Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Legion of Justice Heroes

So a few months ago, my friend Sylvia invited people to come partake (in a few months, ie, last week) of a murder mystery party. Sylvia doesn't buy these in a box from a store; she writes them up from scratch, creating all the characters, their motivations, their interrelationships, EVERYTHING. I don't see how she does it.

Anyway, she had a fairy tale murder mystery party a year or two ago, and it was amazing, great food, great backstories, and people had an amazing time fleshing out their fairytale characters and acting like complete nutballs. (Aaron and Fiona as obnoxious-accented Hansel and Gretel were particular standouts.) I participated in that one, and was an old man whose mission was to get rid of a magic amulet before midnight. I palmed it off on Bryan Barnes, and he aged like 120 years in seconds (and then we had a hilarious slow-motion chase around the theater.)

ANYWAY anyway, a few months ago, Sylvia invited me to do the superhero thing, but I was feeling all "wah-wah, whine-whine" antisocial and obnoxious, so I politely declined (even though I had had a ball at the fairytale one).Turns out Aaron couldn't make it either (as he had to infiltrate some conservative sect and steal their liquor and down pillows or something...) so Sylvia cast him as the superheroes' sidekick (who I dubbed "The Amazing Wonder Keck") and asked me to film a simple scene of him being tortured; something for the heroes to fight for.

Well, you know me: always happy to help a friend out when I can, and if it involves video and campy superheroes, well, always happy to make it eighteen times more complex and giggle the whole time doing it. So I volunteered to do a kidnapping scene as well, and we brainstormed and created some visual gags, some taunting scenes, and the mandatory use of Burgess Meredith Penguin Gas. (which turns out to be fun & easy to do in After Effects!)

I also decided to attempt to make a Superfriends-style animated opening as well, and wanted a Legion of Doom group of villains. Somebody came up with a name that I vetoed, with me saying I wanted a "Man From U.N.C.L.E." style acronym. Aaron, being a smartass, said "why don't you just go with A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.?" Me, being a smartass, said "yeah, right, why don't YOU come up with a cool name that long, with those letters?" Aaron, being a genius comedy writer, came up with one in like four minutes, and it got included in the video (and I made us buttons!). I had fun coming up with all the villainous characters; they were supposed to be illustrated, but got axed due to time constraints. The heroes DID get illustrated; Sylvia sent me Facebook pix of the various folks involved, and I drew my best attempt at them, costumed as their hero. I would draw one person, show it to Jason, and he'd show me what could be improved to make it actually look human ("You got the boobs wrong AGAIN.") Pencils were scanned into Photoshop and cleaned up, then imported into Toon Boom Studio for inking and colouring. I had already designed all the logos for the heroes and the villains in Illustrator. I also had a great time writing the voiceover script for the animated opening, trying my best to channel Ted Knight.

The live action stuff was filmed over at Casa Keck (after kicking Fitz out, for secrecy reasons). It was insanely hot that day, so filming exteriors whilst wearing longsleeve black "Goon" shirts was less than pleasant for me and Miss Toth, but we had a blast. Got in some good visual gags and some blooper material. Moving inside, we set up my new chromakey screen and suspension stands from Digital Juice (which were AWESOME--I wanna do more chromakey work now!) We filmed the restaurant scene in front of Kit's colelction of Multiple Man sketches, which made it look like a sort of superhero Sardi's, which I thought was funny. We also managed to include our fabled Old Bay Seasoning (in-joke.) After we finally beat Aaron until he learned the actual name of the superhero group name, and after I learned how to fake out to the camera so you could read my shirt, we had that scene in the bag. I had found some great cotton batting that looked like oversized comedy rope to tie Wonder Keck up with, so that looked funny. Aaron got into character quickly, and adlibbed most of his stuff. I took several takes to ramp up my own energy and get into the part (the early takes on the blooper real are painfully low-key.)

Breaking all the equipment down and heading home, it took a week or two to find the time to log all the footage and get it roughly edited, then another solid week to add the music, supers, graphics, and special effects (did I mention the Penguin Gas?) Matching the virtual table movement to the zooming and panning of the camera was difficult, so it looks a little rough--but darn good enough for a one-shot party, I'd say! The important thing was the comedy. Sylvia did a bang-up job of making a ludicrously large plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and Aaron made an annoyingly hilarious pesky sidekick.

Finally it was party day! We headed over to Sylvia's gaming friends Will and Allison's house (they were very awesome, with a cool place, and I need to hang with them more.) Kit arrived about the same time we did, and everybody else managed to arrive by twenty minutes later (by which time, Kit had not yet entered the house. Everyone else was scared to go out and find out why, so I was delegated to go check up on him. If you know Kit well, you wouldn't be worried--he was just putting together a rather complex outfit.)

Everybody seemed to really enjoy themselves. The videos played quite well through the XBox 360, and seemed to add to the mood (screaming during the Troubalert klaxon has now become an ongoing bit). Kit's character, Vector, had size-changing powers, so Kit creatively (and amusingly) replicated that by having a series of different-sized action figures to represent him. Fiona made for a hilarious FDR Lass: "We have our four freedoms: Freedom of speech, freedom from fear,...and the other two freedoms." The guy playing DYRE (think Incredible Hulk) was fabulous. At first, I thought he was an utter buffoon and a shallow actor, as his Hulk-ish character was pretty simple. But then he reverted to his "Bruce Banner" identity (by putting on a suit and tie) and revealed his brilliance (both his character's brilliance and his own brilliance at playing the character!) The plot ended up going in directions we couldn't have imagined, with an explosive ending. Sylvia did an amazing job giving everybody fun characters to play with interesting motivations, and creating a world for them to live in. (And she invented an awesome supervillain off the top of her head: The Great Molesto.)

Oh, and I have to mention that Will infused his own liqueurs, which is awesome, and he was kind enough to let me try his basil liqueur, which was satisfyingly evil-looking with it's cloudy swirls of dark green--it tasted amazing.

So here's the stuff:

Videos are here (now including bloopers from the filming!)
(it's a playlist, so you can either watch them individually or let them all play through.)

Stills from the video production are here.

Pix from the party itself do be here.


1 comment:

Ted Hobgood said...

I usually delete all the spam comments made on this blog, but felt I had to pass along the comments from a gentleman (?) by the name of "Thushari", albeit with the spammy-and-possibly-dangerous links removed. Here's what Thushari had to say:

"The Legion of Justice Heroes publishes the distressing intellectual. Does the apple despair underneath The Legion of Justice Heroes? The Legion of Justice Heroes surveys the battle. The fuse paces inside an indefensible gift."

Thank you so much for your input, Thushari. I think you make some valid points there. Your comments will be taken to heart and used to improve future episodes of the Legion of Justice Heroes.

Your friend for life,