Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blast from the Past #388: Mar. 30, 2004: Re: TMNT - 72 1st draft

Mar. 30, 2004: Re: TMNT - 72 1st draft

From: Peter Laird
To: Lloyd Goldfine


Here are my notes on Ep. 72 first draft.

I generally like this one a lot more than the first outline, but -- partly because the PLANET RACERS property is near and dear to me and I want to do everything possible to make sure it is treated properly -- there are a significant number of detail points I am going to comment on. 

Please also keep in mind as you read my notes that someday I would like to see PLANET RACERS realized as either live-action or animation, and I would like this episode to be something that could be viewed as a chapter lifted out of that story, with internal consistency intact.

1.) I was looking at the "Character List" at the beginning of the script and noticed a few problems.
First, why are almost all the key characters referred to by one name when they have two? For example, "Godman Falcon" is just "Falcon", "Methania Fitts" is just "Methania", "Tripper Nitro" is just "Nitro", and so on. I would hope that in the script, if the situation calls for it, for example, Godman Falcon could be called either "Godman" or "Falcon".
Second, as I envision the events in this script taking place sometime in the time period covered by the three PLANET RACERS graphic novels, Godman Falcon is not racing for "Team Falcon" -- he's racing for Methania Fitts' team, Fitts Racing (or Team Fitts if you must). 
(Actually, maybe it would be best if we think of the events in this episode taking place during some kind of special "non-championship" race, like an exhibition or charity event -- that way, we don't have to deal with the issue of why there aren't more race teams competing, as there are in the books. And it also could tie into a point I make later, in comment #4, below.)
Third, Tripper Nitro is not racing for "Team Nitro" -- he's racing for the Koyoshada Factory Team. I'm not sure about Critter Morgan -- I suppose he could be riding for "Team Morgan"... I just can't remember if we gave his team another name in the books.

2.) Re: the following:

That’s a graph-metal frame, Raphael.  It’s already light."

"Graph-metal"? What the shell is that? Never heard of it. If it IS actually something, we can keep it in here, I suppose... but I wonder if something a little more in line with real bike stuff is in order. In fact, maybe instead of cutting pieces off (which seems very radical), maybe Raph has just finished drilling holes in a piece (something racers have done for years) to lighten it up.
Along those same lines, the following:

Not after I increase the back-shift time by point-two seconds."

"Back shift"? Never heard of it. I've heard of "up shift" and "down shift", but not "back shift". Perhaps instead Raph could say something like:

"Not after I tighten up the shift linkage!"

And Casey's following line would be adjusted accordingly.

3.) Re: the following:

"FAST PAN TO THE FLANKING BEASTS – also drawing dangerously near.
CLOSE ON FALCON – eyeing the navigational screen, the beasts seen charging up behind him.
No!  We have an airbleed in the intake flow!
THE BEASTS POUNCE just as we --
Switching to standard fuel injection.  Go, go, GO!"

Far be it from me to criticize someone for making up cool-sounding but probably meaningless jargon (I've done it many times myself), but the "airbleed in the intake flow" bit just doesn't work for me. I think we also miss a possible character-driven fun bit here where after Raph does his "you kiddin'?" look at Falcon after Falcon asks him if he can ride... obviously, while Raph can ride a regular motorcycle really well, THIS bike is something else again. The way I think this bit should play out if like this: Raph confidently leaps into the pilot's seat. The Laotora beasts are coming fast. Raph pauses, scratching his head as he looks over the unfamiliar control setup. The beasts are closer... closer! Falcon's pissed -- he yells at Raph "Hey -- I thought you said you could RIDE?!" Raph growls, frantically trying to figure out the controls. Falcon exasperatedly yells "Just press the big red button [ignition) and twist that "go" handle (throttle)!" Just as the beasts are near enough to pounce, Raph does just that, and the number 23 bike tears off, leaving the beasts in the alien dust.

4.) The scene with Racing Commissioner Tangent Morrey in the infirmary bothers me a little bit. First, I've always seen Morrey as somebody fairly high above the day-to-day racing fray, and as such I don't think he could be bothered to actually come visit Methania and Godman in the infirmary. Because of that, I suggest that instead of actually walking in, he appears on a vid screen or as a hologram.
Second, I see Morrey as a real smoothie, cultured and slick, and thus he would not say "Yeah".
Third, I think it would add more to this scene if we have Morrey doing something more than just letting Falcon and his team know they can't race. I would suggest that, because this is a special race event as I suggested earlier -- a race which does not count towards points in the Planet Racing Championship series -- Methania is willing to let it go... but Falcon (with his big ego) is not.
What I suggest is that Morrey tells Falcon and Methania that because they can't race, he is going to pick another team from the roster of teams in the Championship competition to replace them. Falcon's ego can't deal with this, and he blurts out that Raph can fill in as pilot. Methania tries to dissuade him, but Falcon is adamanant. Morrey thinks about it for a moment, then agrees -- "It's against the rules, but as racing commissioner I think I can make an exception this time. Good idea, Falcon! This could be great comedy relief for the fans!" (Which, of course, pisses off Falcon even more... and Raph too!)
And fourth, a minor thing -- but I think there should be a line in there somewhere which states or clearly implies that while Methania is DEFINITELY out for this event, she is getting some kind of advanced therapy  for her broken leg which will have it repaired in a week or however long it is until the next race.

5.) Re: the following:

"Raph turns toward the door, as Falcon GRABS HIM, spinning him around, ready to fight if need be.
Wait!  Raphael, if we lose this race, we’re finished.  Every cent we have is in that bike.  Do you really want that on your conscience?"

If we go with my idea that this is NOT a race which is part of the championship, then the "if we lose this race, we’re finished" bit doesn't work. Here's my suggestion for changing Methania's lines:

Wait!  Raphael, Commissioner Morrey is bending the rules to allow our team to change pilots... but only if YOU take the pilot's seat.  If you don't do it, we can't race. It's a long shot, but you're our only hope. And if we won, we were planning to donate the purse from this race to the orphans' home on Basfornia. Do you really want that on your conscience?"

6.) Re: the following:

"CLOSER ON FALCON – studying his screen.  
Systems on.  Course plot downloaded.   Whoa.  It’s subterranean.
Is that gonna be hard?
Ever done it?
Well then –
Flag is up!  Three-two-one!"

I'm not clear on the reason for this dialogue. Why does Falcon keep saying "No"? Doesn't seem to make any sense. I think it would be better if Raph -- instead of asking "Is that gonna be hard?" -- said something like "Cool -- I do "subterranean" all the time!"
Also, why is Falcon saying "three-two-one"? He's not the starter. I think he should instead just tell Raph to pay attention and wait for the "boop!" sound which indicates "go". And should the #23 bike really get out in front right away, or would it make more sense that as Raph is a beginner at this, they are back in the pack?
And I would love it if, in this scene or earlier, we could have Falcon saying "Switching SmartTreads to ice racing mode!" (The SmartTreads™, as we all know, are the nanotechnologically-based racing tires which can adapt to any racing surface, on the fly.)

7.) Re: the following:

"101. FALCON
You’re corner speed has gone up 23.7 percent."

That "you're" should be "your".

8.) Re: the following:

"CLOSER ON BIKE-6 – as the RIGHT STABILIZER PAD extends to the side, the bike swerving over so the pad CLIPS A ROW OF ICE STALAGMITES – sending the sharp spikes flipping back toward:
BIKE-23 – the riders DUCK LOW as ice spikes clank against it, one piercing the hull, another slashing a HOSE on the side. "

This is interesting. If I am reading this correctly, Nitro deliberately extended a stabilizer to clip off those ice spikes to cause problems for Falcon and Raph -- right? Because otherwise, there is no good reason for him to do so, as it is a risky maneuver which could result in Nitro's bike going down.

9.) The hovering camera platforms which record and broadcast the racing action are referred to in this script as "speed-cams". While I don't have anything in particular against that term, I think we called them "race-cams" in the books. If so, I'd like to keep that term. Or did we call them "hovercams"?

10.) The bit with Raph using his sais to cause the ice to crack and allow the #23 bike to right itself is ALMOST in the area of "totally silly". So anything that can be done to make this more believable would be appreciated.

11.) This thought just occurred to me, and if there is no logical place to put it into this script, no sweat. BUT... I was thinking it would be cool if there could be a moment when Raph uses his ninja agility to do something on the race bike, and Godman is impressed -- and says something like "You don't LOOK like a Massey-Basheene -- but you sure BALANCE like one!" (This is in reference to the idea -- from the books -- that for Methania's people, the Massey-Basheene, balance is all, a spiritual thing, and nearly all of them have UNCANNY balancing abilities.)

12.) Re: the following:

Everyone was aware this was a harsh planet, and I have your signed wavers to prove it.  Now BACK off!"

I think "wavers" should be spelled "waivers". But that's not what really bugs me about this scene. Methania is very aggressive towards the Commissioner here -- she "rams the tip of her crutch against his chest -- pinning him to the wall" -- and I think that is wrong. While she is concerned and aggrieved, I think she would also be cautious to not unnecessarily aggravate the Racing Commissioner, who could -- if he chose to -- make life very difficult for Fitts Racing. So I would at least not have her ram her crutch into his chest as written here, but maybe get in his way with it, to make him pause and listen to her.

13.) Re: the following:

"136. FALCON
Uploading the new heading to your dash."

I think "display" would work better here than "dash".

14.) Re: the following:

I hope your calculations are good, because --
Suddenly he starts PHASING in and out, then vanishes.  
INCLUDE FALCON – looking up from his screen, alarmed to see Raph is gone, as the bike sails through the whiteness --
Raphael!  RAPH!!!
And as the pilotless bike descends away from CAM and is swallowed up by the blowing snow --"

We've already been over this "phasing in and out" thing, so I won't go into it in detail here. Suffice it to say that I think it isn't necessary, and the story works better without it. And there's enough jeopardy here to make it superfluous. (Note: lines 150 through 153 will also need to be eliminated or changed.)

15.) Re: the following:

The Commissioner stares at the document, eyes wide.  
You sent our riders out there KNOWING they probably wouldn’t survive!
Give me that!
And as he reaches for it, the Speed-Cam SWOOPS low to make its presence known.  The Commissioner freezes at seeing it --
Nobby grins at the Commissioner’s stunned face on the screen.
Well, race fans.  Any mail you’d like to send to ex-Commissioner Morrey, we’ll be sure to forward it whatever Planetary Prison he’ll be sittin’ in.  For now, let’s check back in on our embattled racers!"

While I don't have any problem with Methania and Nobby's plan to catch Commissioner Morrey in a falsehood, I would prefer it if Morrey is at first nonplused but then in his suave oily way, pulls off some kind of face-saving move... which is not ENTIRELY successful, as he still has egg on his face. Also, because he has been filmed, he can't unfairly punish Methania and her team.

16.) Re: the following:

"191. FALCON
I’ll try and flush it out!"

There's one of my grammatical pet peeves! "Try and" should be "try to".

17.) Re: the following:

"202. FALCON
You’re a FOOL, Raphael!"

This sounds a little un-Falcon-like. How about:

"Nice move, shell for brains!"

18.) Re: the following:

It was the right thing to do!
VROOOOM!  They burst out of there, the Mud-Riders now SWOOPING LOW behind them.
TRACKING SHOT – BIKE-23 zigzagging around trees at high speed.
There’s no room for honor in racing!
Winning without honor is NOT winning!"

Perhaps Raph's line 203 should use "honorable" instead of "right", so that Falcon's line 204 has more resonance and connection with Raph's line.
Also, I wonder if it might be fun to do a line following Raph's line 205 where he pauses for a beat, then says something like "Geez -- I'm channeling Leo!"

19.) As i have already said that I don't like the whole "phasing" bit, the way Godman and Raph win just makes no sense. Let's figure out a better way for them to win... that is, if they HAVE to win. DO they? I'm not so sure.
Also, given my previous comments, Nobby Bloe's describing the race Team Fitts has just won as "the USPRA's race to end all races" is just wrong.

20.) Re: the following:

"Raph shakes his hand, but then starts PHASING again – as Falcon pulls his hand away.
I think this one’s it... better say good-bye.
Yeah... well.  Always remember... if you do nothing else in your life... you were once a Planet Racer.  One of the best.  Good balance, Raphael.
Good balance, Falcon.  
Raph then turns to walk away – shimmering, then slowly fading away… until… he’s… gone! 
This concludes THE USPRA Championship, sponsored by the Society of the Preservation of Internal Combustion.  Until next time, this is Nobby Bloe.  Good balance to you all."

No need to comment again on the "phasing" thing, but -- as much as I like the use of the phrase "Good balance" -- Falcon sounds a little too sappy and speechy here. I think it might be more in character if he makes some kind of comment after Raph disappears like "Just when I thought our team might have a good back-up pilot -- ! Well... that's racing!" I'm not entirely sure if that is right, but SOMETHNG like that.
Also, there's something odd about ending on Nobby's amplified voiceover, even though I like the content of his lines -- first, I'm not sure it's necessary; and second, I think to be consistent with the other Turtle solo adventures we should end with Raph getting SUCKED away and vanishing -- not just fading as he walks away.

-- Pete


  1. Another great one. Not to drive you nuts with questions but - was Planet Racers nearer and dearer to you than the Turtles at this point? Or is that like choosing your favorite child?

    Or, was it just the fact that this was to be the first "media" exposure for Planet Racers outside of the comics?

  2. Peter, do you still own the Planet Racers comics and characters, by any chance? Did Jim Lawson ever own any part of the property, or were you the only one doing business as Zeromayo Studios?

  3. "John Pannozzi said...
    Peter, do you still own the Planet Racers comics and characters, by any chance? Did Jim Lawson ever own any part of the property, or were you the only one doing business as Zeromayo Studios?"

    Jim Lawson and I are equal partners in Zeromayo Studios and own equal percentages of "Planet Racers", and it has been that way from the beginning. -- PL

  4. "Miserable Dreamer said...
    Another great one. Not to drive you nuts with questions but - was Planet Racers nearer and dearer to you than the Turtles at this point? Or is that like choosing your favorite child?"

    I think at that point the TMNT were still more important to me, but not by a lot.

    I also felt a considerable responsibility to Jim Lawson to "get it right", as "Planet Racers" was as much his baby as it was mine.

    "Or, was it just the fact that this was to be the first "media" exposure for Planet Racers outside of the comics?"

    That certainly had something to do with it. -- PL