Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

I Can FEEL Your Anger! It Gives You Focus! Makes You Stronger!

5/23/19

You know what? As a writer, often I really try to get into the heads of my characters. And sometimes, I take it too far. For example…

Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a couple of announcements (and THEN, as usual, I’ll tell you an embarrassing anecdote from my writing career).

  • MAD Magazine: I wrote a humor piece called “The Bad Roommate,” which was illustrated by David DeGrand. It appears in MAD #7, on sale now!
  • Last month my Avengers Little Golden Book The Threat of Thanos (illustrated by Shane Clester) appeared in a Barnes & Noble ad in celebration of the film Avengers: Endgame! (Click on the thumbnail to see the whole ad)
  • Hungry Shark: The Official Shark-Tastic Guide, written by yours truly, comes out on June 25th, 2019 from Scholastic. Barnes & Noble included the book on their list of “Guides & Novels for Your Gamer.” (Seriously, what’s with Barnes & Noble hyping all of my books lately? Not that I’m complaining…)
  • Star Wars Adventures: Recently I wrote a Tales from Wild Space comic book story called “Majordomo, Major Problems,” which was illustrated by Drew Moss. “Majordomo” is an 8-page backup tale in Star Wars Adventures #23, which comes out on June 26th, 2019 from IDW Publishing.

Now that that’s out of the way, I believe you’re owed a humiliating anecdote about my writing career. And you shall have it:

As a writer, often I really try to get into the heads of my characters. For example, when I was a staff writer on the television series TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest, I found that in order to write jokes for Gilbert Gottfried (who was one of the cast members), you had to yell the jokes out loud AS Gilbert Gottfried. In other words, you had to do an impression of Gilbert Gottfried, to figure out how he would say a particular joke.

And that’s something I’ve done quite a few times in my career. When I was writing the scripts for the House M.D. video game, I did an impression of Hugh Laurie, in his “Gregory House” voice. As “Hugh Laurie,” I acted out each scene, talking into a digital recorder. Then I played it back in order to see if it sounded like something the character would actually say.

When I used to write Bart Simpson comic book stories for Bongo Comics, whenever Krusty the Clown was in a story, I found that it was really helpful to brainstorm one-liners for Krusty by doing a terrible Krusty impression and ad-lib some jokes while talking into the digital recorder. More recently, when I wrote my LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic, I liked to put a few Emperor Palpatine jokes in each book. And sometimes the jokes were written IN Palpatine’s voice, especially if Palpatine was narrating a section of the book. That meant doing a really terrible, over-the-top Ian McDiarmid impression, and it really helped make the Palpatine jokes and Palpatine narration even funnier.

But what I’m really getting at is that – as I type this – there’s a digital recorder right next to my laptop. On that digital recorder’s files there’s hours and hours of audio of me doing the absolute WORST Hugh Laurie, Krusty the Clown, and Ian McDiarmid impressions. And when I was writing the House scripts, I was also doing impressions of the OTHER House cast members. So there’s audio of me doing awful Omar Epps impressions, awful Lisa Edelstein impressions, awful Robert Sean Leonard impressions. Oh, you have no idea. And you WILL CONTINUE TO have no idea. Because nobody will ever hear those audio files. I guess this isn’t really a humiliating anecdote as much as it’s a POTENTIALLY humiliating anecdote.

But if you ever need something to blackmail me with, just steal the digital recorder, okay?

 

The Worst Voicemail Message In Human History

2/2/19

This is my first blog post of 2019, and I’m trying something new: I’m going to end each blog post with an embarrassing anecdote taken from my long and storied writing career. But first, a blatant plug of a new project. To wit:

Over the past few years, I’ve written three LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic. I hope that I get to write more at some point. My third LSW book, The Official Force Training Manual, came out in October 2018. Recently, Jonita Davis over at the Black Girl Nerds website interviewed me about the three LEGO Star Wars books I’ve written.

Also, here’s an appreciation piece I wrote for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the life and legacy of Stan Lee, shortly after Stan died in November. I knew Stan a little bit (I interviewed him for my book From Krakow to Krypton). Also, I’ve written several children’s books featuring characters he co-created, like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Avengers, and so on. So I think I have a unique perspective on Stan and his work.

And now, my embarrassing anecdote: When I was first starting out as a freelance writer, I was an entertainment journalist for Primedia Youth Entertainment Group. They published various teen and tween magazines, like Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and BOP. I wrote for all three of those publications.

At a certain point, I discovered I was pretty good at wangling interviews with pop stars (e.g. Justin Timberlake). Because I knew quite a bit about hip-hop and R&B, I interviewed a few rappers for those magazines as well.

And somehow, I got Timbaland’s phone number.

If you don’t know who Timbaland is, well, he’s a rapper, songwriter, and music producer. His real name is Tim Mosley. I think I was trying to interview him for an article I was writing on Destiny’s Child. (Remember, this was a long time ago, when Destiny’s Child was still a thing.) Anyway, I got Timbaland’s phone number. I didn’t know any of Tim’s “people” (e.g. his agent, his manager, his personal assistant). So I had no choice. I just had to call Tim DIRECTLY. Which you’re not really supposed to do when trying to get a hold of a music-industry celebrity. But I had no other choice. So I called him. He didn’t pick up. And I left him the following voicemail message:

“Hi, Tim? Uh, I mean, Timbaland? This is Arie Kaplan. I’m an entertainment journalist and I’m trying to reach Timbaland. Timbaland, I don’t know if this is your direct number or if this is your assistant’s number. But if it’s not Timbaland’s number, I’m trying to get in touch with Timbaland. So if Timbaland could please contact me, I’d really like to interview Timbaland for the cover story I’m writing on Destiny’s Child for Teen Beat. Anyway, if this IS Timbaland, I hope you’re doing well, Timbaland. Thanks for your time, Timbaland!”

Wow. Think I said the word “Timbaland” enough during that painfully long, rambling, awkward, insane voicemail message? BTW, if you’ve never met me and you don’t know what my voice sounds like, please realize that as I kept saying the word “Timbaland” on that voicemail message, I was acutely aware that I sounded about as cool as Larry David would’ve sounded saying it. As I said, Tim never responded to that message. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that.   

Thanos Demands Your Silence (Because He Needs A Nap)

7/17/18

Last year, I wrote an Avengers Little Golden Book, titled The Threat of Thanos, which is out now. The Threat of Thanos was illustrated by the incredible Shane Clester, and it was published by Penguin Random House.

The Threat of Thanos features Thor, Black Panther, Iron Man, and The Wasp. Oddly enough, those are the main characters in the last four MCU movies (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp). But seriously, that’s just a coincidence.

I should mention that The Threat of Thanos has a totally original plot, and it’s not an adaptation of the Infinity War movie. This was a fun book to write, and I’m really proud of it. If you look at the book’s cover art, you’ll see that Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet and all of the Infinity Stones. The biggest challenge in writing the book was figuring out how to explain what each of the Infinity Stones does on a level that a 2-5 year old kid could understand. For example, how do you explain the Mind Stone (or the Reality Stone, for that matter) on a kindergarten level? But I think I pulled it off.

Whenever I write a Little Golden Book, I have to write the art notes as well as the text. (Art notes are notes to the artist, telling them what to draw on every page.) So as I’m writing the text, I’m usually drawing up really rough thumbnail sketches to try and figure out what the art might consist of. Then in the art notes, I describe what I’ve drawn. I usually don’t show the thumbnail sketches to anyone, even my editor. They’re just for my own reference. But they really help in terms of figuring out which specific images will help to tell the story, which images will complement the text, and how many of those images can comfortably fit inside a book with a very specific page count.

I don’t know if other authors draw thumbnail sketches while they’re typing up the art notes, but for me, it’s a vital part of my process. So is listening to the right music. While writing the Threat of Thanos, I listened to Alan Silvestri’s score from the first Avengers movie.

Oh! And as of this writing, The Threat of Thanos is the #1 New Release in Children’s Superhero Comics on Amazon

PS – Back in April, I was interviewed by AJ Frost, Staff Writer for the “geek culture” site The Beat. During the interview, I talked about The Threat of Thanos, as well as some of my other recent children’s book projects. You can check out the interview here.

New Books & Upcoming Speaking Gigs

12/27/16

Happy Holidays! Happy Almost-New-Year’s-Eve! Okay, so there are a few new things that I want to announce:

Recently, I wrote two LEGO STAR WARS books for Scholastic. The first one, LEGO STAR WARS: FACE OFF (illustrated by Dave White), is out now. You can see some excerpts from the book HERE.

The second LEGO STAR WARS book that I wrote is called THE OFFICIAL STORMTROOPER TRAINING MANUAL, and it comes out next month. And guess what, you lucky people? You can see some excerpts from THAT book HERE.

I talked a little bit about what it was like writing those LEGO STAR WARS books when I was a guest on the COMICSVERSE podcast, and you can listen to that podcast interview here.

I’ve also been working on a few projects for Disney Book Group’s Marvel Press imprint. For example, I wrote three of the stories in the 5-MINUTE AVENGERS STORIES collection, which is out now from Marvel Press. I also wrote one of the stories in the SPIDER-MAN STORYBOOK COLLECTION, which is also currently available.  

And I wrote two of the stories in the 5-MINUTE SPIDER-MAN STORIES anthology, which will be published by Marvel Press in June 2017. (I don’t have a cool link for that, but I should soon.) Interestingly enough, one of the stories that I wrote in each of those anthologies is a time travel story (and yes, there’s a reason for that).

And starting in January 2017, I’ll be doing a series of pop culture-oriented lectures at NYC performance space QED Astoria. The first one is a talk on the Golden Age of Universal horror movies (e.g. James Whale’s 1931 FRANKENSTEIN). It’s called “THE MONSTER MAKERS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES, CARL LAEMMLE JR., AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD HORROR MOVIES,” and I’ll be giving that talk on January 7, 2017 at 2pm.

01/07/2017 <BR>2:00 - 3:00PM <BR>Monster Makers

I’ve also got quite a few other speaking engagements slotted for various dates in 2017, and I’ll be posting the specifics on THOSE lectures here soon too.

Please contact me if you want to use this for any reason. arie@ariekaplan.com