This is a continuation of my previous post that looks at media influences behind The Thirteenth Hour. Previously, I talked about how novels, illustrated children’s books, and graphic novels played into the writing and art style of the book. Today, we’ll be looking at how movies and television programs did the same. I’ve tried to include links for each where you can find out more if curious; all pictures are linked to their source sites.
–ET – I was obsessed with this movie when I was eight years old. As much as I liked the idea of an alien visiting my backyard, I think I also wanted to Eliot, the main character, too. I mean, he got to drink Coke out of a can, had Star Wars action figures, and ate Reese’s pieces. In 1988, that seemed like the bees knees as far as I was concerned. And, he was a misunderstood youth who was picked on and bored at school – a sympathetic main character for an eight year old trying not to zone out while the teacher went on about long division. There was also a scene near beginning of the film where his brothers are playing a board game I thought was Dungeons and Dragons (more on this below … or maybe the game Tunnels and Trolls), with little men and a diorama-like set that (I guess) was supposed to by a dungeon (you can sort of see it below and in this clip).
That seemed awesome at the time, too. I created the character of Alfred, the boy who falls asleep in class and dreams the events in The Thirteenth Hour, with at least a little of Eliot in mind.
–The Neverending Story – another contribution to the Alfred character was one of the main characters from this 1984 film, Bastian, the boy who finds The Neverending Story book in an old bookstore while running away from bullies and gets transported inside its covers. I saw this movie before I read the book. They both have different merits, but I must admit that from the start, with the swirling, dreamscape clouds (see below) and 80s synthpop theme, I was hooked.
–The Last Starfighter – another 1984 film about a young man, Alex Rogan, from a trailer park who is recruited into an interstellar space war after acing The Last Starfighter arcade game implanted on Earth by an enterprising alien recruiter. Although I don’t think I realized it at time time, there are a lot of parallels in this story to how Logan from The Thirteenth Hour is recruited by Wally, a fast talking wizard, into becoming an Imperial Ranger. There’s even a part where Wally tries to convince Logan he should stay in the Imperial Rangers, just like how the film’s alien recruiter tries to convince Alex he’s destined to be a starfighter and not just a kid from a trailer park. (At least, that’s how I remembered it, I haven’t seen the movie in a long time.) And, now, as I write this, I’m just realizing that Logan and (Alex) Rogan sound … kind … of … alike. (I can’t remember if his last name is mentioned in the film, but it’s the one listed on imdb.com.) Hmm. I guess the things you consume do influence you in unconscious ways. But … that’s kind of the point of this site – to explore where all this came from as much as possible!
–Labyrinth – a film featuring a young Jennifer Connelly playing a girl that faces off against David Bowie (in tights and big hair) in a labyrinth filled with fantastical creatures to rescue her infant brother, who is kidnapped by David Bowie’s goblins. Why David Bowie has goblins and is wearing tights is anybody’s guess, but it might have something to do with it being 1986. Jim Henson and his team created the goblins for the film, and it’s a wonderful example of puppetry prior to films dominated by CGI. I recently rewatched the movie with my brother, and we felt to held up pretty well over the years. But one thing I was struck by this time was a scene where David Bowie is pointing at a clock with 13 hands:
Umm … 13 hands … 13 hours … uh … was I aware of this at the time when I wrote The Thirteenth Hour? I’d seen the movie for sure; it was one of my favorites since first seeing it at age nine or so, but I honestly can’t remember looking back 16 years. Who knows; like I said above, the unconscious works in weird ways.
–The Flight of Dragons – this early 80s animated film (which I think was done by Japanese animators since the characters have that vaguely early 80s anime look) is another story in which the protagonist is transported into a parallel world, this time into the world of a game.
In the game’s world, there is a (if I remember correctly) subtle romance between the main character (the guy in the bowtie) and the princess character (the piece on the right). Now, I haven’t watched this movie since I was in elementary school, but I seem to remember this part of it was, well … nice. Yeah, really nice. There was a kind of warm, fuzzy, wistful feel about the way the writers portrayed the growing attraction between these two characters. Not sure what was responsible for this – it have been could be the 80s Japanese influence or just two and a half decades of fuzzy memory at work, but that’s what I remember for whatever reason.
–Flight of the Navigator – another 80s film in which a boy meets an alien (in the form of a spaceship), though this time, he’s abducted and transported 8 years into the future. I think the scenes of the ship and its interior served as inspiration for some of The Thirteenth Hour‘s locations, like the Palace of the winds, with it’s floating chairs and staircases.
(the page this picture is from has lots of other great movies on it with clips and comments)
There are also some great scenes of the ship zooming through the clouds and over water, which was sort of what I was envisioning when Logan zooms around the sky on Lightning in The Thirteenth Hour. I wonder if this was something of an 80s movie staple – films like The Neverending Story, The Flight of the Navigator, and The Lost Boys come to mind as ones where there is aerial footage of flying through a sunset-lit clouded sky. I tried to do something similar in the book trailer. I guess it was my way of paying homage to these films.
Update (2/7/16): Old and new covers of Logan soaring and backflipping in the skies.
–The Sword in the Stone – This animated film from the 1960s had a great portrayal of Merlin the wizard. It was based on the first part of the book, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, but this was one of the few cases where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.
There’s one part where Merlin transports himself to Bermuda, and when young (future King) Arthur asks where that is, Archimedes, Merlin’s pet owl and requisite Disney animal sidekick, says, (roughly) “Oh, some place that hasn’t been discovered yet.” In the picture above, you can see Merlin is sporting shades and Bermuda shorts. And that gives you some idea of the humor they imbued in the film. I tried to give a nod to these kinds of anachronisms with the banter Logan has with Lightning, as well as with Wally, Wander, and William (these three wizards I envisioned looking something like the Merlin in this cartoon).
–Willow – unlike some of the other examples above, in this 80s fantasy film, there is no alternate world in which the protagonist is transported. You started off the movie in it, which, after all the parallel universe shifting in 80s movies, was a nice change of pace. (You can only stretch the fantasy thing so far – when fantasy characters pop up in the modern world and end running around in New York city or something, it gets a little weird.) Anyway, I saw this when it first came out, thought it was basically the second coming, and now am kind of afraid to rewatch it for fear it may not have aged well (that’s probably true of a lot of these films, by the way). However, I remember liking the epic score. And, the idea of an unlikely, somewhat naive hero going on a quest to save a world is a fantasy staple that never really gets old. Joseph Campbell has written about the archetypal tale of the hero’s journey and why it has appealed to us throughout the ages.
–Legend – like Willow, the world of Legend is self-contained. It also has Tim Curry in tons of makeup and a young Tom Cruise running around in armor but no pants (which, if you’re a straight dude, fail). The story in this one I remember being, how shall we say … a bit shite. I also saw it as a teenager, so I was probably a bit more critical than I would have had I seen it earlier. But I recall enjoying the scenes with the unicorns and liked the soundtrack, which if I remember correctly, was a more traditional score (by Jerry Goldsmith) in some versions and a synthesizer-based one by Tangerine Dream in others. I saw the synth one, and though I think fans of the film often knock it for being out of place, I thought it fit just fine for the 80s (The Neverending Story did something similar). And, what the hell did I know at the time – it made perfect sense for unicorns to be frolicking about with a pantless Tom Cruise doing roundoffs on a table in the fight with Tim Curry while electric guitars and synthesizers wailed in the background. I loved every bit of it, and that’s why I made a synth theme for The Thirteenth Hour.
As a total aside, in my opinion, the Tom Cruise character (like Noah Hathaway’s Atreyu character in The Neverending Story) had great hair. Maybe it was more fashionable in the 80s when big hair was a thing, but to my untrained eye, I thought the longish, somewhat unkempt look was the perfect ‘do for an unassuming hero, and gave Logan from The Thirteenth Hour something similar. Again, this may be just me looking back 16 years later and trying to make connections out of thin air, hey, if the shoe fits …
(Movies and book illustrations obviously don’t have to contend themselves with the obvious realities of trying to make hair like this look at least somewhat presentable. Having unfortunately dabbled in the longish hair for a time when trying to um … save some funds, I erroneously thought long hair would be less hassle than short hair since you had to cut it less and do less with it – you know, like combing it. Right? Nope.)
–The Black Cauldron – like Willow above, this Lloyd Alexander book spun into an unlikely children’s movie, which I remember being quite dark for Disney, was another example of the hero’s journey, where a reluctant hero (an assistant pig keeper, I think) goes on an epic journey because he believes in something bigger than himself. I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but if I remember right, there’s also a cute romance that develops between the main character and the female lead, that, like in The Flight of Dragons, portrays those awkward, tentative first steps young adults make on their way to figuring out what love is. In the future, perhaps I’ll write more about this aspect of writing Logan and Aurora’s relationship in The Thirteenth Hour, but for now, I’ll say that it look quite a few years to get their story right, as I suppose it took a number of years of life experience to be able to reflect and write about something that is so central to human existence, yet so mysterious and complex.
-“Wildfire” (cartoon) – a hard to find Hanna Barbera cartoon from 1986 about a girl who has another identity in a parallel universe and a magic horse called Wildfire that can transport her back and forth. I remember it most for its catchy theme song which stuck with me all these years. I can’t say this for sure, but I’m sure there was a reason why I thought it was important to have songs as a part of The Thirteenth Hour. Maybe this is one of them.
–“Dungeons and Dragons” (cartoon) – I had no idea what Dungeons and Dragons was as a kid. I mean, I knew it was some kind of game set in a fantasy world with the potential for quests and epic battles and creatures like dragons and elves, and I had a few choose-you-own-adventure style D&D books that made the whole things seem just … epic, like something out of a video game (but almost better, since the graphics sucked back then). Then, when I was older, I found out what a “role playing game” really was – you, well, played a role. Like in a play. You had to act. And you had little funny shaped dice that decided your fate. I never did figure out if you got to have those little action figures like in the ET scene and what, if anything, you did with them. I mean, I don’t know what I expected, but for some reason, I remember being incredibly disappointed. Looking back, I think what I really wanted was what video games now are capable of offering – an immersive fantasy world. But obviously, that didn’t really exist in 1987 (or if it did, I certainly didn’t know about it). But … there was this little cartoon which I watched sometimes on weekend mornings. I don’t think I really understood what was going on, either, but it had knights, wizards, and dragons, and that was good enough for a seven year old.
In the next post, I’ll continue the video game talk and how my stumbling attempts at playing them influenced the creation of The Thirteenth Hour.