Thursday, June 17, 2004

The League does not speak Spanish.

Two years of public education Spanish and one day of college Spanish (I dropped out the first day as the teacher ONLY would speak in Spanish... and I had nooooo idea what was going on), and to this day, at best, I can read signs and occasionally make out some very basic Spanish if I read it.

I briefly began to learn Spanish in 1994 when I did not have cable and the only station I could tune in was Univision. My roommates and I became swept up in some Telenovella, and after a few days, you do begin to pick up on a few things. Not much, but some stuff. Somehow the female stars of Univision were keeping us from wanting to (a) turn off the TV, or (b) get English channels.

Alas, someone went and bought a coaxial cable, English-language TV returned to our life, and the dream of becoming bilingual came to an end.

I also took a semester and a half of Italian. I was flunking Italian part 2 and had to drop. So, my last refuge was Danish, which is pretty much just drunken English. I got through it with a C and a B.

I can now proposition someone in the filthiest manner, order someone to shove something up their ass, and order a cup of coffee. Aside from that, my Danish is now a distant memory.

But last night I was flipping channels, and on Galavision (apparently a subsidiary of Univision, but for our purposes, a Spanish language TV channel), I saw the coolest thing ever.

I have no idea which program I was watching, but the show was a multitude of actors, all in weird make-up, with strings tied to their heads, re-enacting Thunderbirds.

For those of you not in the know, Thunderbirds was a television program starring a cast of marrionettes who were kind of a crack action-adventure team. There was usually a nefarious plot by a mad scientist, and the Thunderbirds would have to get in their very cool vehicles and race to the rescue. The puppetry in the show was about as good as you're going to expect out of marrionettes, I guess. Their mouths moved, their eyes rolled, but the whole feel of the show was kind of slow and weird. And they also had no problem intersplicing in close-up shots of real hands if they needed to show any sort of manual activity, such as opening a can, or playing with a Rubik's cube or whatever.

The coolest thing about the Galavision version was that the characters were humans, but the actors and director had committed to the Thunderbirds style. All of the actors had learned the walk (a sort of slow, bouncing motion as you go from point A to point B), knew that you never turn your head (you turn your whole body), and to speak, you only move your lower lip in a quick flapping motion. Also key, but slightly more subtle, you MUST walk everywhere with your arms either straight at your side, or bent 90 degrees at the elbow.

I have no idea why I find this so fascinating, but the fact that they were willing to re-make Thunderbirds as a live-action TV show, including all details right up to the strings coming out of the actor's heads, is just not the sort of thing you get on English speaking TV too often.

Curiously, Thunderbirds is being turned into a live action film in english, and directed by Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes. I have no idea why this is being funded, or how it can benefit from becoming a live-action movie, versus puppets.

Producer: So then I thought we'd have Tom Cruise play John Tracy!
Screen Writer: Yeah, he's got a good voice.
Producer: Voice?
Screen Writer: Yeah. THis is Thunderbirds.
Producer: Right! And it's going to have Tom Cruise in it!
Screen Writer: As the voice of John Tracy? Sounds good.
Producer: What the hell are you talking about?
Screen Writer: Thunderbirds is a licensed property. It's a puppet show. This script is for a puppet show.
Producer: Nobody is going to pay to watch puppets for 90 f**king minutes. SHit! Who else knows about this Thunderbirds show?
Screen Writer: Well, it's been in syndication on and off since the 60's...
Producer: Shit! I just spent $200,000 optioning this f**king puppet show! I can't spend $80 million on a f**king 90 minute puppet show! I wanted f**king Tom Cruise!

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