Monday, August 27, 2007

You Could Learn A Lot From Lou Scheimer (Part II)

So...obviously my copy of the Flash Gordon animated series DVD set came in the mail, otherwise I wouldn't be posting all of this stuff about it. I haven't had time to watch it all yet -- just the first episode, a few minutes of the second, and a teeny slice of the documentary. (What can I say? My daughter would rather watch Labyrinth some days, and what good Daddy says no to that?!)

Yet what I have seen is enough to convince me of one thing: despite the limited animation that marked most of Filmation's output, and jokes that Phil and I have made about the man, Lou Scheimer had this stuff locked.

Especially when it comes to Flash. In the beginning of the documentary, we see the guy sitting in a chair talking about how much he loved Flash Gordon as a kid, and his eyes lit up. He talked about loving to see the comic strips on Sunday mornings at the grocery store, and when he gushes briefly about a comic strip long-forgotten by...well, I'd never heard of it, the guy practically leaps with geeky enthusiasm.

The show is a very faithful recreation of the comics, and it manages something that the new show can't, and didn't even try:

Updating the look, not the tone.

Sure, you can still tell it's Mongo, and there are rocket ships and Barin looks like the renfaire let out early. The ships are a little saucier, more 1979 than 1934; the Metal Men are sleeker and more menacing; Aura is...

...hawtsome. Halter top, big hair, thigh boots. 1979 loved you very, very much, Young Nerd Boy.

But that's the end of the 'updating'. This cartoon understands what Flash is about --


It's not about "What would these people like if they lived in today's world?" It's not about making sense of the crazy stuff in there, it's not about reality. It's about escape, energy, heroics, melodrama, adventure.

The show seizes on it, puts that lightning in a bottle, shakes it up and lets it go. And it doesn't give a damn about what other people are going to think about it: it is what it is, on wheels.

It's made out of the collective love of this crazy stuff we call "space opera", and the love is shameless and pure.

It can be done, and done well and successfully...if a producer dares.