The Watcher in the Woods - Walt Disney

Disney Pulled The Watcher In The Woods From Theaters?

As I touched upon with the post about that awesome Black Hole T-Shirt from the other day, the Walt Disney Studios was really trying to go in a different direction with their theatrical films. Not just with 1979’s The Black Hole but 1980’s The Watcher in the Woods and even 1983’s adaptation of Ray Bradbuy’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The Watcher in the Woods was a supernatural/mystery movie directed by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House) and was based off the novel by Florence Engel Randall that first saw print in 1976. At this point it’s pretty evident that the Studio was attempting to capture more of the teenager crowd with their choice of subject matter. I believe the original trailer illustrates that point quite well.

[Via] The Trailer Gal

Apparently a week after the film made its debut back on October 24, 1980 the Walt Disney Studio pulled the film from theaters, to be honest I’ve seen various online sources saying this was actually just the test screening. Anyway what we do know is that the audience and the studio were unhappy with the ending. So they put the re-release of Mary Poppins in it’s place while they worked on re-shooting the The Watcher in the Woods. This article from Starlog pretty much states the same thing.
Starlog - The Watcher in the Woods

Legendary effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw (Star Wars, TRON) is credited with coming up with the ending audiences saw when the film was released to theaters again on October 7, 1981. He has even been quoted as saying by the end of it all they had “roughly 152 possible endings”.

In total Disney narrowed it down to three possible endings…the first one that had been planned and shot revealed an alien encounter was behind the “supernatural” goings on but they ran out of time to finish the effects shots as the studio mandated it needed to be released on the 50th anniversary of Bette Davis’ legacy as an actress.

The Watcher in the Woods - Alternate Ending

What the original audiences or test audiences saw was kind of an amalgam of that concept, but leaving Jan to explain what had occurred. Apparently it wasn’t quite clear and most audiences felt it gave no sense of closure, that the film was ended abruptly. Which is of course why it was re-shot. Thankfully this “alternate ending” can be seen below, I’m sure there was supposed to be some effects work leading Jan to look to the sky and the forest…because if not…she just looks like a crazy person. I do think the Alien, the Watcher is pretty awesome looking myself.

[Via] nikkisioux

When it came time to for the version that is more widely known Disney also began to have second thoughts about the mentions of the occult, and not only re-wrote those scenes but re-shot them as well. Which is why the Alien appears in the final release as a shaft of bright light, taking over Jan’s body to reveal that Watcher had accidentally switched places with Karen 30 years earlier.

Even with the re-shoots The Watcher in the Woods didn’t exactly connect with audiences of the day. In total it only earned five million…and I can’t locate an online source that reveals how much the Walt Disney Studios spent but bear in mind that in 1983 Something Wicked This Way Comes cost nineteen million. I think over the years The Watcher in the Woods has become something of a cult film which is kind of nice but I certainly remember wanting to see the film myself thanks to those wonderful early 1980s promos you could find when renting Disney VHS tapes (At the 1:42 mark).

[Via] VCRchivist

pac-man

Did you own any Pac-Man Collectible Arcade Figures?

Back when Pac-Mania was sweeping the nation, the Pac-Man marketing machine was in full swing. Cranking out quality items like coloring books, t-shirts, flying discs, kites, sneakers and of course “action” figures. While not exactly the perfect toyline for the figure collector who liked to tell stories when they played with their toys, these plastic gems gave me hours of pleasure.

I only had three of them, but I think they were the good three to have. The Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Blinky figures. While I probably could have scored the other three I didn’t find their theme very compelling. Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man would make a good cake topper at a wedding, but I am not sure about the Pac-Angel. Is that what we think Pac-Man turns into whenever he gets nabbed by a ghost? Are you supposed to put it on top of a Christmas Tree? If they wanted me to be able to play with it they needed a true counterpoint to make it interesting. Maybe a Pac-Devil? That way Pac-Angel and Pac-Devil could be locked in an epic struggle for Pac-Mans Pac-Soul. Even now when I see Pac-Angel, I cannot bring myself to pick him up. The kid in me still doesn’t know what to do with him.

For a very long time, you could pick these figures up at garage sales and flea markets for a decently low price, but like many things retro, the price has gone up dramatically recently. So expect to spend about 20+ bucks for one still in package and about half that or more for ones out of the package in decent shape.

Marshall Mallow

Marshal Mallow Cocoa Mix

Many weekends during my childhood were spent dragged from our home to our family cabin nestled in the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon. Many a morning I’d wake up and find a thin layer of ice had formed across the top of the water that filled the toilet in the bathroom. Folks, in the wintertime, that place was COLD! The large creek that flowed nearby would freeze completely! It was spectacular! Where am I going with this? Well, when we’d wake and rise from our toasty sleeping bags, my little body would hit that frigid air, I’d need to warm up…QUICK!

What better way to do that than with Marshall Mallow Cocoa Mix! You know what made it great? Marshmallows! Not just boring barrel shaped marshmallows, but little star shaped marshmallows! Not so amazing now a days, sure. But when you’re nine years old, this gimmick was pretty awesome! In every box of Marshall Mallow, they also included this sticker! The deal was sealed!

381861926_4e0c5d0655_b

So with that, I leave you with the fun little commercial that most likely started my need for little star shaped marshmallows in my cocoa.

The Black Hole - Vincent - TeePublic

TeePublic’s “Good Robot” T-Shirt – Featuring The Black Hole’s V.I.N.CENT!

Lieutenant Charles Pizer: V.I.N.CENT, were you programmed to bug me?
V.I.N.CENT: No, sir, to educate you.

The Walt Disney studios were most definitely attempting to try different types of stories back in 1979 when they released The Black Hole, sort of their answer to the popularity of Star Wars, at least they hoped it would find similar success. Surprisingly it did better than most might think, in that it did make a profit although not as much as the studio had hoped I’m sure. On a budget of twenty million dollars it earned over thirty-five million at the box office when all was said and done.

disneys-black-hole

For myself I caught The Black Hole at the Razorback theater, just another one of those films I hold dear that I saw at that fabled location. My Father took me to see it the weekend that it opened and I think it’s more than fair to say that we were possibly the only people there that were quite blown away by it. It doesn’t hurt the film that it features Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, Joseph Bottoms and to top it off Maximilian Schell.

But the three characters that my Father and I were most impressed with weren’t even Human. No – our favorite characters included the silent yet menacing and murderous robot of Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Schell) named Maximilian oddly enough. It’s been noted that the script called the red-hued brute Maximilian before Schell was even cast!

Maximilian

Then there was the damaged but still functioning Old B.O.B. (BiO-sanitation Battalion) who was voiced by Slim Pickens.
Old Bob

Finally there was V.I.N.Cent (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) who was voiced by the legendary Roddy McDowall and hands down my favorite character in the entire film.

Vincent - The Black Hole

Thankfully at the time there were a solid handful of merchandise for The Black Hole, like the Mego line of action figures, a Disney Read-Along record and book, an Alan Dean Foster novelization of the film and more.

Walt Disney - Black Hole LP

But there was not to my knowledge any clothing made available, especially T-Shirts featuring the likes of V.I.N.Cent! Thankfully TeePublic has fixed that issue, courtesy of jswhittington3, with their offering entitled “Good Robot” which also acts as a parody of the production company logo of J.J. Abrams!

T-Shirt Images courtesy of TeePublic.Com

T-Shirt Images courtesy of TeePublic.Com

Hop on over to TeePublic and order your T-Shirt today, that way the next time you visit your favorite arcade you can show that local robotic bully you mean business.

light-up-toys

The Magical World of View-Master Lite-Up Light Toys

Do you remember your first glow stick? I got mine one fine Halloween in the 1980’s and to say I was fascinated with it would be an understatement. My Mother had bought it for me for “safety reasons”. Something I could wear around my neck while out Trick or Treating at night and not get run over by car. I fell in love with it as soon as I cracked it open and I remember staring at it as I fell asleep that night. In the morning it had died, but a new light had been sparked and over the years I would purchase many a glow stick and other off-brand chemical light up things for myself.

While I was fine with just the sticks, View-Master took glow sticks up a notch when they released their Lite-Up Light Toys. The premise was simple, but effective. Take everyday toys and attach a glow stick to them. So toys that you could normally only enjoy in the light of day took on a magical ghostly green hue when you combined them with the power of the glow stick and could be used at night. They had three solid offerings: a parachute, a ball and the best of the lot, the Frisbee. That is the one I remember getting the most joy out of, even though it was difficult to throw and just plain boring without the glow stick.

Every Halloween I still find myself picking up a glow stick when I see them at a pharmacy or supermarket, but summer is fast approaching and for some reason I am feeling nostalgic for the View-Master Lite-Up Light Toys. Maybe it is time to try to dig up a Frisbee and wow all the people at the park at night with that beautiful Lite-Up flying disc.

TMNT Arcade - NECA - SDCC Exclusives

Cowabunga! NECA Releases TMNT Arcade Turtle Sets!

In 1989 when Konami unleashed their 4-Player arcade classic beat ’em up based on the immensely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, I doubt even they knew just how many quarters the machines would start bringing in.

10_DOUG_TMNT_PIC

In my neck of the woods the game made it’s first appearance at our local mall, in an arcade that literally had been one of the very first to open in our area called Over the Rainbow. This was such a huge things for my friends and I that we…well…ditched school to be some of the first kids to play it. We even went so far as to record the entire game and post it on our local public access channel!

Well, if you too count yourself among the legion of fans of this arcade game I have some exciting news for you. Those mad geniuses over at NECA are unleashing two new arcade inspired TMNT sets. One featuring our favorite pizza ravaging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

Images courtesy of NECAonline.Com

Images courtesy of NECAonline.Com


TMNT Arcade - Mikey - Foot Soldier - NECA

…and the other featuring the villainous Shredder and various members of the Foot Clan. You can also see these sets will come in arcade inspired packaging.

Shredder - Foot Clan - NECA

NECA also released this arcade inspired commercial over on their YouTube channel to announce the box sets.

Now the bad news, if you watched the video you saw these will indeed be San Diego Comic-Con exclusives. As in they won’t be sold at your local Toys R Us, etc. Which quite frankly makes me feel a little…you guessed it…shell shocked.
TMNT - Shell Shocked

Scott Serkland

An Interview With Scott Serkland, Creator Of The Young And The Dead: No Zombies Allowed

Hey, friends! Just a couple of days ago I gave you the heads up on Scott Serkland’s Kickstarter Project, a three issue comic book series entitled Young and the Dead: No Zombies Allowed. A different take on your typical zombie apocalypse with an added twist that the heroes are a group of school children and it takes place in the 80s.

The man behind it all, Scott Serkland, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule so we might have a quick interview.

Vic Sage: Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about your comic series Young and the Dead: No Zombies Allowed. Why not give us a little background info on yourself and how you decided to form the Serkworks Art Labs?

Scott Serkland: Sure. I’ve been working as an illustrator and graphic designer for about 20 years. I’ve worked in advertising, children’s entertainment, the gaming industry, and have been fortunate to have worked on some really cool stuff, but it’s funny when you’re young you tend to have these grandiose dreams that you are going to take over the world with your art. In pondering this I thought to myself, what if I had actually got close to taking over the world? What would that be like? That was the impetus of Serkworks Art Labs: a sort of melding of art and mad science where I could create artwork and products that other aspiring evil geniuses could use in their own quest for world domination. I’ve designed inspirational prints, mad science starter kits, apparel, games, and comics, all with a geeky mad scientist vibe. Our slogan is robots, aliens, zombies, and other imminent threats to humanity. Because any evil underground laboratory worth its salt would meddle in that type of technology.

VS: In your e-mails and even on the Kickstarter for the comic you have mentioned this is very much a passion project for you. How long has the idea for the Young and the Dead been percolating in your head?

SS: I have always had a passion for drawing comics, and had dozens of failed attempts and actually finishing a comic book before Young and the Dead. A while back I was going to a mini comics group where everyone would put together a small eight page comic book story, and after a six month period everyone in the group would send their comics to the other members so in the end, you end up receiving all these cool mini comics. Knowing that people were expecting to receive my book and that I needed to finish it if I wanted to get a bunch of cool comics gave me the push I needed to complete the project, and then some… I figured I would do a zombie story because it would be easy to tell in eight pages, but as I started to write the book, I began to get invested in the characters and their plight. The book ended up being a full 22 pages and the story is still ongoing. Because comics take so long to produce, and in general you don’t earn enough to live off of them, Young and the Dead has had to remain a side project and it’s taken me about five years to release three issues. But if the Kickstarter is successful enough, I plan to dedicate more of my time to getting the rest of the series out in a more timely fashion.

VS: From my time with your book I can say I love that you’ve chosen to set the series in the 1980s as well as pepper many of the panels with items I still think of fondly…like the Shogun Warriors, Pitfall on the Atari 2600, and even classic posters on the walls like Ghostbusters and Jaws to name a few. Why did you decide to have the Zombie Apocalypse take place in the past instead of present day?

SS: At first I struggled with that because if you lived though the 80’s, you know there was never a zombie apocalypse. But they say to write what you know and I wanted to do a book about kids fighting zombies, but I didn’t feel I could write a convincing depiction of modern teens and pre-teens the way I could with kids in the 80’s. I grew up in the 80’s, and in writing the story I just have to ask myself how would my friends and I react if we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? In addition, I wanted to capture the spirit of the kid adventure movies of the 80’s like The Goonies, Explorers, and Monster Squad, so in the end setting the story in the 80’s was the only way to go.

VS: Unlike…well…any of the zombie comics I am familiar with you have chosen to have the heroes of the Young and the Dead be a mixture of teen and pre-teens, which has a definite throwback feel to those classic movies like Explorers, The Goonies, and of course The Monster Squad. In your series though you have definitely not shied away from the horror aspects of what a zombie uprising would entail…have you had to censor yourself a little in that regard? Did you at one point think it needed to be a “darker”?

SS: Absolutely. There is a definite line that I drew for myself for how far I’m willing to go with the violence. You will never see a zombie biting or ripping apart a human character. If that happens, it is off screen (or off panel). These are not your typical zombies. Their blood turns a soupy green, so the book is not particularly bloody. (Granted, most of the book is in black and white.) They have certain rejuvenating aspects which will be revisited more as the story progresses. Because of this, they can’t necessarily be killed, only disabled by blunt force trama to the head, which means fire arms aren’t very effective, so you won’t see the kids using guns. The only real way the stop them for good is to find a cure, and time is running out. Once that happens, it’s game over. With all this in mind, I still want the book to be horrific, and I think the depictions of the zombies can attest to that. If you look at Monster Squad, the monsters are genuinely frighting and probably some of the best on screen depictions of Dracula, The Mummy, The Gill-man, etc., in my opinion. I want Young and the Dead to have that level of horror and still be a story for all ages.

VS: I do have a question and feel free to plead the fifth but since our heroes are in such a terrible situation is there the possibility that not all of them will make it out alive?

SS: Anything’s possible.

VS: At the time of this interview your Kickstarter has been quite successful. Are you planning on continuing the Young and the Dead series beyond three issues? Perhaps we might see a board game version of the comic?

SS: Without a doubt. Issue three ends with another cliff hanger, and there is still more story to tell. I see issue three as the halfway point in the story and there are big things to come. As far as a board game, I haven’t considered that, but that would be fun do do if there is a market for it. I am trying to develop a card game out of another property I have, a mix and match monster trading card series, so I’m all for making games. We’ll have to see where Young and the Dead goes from here. Kickstarter has brought some attention to the comic and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the project.

I want to thank Scott for once again so graciously agreeing to answer my questions. Remember that the Young and the Dead: No Zombies Allowed Kickstarter is still going strong so make sure to hop on over there and pledge your support!