From Hollywood to Waynesboro

A couple weeks or so had gone by when Jean called again — and this time asked to talk to Mom.

They had decided to use the material we sent. In other words, they were making our story into a cartoon. That alone was enough to get us excited.

But then they said that they were flying into Washington for some sort of other business. And that they would then fly from Washington to Charlottesville and then drive to Waynesboro — our small hometown. (And when I say small, I mean small.) They said that they would be coming next Thursday, which was December 13th.

We were stunned. But the bigger surprises were yet to come.

Everyone — which in this case meant the three of us, our moms, Jean MacCurdy, and Barbara Brogliatti (senior vice president for publicity and promotion) — gathered at my house for the visit. They’d brought a few gifts for us — character plushes, buttons, figurines, things like that — which had been in the suitcase that had not gotten lost. (As for the one with all their clothes in it, well, I’m assuming it caught up with them eventually.) Amid coffee and probably ham biscuits and pizza rolls (our go-to snack), Jean made the announcement.

They said that we would go on an airplane (all expenses paid, of course) to L.A. and then literally watch the story be made into a cartoon. She also briefly mentioned that there would be a press conference and a story meeting with Steven Spielberg. Steven, she said, was filming a movie in February, so he wanted to get all of this over before then.

The movie was Hook. And his side of it probably was pretty much over by then, but ours would go on for quite a while longer.

The followup letter provided the details. (It strikes me now how short and general that fine print is. Somehow I doubt it would be so simple today.)

I started my journal five days before we left on what I would come to mentally categorize as “the L.A. trip.” By that point, we had already done several interviews for both print and TV, so my journal has something of the feeling of a story I’ve told many times before. What surprises me now is that there’s very little in the way of emotional content in its pages; it feels as if it were written more for public consumption than as a private diary. Because of that, I don’t have much of a historical reference for how I really felt at this point. Were all this happening to Forty, she’d likely be more anxious than excited, but I don’t remember Thirteen being particularly nervous about any of it. The intensity may have simply faded out of the memories with time, but from what I can recall, from start to finish it just felt…

Well, like an adventure.

Up next: In the spotlight

 

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Out of the blue

Our package had made it to the desk of Jean MacCurdy, and since we never bothered to include a phone number on our letter, she had to hunt for one. Information wasn’t a great deal of help at first — there were a lot of Carters in our area — but she asked if there was a number for Renee Carter, and there was. This was because my parents, in their wisdom of having already raised two teenagers, had long since gotten the kids their own phone line so we weren’t constantly tying up the main one.

It’s a Friday night. Sarah was having a surprise slumber party for her birthday… Since I was sick, I didn’t go to the slumber party. And it was a good thing I didn’t. Because that night at about 8 PM, I got a call from Jean MacCurdy…

(Full disclosure: I may or may not have actually been sick, as I did have a history of using that sort of excuse to get out of slumber parties or other kinds of parties. The life of a teenage introvert often involves such ethical dilemmas.)

She said that our story had been sent to her, and that they liked it and that Steve — yes, Steve — had been thrilled with it. Then she said that they were planning future episodes. And then she said that they might be calling me back.

Well, Sarah and everybody else were at that slumber party. So I tried to call Sarah, but everybody wasn’t there yet.

So I hung up and literally paced my room.

I don’t remember much of that first conversation, though in the 20/20 interview, Jean playfully recounted my responses as an flat, almost underwhelmed “Yeah…?” When you tell a story again and again, as we had to when answering interview questions over and over, in time the story can replace the memory. (Remember, even this journal entry was written a couple months after that first call had happened.)

Sarah said that I was talking so fast, she could hardly understand me. But I got my message across.

“I don’t believe it!” she said.

Meanwhile, Amy and the others didn’t know what the heck was going on. Amy kept saying “What? What?” Finally Sarah turned around and told everybody what was going on. I could hear Amy screech in the background.

Thing was, we had never even told our parents what it was we sent in. So it was kind of fun, filling our parents in on what we had done. (Good thing we hadn’t robbed a bank, huh?)

Honestly, we weren’t really expecting another call. A week or so later, I got a little padded envelope in the mail with some Tiny Toons postcards and pins, plus a followup letter:

Letter from Jean

postcard and pin

postcard backAt that point, we figured that was it. We were all ecstatic that, yes, they had received it, and yes, they had read it, and yes, they had liked it. That was enough for us to feel awesome about the whole thing. Day by day the excitement died down, and we went on with our regular eighth-grade lives.

Then my phone rang again.

Up next: From Hollywood to Waynesboro

Interstitial: Dear Mr… Speilberg?

Here’s the letter we sent along with our story. (Addresses and phone number there are long since defunct, by the way.) I don’t remember whether I wrote it solo or we composed it together, but I’m betting it was the former, since the letter’s in first person from my perspective. Amy then typed it in the school’s computer room and printed it out for us — those are her initials there at the bottom, in proper secretarial style.

To the question that always comes up of “did we ever think this would be made into an episode,” I think this letter makes it pretty clear that we really weren’t expecting anything much — just that “we would like your opinion,” and even that feels like something of an afterthought to me.

Besides, if you’re aiming to have your enclosed story made into an episode, it would seem a bad idea to misspell the recipient’s name — plus forget to, you know, actually sign the letter. (At least we made an effort to explain the teacher-related inside jokes in the story. Apologies to Ms. Coffey and Mr. Aylor, by the way.)

Two other quick asides: 1) I seriously have no memory whatsoever of that fan club, and 2) The blatant flattery in that last paragraph is so Thirteen.

Honestly, this entire letter is so embarrassing to me now that I try to avoid looking directly at it for long periods of time. So of course, here I am putting it up on the Internet…

Our letter to Spielberg

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

(We’re back! New posts will be scheduled for the 10th and 25th of the month, with occasional bonuses in between. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you can subscribe using the “Follow Blog via Email” widget in the right sidebar of the website, or follow our Twitter account for notifications of new posts. As a reminder, or for those just joining us, the quotes in these posts are taken from the journal I kept in 1991 at age 13.)

 

Since other kids at school kept reading this stack of notebook paper and saying “You should send that somewhere,” or “You should send that to Spielberg,” we finally figured hey, why not, if we can find somewhere to send it…

Amy ended up finding the address for the Fox network in a magazine. It was one of those teen magazines where it gives celebrity addresses. I think it was there if you wanted to write to somebody on that show “21 Jump Street.”

I have a feeling that “somebody” was probably Johnny Depp. (Hey, Thirteen was pretty lousy at being a typical 13-year-old.) Therefore, let it be known that were it not for Johnny Depp, “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” might never have become an episode. Um… sort of.

Of course, we had no clue that Tiny Toons was a syndicated show (at that time, at least; it later went to Fox exclusively). The only thing we could think of was to send it in care of the Fox network where we watched the show, so that’s what we did.

By this time, it cost almost three dollars to mail it.

*waxes nostalgic about 1991 postage rates*

We never made another copy of it. We were going to, but Xeroxing it would’ve cost too much change, and we didn’t want to take the time to make another handwritten copy. We just figured that if it got lost in the mail, then it did. So we didn’t worry about it.

(We didn’t number the pages, either, so a few of them were missing when WB graciously sent us a copy.)

In a way, the story did end up getting lost in the mail — or at least, it took a winding path to its intended destination.

Our story was sent to Fox in Burbank. Jean [MacCurdy, executive producer] said that, under usual circumstances, it never would have gotten past Fox. It would have been stamped “Return to Sender” and sent back.

I think you’ve caught on by now that nothing about the next several months is going to involve “usual circumstances.” Bear in mind that sending an unsolicited story or script to a television show sets off a whole host of alarms from a legal standpoint — for example, if they were to inadvertently do a similar script in the future, we might claim they stole our story and sue — so nothing’s supposed to be opened or read.

However, the people at Fox opened the envelope. They took our story (and the letter that we enclosed) and put it in one of their envelopes. Then they sent it on to Steven Spielberg. Steven’s secretary sent it on ahead to Warner Bros. Jean said that the secretary probably figured if it got this far, it must be okay. She said that it was basically sent to people who didn’t really know what they were doing.

*polite cough* Which is not, of course, to imply that Steven Spielberg’s secretary was incompetent…

This was all told to us second- and third-hand and maybe some other hands besides, so it’s possible the timeline isn’t 100% accurate. The point, though, is that our package looked legit when it got where it was going, which eventually was the desk of Jean MacCurdy, the executive producer of Tiny Toons and, at that time, president of Warner Bros. Animation.

And she picked up the phone…

Up next: Out of the blue

Nostalgia Critic interview

No, this blog has not been abandoned; it’s just been a temporary casualty of real life/the day job. To start the resurrection, here’s an interview I did recently with the Nostalgia Critic webseries.

By the way, since there’s apparently been some confusion on this point (even from my husband, no less): In that graphic below showing the three of us as cartoon characters, I’m the one on the far right, in green. Just to set the record straight. XD (You’ll also notice that toon-me is wearing a watch on her left wrist. I don’t remember all the details now, but somehow someone or other took notice that I was wearing my Bugs Bunny wristwatch when we were meeting with the writers/staff of the show, and it wound up getting a nod in my character design.)

The plot thickens…

I drew the story on notebook paper, page by page, day by day, usually at school but sometimes at home. It wound up being in four parts (each part with its own title page and credits), with each part stapled, and as each one was finished, it got passed around to our friends at school to read.

It was never really a conscious project. By that I mean, we never really got together with the express purpose of working on the story, and we certainly never thought, while it was being created, of what would happen to it afterward. We didn’t sit down with the idea of “let’s write a Tiny Toons script” (especially since it wasn’t actually a script), and we certainly didn’t start out with a notion of sending it anywhere. It was something to do. It was fun. We put things into it that were fun for us, little in-jokes our classmates would get — we had the boring history teacher narrating the History of Q-Tips, we had a fake credit of “Person Who Can’t Draw: Sarah Creef” (apparently to acknowledge that while I did most of the art and Amy did a couple drawings of Elmyra, Sarah’s contributions were story only), and another fake credit poking fun at our English teacher. One gag — the overflowing tub of bubbles — I even stole from a story my sister and then brother-in-law told from their honeymoon.

(This is probably a good place to remind my family to watch what stories you tell around me. Just saying.)

There were no thoughts, at that time, about the end product. It was all about making and sharing, and looking back on it, I love that innocence. That’s the kind of creativity Thirty-Eight spends a lot of time trying to recapture these days, of what it was like to do something without worrying about the fate of the end product. Really, there wasn’t a lot to do in our hometown back then, especially at that in-between age, so you had to be able to make your own fun or you usually wound up getting in a lot of trouble instead, just out of boredom.

So. All we needed now was an ending…

I was trying to finish Part Four (and hopefully end the story), but I couldn’t think of an ending. Finally I got kind of frustrated and decided to stop for a while.

Well, just then Amy called. She suggested an ending, and I used it. Her idea was to have Babs and Buster go on a cruise, get shipwrecked, and float (in a two-man life raft) back to Acme Acres.

I now know that the idea came to her in a dream. I asked why she had never told me that she dreamt the idea. She replied, “If I had, you wouldn’t have used it.”

Maybe she’s right.

The story was done, about 120 pages or so of three-ring notebook paper, four parts stapled and stacked. And it probably would have ended there, with a story stuck in a drawer someplace, a little creative relic of junior high, but people at school kept saying, “You should send that somewhere. You should send it to Steven Spielberg.”

I kind of laughed and replied, “Maybe I will, if I can find the address.”

 

Up next: Signed, sealed, delivered — again and again and again…