended up with her in the show, and I think we all benefited from her participation. She is true SPD. When it comes to Pink Rangers, Alycia is, as she would say, "My all time favorite!"

Going through my archives recently, I've shifted through over 50 hours of never before seen BTS video I took in New Zealand. I thought you might like to check out a few of my favorite Alycia clips...


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May the Fourth be with you: Smurf Wars

It's officially Star Wars Day, and as much as I have to get done for a shoot this weekend, I couldn't help but steal a few hours to finish up part of one of my personal projects to celebrate.

People always ask me what I do when I'm not making stuff. The answer is simple: I make more stuff! But instead of designing for film or commercial product, I entertain myself in the wee hours of the night by creating product-like things that I wish really existed. This blog will introduce you to a prime example of that work.

In the mid 90's, Lucasfilm commissioned me to design and create a logo and a few limited edition collectibles for the first Star Wars Weekend. I was so excited to do the job, and even more excited that they gave me free reign as to what the items could be. The end result seemed like a no-brainer to me: Disney characters portraying the roles of Star Wars heroes and Villains. I created a logo with Mickey Skywalker and Princess Minnie, and a sculpture of Mickey, as Luke, and R2D2. It's one of my favorite pieces to this day. I had always intended to start this blog with a photo of it, but since I decided last minute that today would finally be the day I expose my secret Star Wars project, I couldn't find any! I'll dig some up for next time.

Are you wondering why you never saw my Star Wars weekend Disney items? Lucasfilm decided at the time that they could not "cross-pollinate" their characters with other brands. Donald Duck could be in a piece of art with Darth Vader, but he couldn't BE Darth Vader. So my designs were shelved for all eternity.

I was shocked, years later, to see a flood of different brands becoming the inhabitance of the Star Wars universe! Disney, Muppets, even Mr. Potato Head is a bounty hunter these days!

It bummed me out at first, but being the Star Wars geek I am, I couldn't help but love that all my favorite worlds were melding into one, even if someone else got to do it. That small joy turned to new inspiration when I realized that there was still one aspect of my childhood that had yet to be assimilated into the worlds of Star Wars: the Smurfs!

Photo 1: I've been working on this project after hours between deadlines and I have about 25-30 Star Wars Smurfs almost complete. My goal is to create a Smurf counterpart to each of the original 96 3-3/4" Kenner figures. It may take a while! But to kick things off, in honor of May the Fourth be with You, I want to show a few of my favorites that are finished.

Photo 2: Everybody's favorite scruffy lookin' Smurf herder, Smurf Solo!

Photo 3: I tried to capture the classic pose from A New Hope, as Han, er, Smurf Solo covers Luke and the gang by blasting troopers as they make their way to the Falcon.

Photo 4: These Smurfs are actual scale to real Smurfs, and although they are from scratch, I used my extensive Smurf collection to make sure I matched anatomy and expressions.

Photo 5: And I used my Star Wars figure collection as reference to match all the details. (Yes, I am still 8 years old inside my head!) These Smurfs will probably have a closer resemblance to the action figures than real movie props and characters.

Photo 6: And of course, where would Smurf Solo be without his trusty co-pilot, Smurfbacca!?!

Photo 7: Smurfbacca is technically 6 apples high!

Photo 8: Alright, you got me! The bowcaster is based on the movie prop. Even as a kid, I couldn't figure out why they couldn't make the action figure accessory more accurate...

Photo 9: The biggest question I have is where to draw the line between the Star Wars and Smurf universes? And Smurf rules don't help with the design process, either! One minute they have a skateboard made from a leaf, and the next they are driving a red racing car! I guess I'm safe with picking and choosing the details I like best and leaving at that.

Photo 10: I will post more pix as I finish new batches, but since its a holiday and all, here is a sneak peek at what else is in the works. Tusken Smurf? Smurf Raider? Still working on that one...

Photo 11: The Smurf Wars saga would not be complete without the wise mentor to guide young Jedi Smurfs. And who better to assume the role of Obi Smurf Kenobi than Papa Smurf himself.

Photo 12: Always balance in the force there is! For every hero, there is a villain. And there is no more feared shadow of darkness in the forest universe than Smurf Vader!

Well I hope you had a happy fourth! May your day have been filled with trilogy marathoning and ebay hunting! And I hope you enjoyed my Star Wars Smurfs. There are plenty more coming! Let me know what you think below!