ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000
Spawning A Super Hero - An interview with Spawn's Todd McFarlane
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And what about the Internet?
TM: I don't think anyone has a clue. I'm not a big believer in the Internet per se. I acknowledge that it's something people are using and it's here to stay. But do I think it's going to revolutionize everybody's life like everybody's talking about? Nope til somebody builds the blueprint of what it's supposed to physically do and [how] it's supposed to unify everybody. I think its a terrific informational place. I think it's like an electronic library. Any information you want, you'll probably find it there, which is terrific. It's got some Flash stuff. But I think the entertainment part of it is completely out of whack. I think everybody's delusional of what they think they're going to get out of it.
The visual style of Spawnis much too complex for the simple animation techniques of the Web today. © Todd McFarlane Productions.
It's insane. You've got people spending fifty million bucks to develop a Web site, so they could put some streaming down, so that Hollywood might take a look at it and turn it into a TV show or a movie. You know what? You can take that fucking fifty million dollars and make the movie yourself. It seems like a long way to go to get to where it is you want to go. Just go straight! You're taking the long way around here.
And given the advent of cable that took us away from the network, it went from five channels...three channels when we were kids to practically fifty. And now what are we going to do? Go get our entertainment on the Net where there's 50 million. You kidding me or what? I mean if anything, the downside of having variety...is that kids don't talk to each other like you and I did. When there were only three channels, you and I watched every show the same. I bet, if I asked you, and you said Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family and Fred Flintstone and ad nauseum, you and I would have to have a long conversation...We could even sing the theme songs together. But now there's so many channels it's so hard to find somebody on your own block that watches the same program you watch.
One of the many examples of Todd McFarlane Toys¹ superior products. © Todd McFarlane Productions.
Hottest Toys in Town
After Spawnwas released in 1992 and became an instant success, the premier issue selling over 1.7 million copies, the toy companies were all over McFarlane trying to license his dark but extremely popular action hero. Upset by the deals the corporate toy giants were trying to cut, McFarlane started McFarlane Toys. Like Marvel Comics, neither Mattel nor Hasbro took McFarlane seriously, but since then McFarlane Toys has captured a significant share of the market. Encouraged by his success, McFarlane started a second toy company, McFalane Design Group, which licenses an incredible array of popular action figures that it distributes along with McFarlane's own creations.
If his relationship with corporate toy makers has been something less than cooperative, that has not been the case with corporate Hollywood. Originally, McFarlane wanted to do Spawnas an R-rated animated feature. However, he wound up producing the PG-13 live-action movie that New Line Cinema had insisted upon. Later, he produced his R-rated animated version as an HBO series. Does he feel that he had to back down to get the movie produced?
A shot from New Lines live-action feature Spawn.© 1997 New Line Cinema.
TM: To make people understand how you make a transition from comic books to where I wanted to go [with Spawn],then you had to take it in steps. We wanted to create an audience base at PG-13, and I agreed to it. So, it wasn't a back down, but it actually works out okay because the follow up script that's in development for the sequel is R-rated. So, I had to take one step before I could go there. It's actually the second movie I wanted to go [as an R-rated feature]. But the first one was sort of to build the audience, tell the origin and get all the Chapter One stuff out of the way. And then in movies two through ten hopefully, you don't have to talk about Superman's from Krypton anymore.
And what about Spawn,the character? Just a cool, dark super hero from hell with no social commentary or is there?
TM: I think there's a lot of social commentary there. But, again, if I gave you my thesis paper on Spawn,most people would go: "Well, I really don't get that when I read the book." The answer is I don't really believe you should be using your character and your ideas to put your political views out overall. But, Spawn is a guy who's got a chip on his shoulder -- not that unlike me. He's doesn't like being bullied around -- not unlike me. And he's sort of being controlled by people that are saying, "You're just a big pawn in this game called Heaven and Hell." You could put corporate America as either Heaven or Hell -- it don't make no difference really.
What he's saying is, "I don't care who's trying to control me. I'm going to fight, and I'm going to be a free man." So, if that means I'm politically incorrect, well, so be it.
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