What can honestly be said that has not already been said? It popped up in the late 90s, seemingly like any other dime a dozen game to be found on the GameBoy. The success that Red and Blue versions enjoyed could certainly not have been anticipated, but it struck a chord with kids, capturing our imaginations as well as the money in our parents’ wallets. What many wrote off as a passing fad quickly grew to become one of the most lucrative and beloved franchises in history, and it is still going strong over a decade later.
Those who grew up before and after can never know what it was like for those of us who were young when the series left its mark. For us, it gave us some of our most precious memories.
And since I am a complete asshole, I am going to dash those memories to oblivion.
Our story begins back when I was twenty three years old when I had written off Pokemon as a passing phase in my youth. I had moved to Lima Ohio, and managed to make a healthy circle of friends in the gamer’s crowd. We would get together, play some D&D, have Left 4 Dead parties and down bottles of Mountain Dew. It was the life. One night we were having a party. Nothing special, a few movies and a social. So when one of my friends pulled up the soundtrack for the second Pokemon film, it seemed like nothing more than a cute revisitation of my past.
Pokemon The Movie 2000 was my favorite growing up. In this one, the three legendary birds, Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno are pitted against each other in a match that threatens to end the world. Only our two dimensional hero Ash and Lugia, the guardian of the sea, can stop them. It was a good time for a twelve year old. Lugia with his sleek and cool design was one of the most awesome things ever, and the movie overall was more light hearted then the first film, making it a much easier sit. That was what I always remembered about it.
Until Lugia’s Song started.
Now everyone else was listening to the tune and reminiscing about the kid friendly anime. Me? I had just been hit by a train.
The reason for that is as follows. When I began to move outside of my childhood haunts, I started to watch lots of R rated films. For whatever reason, I took a liking to slasher films. They were fun little bloodbaths with great make up effects, brave and resourceful teenage heroes, and nefarious villains who usually met with spectacular, and juicy endings. We have all heard of titles like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I went through all of those very quickly, and set my sights on the more obscure titles in the annals of 70s and 80s horror, one of my favorites of which was The Burning.
The Burning is a pretty good little flick considering the genre. It tells the story of a camp caretaker named Cropsy, who seeks revenge on a summer camp after a prank leaves him horribly burned. It was the first film produced by the now famous Weinstein Brothers, showcased some great make up effects by famed artist Tom Savini, and it actually had a cast of likable characters, most of them children. So when bad things happened to them, it wasn’t exactly pretty to watch.
Case and point, this scene right here. The raft scene in The Burning remains one of the defining moments in 80s horror, hitting the audience with five grisly make up effects in rapid succession, each one more wince inducing then the last.
Now many of you may be asking just what this has to do with Pokemon. Well, the score for The Burning was done by legendary music artist Rick Wakeman of the band Yes. When I first watchedThe Burning, I had not seen Pokemon The Movie 2000 in years, but something about the theme in the summer camp slasher film seemed familiar. I didn’t think anything of it, until my friend played that tune.
Listen to Lugia’s Song, and then listen to this.
As I said before, hit by a train.
I couldn’t believe it. How could this be possible? A wholesome family adventure lifting music from a blood spattered exploitation film? To be clear, it is the international release of the score that bears that sound. The original Japanese track is completely different (and some would say better.) It is true that the songs vary in their structure, but the main chorus for both is only off by a few notes. I picture Ralph Schuckett, the American composer, just wanting to get done quick and nab his paycheck. Maybe he grabbed the nearest VHS tape of whatever obscure movie he could find and just went with it.
Like that rage virus from 28 Days Later, this little bizarre bit of trivia spread amongst my gamer group and quickly became one of our little in jokes. It took the ominous name, the ‘Lugia’ thing. Whenever someone new came into the group, my friends would whisper to them “Did Eric tell you about the ‘Lugia’ thing? They would get curious, I would tell, and childhoods would be ruined.
Thus is the way it went until the age of 24, when my final year of college was drawing to a close. I was taking video arts classes to complete my Bachelor’s in film studies. My final film, the dreaded thesis, still remained. I had Thanksgiving weekend to shoot it, and the deadline was coming fast.
But what could I do that would be unique? I had done arthouse, and wasn’t in the mood to do another.
Enter the ‘Lugia’ thing. Pokemon and a slasher movie? What could be more cool then that?
I was going to drive my grandmother up to my aunt’s house and spend the weekend with my cousins. Their dwelling was a wooden cabin on a lake. Just the kind of place a masked maniac might wander in to. I called my cousin Cullen up and asked him if he would enjoy being in the short with me. He said yes, and our odyssey began. The ‘Lugia’ Thing was completed five videos later.
The trailer was especially fun. To those who have seen the trailers for classic horror films likeHalloween and The Hills Have Eyes, you know they repeat the title. A lot. This was parodied brilliantly in Edgar Wright’s fake movie trailer Don’t. Being how this short drew some influence from low budget horror films, it seemed a fun way to showcase it.
Then came the three part series. Added together, they make about a fifty minute short. Not bad length wise. In an attempt to get more views on the interwebs, I divided it into three chapters and released them as a serial. Hey, it worked for Kill Bill.
Part 1 had some of my favorite bits. The Apocalypse Now parody still ranks as the best editing I have ever done. Originally the scene went on for a full six minutes, following the Coppola classic beat for beat. It was soon trimmed down for the sake of time, a move which did wonders for the pace. Cullen and I had some fun moments, and finally hit the audience with a revelation that once heard, cannot be unheard.
Then we beat each other up. Oh well. On to part 2.
Part 2 is one of the more rich parts of the film. It has a nice quick exposition scene dealing with both films, set up the threat of a psycho with hedge clippers and threw in a kickass 80s montage for good measure. Honestly, the only scene I am not happy with is the conspiracy theory scene, where Cullen and I weave together increasingly ridiculous tales in an attempt to explain how Lugia came across Cropsy’s theme song. This should have been rapid fire editing with swooshing camera movements that added up to something absolutely insane. Sad to say, we were pressed for time, so we got the more quiet scene you see now. I have considered going back and re-editing it if the raw footage can be recovered. If not, what’s done is done.
Now, a brief set up for later. Watch this clip here.
Yes, Pumaman, worst superhero of all time. I know it is hard to pay attention between your sides splitting, but trust me, it is relevant.
Anyway, on to part three, which is a smashing part with some lovely acting.
Out of all the chapters, this one is easily my favorite. I got to make Lugia explode a man’s head. As a film maker, that is honestly one of my proudest moments. The how to lure a slasher villain scene always gets the biggest laughs when shared among friends. People also seem to like the use of Lets Fighting Love. Obviously you can now see the Pumaman reference.
Yeah. It still isn’t funny.
Obviously a few jokes had to be trimmed for time. Some of these scenes are okay, most of them shit. They may be fun to take a look at now, but cutting them out did the short a great service.
With everything edited and polished, I put the film on the Youtubes and expected a viral sensation.
Sadly, it was not to be. The most views any video got was 158 on the trailer. Between them, they didn’t even break five hundred. Perhaps that was to be expected. I am just about the only guy on the planet who is well versed in both Pokemon and slasher films. It is not exactly something that would interest many fans in either camp. That and looking at the film now, it has issues.
In a word, I don’t think it is that good. There are elements I like, but my acting in particular comes across as very obnoxious and some of the jokes, namely the Pumaman gag, only work for a small niche audience. Its tone is schizophrenic, and it doesn’t really know what it is going for. Pretty much all it does is constantly remind the audience “Hey, this thing happened, and isn’t it funny?” Maybe that is all it was supposed to be. Am I proud of it? Yes. But this could have been so much better.
But the effort was not in vain. My professor loved the film, citing the editing, cinematography and bizarre premise as positives. The project did its purpose, and earned me an A +. The ‘Lugia’ Thing put the cap on my college career, and with my diploma in hand, I left Ohio and began my journey down to Los Angeles.
The timing of this short film is actually kind of fitting, considering that is what made Pokemon so popular in the first place. It is about leaving home, making new friends, seeing the world, and achieving your dreams. It has since not only maintained its status among children, but also become a cult phenomenon among people in their twenties and thirties who grew up with it. After all these years, with the massive success of X and Y, it shows no signs of slowing down.
As for The Burning, the obscure title is starting to get some notoriety for itself. Recognized for its make up effects, early appearances by future superstars, and frightening villain, the film has since been picked up by Shout Factory, who gave it this astounding release in a Blu Ray/DVD combo. The set is great, filled with brand new documentaries, a few audio commentaries, and a brand new crisp transfer that makes the film look young. After all this time, The Burning just might become a hit itself. Check it out. It is a scary good time.
In the end, I feel this is my most personal short, because making it was more than a fun bit of trivia. While prepping for the project, I picked up the game Soul Silver on an impulse buy, curious to see just what it was about Pokemon that excited me so much back in the day.
You see, that bit at the end of the short is true. I did deliberately try to move away from the things I loved when I was younger. Pokemon? That was just kid’s stuff. Who needs it? I was going to be one of the cool kids, watching some good gory fright flicks, not wasting my time on cartoons. But shock of all shocks, when I powered up that DS and found myself back in the Johto region for the first time in ten years, it awakened something. It made me feel young and alive. I have not put down the DS since.
It seems highly appropriate that something like The Burning rekindled my love for what was very precious during my childhood. To me, these two will always go hand in hand, and it is doubtful I will stop loving either one any time soon.
Rick Wakeman should still sue somebody though.