Recently I had a virtual interview with Larry Longstreth, the writer, co-director, and editor of Nintendo: Oldschool Revolution. I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his movie, his thoughts on the gaming industry, and what he sees in Nintendo’s future. We would like to give a big thanks to Mr. Longstreth for taking the time out to answer our questions. Check out the interview below.
Can you please tell us your name, and inform of us your involvement with the project?
My name is Larry Longstreth. I wrote this short film, co-directed it, and edited it. Also, I was the voice for Link, Master Chief, Baby Mario, and Toad.
How many people were involved in the making of the film, and what were their jobs?
For the most part, it was just the animator (Jacob Drake), and myself. Each of the guys would occasionally throw out an idea or two… some of them good, and some of them bad, but I came up with the concept and story on my own. Vince Bruno, a regular in the films I’ve made, recorded the voicework for Luigi. Zelda was to be played by a Cleveland filmmaker named Sveta Binshtok but at the last minute, Sveta fell ill and was replaced by my 14 year old cousin, Miranda Fritz. My talented brother (who makes hilarious cameos in everything we make), Aaron Longstreth, recorded the voice of Bill Gates. Allan Derby, an old friend, happened to be present during recording so we gave him Wario’s sneaky growl to record. All voice work was recorded by my cousin, Adam Fritz.
How long did the project take to complete, from the inception of the idea to the final product?
I’d say I came up with the idea maybe half a year ago while standing in the shower day dreaming. It’s a bizarre scenario to envision, I know… but it’s the truth. I knew I wanted to make a cartoon… but I wanted it to be something everybody would appreciate that would dominate iFilm.com. It came to me out of nowhere and I pitched it to my friends that afternoon. When the time came to find an animator, several showed interest in helping us (mostly because they’d seen our live-action stuff) but I was nervous about giving anybody the script simply because it’s a fan film and I hold no power to the rights to it. I was very worried that a complete stranger with animation talents could take the script and make it themselves. So what I would do was send an animator the first part of the script, ending with Luigi’s now famous “They kilda my brother”. Eventually I began talking to animator and writer Jacob Drake from Cleveland (not far from myself) and I sent him the entire script all at once. I had been invited to Hollywood to meet with some bigger filmmakers by an actress who loved our short “Zombies in my Neighborhood” and while I was there for a week, Jake put together his vision of the beginning of the cartoon. I got home, saw what he’d done… and I knew he was our guy. The animation itself won’t blow you away, but it tells the story exactly how I needed it to. It was dramatic and yet funny in a very subtle way because it would never be possible to take these characters too seriously. We agreed Jacob would make this thing happen and after about 3 months of long hours and hard work (almost all of it on his part), it was time for me to edit.
What made you set out to make this film?
The realization that it was possible to actually make it and make it the way I wanted it to be. Yeah, it’s supposed to be over the top and silly at times, but the theme is something I really do believe is true at this point. I knew if I got this point of view out there in the open, some people would appreciate it, some people would mock it, and maybe even some people would realize that there’s some truth in what this cartoon is saying. The most important thing to me with any movie, book, comic, or song, is storytelling. This thing had a great story, and that alone would carry it.
What were some of the key points you wanted to make with this film?
That we’re not all as mature as we think we are. How often does somebody walk past the Nintendo section at a store (which is loaded with awesome stuff) because they’ve decided it’s too childish? It happens all the time. It’s an analogy I’ve used for a while: Superman, Nintendo, and Cyclops have one thing in common: nobody cares how great they are because there’s something darker and more popular standing right next to them. I have to clear up that I own a Playstation 2, a Cube, and I have a friend’s X-Box (which never really worked right). I do enjoy some things on each of them… namingly Halo and Morrowind (which the system was never able to keep up with). However, there aren’t many games I’d consider to be absolutely great on either system. Grand Theft Auto? I bought GTA 3 and Vice City when I bought the Playstation 2… and I sold them both the next day. It just seems like everything is all about shock value, freedom, and size or quantity over quality. Grab a Cube and try Eternal Darkness… there’s nothing quite like it. How about Animal Crossing? Bizarre, cartoony, but strangely addictive. Wind Waker too childish for ya? Play it. The theme in this cartoon is how I really feel about entertainment as a whole. No, violence in games and movies isn’t always out of place, but it doesn’t make them great either. Originality and quality do… and I honestly feel like Nintendo has way more of both than its competitors combined. I mean what has Microsoft and Sony brought to the table in terms of innovation? Online play? DVD players? CD players? Now a scanner or something on 360? That’s not quality… that’s quantity… it’s MORE of something. It’s like everybody having a cell phone, an ipod, a fast internet, and a wristwatch that changes the channel on the TV. Yeah, now everything is easy, fast, and you’re keeping up with the neighbors… but you aren’t guaranteed to have any fun.
Did you expect the film to become such a hit?
Yes, I did. I think my guys knew it would be big, but not as big as it was. I knew we had something great, and while you always get filled with self doubt before your work is finished… I knew Jacob and I had hit a grand slam. It was still great to watch it just shoot straight up the rankings and charts. Very cool.
If you had to pick a favorite scene, or point that is made in the film, what would it be?
Good question… I never really thought about it. Probably the huge speech Luigi gives to characters from every generation and system. There’s allot I like about the cartoon but that stands out in my mind.
Are you happy with the final outcome?
Very happy with it. Of course, long before it was finished Jake and I knew that when it was done, people would be saying “he should have done this” or “he should have made THIS guy the traitor” instead. It is what it is. One thing does bother me, though. I’ve read thousands of reviews and comments on it by this point, and I’ve been called a “fanboy” and much worse. That term in itself is the most childish thing in the world. I’m a 24 year old man who works all over the country away from his family and friends for 4 to 5 weeks at a time. Fanboy? No. Fan? Yeah… and a passionate one, I admit. I knew this thing would make a lot of people happy, and a lot of people angry. Surprisingly, I saw on some Halo forums that people actually liked it. Still, I’m sure some angry fans are already working on the animated rebuttal. I’d love to see it, but it won’t have the heart simply because it can’t… there’s no real story to tell. Over all though, I’d say 95% of the comments I’ve read have been great. I thank anybody who watched it and especially those who helped spread the word. For those who found it necessary to get offensive, I just say “grow up”.
How do you personally feel about games like Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and other Mature rated titles?
They certainly aren’t all bad. I loved “Halo” (the first one)…. or the first 2 “Resident Evils” (and later the fourth). I had a little fun with the GTA series for an hour or so and never played “San Andreas”, which I heard was actually alot better than the first two. Things like “God of War” or “Manhunt” and all that… what’s so great? Ripping a guy’s arms out and beating him with them was funny when I was an angry 15 year old like everybody else… but you grow up. I hate mindless repetition in entertainment, and I’ve never seen as much as I see now. “Pong” can be repetetive and fun because as dumb as it sounds, there’s a very simple but addictive fun to it. But the repetition you get in today’s games, which still sell simply because they are rated “Mature”… there’s no art in that. It’s silly and overrated… and the bar just keeps getting lower.
Why do you think games of this type have become so popular as of the last few years?
Things always swing back and forth like a pendulum. It might sound absurd, but I think people just got tired of the way things were, even if they were great. So it was like “let’s push the envelope”…. “now let’s push it again”… “and again”… until finally, nobody wanted anything to do with the stuff that didn’t push the envelope… they just wanted to keep pushing it further and further. I mean, it’s like everybody got so bored and annoyed with everything being “hunky dory” that we decided things have to be darker, edgier, and more offensive to be good… and now anything wholesome is seen as cheesy. Everybody today either wants to be offensive or offended. It’s a sort of drama that comes with having no real life problems. It’s a pretty naive and spoiled point of view, but I think it’s just human nature to sort of get bored and try something else… though it’s gotten out of hand at this point.
What do you feel is the overall opinion of Nintendo in the gaming industry, from both the developer and player standpoint?
“Childish.” “Outdated.” “When will they just go away?” Alot of people think these things about Nintendo but most of them aren’t sure WHY they think them. X-Box fans I know are always talking about how Nintendo will be forced to stop making systems soon. It’s funny because the only sources of information they have are other X-Box fans and X-Box magazine. I think people just want to bury what they know is better. It’s the sort of “get behind the under dog” deal. Nintendo was king in everybody’s eyes at one point. I think now that something is more popular, it makes others feel like they are part of the reason… part of the team that took down this mighty giant. I don’t think they ever stop to think that maybe Nintendo deserved to be on top.
If the gaming industry follows the path it is currently on, where do you see video games being in the next 20 years?
It won’t. It can’t. There is a superior product that isn’t on top right now. It’s like WWF and WCW. Yeah, WCW might have used shock value to trample over WWF for a while, but the true fans knew it was only a matter of time before the king was back on his thrown and the competition was buried. Nintendo is the WWF of video games. Without Nintendo, there would be no X-Box or Playstation. Sooner or later, they’ll be back on top… and when X-Box isn’t on top, there’s no reason for Microsoft to continue making video games… because Microsoft and Sony are NOT gaming companies. They don’t need video games… and their hearts will never be in video games. They both have the mighty dollar powering them right now, but that can’t beat quality.
(in relation to last question) How about Nintendo specifically?
I think I just answered that. I have no doubt Nintendo will be on top someday. Maybe it will fall again, but it will never go away. It’ll always be number 1 while the trends and wannabes come and go.
What do you think of Nintendo’s next console, codenamed Revolution?
I’m so pumped. Nintendo has proven time and time again it has the balls to try something new. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the Revolution and I’m pretty damn excited. I actually might get a PS3 too, but I have no interest in 360. Revolution looks to be the best, but keep in mind, I thought Gamecube was the best and almost nobody else agreed with me.
If you had a chance to talk about one person/company in the gaming industry who would it be, and what would you want to tell them?
Actually, he’s not big but he will be. Jason O’Connell is an old friend of mine. He recently designed the levels for the game “Prey” for X-Box 360 and PC. Snoop around when “Prey” is released and you’ll find some movie posters for my films hidden inside one of the levels. He and I have always joked about meeting at the top and working together on the ultimate project. I’d love to write a roleplaying game sometime or something story based. I think I might just get that chance someday now that things are going so well with our films.
Can we expect a sequel to this film, or a more in depth series based around this subject? (Crosses fingers!)
Unfortunately, no. Atleast probably not. I’ve said everything I have to say about gaming in general and elaborating further would be like going backwards. I’m a passionate gamer and fan though, and maybe someday I’ll have the urge to jump in and say my piece again. For now, though, it’s back to live-action films I go. Again, thanks to anybody who watched or loved “Nintendo: Oldschool Revolution”. I had a blast making it.
Thanks once again to Mr. Longstreth for his time.
P.S. - Larry emailed me a list of the music in the film since a lot of people have been asking him about it.
1) The Chronicles of Narnia - Harry Gregson-Williams: “Here Comes the King”
2) The Chronicles of Narnia - HGW - “The Battle”
3) Blackhawk Down - Hans Zimmer - “Leave no Man Behind”