Fülle in Fódlan - The Fan Art of FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES

Greetings from Garreg Mach Monastery! For those of you yet to hear tell of the Officer's Academy, it is where a significant number of we Nintendo Switch owners have spent the majority of our free time lately, battling the evils of the Fire Emblem universe and... well, fishing and sipping tea with friends. This tactical role-playing video game by Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo is, quite frankly, a masterpiece - and as such, the sixteenth installment of the franchise, Three Houseshas captured the imagination of gamers all around the world, creating a community of "professors" who teach the art of war and worship the Goddess Seiros with their students. 

Many of those gamers happen to also be incredibly talented artists who recently have flooded the Internet with their amazing pieces based on the new characters - everything from paintings and clothing to plushies and pins! I got just as lost in the fan art as I did the game, the two making great companions, and even purchased a few pieces along the way. For a while, opening Instagram and Twitter became exclusively about clicking on the #FireEmblemThreeHouses hashtag to discover all of the conversations and art being made. Below are some of the pieces I've fallen in love with, each containing commentary by the artists who created them, these wonderful folks all gracious enough with their time to talk about their work exclusively for this post. Major thanks to @katribou who created the incredible cover art above! Now read on, for the fate of Fódlan
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses pin set by @DakiArts)
"Fire Emblem's medieval folklore vibe has always been a huge inspiration, but even more so now that Three Houses has arrived and brought with it a huge wave of extra research and new topics of interest. Art Nouveau and Renaissance aesthetics have always been the peak of my art inspiration, also being what I used as a basis for my pins and a lot of my other merchandise. Seeing a Fire Emblem game breathe life into that whole European historical era and its visual style has been incredible." - Dakira Valentine (@dakiarts)
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses plushies by @Kitty_Cay)
"Three Houses is honestly one of the most inspiring Fire Emblem games for me as an artist, not only because of the hard work and care that was put into the game in general, but specifically with the game's characters. Although I thought it would be a challenge for Three Houses to live up to the writing and cast of the previous game, Shadows of Valentia, we were given an extremely immersive world full of characters that were easy to feel attached to immediately. It's because of this that I was eager to work on art and channel my excitement from the game, in a cute and simple way! 

I've been making plushies of characters that I and others are passionate about for around seven years now, and Three Houses has been something new and exciting to pull me out of an art block. I'm happy to know that my sewing has seemingly made people just as happy as it's made me, purely through a shared love and deep connection to such a lovely game." - Cata Zavaleta (@Kitty_Cay)
(Fire Emblem: Three Baseballs by @marmarlay)
"Three Houses' character dynamics has made the game one of my favorites. Each student has a distinct personality that makes interactions between them hilarious and sweet. I loved the time skip aspect that was introduced because it somehow gave me a sense of nostalgia that made finishing the game feel like a grandiose journey. 

I like the aesthetic of baseball clothing, which was the main inspiration for my baseball pieces. The poses that come out of baseball are really fun to explore, like pitching a ball or swinging a bat. I sort of used these as mini character studies as well - I played around with what extra pieces of clothing each might wear, how they would hold themselves on the field, even just their expressions." 
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses "Hangout" by @marmarlay)
"For this piece I wanted to draw the Three Houses leaders, who inevitably go to war with each other, hanging out as friends. I am personally into fashion, hence their dressed up look, but I also feel that because of their nobility in the game they would dress as such in a modern setting." - Áine Gleeson (@marmarlay)
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses pin set by @SilkeTara)
"I have been a fan of the Fire Emblem franchise for a long time. When I saw the trailer for Three Houses I knew this was going to be a great one and I have been obsessed with it ever since. The game actually exceeded my expectations. The story left a bittersweet taste, and that's why I like it. It feels more real that way. I love how the game can capture human emotion so well through the interesting character's supports. This game inspires me." - Silke Tara (@SilkeTara)
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses by @TheSketchyDot)
"Ever since I started playing Fire Emblem: Awakening I've been hooked on the series, this time is no different! The characters in Three Houses are so full of life - everyone has their own little quirks and personalities that got me invested in them. Their designs are amazing and the voice acting is phenomenal! Initially, I decided to only draw the leader of the house I chose, but it didn't feel right to leave the other two behind. I gave this a stylistic approach to give them a sense of regality, they are nobles after all! If you haven't played Three Houses yet be sure to give it a go. I promise you're in for one hell of a ride!" - @TheSketchyDot
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses "Black Eagles" by @katribou
"I really like character-driven stories, and Fire Emblem is often quite good at that. Three Houses takes this to another level by not stopping at tropes, expanding on the nuanced and multifaceted people which makes them feel all the more real. This makes for really good art inspiration as I like to get into the heads of characters in order to portray them properly, whether it be for serious or lighthearted pieces." - Kat G. (@katribou)
(Claude costume by Michaelle of @ArcadeAngels)
"I spent a few in-game months with the Golden Deer house and got bit really bad by the cosplay bug. I sympathize with Claude. I'm not a noble, but I am mixed with bloodlines that are both very proud of who they are. The hatred and mistreatment I experienced for existing was overwhelming for me as a kid. When we moved to a new area, I embraced the racial majority in my surroundings to fit in and avoid any altercations over my biracial existence. Like Claude, I schemed - picking and choosing who to associate myself with to mitigate any trouble in this new town. I became a token in the community and I avoided much of this mistreatment others like me had suffered due to the major population. I was one of them, even if I didn't look it. I took advantage of my position among the approving majority to open the way for other people of color and increase our visibility in the area.

I spent a little under 50 hours creating Claude. I really hope I do him justice with my cosplay and in trying to bring him to life." - Michaelle (@ArcadeAngels)
Thank you to everyone who contributed and allowed me to post their art on here. Now, go follow them all and check out the #FireEmblemThreeHouses hashtag on social media - there's SO much more incredible work just waiting to be discovered! 

Visit the FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES site to purchase the game!

"Who Created Roger Rabbit: A Conversation with Gary K. Wolf" by Jason Anders

"I thought it was a really interesting idea for a movie - a detective story with an irascible rabbit named Roger. I said this is a movie that I would like to go out and see. If done right, it could be something that no one's ever seen before." 
- Steven Spielberg, Executive Producer 

The legacy of Disney's 1988 feature film noir, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, cannot be overstated. Boasting the highest budget of any film to date at the time of its production, it rekindled an interest in the Golden Age of American animation, sparked the modern animation scene, and spun off three theatrical animated shorts. It inspired everything from a Nintendo game to a Disneyland ride, and in 2016 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." 

But who created Roger Rabbit? Spielberg? Director Robert Zemeckis? Animator Richard Williams? The origin of this toon star and his hard-boiled beginnings actually comes from Illinois author Gary K. Wolf in his 1981 comedic mystery novel, WHO CENSORED ROGER RABBIT? Gary was kind enough to visit Fülle Circle for an intimate investigation into the creation of a toon celebrity who hopped his way to stardom... 
First hardcover edition of Wolf's novel.
Jason Anders: What is it like for you to look back at these characters now and consider the revolution it inspired in the industry?

Gary K. Wolf: I'm amazed that by default I get credit for inspiring the second Golden Age of American animation - that was the furthest thing from my mind when I was writing the book. I just wanted to write a good story and have a lot of fun. I was lucky to get involved with so many creative people who were able to visualize what I saw in my head. When I walk through Toontown at the Disneyland® Resort, it is like walking through my own imagination. It is flooring to me. 

I bought a Blu-ray collection of 1940s Popeye theatrical shorts the other day thinking, "I wonder if this product would exist without WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT..."

It's interesting you say that because so many classic characters got a resurgence out of the movie, Droopy certainly received a whole new life out of it, but one of the only characters we were unable to obtain the rights for was Popeye. I could have made him a real star! Steven Spielberg was really the guy who went after all those characters. Roy Disney originally went to Warner Bros. saying, "We'd like to have Bugs Bunny come onscreen for fifteen seconds and say, 'What's up, Doc?' and walk off," and they told him to get lost. Five years later Spielberg goes to Warner Bros. asking for the same thing and they not only agreed to it, they offered him all of the other Looney Tunes characters as well. 

It was a perfect storm of creativity and Hollywood influence. I have to give a lot of credit to the unsung hero, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He was in charge of Walt Disney Pictures and was the real champion of Roger Rabbit. He was brought to Disney with the task of turning around a failing company that was making horrible movies. He said at the time that he was going to bring the studio back to prominence by going for "singles and doubles, not triples or home runs. I'm never going to make a movie that costs more than $14 million." The first production meeting that I sat in on, producer Robert Watts said the original production estimates showed it was going to cost at least $35 million, probably a lot more. Jeffrey just said, "Okay, fine. Do it. Just do it right." The budget just kept going up, capping out officially at $75 million. We never lost Jeffrey's support, even though a failure probably would have meant his job and career in Hollywood.  
Roger Rabbit concept art.
It's great that they involved you in those kinds of meetings...

They allowed me to be as involved as I wanted to be. However, I'm a novelist and business meetings bore me, and I quickly found out that shooting a movie bores me. I cannot stand there and watch take after take. I sat in on some of the early strategy meetings though and would be amazed at being in one room with thirty-five of the most creative people I'd ever met in my life, who are all tossing out ideas on how to make my novel funnier. I kept thinking, "Where were these thirty-five people when I was in my kitchen writing the novel from 4-7 a.m. every morning before work?" If they would have been there I could have been a Pulitzer Prize winner! 

It became obvious after a while that they had bought into my vision. They wanted to do on film what I had done in the book, and I didn't want to be there because I didn't want to screw it up! I hear a lot about the novel's story being different from the movie, and it is. I wrote it to be the best possible book I knew how to write, wanting it to appeal to people's imaginations - I think I did that pretty well, using conventions like having the toons talk in word balloons. If a toon shoots a gun it produces a BANG balloon. Police will collect the BANG balloons, being careful not to break them, and compare them with BANG balloons shot from the weapon to determine whether or not they have the right gun. The whole book is full of stuff like that. Early on they wanted to incorporate the word balloons in the film, but when they tried it the result was a silent movie. It was unworkable.

They had to change some of the conventions and story to make it more filmic, but what they didn't change was the important stuff - the concept of cartoons co-existing with real people in a human world, and they didn't change the characters. They gave me Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit, Eddie Valiant, Baby Herman - these are iconic characters now, and I created them. They could have easily said, "How about Rocko Raccoon instead of Roger Rabbit? Just so we don't have to mess around with Wolf." I'm over the moon for what they did with my book.  
Test footage for Jessica Rabbit and Eddie Valiant. 
I've read that you came up with the idea for the book while watching Saturday morning cartoon cereal commercials?

Let me give you a little bit of Wolf history, dating back to when I was in the second grade. I went to a very small school in the very small town of Earlville, Illinois, where there were twenty-five kids in my class. Our teacher gave us a picture to color (a barn and a field with one cow) and the object was to stay inside the lines. My mom always told me that when people were alone they would get sad, lonely, and blue... so I colored the cow blue. The teacher passes them all back except for mine, calling me up to the front of the class (I thought it was because I stayed inside of the lines better than anybody) and holding the picture up above my head she says, "Now class, look at this stupid picture. Everybody knows that cows are black, brown, or white... but never are they blue." She called my parents and told them she thought something was wrong with me, but my parents encouraged me that if I wanted to color a cow blue, then I should color a cow blue. A couple of months later our teacher gave us an assignment to write about what we had done during our summer vacation, so I wrote about how I built a rocket ship out of tin cans in my backyard and I flew to the moon. My teacher handed it back to me with no comment. 

I tell you this story to help you understand my upbringing. My mother once told me, "Gary, if you want to get somewhere in life, the one thing you can do to make that happen is to read." She never put any restrictions on what I should or could read, so I grew up reading comic books. They were a big part of my life. When I became a writer I wrote three science fiction novels, I wanted my fourth novel to incorporate things that I most enjoyed when I was growing up, and one of those things was comics. 
My father read True Crime magazines in which they would dispatch photographers to capture crime scenes, and they would include with the descriptions real photos of dead bodies. I read those as well, but fortunately graduated to better stuff like Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. I was always fascinated with noir mysteries and I knew I wanted to combine them with comic books in some way, but I didn't know how. One morning I was watching cartoon cereal commercials and it just clicked. Here's Tony the Tiger just talking to real kids and nobody seemed to think it was odd. I said, "What if you had a world where cartoon characters were real? What kind of a world would that be?"

That Saturday morning changed my life. 

I immediately started outlining the novel, doing more research on comic books and comic strips to see what they did that human beings couldn't (or wouldn't) do, and then putting it all together as a mystery that could only exist in a cartoon universe.  
What I find most inspiring about your story is the success found in spite of overwhelming rejection. 

110 rejections from publishers. I got a lot of encouragement from my agent, who believed in the book as much as I did, and I would even call the rejections "good rejects." I always got them for the same reason, the editors would say that the book was fantastic or "one of the best novels I've ever read", but it was so unusual for the marketing department who would always say they couldn't sell it because it didn't fit into any category in a book store. On the 111th try, my book landed on the desk of an editor named Rebecca Martin at St. Martin's Press, where she had just published a major bestseller for them. The President of the publishing house gave her a vanity project saying that the next book she edits can be whatever she wants. That very day my book came across her desk and she said, "This is the book." The President said, "You can't publish this, I can't sell it. There's no place for it on the book store shelves." Rebecca stepped up to the plate and said, "You either publish it or I quit." He published it, but in very small quantities. 

If I had my life to live over I would buy up all of those $2 hardcovers because now they go for over $300 on eBay. 

When did you first realize that Disney was interested in your book?

The book was bought for publication in 1980 and was scheduled to be released in 1981. In mid-1980 I receive a call from Roy Disney who said, "I just read your novel and I was wondering if you'd be interested in having Disney make a movie of it." The book hadn't even been published so I just said, "Yeah, right. Roy Disney. Give me a break," thinking it was one of my friends putting me on. It turned out that someone at St. Martin's Press, I never found out who (and I really tried), sent a copy of the manuscript to Disney. It made its way up the chain to Roy who said, "This is the movie we have to make." 
Roy saw it as the idea that would catapult them back into the first ranks of moviemaking. They also acknowledged that their stable of characters was getting a bit old. Mickey was a corporate "spokesmouse" and you really couldn't have fun with him anymore. You could still have fun with Donald, but nobody could understand what he was saying. They saw this as a new line of characters that they could merchandise, from which they make a tremendous amount of money, it was a potential new revenue stream. All the elements were in play for them to want to make the movie.

As time went on, nobody really thought that Disney had the clout to make this movie in 1980, and initially they proved me right. They had trouble integrating the live action and animation and they came to me saying, "How about instead of animation we have the characters wear costumes like they do at Disneyland®?" I pictured Fred MacMurray as Eddie, Dean Jones as Roger, Hayley Mills as Jessica, and Kurt Russell as Baby Herman and immediately said "No." It really compromised the premise. Cooler heads prevailed in 1985 when Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg arrived at Disney. They brought in Steven Spielberg and he brought in Robert Zemeckis. From that point on, they never looked back. Again, it was a perfect storm - if any of those things had not happened I'd instead be writing those TV commercials. 
I really love how willing they were to tell such a dark story and place their classic characters in a film noir with some truly horrific moments...

I'm accused of being the guy that gave kids Judge Doom nightmares, but there's a long history of darkness that goes through Disney movies. There's the hunter in Bambi, the whale in Pinocchio, and the Witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (who I'd put against Frankenstein) - those are pretty scary characters. I think Who Framed Roger Rabbit was more about getting back to their roots. 

You wrote two sequels, WHO P-P-P-PLUGGED ROGER RABBIT? (1991) and WHO WACKED ROGER RABBIT (2013)... 

I had a creative challenge, especially with the first sequel, when considering that the film grossed $1 billion and that the people who saw it knew it as Roger Rabbit in Toontown. I think maybe thirty-five people had read my book, that includes my mother and my aunts. To most people, Roger Rabbit was the movie and not the book. I had twelve publishers bidding for the rights to the second novel, and I had to ask myself to which vision I'd hold true, the book or the film.

The movie was dark, but my novel was way darker. And in the original book, Roger Rabbit dies. 

I was able to solve this problem successfully and brought the rabbit back in the second book. I can't remember the page specifically, but I do have an explanation for why he's back. The first book didn't get many reviews at all, but the second book was well reviewed, People Magazine even printed the entire first page. The third novel broke all of those records. The creative challenge was fun. I don't know if Roger Rabbit is a work of towering genius, but it's pretty clever. 

I love the way that you treated comic book characters, such as Dick Tracy, in your novels.

I treated them like real people. 
The WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT video game (1989) by LJN for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which I played obsessively as a kid, was very much like playing the novel, being that it's filled with a lot of questioning by Eddie Valiant and the characters speaking in word balloons. 

Yes! When the movie came out on June 22, 1988 they premiered it at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. My wife and I went with her mother and sat in the V.I.P. section of the balcony - I had Kathleen Turner on one side of me and Amy Irving (uncredited singing voice of Jessica Rabbit) on the other, these two fantasy girls, and we are about to watch my movie on the big screen and I remember thinking, "Life doesn't get any better than this." Then, life got better... Kathleen leaned over and put her hand on my leg and said, "Gary, are you excited?" I said, "Kathleen, you have no idea!"

We went to the after-party that night and stayed in a hotel across the street from the theater. I woke up the next morning and looked out my window to see a line waiting to get into the movie. You didn't see lines anymore, I couldn't believe it! I had heard that they were selling Roger Rabbit merchandise at Macy's and so I told my wife, "Let's go over there and see what they've got." I said that I was going to buy the first piece of merchandise that I saw and that I was going to keep it forever. We walked in and I asked the young woman at the information desk where the Roger Rabbit merchandise was and she said, "Third floor." I asked, "Where on the third floor," and she said, "No, third floor." The whole third floor was full of Roger Rabbit merchandise, as far as the eye could see! I sometimes wish that my eye had landed on something else, but the first thing that I saw was a red plastic lunch box with a Thermos in it, so that is what I bought and kept. 

I have not made my home or office an homage to Roger Rabbit merchandise, but I do have those items.  
One of three Roger Rabbit theatrical shorts. 
Did you have any involvement in the three theatrical Roger Rabbit shorts?

They told me that they were going to do them and the premises, which were mostly sight gags that were done on-the-fly by the animators. I met many times with Rob Minkoff, the director of Tummy Trouble (1989), as well as the other directors and animators. There's just not a whole lot that I can contribute to that. I would rather sit at home alone in my office writing my books. 

I thought that Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990) was the funniest short I'd seen in my life. I think that short holds its own against anything that Warner Bros. did in the '40s or '50s. It's Tex Avery-level, just brilliant. 

Tell me about the rumored production of THE STOOGE...

You know, I honestly don't know the status. The Stooge is a great project using Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit in a buddy movie based on a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film. It works perfectly, but I don't know what to tell you. Disney seems more interested in using their own characters and focusing on their Marvel and Star Wars properties. They don't seem to be real interested in the classic characters anymore. Who Framed Roger Rabbit grossed $1 billion, that's not small change, especially for 1988. The rule of thumb is that a sequel will do three-quarters of what the original did. The thing is that the champions of Roger are Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, who are no longer there. In order for a movie like this to get produced and succeed, it has to have a champion, and there are no champions for this. 

Never say never. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring. I keep hoping.
You seem to have found success with your most recent novel, KILLERBOWL. 

Yes, it is going to be a comic book as well as a table game in London, and there's movie interest in it. I've also got other live action/animated projects going that I can't talk about for contractual reasons, but some of them are going to be mind-blowing. Roger Rabbit stuff included. 

One of the sheer pleasures of my life is that in order to write Roger Rabbit novels in a convincing way, I actually have to go live in Toontown. In my office I'll sit down, shut my eyes, and visit Toontown to talk to the characters and see what they're doing. At first it was weird, like an alien place, but after a while I began to enjoy it. The sequences that I'm writing now are so easy for me that I'm beginning to question my own sanity. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I have flipped that switch and have actually become a toon myself.  

Someone suggested that the other day, "I've heard that Gary Wolf is actually a toon." That would explain a lot. 

Visit Gary K. Wolf's website HERE to learn more & purchase books, including autographed copies and mint hardcover 1st editions of WHO CENSORED ROGER RABBIT? www.garywolf.com 

An Impossible Journey: The Case for 'A Far Off Place'

By Jason Anders

"Don't look back." Nonnie's advice wasn't taken by Harry in 1993's A Far Off Place, and it won't be taken here as we look back fondly on Mikael Salomon's directorial debut for Walt Disney Pictures, an adventure drama film based on Laurens van der Post's works. This is not your traditional Disney fare, it is dark and disturbing, prompting critics to caution parents about the adult content. Set to a beautifully exotic score by James Horner, we will see elephants slaughtered and their tusks sawed off by poachers, parents will be brutally murdered and their child will discover their bloody corpses, an ivory smuggler will try and machine gun three kids to death with AK-47s, and Reese Witherspoon will blow up bad guys with car bombs and hold her parent's killer at gunpoint. It's badass. We will learn about family, friendship, culture, survival, nature, spirituality, revenge, and how to impress a girl by making her an antelope vest on the fly. If all that's not enough, the movie is paired with a brand new (or maybe it's from 1947) anarchistic Roger Rabbit short called Trail Mix-Up in which he accidentally destroys Mount Rushmore. This was just the night at the movies we 90s kids were pining for, and the critics just didn't understand. 

The first thing that we need to stop doing is comparing this to Nicolas Roeg's 1971 film, Walkabout. That movie is a masterpiece and you should watch it. Now, if you've never seen it. But no critic could seem to get through their review on A Far Off Place without mentioning it, always comparing the Disney film unfavorably to it. These are two completely different movies so let's stop holding them up next to each other. And as badass as I found this movie as a kid, let me be very clear that this is "Disney badass", it's not Goodfellas Goes to Africa. I have a fascination with Disney movies that go to dark places, challenging you or surprising you in some way, and this picture does both. It's so refreshing when Disney breaks out of its box and produces something that feels new. Walt was always breaking the mold with his projects, and that should be the standard for the company, not the rare exception.  
To fully appreciate this film we need to look at the people behind it, starting with author Laurens van der Post. The screenplay, penned by several writers, is based on his source material, A Story Like the Wind (1972) and A Far-Off Place (1974). Post was born in 1906 in the small town of Philippolis in the Orange River Colony, known today as South Africa. He introduced the world to the "Kalahari Bushmen", now known as Sān people, in the 1950s. Much of his life is still a subject of great debate, just how much of it did he embellish or flat-out make up? Take a look at his Wikipedia page and you'll see him described as an "author, journalist, farmer, war hero, political advisor to British heads of government, educator, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer and conservationist." In reading the New York Times article "Master Storyteller or Master Deceiver?",  biographer J.D.F. Jones says that, "When a doctor who knew him was asked the cause of his death, the doctor replied, "He was weary of sustaining so many lies." Allegations about his seducing and abandoning a 14 year old girl are addressed and confirmed by his daughter in the article as well. His daughter said in an interview that, "He was not a saint. He hurt people. He hurt me. But by God, he was fascinating." Post's 1963 book The Seed and the Sower, about his being a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp, became the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence starring David Bowie. Both the Bowie film and A Far Off Place were produced before Jones' revealing 2002 biography.

The film was originally set to be directed by René Manzor, but he was replaced by cinematographer Mikael Salomon at the recommendation of Steven Spielberg. What would this movie have been like if it had been completed by the French director? According to this Los Angeles Times piece, "Everyone involved, including Disney executives, were appalled by the work being done." A source said, "Things were out of focus and nothing was making any sense. They knew they had to get rid of him quickly." Sources close to the film insist "there's much more to the story" - cut to 2017, Reese Witherspoon opened up about her "true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and the anger I felt at the agents and producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment." Could this be why Manzor was quietly let go? And if so, why the hell was it quietly? Does this mean Kathleen Kennedy would have been one of those "producers"? Witherspoon has not confirmed which director from this timeframe assaulted her, it may not have been anyone associated with this production at all, but Manzor's sudden firing and the lack of documentation regarding his departure raises a huge red flag. It's a shame that whoever Witherspoon is referring to has been allowed a career since 1993.  
Before A Far Off Place, Mikael Salomon had been a Director of Photography for Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Richard Linklater, Ron Howard, and James Cameron, including 1989's The Abyss. He was originally being considered to replace the first cinematographer on the film, but when Manzor was fired Spielberg instead suggested that Salomon should replace him as director. "Within the same day of offering him the job as cinematographer," says a source to the LA Times, "they decided he should direct the film." Salomon was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945 and photographed dozens of films in his native country. He moved to Hollywood in the late 1980s and found success as a DoP on films like Always, Arachnophobia, Far and Away, and Backdraft. Salomon would go on to direct only two more features, Hard Rain (1998) and Freezer (2014). I thought Hard Rain was so cool when it came out. It was also responsible for the success of Jars of Clay's hit single, Flood - I'll let you decide for yourself whether or not that's a good thing. 

Juan Ruiz Anchía was then brought in as cinematographer, fresh off Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and did an incredible job. Roger Ebert wrote of his work on the film,"The scenes shot in the desert have an undeniable beauty, and the photography captures the forms of the sand dunes with real poetry." 

The screenwriters, some uncredited, were Robert Caswell (A Cry in the Dark), Jonathan Hensleigh (Jumanji, The Rock), Sally Robinson (Medicine Man) and David Mickey Evans (Radio Flyer, The Sandlot). I love the dialogue in this movie and that Witherspoon's Nonnie was written as a strong female character, especially for early 90s Disney. The film opens with her resenting having to "babysit some American boy" instead of going on patrol for target practice, sharpening her aim for capping poachers but "only in self-defense," of course. I really enjoy her banter with Harry throughout the movie...
Harry: "I can carry your bag for a while."

Nonnie: "Why?"

Harry: "Because it's heavy."

Nonnie: "... and if you carry it, it'll get lighter?"

Harry: "No, but..."

Nonnie: "... what? You're a guy?"

Harry: "I wasn't gonna say that."

Nonnie: "Then what? Bigger? It's my bag and I'll carry it."

A Far Off Place was Reese Witherspoon's second film, following 1991's The Man in the Moon. Her debut picture, directed by the legendary Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) in what would be his final film, is a criminally under-discussed masterpiece. Read Ebert's glowing review of the film here and add it to your "go watch it right now" list. Her co-star, Ethan Embry, went by the name Ethan Randall at the time. I love Embry's movies, having grown up with Dutch (1991) and All I Want for Christmas (1991), he went on to star in some of my young adulthood favorites like Empire Records (1995), That Thing You Do! (1996) and Can't Hardly Wait (1998). Pure magic for me was when Witherspoon and Embry reunited in 2002's Sweet Home Alabama. Seeing the two of them together onscreen again truly created a cinematic high for fans of A Far Off Place. Thank you to whoever's idea that was. 

One problem I had with Disney's marketing for the film was their largely ignoring Sarel Bok's character of Xhabbo, even the trailer boasted "two extraordinary people" when Xhabbo was, if anything, the most extraordinary of them all. It is a story about all three of them, and that's the way it should have been promoted. Period. He brings so much joy and soul to this picture, it's a shame this was his only performance. 
Ebert warned that young viewers would be "appalled" by the violence, but I loved it. This movie had an edge that, honestly, I wasn't expecting as a kid and wouldn't expect now. The kids, as well as the adults, cursed just like us. The opening scene observes animals as if it were a nature documentary, it's a beautiful moment, making the sudden killing of the elephants for their tusks all that more startling and upsetting. I really loved the scene with Koba where the explosion startles both her and the cat, it's a great jump-scare and fun character moment, especially when she says "bullshit", pinning her knowledge of profanity on Nonnie, to which her mom says, "I'll kill her." There's a lot of character crammed into that twenty seconds of film, and it works well. 

I'm a big fan of the kids' intelligence in the movie. They were definitely much smarter than I was at 14, but never to the extent of, "It's a Unix system. I know this!" 

Nonnie: "People need to stand up and fight for what they believe or nothing's ever gonna change."

Paul: "People need to sit down and talk, otherwise people won't change."

Nonnie: "If you were George Washington's father, we'd still be British colonists."

When Xhabbo is attacked by a leopard, Nonnie and Harry spend the night in his cave to help him recover. Meanwhile, their family is gunned down in the Parker's home after Paul poked his nose into the illegal ivory exporting being done by his associate, John Ricketts. When Nonnie stumbles across the dead bodies of her parents and Harry's dad, she loses her shit and blows up some bad guys with explosives. It's a great scene of suspense, especially when Nonnie gets trapped under a truck with the dynamite fuse already lit. It's one of those "OH MY GOD, GET OUT OF THERE" moments. She escapes, blowing the bastards up, but Ricketts is still out there and he's on a mission to murder her. It's time for our heroes to get the hell out of the desert and seek help, and so begins our 2,000 kilometer adventure. Nonnie says crossing the Kalahari is "impossible", to which Xhabbo replies, "Wind can do it, we can do it." An inspiring quote, even with its rebuttal, "All the wind is going to do for us is bury us." Xhabbo tells him that he will guide them on their journey, even though he doesn't have to, saying "As brothers, we go together, or we stop." There's also a wonderful "faith vs. science" balance amongst the three kids. 
Harry: "So, you really think we can make it to Karlstown?"

Nonnie: "If the wind can do it, we can do it."

Harry: "Don't give me that Bushman crap, I want a real answer."

Nonnie: "You want a real answer?"

Harry: "Let me hear the Bushman version again."

Does Xhabbo posses mystical powers? Harry refers to him as Doctor Dolittle when he communicates with the animals and he seems to drum up a sandstorm simply with the thumping of his chest. Or maybe it's all just coincidence. The movie leaves it open for interpretation which is probably for the best. Mystical powers or not, the kids still find themselves in a hopeless situation and at times on the verge of giving up. "I thought you said it wasn't safe to have a fire." says Harry. "We're dead now," says Nonnie, "we can have whatever we want." The kids learn to hunt for their food, gleefully being chased by an ostrich after stealing its egg...  okay, I'd probably be loopy at that point, too. Harry struggles emotionally with killing an antelope with a bow and arrow. He does the job, but can't quite let it go... 

Harry: "The herd of gemsbok have come back to our camp. They're not afraid. Xhabbo says they have accepted the death of one of them. He says only to kill when you must... what do I do face-to-face with the man who killed my father?" 

Ask Nonnie and she'll tell you to blow them all to Hell. 

I'm assuming if you've read this far you've watched the film and know how this all ends, but just in case, I won't spoil the ending. I like the way the picture ends, though there seems to have been some heavy editing to scale back the violence. There's also a note of friendship (and romance) that closes our tale which could have come off as cringe-worthy but actually works. 
Critics weren't all negative in their reviews for the film, one publication writing that it was "a sort of young people's Lawrence of Arabia." The same article comments on the film's "terrible violence that may frighten and upset young children." SOLD. 

Music fans should not hesitate for a moment to go find the collector's edition soundtrack, the score by James Horner is incredible. John Takis writes of it being a "dynamic, symphonic score that taps into the grandeur, romance, and adventure of Africa. Horner was a titan in his field, and this score is an example of why he will be so badly missed." 

If you're looking for a double-feature I'd suggest pairing A Far Off Place with 2014's Wild, another film in which Witherspoon must trek a long distance in the face of certain death. It's her all-time best performance and one of my top ten favorite movies, and any excuse to recommend it I always take. In the end I am ultimately bias, writing this essay with the picture built into my DNA since childhood, choosing to ignore its issues and buy completely into its magic. If you can do that then I promise you're in for a good ride. I'm not writing this to argue the film's importance, as always I am writing it for those of us who were impacted by it and its importance to us. It's incredible the ways that certain movies can affect us when we see them at exactly the right time, that's what this movie was for me, and it lives within us, becoming a part of us. Revisiting those movies feels like going home, just like Nonnie with her birds...

Nonnie: " I miss my birds. Had them ever since I was really little. My mother put them in my room to sing me to sleep, but I mostly think of hearing them when I wake up in the morning. I know it's stupid, but that's home to me - hearing them before I even open my eyes."

"In the Belly of the Beast: The Importance of the Psycho Sequels" by Jason Anders

"Cutlery. That line reading trumps all the Hitchcock shit right there." - Quentin Tarantino 

Psycho II is, to me, Anthony Perkins' best performance. Period. But this is not a critical film essay, nor is it a scholarly argument for the importance or relevance of the sequels to Hitchcock's 1960 picture, it is instead a journaling of what these movies meant to me, and the impact they had on my life. I can actually think of three instances where the phrase "that movie changed my life" applies to me in a major way, and Psycho was the first. A child's obsession with movies about a serial killer might seem like cause for alarm, but they helped me overcome an anxiety I had over horror (or anything remotely scary for that matter) when I was young. The first movie I saw in the theater was Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I emerged with eyes full of tears. Judge Doom scared the hell out of me, and that final confrontation between him and Eddie Valiant still gives me chills. When I was six I screamed my head off in Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion, I was terrified. Everything scared me.

Psycho was my first true horror movie love and it represented a conquering of the darkness... I walked into that "haunted house" alone and confronted my fears, and what I found was a therapeutic treasure. Anthony Perkins came to love playing, and even directing, the character of Norman Bates, and it was his raw passion for cinema that lit the fuse on film for me. Can one movie actually change your life? I can tell you that without Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece that I wouldn't be who I am, or where I am, without it. So let's toast some cheese sandwiches, pour a glass of milk, and dive into the belly of the beast.
"Don't go over to Jason's house, he'll just make you watch the Psycho movies," was an actual warning muttered to my classmates by a jerk named Cody during our 7th grade year. He came over to hang out one day and I insisted on a movie marathon featuring my favorite slasher, Norman Bates. I felt it was a calling that everyone in my life needed to see just how crazy awesome these movies were. I even went so far as to make edited versions of both films to show to my parents as a kid, removing the nudity and sex scenes so that my VHS copies wouldn't be taken away from me when they realized just how graphic they were. My friend Billy Cogdill said to me on more than one occasion at school, "Are you drawing the Psycho house again?" "Always," I'd say, "do you want one?" I sold my drawings of the Bates Motel for ten cents. Psycho wasn't the only thing I drew, nor was it my only obsession, I made oodles of nickels and dimes selling drawings of Darkwing Duck, Ren & Stimpy, the Genie from Aladdin, and my own original creation, Cowboy Bob, a ripoff of Saturday Night Live's Mr. Bill. I wanted to be a Disney animator one day, and all I cared about was drawing for people during school, which resulted in horrendous report cards.

Q: So what sparks an 11-year-old's undying obsession with two 80s slasher sequels in the first place?
A: Universal Studios Florida. 

There are two versions of Jason Anders, the one who existed before visiting the attraction Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies and the one who afterwards exited through the Bates Motel gift shop (with bags full of merchandise) during the summer of his 6th grade year. I first read about the attraction in the Universal Studios brochure at my great-grandmother's house and was obsessed with its promise of sending a chill down my spine. That classic drawing of Hitchcock's profile captured my imagination, and one of the souvenirs purchased that day was this coffee mug...
I spotted the Hitchcock building from the queue of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. The attraction was rated PG-13, but I was not 13. My parents were hesitant as they did not want to expose me to horror films at such a young age, especially since they knew I was scared of literally everything, and this attraction boasted that you were in for some absolute terror once inside. I broke them though, being compelled by the imagery and description, and the next thing I knew we were inside the building being briefed by a hostess on the biography of Alfred Hitchcock (it was then that I realized he was that tubby guy I had seen on Nick at Nite.) We picked picked up 3-D glasses and headed inside the theater for what would be a wonderful screening showcasing Hitch's rich filmography and, at the age of ten, I could now boast that I'd seen Grace Kelly strangled in three dimensions. Suddenly, black birds began ripping through the movie screen for a grand finale to what served as my introduction to the Master of Suspense. It was also the first 3-D movie I'd experienced without running screaming from the theater, which happened on a previous trip to EPCOT Center at the reveal of Angelica Houston's character in Captain EO.

The attraction then shuffled its audience into the next room, where before us was a full stage set of the Bates Motel and mansion. It was beautiful, unlike anything I had ever seen. Something about that set struck a chord with me and I fell deeply in love. The gothic mansion on the hill above a seedy motel with flickering neon lights dimmed as Anthony Perkins appeared on a movie screen to discuss the importance of "the shower scene." The what? Hosts from the attraction proceeded to pluck volunteers from the audience to participate in an onstage demonstration of how the shower scene was filmed. I knew, at that moment, I had to see this movie. I even bought the Universal Studios souvenir video so that I could watch clips from the attraction at home. This was unlike anything that had existed in any theme park before or since, it remains my favorite attraction of all time. To describe its scope and scale to anyone who didn't experience it first-hand is difficult, though I tried on this blog a decade ago in an interview with Susan Lustig, a creative who developed The Art of Making Movies. These were only portions of the full experience, which included using binoculars to spy on people in a building "across the street" on a Rear Window set (my sister and I spent a lot of time at this spot, a video looping above us of Jimmy Stewart talking about the movie it was based on - guys, JAMES STEWART filmed a video for this attraction!) or filming yourself falling off the Statue of Liberty in a re-creation of the climax from Saboteur. I arrived back home in Tennessee after our Orlando trip and ran to open the Columbia House catalogue to order two movies, The Birds and Psycho.
(from Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies at Universal Studios Florida)
[R]. That rating glared on both the front and back of my VHS copy of Psycho. My parents weren't keen on my owning an R-rated movie, but considering it was so old it was most likely harmless in their eyes, I guess, so they allowed me to keep it. It felt so adult to place it on my shelf. My parents had actually spotted Hitch in person before I was born during a visit to L.A., his undeniable silhouette outlined through the window of a limousine. I watched Psycho alone late that night, deliberately waiting until it was dark. Beyond the shower scene, I knew nothing of the film. I didn't know who the killer was or how soon Janet Leigh would die. It was the purest viewing experience, which could have only been bested by erasing my knowledge of the infamous slaughter.

At Universal there was a large framed one-sheet for Psycho II hanging at the exit. "It's 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home." After seeing Psycho, this poster taunted me. I saw the VHS for II and III at Reel Collections, a video store at a Knoxville mall, but could not afford to buy them myself, refusing to ask my parents out of fear that they wouldn't allow me to watch them. Then, finally, I found them at a rental store called Movieland Video, where the clerks allowed me to rent R-rated movies. "What did you get?" my mom asked. "Rock-a-Doodle and Rover Dangerfield," I said. I finally had them, this was it, the sequels I had been waiting for months to see.
These movies were SICK. Demented. Suspenseful. Funny. Thrilling. I liked them better than the original and I still enjoy them more to this day. The scene of Mrs. Spool getting a shovel blow to the head kept my finger on the rewind button. To this day I still marvel at that shot, it really does look like this little old lady was brutally taken out for good. Psycho II was a nostalgic mystery, a character study of a sick man who has spent the last two decades restoring himself to sanity, a man who ultimately would have (likely) done no more harm if he would have just been left alone. You feel for Norman, you want him to get better, but too many people are so cruelly against this cause.

If this film were produced today it would have been a reboot, to pick a story up in 1983 in real time from where it left off in 1960 with the same actors simply never happens, with the exception of the new Halloween (a franchise notable for its multitude of Psycho nods). The film opens with a beautiful score by Jerry Goldsmith as the sun rises on an empty Bates mansion, cut to a courtroom where some "legal hocus pocus" is going down. Norman Bates is being released, and Lila Loomis isn't happy about it. Another Tarantino quote I love regarding this movie is, "Vera Miles is back and she's a fucking bitch!" Right off the bat Norman thinks he sees someone in his mother's window as he returns home. Is he still crazy after all these years? Norman is trying his hardest to be a good man. Watch the brilliant and haunting way in which Perkins gazes at himself in the mirror, it's like you can read his mind but you also wonder what he's thinking about at the same time.
He befriends a co-worker named Mary during his first day of work at a local diner up the road. They form a close bond and later, in my favorite scene of the movie, she holds Norman in bed as he cries and offers up the oddest, most heartbreaking compliment...

Norman: "You smell good."

Mary: "I do?"

Norman: "Yeah."

Mary: "What do I smell like?"

Norman: "You smell like... like the toasted cheese sandwiches my mother used to bring me when I was in bed with a temperature. She used to do lots of nice things for me, before she went... before she became..." 

Mary: "Shh, just remember the good things she did for you. Only the good things."

Norman: "I can't. They're not there anymore."

Mary: "Of course they're there." 

Norman: "No, the doctors took them all away. Along with everything else. Except... except those sandwiches." 

Mary: "Just sleep, Norman. Just sleep."

The framing that scene ends on is surreal. This is not an 80s slasher, this is art. 

There are so many twists and turns in this story that it makes you start feeling a little bit crazy, capped with an ending we could have never predicted. That's the greatest thing about this movie, it's packed with so many surprises that when the picture ends you need to take a moment to reflect, just to make sure you really do have it all figured out. It's a slow burn that builds to a manic pace until you reach that booming music and iconic shot that cuts to the end credits, putting you on the edge of your damn seat to where you CANNOT get Psycho III into the VCR quickly enough!
Psycho III is even more of a character study, only this time Norman is examined through the lens of a noir-ish black comedy that wasn't afraid to go to the weirdest and darkest places. The movie starts, spoilers ahead, with a woman screaming into a dark void, "There is no God!" Being raised Christian, this made my stomach flip and was edited out for my parental cut of the film. III was directed by Anthony Perkins himself and, honestly, I don't know what he was thinking a lot of the time... especially during the filming of that sex scene. It's so odd and uncomfortable, and for a long time I thought that was how people had sex. Then there was the scene where Mother slits the throat of that girl on the toilet (played by filmmaker Katt Shea) and Norman proceeds to fall in love with her dead body. Theirs easily makes my Top 3 Best Onscreen Kisses list. So romantic.

For all its wickedness, this movie still teases you with redemption, especially with the Catholic overtones, though redemption seems far more unlikely here than it did in II. In fact, Perkins and screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue tried to convince Universal to let them end it on a poignant note, but the studio refused and slapped on the strangest ending that, honestly, I loved as a kid, but knowing how perfectly it all could have ended it just makes me angry now.

There are some beautiful moments in III that you just don't see in your typical slasher film. The shot of Norman sitting in the dark playing the piano just so happens to be the film's haunting theme composed by Carter Burwell, which is my all-time favorite horror movie score. Perkins encouraged the cast and crew to watch the Coen Brother's Blood Simple from which he drew inspiration, another film featuring Burwell's work. We spend a lot of time alone with Norman, in the stillness and silence of his mansion, as he indulges in taxidermy and plopping spoonfuls peanut butter onto Ritz Crackers, feeling uneasy that the stuffing of birds is happening at such close proximity. We witness his struggles, the fighting of his own inner demons, and his sadness. There is unbearable weight of loneliness that Perkins has captured starting with since the first film - at his most conscious he knows that he must separate himself from people to keep them out of harm's way, but he also needs companionship, and dammit, he tries. There's a lot of remorse, captured both in quiet moments and in the screenplay.
Take for example the dialogue from the scene in Statler's Cafe where Norman discusses his past with a Los Angeles journalist who is writing an article on "the insanity defense and the rehabilitation of mentally ill murderers..."

Tracy: "We always hear the objections of the victims and their relatives, but in a way, murderers, who can't help themselves, are victims, too. Your point of view would be important to me."

Norman: "I understand. My cure couldn't cure the hurt I caused. My return to sanity didn't return the dead, there's no way to make up that loss. The past... is never really past. It stays with me all the time, and no matter how hard I try I can't really escape. It's always there, throbbing inside you, coloring your perceptions of the world and, sometimes, controlling them."

There's also a love story in III, not only with the corpse of the girl from the toilet but also with a suicidal nun-on-the-run who accidentally committed murder herself. This is classic stuff. You get to see Norman on an actual date in a restaurant, among actual people, attempting to be an actual human being... something that we know in our gut at this point in the series he is utterly incapable of. You can read in his eyes as they dance that he desperately wants love, but knows he can never have it. "What should we toast to?" asks Maureen. "Happiness." says Norman. The most heartbreaking dialogue is in the hospital scene...

Norman: "People should look out for each other, don't you think? We sometimes get lost, but if there'd only been someone looking out for us, to help us understand, maybe we wouldn't do some of the sad, awful things we do."

The movie continuously flips from heartfelt, to hilarious, to disturbingly bizarre. The drifter known as Duke is slimy and fun, and I really enjoy watching him go from cool to batshit crazy. The performance by Jeff Fahey is fantastic. Hugh Gillin as Sheriff John Hunt is a comfort in both films, you may remember him as the mayor in Back to the Future: Part III, he's great in thirds, I suppose. In both movies you feel he really cares for Norman. I just feel safe when he's around. Plus watching him unknowingly swallow bloody ice cubes is the funniest scene in all the Psycho movies. I also love seeing a college party happening at the Bates Motel, we rarely see the place overrun with guests and it creates all kinds of trouble for poor, crazy Norman. The movie is filled with great, dark dialogue...

Maureen: "I guess I did leave the bathroom a mess."

Norman: "I've seen worse."

Psycho III, even with the cryptic ending slapped on by the studio who was no doubt hoping for another sequel, is the perfect ending for this franchise. Free or not, Norman has exercised the demons and is going away. He'll never get out again.
Cut to Psycho IV: The Beginning. I never liked the VHS box art as a kid, it just seemed cheap, like it was straight-to-video quality. It was one step above that; made for Showtime. However, it was written by Joseph Stefano who adapted the Hitchcock original, starred Perkins, was introduced on cable by Janet Leigh, and featured Henry Thomas (Elliot from E.T.) as a young Norman Bates, Olivia Hussey as Mother, and... is that John Landis? Yep. The fourth installment was probably most significant to me because it was the only sequel filmed at Universal Studios Florida, and the Bates mansion still stood when I visited as a child, ironically right next to the E.T. Adventure. I was in awe standing in its presence. My family would frequent the old Hard Rock Cafe and my only request was always to visit the back patio to get a glimpse of the house on the hill. It was magic. That was my Cinderella Castle. At this point, Perkins had passed away and in my mind his soul inhabited that set.

Many years later I would stand in the exact spot where the mansion once resided, the house now gone and replaced with a Curious George playground, wearing a Universal Orlando name tag and spieling about the legacy of Psycho to my V.I.P. Experience trainers, David and Alina. Standing next to a Woody Woodpecker cutout, I connected the bird with Psycho III (Burwell's score even echoes and distorts Woody's theme song as the cartoon plays in the background of a scene, it's wonderful) in a passionate 10-minute speech that ultimately landed my job as a tour guide. I had made my way from the hills of Tennessee to working at the very theme park that made me a movie geek, and my new job was to talk about the things I loved. Life was good.

If I wouldn't have visited Universal when I was young, I wouldn't have experienced the Hitchcock attraction that made me fall in love with movies. Not only movies, but with filmmaking itself. In which case this blog wouldn't exist. My love for storytelling might have never been realized. That passion for entertainment exploded from within me right there in that theme park when I was a kid, and I returned from Orlando immediately wanting to consume classic films, that same week tuning into AMC and watching Tony Perkins in Fear Strikes Out with my mom, so excited to dive head first into movie marathons... there were so many movies to watch and I didn't know where to begin! The fact is that I wouldn't have explored films obsessively or moved to Orlando after college to pursue a career in theme parks, a road that eventually led me to Hollywood, without Psycho. The first film books I ever bought were on the making of Psycho (I also bought the Bloch novels, but I didn't like that his Norman was... gross.)

I'll never forget the day that I landed a job at the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was the greatest day of my life. Only a month prior I considered buying a very expensive VIP Tour ticket solely for the advertised photo op in front of the Bates house. From the top of the parking garage I stood looking out at the Psycho set and just took in the moment. That very house had inspired me since childhood, and there it was, now part of my workplace. Kids had made fun of me for loving those movies, but those films never stopped speaking to me. I moved around a lot as a kid and was at times quite lonely, I think it was Norman's loneliness that I related to. There's a poetry to his performance that hits me on the deepest level. I sometimes forget these are horror movies. My favorite single frame of film from any of the Psycho movies is when Norman returns to the house from his dinner with Marion in the parlor. He just sits there at the kitchen table, alone. What is going through his head? It's an incredible shot and I related to it.
On into my career at Universal, I was stopped by security late one night when I decided to venture out to the Psycho set after hours. It was midnight and I could see the security truck approaching me from afar. He shined a flashlight in my eyes and asked for I.D. I thought I was getting fired. He asked what I was doing and I told him I was walking the Lot trying to memorize my Studio Tour script in silence. He let me continue on my way and, after trekking through the War of the Worlds set in dark, I arrived. I sat on the steps of the Bates mansion reflecting, just staring up at that iconic piece of gothic architecture. I'm sure that the Studio Tour guides or Norman performers would have thought I was strange and silly to walk out there so late at night just to sit there, but it was a spiritual trek for me. Tradition soon became arriving for work early, Starbucks in hand, and enjoying coffee on the steps of the Psycho set before the Park opened... I have so many selfies and videos from the motel, it's ridiculous. I studied these films as a kid and now here I was, right where they were filmed it, even the Hitchcock original.

I had studied Perkins' life and career as a kid, reading biographies like Split Image and watching everything from Lucky Stiff to Edge of Sanity. I was nervous to rent Crimes of Passion in 8th grade, but I secretly did it anyways. Falling in love with movies is what created a dialogue with the people who I now consider my best friends. It has landed me multiple jobs and has ultimately shaped my life. Without a passion for film and theme parks, I honestly don't know where (or who) I'd be.

When I landed a promotion at Universal to Supervisor of Entertainment Operations, I quickly got myself in trouble with HR for filming a documentary about Psycho's legacy in relation to the theme park, which was intended to be used as a training video. I worried, once again, that I was getting fired. I was told to surrender the footage in which I interviewed the Park's creative director, John Murdy, and all the performers who played Norman. I even filmed one performer's set from every possible angle (even from inside the trunk of Marion's car) and edited it all together. I was told to cease and desist. So I did.

I'll never forget the first email that I sent to repair the rotting steps that the performers use at the house for Halloween Horror Nights as it became a safety concern, or the ribbon cutting to celebrate a trailer upgrade for the actors, complete with Psycho-themed Voodoo Donuts, or teaching day one orientation for new hires and educating them on the history of that set. There was also a failed attempt at an outdoor screening of Psycho at the Bates Motel, which I'm still hoping they figure out one day. We even had Janet Leigh's original body-double for the shower scene, Marli Renfro, on site one day and she autographed a photo for me that read "Be careful taking a shower!" Visits to the Psycho house on a daily basis was now officially part of my salaried job. What is life? Psycho screened at the Universal Cinema for one night only and I, of course, had to attend. Who was sitting behind me but the entire cast and crew of Bates Motel! The entire movie was spent listening in on Freddie Highmore making Norman jokes and observations with writer/producer Kerry Ehrin. What a magical night at the movies!

So now, here I sit, alone at 12:30 a.m. with the Psycho III Blu-ray from Shout! Factory spinning in the background. I've grown, as has the video presentation of both films. As bad as the Universal Home Video release was, does anyone remember that GoodTimes DVD? Ew. (At one point I even met with the Director of Universal Archives & Collections to inquire about what materials the studio had on hand from the sequels, but there was nothing.) I'm reflecting on my five-years spent at Universal, where I reached a high point donning suits and filling theaters on the Lot with an audience of Studio Tour guides to perform Q&As with cinema legends like John Landis (yes, we discussed Psycho IV), Joe Dante, and Tippi Hedren. With Tippi, surrounded onstage by fake birds, we discussed the magic of being on the Lot, and what her first job in the industry was like, starring in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Life had become surreal. This is what I had dreamed of as a kid in my bedroom, watching these same people interviewed on my DVDs and thinking, "I want to be a part of that."
(Me on the Psycho set)
As with most people who pack their bags and move to Los Angeles on a whim, I'm still searching for what it is I'm meant to do. I'm working on a novel, assisting with some studio projects, and feverishly using my blog as an excuse to continue talking to anyone in this industry who will open their door and drop some knowledge and inspiration.

Sometimes it's easy to feel lost and alone in that process of finding your place in the world, even when surrounded by people who love you, and in those moments it is vital to remind yourself how far you've come, and what it is that got you to where you are. For me, it was sitting alone in my bed at midnight as a child watching my brand new Psycho VHS, seeing the big reveal at the end of the film that truly shocked me, and while experiencing the high that I was on from being completely engrossed in movie magic, I knew I was ultimately, somehow, bound for Los Angeles. There were many other movies and filmmakers along the way that would become a new obsession, but I'll never forget the origin of finding my passion, in the belly of the beast, with the house that Hitch built.

The point of this post is, ultimately, to both remind and encourage you to celebrate your fandom. When someone puts you down for the things you love, or you're worried about how others might think of you as silly for indulging as a fervent fan in whatever it is that makes you happy, remind yourself of why you love those things and how they've helped you cope with life. They might call you crazy, but hey, we all go a little mad sometimes.