The Disney & IRTS 2008 Digital Media Summit, Part 3
Two more posts on the DMS, this one about set and studio visits, next about the thin line between content and promotion.
On the third day, they gave us a tour of the lot, which was reasonably interesting. This included a whirl around the Brothers and Sisters set. Iâ€™ve only seen the show a few times, which produced the weird feeling of recognizing some spaces, only part-recognizing others, and not knowing others at all. Whatâ€™s more, though, is that the main house seems definitively of television, being a huge, immaculately tidy, extravagantly decked-out house, the kind that they give people on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, yet that youâ€™ve never seen off the screen. Television kitchens in particular are always so fantastic, too, with huge islands, glass jars full of tasty looking things and infused olive oils, and modern appliances. Kind of like an Ikea showroom on steroids. So I didnâ€™t feel as though I was â€œreally there,â€ partly because Iâ€™m not fully aware of the â€œthere,â€ through lack of exposure to the show, and partly because the â€œthereâ€ seems so unreal to begin with.
That said, there are so many wires and ropes on a set when you look up, and the size of the place is so huge, with sets wrapped around each other in interesting, labyrinthine ways, that it also holds the fun of being in a massive maze. We tried to get some juicy set gossip out of our guide, but all she offered was that Sally Field rides around the lot on her bike all the time, an amusing image, and that Calista Flockhart (whose picture adorns most sets, cult figure-like) doesnâ€™t seem as skinny in person.
It gets more fun, with pics, after the fold …
If I wasnâ€™t primed to be as excited about this set visit, though, it was because of what lay in store. Before going to Burbank, I had arranged with Jesse Alexander to get a set visit to Heroes. Jesse was super-kind in making it happen, and in touring me around when Iâ€™m sure he had more exciting things he couldâ€™ve been doing. This time, I knew all the sets (except for a few of the new ones). The level of detail was amazing. Not only was Sylarâ€™s watch shop full of actual fancy-looking watches, for instance, but many of them were still working. And whoever filled Mohinderâ€™s apartment with trinkets had a very fun week or two shopping for this task. The sets were quite palpably real(istic). Also, whereas the Brothers and Sisters house seemed definitively of the world of TV in its massive size and homeyness, the Heroes sets felt like rooms you might actually see elsewhere (though Claireâ€™s house, I must admit, once more had the super kitchen). Jesse kindly took a few pics of me getting all freaky and Sylar-ish in one, and getting ready to paint the future in Isaacâ€™s loft in the other.
Aside from the actual sets, I saw a bit of filming, of a scene with Matt, Angela, and the new speedy elven character. I got to meet several of the production, writing, and directing staff (including Tim Kring himself), and I got to see the writerâ€™s room. On one wall, a list of characters went from top to bottom, and a list of episodes 1 to 12 went from left to right, with the chart of index cards filling in what happens to each character in each episode. Between this and the other scrawled charts and lists on the roomâ€™s various surfaces, I now have a head full of spoilers. But I wonâ€™t share: some like to spoil, some like to torture by not spoiling. Count me with the latter group this time. It was quite interesting, though, to see how the shows get plotted out, especially given the size of the cast. Many thanks to Jesse!
And then â€¦ the surprise at the end of my trip. A friend of mine who knows a couple of Simpsons animators managed to get us both into the animation studio. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m allowed to post my pic, but needless to say, it was cool to be there. It was also cool to see that almost all of the animators had their workspaces covered with Simpsons paraphernalia, from toys to Kwik-E-Mart squishee cups and Duff Cola cans, and so forth. Theyâ€™re all real fans, even 20 years on. Considerable excitement surrounded the new computer screens and program that they had brought in that allow the animators to draw directly to screen. After writing the Simpsons book, Iâ€™ve been asked again and again whether Iâ€™ve been to the studio. Now, I can finally answer that question in the positive.Tags: Brothers and Sisters, Digital Media Summit, heroes, Simpsons, studio lot