Science Fiction Filme) First of all, I would like to thank you for your time doing this Interview. I think you´re work have got a huge fan base here in Germany. Especially because for films like TARZAN, THE APE MAN, the tv-series CAPTAIN POWER and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE of course. A lot of movie maniacs know the films you´re involved. Could you please tell us what you did before you come into filmbusiness. Why have you choose the way of being into directing/ writing?
Gary Goddard) I have always been creative, and through my youth, in junior high and high school, I was always in theatre productions. By my junior year in high school I was writing, directing and starring in my own musicals. I also was interested in films and animation my entire, life, and while in high school made several little 8mm movies, and one 23-minute short film that was shot in 16mm color and with sound. (Timothy Bottoms, who was a schoolmate in high school, starred in it, and of course, he went on a year later to star in movies that like THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER CHASE and so many more.) I auditioned and was accepted into California Institute of the Arts where I majored in Theatre and Film. I was fortunate to have studied under Alexander McKendrick (Dean of the Film School, and famous for having directed films that include classic movies like THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, THE LADYKILLERS, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, and many more films).
I did a lot of stage and theatre directing while I was in college, and one of the shows I did came to the attention of the Vice President of Live Entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. He hired me two weeks before my graduation from Cal-Arts, and upon graduation I immediately left for Walt Disney World in Florida to direct a new and original Musical Dinner Show that was to be part of the FORT WILDERNESS area. The show was called HOOP DEE DOO – A WILD WEST DINNER REVUE – and it was supposed to run for one summer only. But it is still being performed today! Three shows a night and seven days a week. It’s the longest continuously running show in the world I believe. After working at WDW for about a year and a half, I was offered a position at W.E.D. IMAGINEERING – the theme park design division of the Walt Disney Company. I was quite excited to work there – and headed back to California to be an “imagineer” and it is here I learned all about creating theme parks and attractions. I was fortunate to be working, in my early 20’s, with the very men who created Disneyland and Walt Disney World and who had worked directly with Walt Disney for decades. Marc Davis was my mentor there and he was the one who interviewed me (along with John Hench, Marty Sklar, and Orlando Ferrante), and Marc was the one recommended they bring my on board at IMAGINEERING. While there I worked with Marc, and with Al Bertino, Claude Coates, Bill Justice, X Atencio, John Hench, Sam McKim, John DeCuir and many other legendary designers and producers from the Disney Studios.
But while working at Disney Imagineering I continued to direct live stage productions (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, GODSPELL, MAN OF LAMANCHA) and I was also developing an idea for a motion picture called AGAINST THE GODS – it was essentially “the ten commandments in space.” Well PARAMOUNT PICTURES loved the concept and engaged me to write the screenplay, and so that was my first actual job in the motion picture business. I think I was 24 years old then. I was very happy at that moment in my life, working on this screenplay with an office at Paramount, while also working as an IMAGINEER at Disney.
Somewhere in this time period I also met Bo and John Derek and wrote up a treatment for a fantasy story that would have Bo at the center of it. MARVEL COMICS had approached Bo as they wanted to do a project with her. At the time she was the biggest female box office star in the world having just completed the movie “10” with Dudley Moore. So MARVEL had a title for a comic they wanted to do, but no story. The title was DAZZLER and they proposed the Bo should do a movie and that she should be DAZZLER which would be some kind of Superhero tale. Whatever the writers worked out – Marvel would then base the comic on the movie storyline. I met them through a mutual friend -- as they were looking for a writer as we were both on the Paramount lot. I created a different kind of story – even though I drew up on both DC and MARVEL comics and knew the various superhero universes quite well. But I argued that calling Bo DAZZLER was too “on the money” and so instead I proposed a kind of post-holocaust fantasy epic “Joan of Arc” tale – and that DAZZLER was the name of a legendary sword of great power. And that only the true heir to the throne could hold it – and of course man after man had tried and failed. But along comes this young woman, and through a series of events, she winds up grasping the sword and suddenly – DAZZLER comes to life. Anyway, I was half-way through that when Bo and John asked me to drop DAZZLER and to come aboard to rewrite the MGM project they were already committed to – TARZAN THE APE MAN. So I did that - and wound up traveling to the Seychelles Islands and lived there for a month with them in this mansion that overlooked the blue waters below – And I spend every day and night writing and rewriting the script to get it to the point that John would love it, and that MGM would approve for shooting.
But about that time I created my own company, Gary Goddard Productions. I was able to bring other people that I had met at Disney to work with me in my new little company. And right away we started working on projects for SIX FLAGS and for UNIVERSAL STUDIOS TOUR as well. The first project we did for Universal was THE ADVENTURES OF CONAN: A SWORD & SORCERY SPECTACULAR. This was a live stage production but with massive special effects, pyrotechnics, a huge animatronic dragon that breathed real fire, and major laser effects as well. This production became quite a hit. At the same time, we were also working a dark ride for Six Flags Atlanta (THE MONSTER MANSION), and on a fantastic live magic musical for Busch Gardens (THE ENCHANTED LABORATORY OF NOSTROMO) and a few other projects as well
So around this time, just after CONAN opened at Universal, I heard that Ed Pressman had got the rights to the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE property from Mattel Toys. I took the liberty of calling him and telling him that I had written several screenplays for studios including TARZAN for MGM. I told him that while I liked writing, I was really a director. I told him I would love to be considered as the Director for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. We met and talked about the project, and he asked what I had directed. I told him I had done mainly large scale theatre productions and invited him to see the CONAN SPECTACULAR at Universal Studios. He went to see it, along with the writer of the MOTU script, David Odell, and they both agreed that I was indeed a director, and clearly one that understood the genre. Ed said that he would hire me, but there was one problem – MATTEL had approval of the script, the star, and the director. They had already approved David Odell’s script, and Dolph Lundgren as the star, but they would need to approve me, and he wasn’t sure they would approve a first time director. But I told him – I thought they WOULD. When he asked why I told them that I was already a full time consultant for MATTEL on toy designs including having recently licensed to them CAPTAIN POWER. I explained that their biggest concern would be that whomever directs this movie should have respect for the brand of He-Man and I was pretty certain they would trust me with it. I was right. They told Ed they would approve me, and that was that.
SFF) As far as I am informed correctly, MOTU is your first and only film that was shown in cinema. The fan base of the film is split. Some love it, others don't see it as what they expected? How do you respond to these criticisms now, almost 33 years after its release?
G.G.) I understand the critics – but the movie wasn’t made for cynical people, it was made for young people and their parents. I am pleased that the movie has so many people who remember it fondly, and who love it as part of their childhood – AND – I am really pleased to see how many fans it has all these many years later. Not many films last in that sense – so that make he very happy. At a MOTU Con a few years ago, at a Q&A session that I was part of, someone from the audience got up to ask a question, and at the end of his question, he then said “only one of you – only one of you in all the universe” – and it kind of really got to me. THAT was the message that I had kind of placed in the movie, hoping that kids who saw the movie would “get” that each of us is unique – and that there is only ONE of each of us in all the universe. The fact that all these years later, this adult in his 30’s or so – remembered that line, meant a lot to me. So critics -- you know its become a thing now like to really go after things they don’t like – working overtime to find cute ways to insult the movie, and it just goes with the territory. You have to have broad shoulders. But even the worst critics usually find something to like. Mainly Frank Langella’s performance, and sometimes a mention of the world building, and at other times, elements of the fish out of water story. I understand the movie was not for everyone, and I also know that you can’t “explain” why certain things were done – but in the end, I think the movie worked in a lot of the ways I hoped it would. It had an epic feeling to it – through the bookends of Eternia at the start and end of the film. We had some heart, we had action, we had interesting characters and situations. Again, I think for $17.5 million dollars, we turned out something that actually worked, and the fact that we have so many fans today, proves it. Bad reviews come and go, the movie lasts forever.
SFF) How do you prepare for this kind of film? Did they already have certain actors in mind for the cast?
G.G.) Dolph Lundgren was the only actor cast when I came aboard. We then had to find the others, and my first focus was on SKELETOR. I knew I had to have a solid actor behind that mask – an actor who had the bearing, the voice, the power to convey the character’s power, threat, and menace – THROUGH the mask. I had seen Frank Langella on stage in New York in a production of AMADEUS and he was remarkable. I had also see him in various films – but it was his performance in AMADEUS that resonated. I pushed hard for him – flew to NYC to meet with him and to talk through the project. As written (when he read the early screenplay) he noted it was mainly “SEIZE HIM!”. GET HIM!”, and “YOU DARE?” – But I said it was my intention to rewrite the script so that SKELETOR would drive the story – I told him I needed Skeletor to be a constant presence through the film. Frank asked if he could have input on the dialogue – and I said of course. I said I was going to be rewriting it all anyway – and I described the new ending I envisioned where he turns himself into a god. Frank loved it – and he agreed to do it. Once Frank was on board, I looked to fill the cast with other strong actors. Meg Foster was cast the day she showed up and read – I knew she would be a strong number two for Langella’s Skeletor.
SFF) MOTU is a wonderful fantasy film from a wonderful decade, with many creative minds like Richard Edlund, William Stout or Michael Westmore. What would you shoot differently today and why?
G.G.) Well, assuming we still had to shoot on Earth, not too much. I would like to have had the budget for extras during some of the bigger earth bound scenes (like the invasion by Skeletor’s troops – and the streets are deserted. Would have been nice to have some fleeing crowds in those streets.) And also - we had planned to shoot the opening scene on Eternia in ICELAND and actually scouted locations there. That would have been SPECTACULAR as the skies there are so different than anywhere else. So that would have been nice. And of course, with a larger budget, it would have been nice to do the REAL HE-MAN story on ETERNIA. But there was no way to do that on the budget assigned to us. Also, I think some of the effects could be better and stronger -- with digital effects today one can do so much more. We really could have Battle Cat for instance.
SFF) How many of your ideas could be realized in MOTU and which ones did you really want to shoot but couldn't for various reasons?
G.G.) Well, we had an entire version that had He-Man and the little band of heroes getting into rescue the Goddess through the underground tunnels of SNAKE MOUNTAIN, and encountering the Snake Men – that script exists somewhere. We had a very powerful opening sequence with the Fall of Eternia which was shortchanged to what you see – all shot in three days. And we had planned a massively epic sword and staff battle at the end – that again – we had to shoot the alternative in about three hours before we literally had the camera operator blocked from shooting anything more.
SFF) You developed the CAPTAIN POWER series after MOTU. What was your intention for this series and how long did the development process take? Were there any difficulties in selling the series to a broadcaster?
G.G.) Well CAPTAIN POWER was in progress PRIOR to my being engaged to do MOTU – we had been working with MATTEL on various concepts – one call THE PEANUT BUTTER PAPERS, and it was also our concept for the CRYSTAL CASTLE that became part of the SHE-RA toyline. But CAPTAIN POWER was our own original project and we took it to Mattel with the idea of doing a LIVE ACTION show – with CGI BIODREAD Villains. We had COLUMBIA PICTURES wanting to do the show, with MATTEL handling the toys – but MATTEL wanted to launch their own entertainment division with the CAPTAIN POWER project, so we turned down Columbia. Too bad – as Columbia would have continued into the 2nd season had they been the producers and distributors of the show – but Mattel looked at toy sales – and they had over projected the Christmas sales at something like $80,000,000 – but the toys only sold through - -I think it was $62,000,000 – and so they opted not to do a 2nd season. Sadly – because that turned out to be a huge number for Mattel – the boys toy lines they did after this (BRAVESTARR, and then COMPUTER WARRIORS, and something called FOOD FIGHTERS and a few more) were all gigantic flops – I don’t think any of them even did $10,000,000 – so Mattel didn’t realize that they actually had a BIG HIT with Captain Power.
SFF) Do you have any personal idols or role models in your business? Is there a movie or an event which make you think: “I want to do the same thing.”?
G.G.) Yes, well, growing up it was first and foremost, Walt Disney, and Gene Kelly, and Errol Flynn – fantasies and animation, musicals, and adventures. But also I loved Ray Harryhausen movies, and was a huge fan of the Looney Tunes (as created by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Robert McKimson, and Frank Tashlin) I love the cleverness in the writing, the staging, and the incredible timing of the characters and the gags. By high school I became a fan of William Wyler (the movie director) - I admired his ability to direct every kind of movie – biblical epic, drama, comedy, musical – whatever he did, he did WELL. Also liked Frank Capra, and the under-appreciated Victor Fleming (he directed TWO movies that both came out in 1939 – you might know them? THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND – after that year he should have just said “Well – that’s it – I’m done. There are just so many I could point to. And Then of course, by my college years I was highly into Lucas, Spielberg, Cameron – they were the modern-day Disneys – turning out fantastic films in the genres that I most enjoyed. But I should mention I also love theatre – both drama and musicals – so I also was a fan of the Bob Fosse, Hal Prince, Trevor Nunn, Gower Champion, and many other theatre legends. And in high school and college I was a great fan of, and then got to meet and becomes friends with Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men” – Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Eric Larsen, John Lounsberry, Ward Kimball, and Woolie Reitherman – I knew them all and became quite close to Milt, Frank, Ollie, and of course, to Marc – who hired and mentored me at W.E.D. Imagineering.
SFF) In your career you have made many short films like STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE - THE KLINGON ANCOUNTER, LICENCE TO THRILL or POSEIDON's FURY - ESCAPE FROM THE LOST CITY. Do these short films resemble feature-length films in their creation process or is there more artistic freedom there? Why did you decide on these films, which all serve a certain fandom?
G.G.) These were all part of major theme park attractions – so they are not so much short films as they are important parts of immersive theme park experiences. In these attractions, the film is one part of a series of other special effects and environmental elements that form a great “experience” for the audience. We have always strived to break down the walls when doing theme park attractions - finding ways to put the audience “in the middle of the action” – we try to make you a part of the action, rather than just a passive viewer as you are in a movie theatre.
SFF) Would you be so kind and tell us something about your work on JURASSIC PARK: THE RIDE and T2 3D: BATTLE ACROSS TIME. What have been the characteristics of these attractions in your eyes?
G.G.) These attractions are all – as best as I can describe them – attempts to put audiences INTO THE ACTION of these legendary movies. We try to find the essence of the emotional connection in every one of these branded attractions. We want to put guests into the middle of it all – and at the same time make it more than just a “ride” or a “show” and actually tap into the mythology in a way that adapts it to the medium of a “real time adventure” that is taking place in the here and now. But we want everything to be authentic and true to the mythology and basic “world” of each story we are creating. So we don’t try to re-create the movie – instead – we find an interesting way in to create a new branch of the world – we create some kind of experience that taps into the same emotions that they movie tapped into. We want you to feel that you have entered – and are immersive in – these worlds, whether that is JURASSIC PARK, or TERMINATOR 2, or SPIDER-MAN – We also design these with parallel design goals – on the surface we have to make sure everyone going on the ride or show will be entertained - whether they know anything about the propery and story or not. But then, for the true fans – we want to put enough Easter Eggs in there that the fan will think “wow – whoever created this really “gets” the mythology. So whether you are a person who has never seen the particular movie, or you are a true super fan – the way we create our attractions both kinds of audience members will be entertained.
SFF) Let us return briefly to JURASSIC PARK: THE RIDE - PRE-SHOW VIDEO. A great movie with Richard Attenborough. Can you tell us a little bit about the making? How was the shooting?
G.G.) That’s a long story – but the short version of it is that we had started working on the concept for the ride when the movie was in pre-production. But we were still designing in long after the movie was shot. I head they were going to tear down the sets that existed on some of the stages at Universal. So I went to Jay Stein (the head of the entire Universal Studios Theme Park division) and said “We should shoot on those sets before they are torn down, because we will never had the budget to build those kinds of incredible sets for our little pre-show video. Jay said “whats your idea” and I said “we get Sir Richard Attenborough to welcome the guests and explain why they have moved the operation to Universal Studios – “ And Jay said “how do you think we can get him to do this part?” And I said “I have the same agent as him – I can ask through my agent – Marty Baum.” Jay said “if you can get him to commit, I will find the budget to shoot the pre-show.” So – Marty asked Richard, Richard said yes, and we planned the shoot. On the day that we were shooting Mr. Attenborough’s part, someone snuck onto the set. That someone was looking over my shoulder when I was setting up the big tracking shot – and when I turned to see who it was – it was Steven Spielberg himself. I asked him if he wanted me to do anything differently – and he was very nice. He said “no, no – it looks great….” And then Richard saw him and we stopped so they could chat. And after a few minutes I was like “umm -- steven – we are on a schedule – “ Steven laughed and said “sorry” and came back to where I was with the monitor. And then after we got the shot right – I asked Steven if he might like to do a cameo with Richard. And he said YES – and so – we quickly staged a version with Steven walking behind Richard as he is finishing his final speech to the audience --- THAT was a great day!
SFF) You were working with so many talented people like James Cameron or Richard Attenborough. From whom you have learned the most and why?
G.G.) I have been fortunate in my life to have been mentored by Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Milt Kahl, and Ollie Johnston in the art of animation and storytelling, by Al Bertino (“Big Al”) at Imagineering - who really introduced the whole notion of “gags” and how they play into every kind of entertainment. Worked with Spielberg on Universal Studios Florida, and on Jurassic Park River Adventure, with Cameron on Terminator 2/3D, with Ivan Reitman on the big Ghostbusters Spooktacular for Universal Florida. Worked with Attenborough on the filmed sequence for the pre-show and queue for the original JURASSIC PARK ride - -and by the way at that time we shared the same agent – MARTIN BAUM at CAA --- that is how I got Sir Richard to do it! But I have been fortunate my entire life – to have worked with, and been mentored by, so many incredibly talented people. It is so hard to say what you learn, and how you do – but with every one of these amazing talents – and many others I am not even mentioning – you learn so much. Sometimes by simply observing, sometimes by listening tot them as they are recounting some challenge they had, and sometimes more directly as they tell you a particular way they would like to see something. But mainly it’s a kind of osmosis – its more indirect than direct. If you are attentive and interested and genuinely passionate about what you do, just being around these kinds of amazing creators has an effect of you. On how you think, how to approach a task – it’s hard to describe. But as you know “There is only of you – in all the Universe” --- And what each of us has to say as we create – is uniquely our own. No other voice will ever be quite like yours.
SFF) What do you like the most: producing, writing or directing?
G.G.) I like whatever it is I am involved in at that particular moment in my life. I love writing – as it’s the only time you get to create exactly what YOU see in your head and in your minds eye. But directing is fantastic – I think its my favorite of the disciplines – its where you really bring the story to life, whatever it is. Each nuance, each voice, each sound, the costumes, the sets – the staging – the look, the feeling – it all happens there on the stage. And you have to keep your wits about you because nothing ever is quite the way you envisioned it. But you have to keep things moving – you have to make decisions and keep things in motion. Retaining your vision, yet, revising and enhancing and revisiting as you go. And producing is quite wonderful too – without the moment to moment pressure of the director, the producer is creative in other ways.
SFF)We all have our favorite movies. Mine is PHASE IV for example. But which movies do you really don´t like and why?
G.G.) Movies I LIKE include (old school) CASABLANCA, CITIZEN KANE, BEN HUR, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TOUCH OF EVIL, ALL ABOUT EVE, OLIVER!, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, WEST SIDE STORY, 12 ANGRY MEN, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, CINEMA PARADISO, CABARET - – it’s a very long list. Other more contemporary films would include STAR WARS, ALIEN, ALIENS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE GODFATHER and GODFATHER II, LORD OF THE RINGS, TITANIC, -- basically all of the PIXAR movies, and all of the MARVEL movies, and mostly all of the Tarantino’s movies --- again, the list is endless. I think you asked which movies I DON’T like – but that is harder to say because one tends to forget the bad movies – I think movies that are bad are those that don’t take time to work out the script – I think perhaps CATS comes to mind most recently – an ill-fated experiment that seems over-inflated and that depended to much on gimmicks. I am sure the are many more – but I can think of the,
SFF) What is your opinion about education to become an expert in directing? Is there any requirement or talent you need to have next to enthusiasm?
G.G.) I think everyone comes to directing in their own path – some were writers first, some were editors, and some – very few – cinematographers. Some came from theatre and were stage directors first, and others came from making rock videos or commercials. I think having a visual sense of storytelling helps, and of course, a sense of narrative and understanding character, plot, story, drama – and the patience to deal with overlapping challenges day in and day out.
SFF) What are your future projects?
G.G.) Well, we are doing theme parks and attractions around the world of course. But it appears that perhaps CAPTAIN POWER may finally rise again, which would be very exciting. And beyond that, we are developing several other potential movie and TV projects – but I cannot as yet speak to them.
SFF) What do you think about the new MOTU movie? Have you been consulted as a consultant?
G.G.) I don’t know about the new MOTU movie as there have been so many discussed over the last ten years or more. I have no idea what this latest one might be. But my hope was to do a movie one day called “I, SKELETOR” – it would take place on Eternia – and the entire world of MOTU would be much more of a “world” like no other, a world where science and technology live alongside of swords and sorcery. But to your question, no I have not been asked to consult at all – but I am pretty sure they will continue the tradition of having a “last scene” following the end titles – as I first did with MOTU all those years ago. Marvel seemed to like that idea as well -- 😊
SFF)Dear Mr. Goddard. I thank you immensely for taking time doing this interview and wish you all the best for your future movie making.
G.G.) You are most welcome. Thank you for this interview – and thank you for your continued support of this movie and of my work – I am so appreciative to have fans like yourself and so it is for me to thank you and your readers.