Just a quick note that this blog will be on hiatus for the rest of the summer while I prioritize some other creative projects.
Posts will resume September 25 — and so you don’t miss anything, don’t forget that you can receive new posts by email (see “Follow Blog via Email” in the sidebar) or follow the @3fromwboro Twitter account for notifications of new posts.
(No, this isn’t the last blog post. Keep reading.)
April 7, 1991:
On Friday we heard that on this radio station there was this guy named Paul Harvey. (Syndicated.) Mom says that he used to have a newspaper column. Now he has a radio program… Well, his topic for that week’s program was us. We never got to hear it. So Mom called the radio station and asked if we could get a copy of it. (Note: The first time she tried to call, the guy on the other end goes, “This is Viewpoint, and you’re on the air.” I’m not sure what Mom said, but she was pretty embarrassed when she got off the phone.)
April 10, 1991
We got a copy of the Paul Harvey thing. It was actually pretty good.
By then, I guess Thirteen didn’t get her hopes up. XD
There were a few mistakes–like he said that a white limo was waiting at the airport. We didn’t exactly have a white limo. Instead, we had Tim and a shuttle bus.
The Paul Harvey clip was one of those things that most people in our parents’ generation were really impressed by and the three of us, of course, had never heard of.
Though a number of his “Rest of the Story” pieces are available online (mostly classics from the ’50s to ’70s), I searched for hours and never found our particular story from 1991. So the quality issues with the audio presented here are due to it being copied from that cassette we got from WTON (1240 on your AM dial in Staunton and Augusta County, Virginia — which back then was mostly talk, I think, and now seems to be a sports station affiliated with ESPN).
You know, I looked at this image a moment ago, one that I’ve seen probably a hundred times, and I just now realized — it’s no wonder people have gotten confused sometimes about which animated character I am, because if you assume they’re listing our names from left to right, I should be on the far left. They… kinda screwed that up.
Anyway, that’s me on the far right, in the green. (I did have a perm later on in high school, but back then my hair was straight.) Amy’s on the far left.
February 26, 1991:
I forgot to mention our animated alter egos — or, rather, I forgot to describe them.
Sarah looked like hair with glasses, Amy resembled Bette Midler, and I had no eyes.
So yeah. Nothing fires up teen insecurity like having a caricature of yourself broadcast on national TV. I mean, not that it’s a terrible likeness or anything, but…
Some random notes for the record: This was a time when tunic tops and leggings were in style, so coincidentally, I actually had an outfit in almost those shades of green. The wristwatch I’m wearing is, if I recall, a nod to the Bugs Bunny watch I wore back then. And (as I mentioned in this post), though there was talk at one point of letting us record our own voices, that didn’t happen, and we were voiced by three of the show’s regular voice actors. (We weren’t very happy about those thick accents, either — though that’s another aspect of our characters that’s mellowed for me over time.)
One thing I was never able to get my hands on, though I wanted one even then, was a production cel of my character. (Here’s a Wikipedia link for those of you who aren’t up on animation terminology or are too young to remember when cels were still being used.)
At the time, we were told there had been some sort of problem with the cels from that episode and that as a result they would never be released for purchase. Before we were married, my husband, who’d been collecting Tiny Toons cels for a while, was able to get one from the show’s notebook-paper segment, but we never saw anything else offered through Warner Bros.’ regular sales channels.
Apparently whatever process was being used to transfer the drawings to the cels (instead of hand-inking them like they did in the old days) resulted in lines that gradually faded, and there was also some mention that there were no plans to release any cels with anyone’s likeness other than a regular Tiny Toons character (legal/copyright reasons, maybe?).
All that said — I did happen to run across the image below several years ago on a Russian fan website. I don’t know if this was something they personally owned or just an image snagged from somewhere else online, but it certainly got my attention.
It’s an interesting line, being able to say that you were once a cartoon character. I don’t know how many people get to say that who weren’t already celebrities being parodied or guest starring in one show or another. I’ve gotten older, as humans all do, but the cartoon version of me will be Thirteen forever. I like to think she’s still writing Tiny Toons scripts on that ’90s-era computer.
Our script sale snagged us some… interesting fringe benefits. One of them was a letter each of us got out of the blue from Quaker Oats, followed by a big box filled with a case of the new Tiny Toons cereal.
In the video below, Cereal Time TV mentions Tiny Toons cereal being similar to Alpha-Bits, but I don’t remember it tasting quite that way (although I do also remember the Alpha-Bits of my childhood tasting differently than they did years later).
To me, it was like a less-sweet version of Cap’n Crunch, and Thirteen loved the stuff. (Thank goodness, since, y’know, 12 boxes.)
We have 9-1/2 boxes left. I think I could live on Tiny Toons cereal. And milk, of course.
I was sort of surprised to see that there’s an entire YouTube channel for breakfast cereal nostalgia… but then again, I’m of the Oregon Trail generation, which can still somehow be surprised by niches found online.
By early March 1991, our lives were getting mostly back to normal. There were still plenty of interviews for various venues (sometimes in person, sometimes on the phone), but by that point we were pretty blasé about all that. Thirteen’s journal entries often mention doing an interview that day for “some radio station” or news program or what have you, but there’s usually not even a mention of what or where it was. Another day, another interview… and March is also the first time in my journal that there starts to be mention of getting a little tired of it all — not just the interviews, but getting recognized in the drugstore, getting letters like the one from our senator, waiting on things to air or be published, waiting to find out if we had any more publicity trips coming up, and most of all having to answer the same sorts of questions (whether from reporters or teachers or just people in our hometown) over and over and over.
I’m supposed to get my hair cut tomorrow. I shudder to think of how all the hairdressers are going to react to me.
One other thing we were tired of waiting for: our checks.
We’d originally been told we were going to be paid their standard rate for a story treatment, which, if I remember correctly, would have been $900 total, split three ways. In the end, though, they (whoever “they” was, in this case) paid us the rate for a full script — $3900, divided three ways.
Well, mostly. As Thirteen resentfully noted:
They’re going to take taxes out of our money. Can you believe it? I mean, we’re kids — we’re not even working yet! Can’t they wait and guzzle all our money then?
Filing a tax return wasn’t the only red tape we’d have to deal with. Since we weren’t members of the Writers Guild of America, we had to sign some kind of document as a waiver for having sold a script without being part of the union. I don’t remember the details of it, but I vaguely recall it boiled down to a legalese-worded promise that we didn’t intend to do that and weren’t going to do it again. Or something. I’m sure some legal departments got a day’s work out of it, anyway.
At long last, though, we had our checks. I think our parents all kind of followed the same basic pattern — we were allowed to spend a certain amount of it and the rest had to go in the bank. You’d think I’d remember what I bought with that money, but I don’t. (Probably I went to Suncoast at the mall and bought a bunch of Looney Tunes tapes and some posters.)
I like to quip now that this was my first writing sale, though I guess technically it was my first job, period…
One of the coolest parts of having our story made into an episode was that the crew made such an effort to include us in every part of the process. Before the January trip to L.A. for the story meeting, we were sent the first draft of the script (essentially a story treatment), and then in March we received the final script. Later on, we were sent a copy of the storyboards (fascinating for Thirteen, now that she wanted to be an animator), and then a VHS of the rough cut of the show (more on that in a later entry).
There was even talk at one point of the three of us recording our own voices for our characters, but sadly that didn’t happen, and we wound up being voiced by the show’s cast. (It wasn’t until fairly recently, when I read the episode’s Tiny Toon Adventures Wiki page, that I found out which actress had voiced each of us. Assuming that listing is accurate, my stand-in was the awesome Cree Summer, who also voiced Elmyra.)
One of the more frequent questions I’ve gotten over the years is how much of the “meta” material (the cameos by Spielberg and the three of us, etc.) was from our original story. The answer is, pretty much none of it. Other than the core story of Buster and Babs’ vacation, the only other material that was taken from those original drawings was the bit about the History of Q-tips, which was a fake cover page I made for one part of the story, poking fun at a previous teacher of mine who had a reputation for being boring. (I kind of hope now that he never figured out that was supposed to be him. Thirteen could be ruthless sometimes.)
I think the writers made a good choice, though, in including the behind-the-scenes-type gags. Aside from the fun we got out of actually being in the episode (how many people get to say they were once literally cartoon characters?), it made the story behind the episode part of the episode, in a way that I think made the whole thing hold up better. If all that material hadn’t been in there, and they’d just made our relatively simple story of Buster and Babs’ vacation hijinks, I doubt it would have held up well, and it would have just been a footnote of “oh yeah, that was that episode those kids wrote, that’s why it’s not that great.”
(Of course, maybe it still has that footnote, but if so, don’t care.)
A sampling of the treatment, script, and storyboards for the opening scenes…
I first heard the album probably in the latter part of seventh grade, from a friend who said it was good. I popped the cassette in and gave it a listen. The songs were oddly catchy, and captivatingly odd. The lyrics made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
I loved it.
As some of you have already guessed (from my riff in the title of this post), the album was Flood, by They Might Be Giants. And when we were in Jean MacCurdy’s office during the L.A. trip, she showed us two music videos from an upcoming Tiny Toons episode — which turned out to be videos of two songs from the album.
I’m pretty sure I was the only one in that room who was already familiar with the songs. (In the episode, they even have Buster quip, “Who are these guys?”) It felt like such an awesome inside joke to have the characters from my favorite TV show doing videos from an album I was listening to constantly. Amy and Sarah and my other friends from that set never got into TMBG as far as I knew, and for my part even I just bought Miscellaneous T later on, liked some of the songs on it, and then kind of lost interest and moved on to other artists and styles.
Still, the album remains a perfect little time machine for a couple years or so of my life, in that visceral way that music can transport you back, and Forty can remember, if only for the space of a chorus, what it felt like to be Thirteen.