Midnight Ramblings XI

Chaos in Print

NOTE: Damn it!! How many times do I have to go through this? I’ve got this friend, here called “Neelix.” Every once in a while, I e-mail him all my thoughts about what’s currently bugging me in pop culture. I started posting them as columns. Got it? I’m not saying this again.

Hey Neelix!

I don’t know why, but Pokémon has been foremost on my mind lately. YTV has just begun re-running the whole series from the very beginning again, and I noticed something very cool. The very first episode of Pokémon begins with a Game Boy screen in the middle of the TV screen. On it, the opening screens of the Pokémon Game Boy game are playing out. Then, the picture slowly grows to fill the TV screen, switches to color, and the music switches from tinny Game Boy beeps to full orchestrations. I thought it was a very clever homage to Pokémon‘s origins.

While I’m on this Pokémon rant, I’d like to thank you for inviting me up to your place for that DVD weekend. I finally got to hear the running commentary on the Pokémon: The First Movie DVD. It was actually quite interesting, if you’re into Pokémon. They talked about some of the troubles they’ve had dubbing it for North American audiences. The one that sticks out the most was when they were talking about Meowth. In the original Japanese version, Meowth is a poet and philosopher. In fact, they mentioned that on the Japanese version of the show, Meowth sings the closing credits song, in which he outlines his outlook on life. However, in the American version, they decided to make him into a wise-ass. This change was OK, until one scene near the end of the first movie. Meowth is getting ready to fight his clone, when he decides not to, and gets all preachy about the dangers of violence and that we’re all the same underneath. Now, while this is perfectly in character for the Japanese Meowth, it’s out of character for the American Meowth. The translators had a hell of a time trying to turn that scene into something American Meowth appropriate, and they were incredibly close to cutting the scene. But they liked the message of that scene, so they left it in. Some other nifty tidbits about Pokémon: The First Movie, and the show:

– 20% of the film was re-animated for North American release. Any scene with computer animation is one of the re-done ones.

– The original Japanese title of Pokémon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back was…Mewtwo Strikes Back.

– The woman who does the voice of Misty actually won an award for her work on the show. Not only is she the voice of Misty, she’s also the voice of Jessie, the odd female guest star, and three dozen pokémon.

– The American translation director of both the first film and the series also does the voices of Chramander, Psyduck, and a few other pokémon. He started doing it little realizing how many times they would be popping back up.

– You think these translators would be more insistent of subtitles. They HATE trying to match up the dialogue with the number of “mouth flaps” a character has. They loved the character of Mewtwo, because he’s psychic, and speaks without opening his mouth.

And speaking of Pokémon, let’s talk about “Weird Al” Yankovic. I picked up the soundtrack to Pokémon the Movie 2000 the other day for one reason only: the new song Weird Al contributed to it. I’m a little disappointed. How do you feel when you think that one of your heroes has sold out? Weird Al’s song is called Polkamon, and my original intonations were right. It’s a standard Weird Al polka, in which he rattles off the names of several pokémon. He doesn’t even go through all 150! It’s also a short song, clocking in at 2 minutes on the nose. It’s a performance he phoned in. The rest of the album is pretty weak, too. It sounds mostly like leftover 80’s pop. Why would Weird Al contribute to something like this? My only thought is a truckload of money was backed up to his door. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that this album sucks, or that I feel like buying the soundtrack for the first movie “for completeness.”

But who knows? Maybe my worries are unfounded. Maybe Weird Al did this because he’s a fan of the show. Yeah, that’s it! Weird Al loves Pokémon. He was having lunch one day, he was inspired, and he scrawled out Polkamon on the back of a napkin. He then called the producers of the movie, told them what a big fan he was, and asked if he could stick this song in the next movie. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. Why, Weird Al, why? Oh, well. I’ll get over it.

Enough of this talk of Pokémon, now! Let us talk about my true passion: action figures! I swung by the official Star Wars action figure site the other day, and learned all about the big packaging re-design that’s coming up. As you know right now, classic trilogy figures come in a green package with Darth Vader’s face in the upper left corner. The Episode I figures come in a red package with Darth Maul’s face in the upper left corner. Both kinds come with COMMTECH chips. The new packages will be green. In the upper left corner is two classic Star Wars characters: Darth Vader’s iconic helmet in the background, and young jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in an attack pose in the foreground. Yup, they are standardizing the packs for all figures. Also, they won’t come with COMMTECH chips anymore. Now, they’ll come with “Jedi Force Files.” It’s a little booklet, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about that character but were afraid to ask.

I’m a little disappointed in my self-control. I went to Toys R Us the other day, to check up on the latest in the action figure universe. I wasn’t going to buy anything, just look. So what do I do? Drop $35 in action figures. But I think it was worth it. I was going through the aisles, just checking things out, when what do I spot? McFarlane Toys’ Bob & Doug McKenzie action figures! I was torn! Should I buy them? I mean, it’s friggin’ Bob & Doug McKenzie, in plastic! For me to recreate all those classic scenes from Strange Brew! This decision weighed heavy on my heart. Should I, or shouldn’t I? These were pretty pricey figures: $17 each. I finally decided that I would wait until next time. But then I took a closer look. There was only on Bob left, and one Doug left. “Mark,” I said to myself. “There may not be a next time.” And I bought them. They are friggin’ cool figures, and I don’t regret my decision one bit.

Next time I go action figure shopping, I’ll probably do an X-Men: The Movie shopping spree. Actually, an interesting tidbit on the X-Men action figures. Famke “Jean Grey” Jannsen was on Late Night with Conan O’Brian the other night, and talking about how the action figures were always on the set of the movie. She also then pointed out how she and other cast members would put the action figures in lewd positions. Her exact quote: “We had them humping each other all the time.” Oh, how creative these Hollywood stars are!

Anyway, my system is flushed of pop culture oddities now. See ya!