Episode 73: Hello Kitty Theme Park

The Overthinkers tackle the four marketing quadrants for popular entertainment.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Joshua McNeil, and John Perich to overthink the astonishing commercial success of New Moon, romancing the undead, marketing quadrants for popular entertainment, TV versus books, Oprah’s big move, Magic the Gathering, and the beginning of VerhOeverthinking It week.

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Download Episode 73 (MP3)

6 Comments on “Episode 73: Hello Kitty Theme Park”

  1. Megan from Lombard #

    I think that anytime Fenzel sings or Wrather recites poetry (or mentions Paradise Lost) people listening need to take a shot.

    All that comic book talk made me all giddy; I think that the panel should do an entire podcast just debating the merits of the different comics out there (not counting the two that were delt with Watchmen) and its social implications; that how it’s now “cool” to be a geek.

    Also, as a History major, I would *love* to take that AP course where you can write a story/paper where the plot/general idea has nothing to do with history (or at least I’m assuming that it doesn’t).


  2. Gab #

    Comics: I’d actually really enjoy y’all sitting around and suggesting new characters to show up in forthcoming superhero movies. There has been a ton of buzz lately over the next Spider-Man movie, for example.

    New Moon: I’ve said before why I detest the book series, but I’ll reiterate how I enjoy it as a total fluff piece. The book series doesn’t keep romance as the secondary element, though, not remotely- it all revolves around Bella’s attachment to Edward, perhaps because it is told in first-person and in hindsight. I did think the fist movie was better than the book because a lot of the things that bothered me about the latter were watered down or changed enough that they weren’t worth my energy to get flustered about. Personally, I read them to see what the big deal was and to form a legitimate opinion based on the text and not just what I had heard. Read them if you wish, but don’t expect them to be all that earth-shattering (unless you want to count how Meyer totally invents her own vampiric mythos).

    Okay, and something I just found out about, apparently there are Twilight-inspired sex toys, like the “Vamp” from Tantus. “Toss it in the fridge for that authentic experience.” This makes me cry inside. Seriously. (But, of course, it reminds me of a deep conversation I had with a Twilight fan once about the mechanics and possibility/impossibility of vampire sex.) Anyhoo, I’d include the link I was sent (as a joke, although I wonder where the gal who sent it to me got it from…), but that would probably be taking it much too far. (The page is NSFW, of course- that’s another reason not to.)

    Show Merch: I have the Castle book on my wish list for Christmas- here’s hoping. The Office also has Dunder Mifflin stuff available online; and I’d totally dig a Dharma Initiative shirt.

    Running for office: The Platonic ideal is you run for office to represent citizens that, for whatever reason, cannot represent themselves. Another is to put yourself in a position to change policies in ways to benefit society. (Sorry, had to point it out because I’m feeling a little defensive right now, probably because I’m tweaking an essay for public policy school as I listen. But that reminds me, if only I knew about those novelized how-to-apply-to-graduate school books earlier- could have helped.

    Magic: The mechanic itself isn’t complicated, but the things the cards do themselves and when combined together can and often do make it complex. A person can make a deck that is extremely straight-forward where you just throw down your cards and bash, but they can also create a deck that requires a few minutes of explanation every time a card is placed or used. I’ve seen and used both, but I started with the former and it took me over a year of playing multiple times a week to get to the latter- and, I’ll admit, I couldn’t do it on my own, for I was being rather coddled by the people I played with, and they constantly helped me out by reminding me what my own cards could do. Fenzel, how about a piece on Magic? Pwease? I’d totally geek out over it.


  3. Sylvia #

    Hello Kitty? psh. It’s all about Batz Maru.


  4. Megan from Lombard #

    @Gab: there’s also been some buzz for awhile about a Captain America movie, although I haven’t heard anything about that for some time so I’m not sure if it’ll ever come to something. Also I’ve noticed that comic book movies can either be really awesome (Iron Man) or really really bad (DareDevil), I know that it has something to do with the script as well as funding and cast but I also think that how well known the comic is that determins if it flops or not (IMO X-Men can straddle that line because while it’s well known and the 1st movie was good the 2nd and 3rd movies tanked).

    re Castle book: I’m not sure if you know this but Nathon Fillion is pictured on the back of the book where the writer is normally. That’s almost enough for me to get it! :D


  5. Gab #

    @Megan: Yeah, there is a whole slew of comics that have had movie buzz. Ryan Reynolds is getting his own Green Lantern AND Deadpool movies for certain, and a sequel to Ed Norton’s Hulk, another revamp of Superman, a revamp of the Fantastic Four, a Magneto origin film, and a Wonderwoman flick have popped up in various stuff I have read. And, of course, the speculations on the next Iron Man (even though 2 hasn’t come out yet!) and Batman movies, too. And Green Arrow and The Flash each have movies in pre-production. Lots of fodder for overthinking and such, eh? EEEEEHHHH????

    I think comic book movies fail mostly when they can’t decide if they’re trying to BE a comic book or not. I’d say Daredevil failed so hard (and that’s one of the few movies I have ever viscerally disliked so much) because it incorporated too many comic-book-ee elements into a “serious” story. I mean, that scene where he “sees” her in the rain made me want to vomit (and I’m usually a romantic sap, so that scene *should* have given me anime eyes or something). Whereas the first two Batman movies by Burton succeeded because there was never a question from the moment the opening credits started that they were meant to be interpreted as comic books put to the screen- the camp was suitable. I’d also say the Nolan Batman movies succeed so much because they are going for realism *the whole time*; and the moments where the first Iron Man movie was at its weakest (which, I’ll say now, weren’t very weak) occurred when it started to get too close to comic camp.

    And I think I’d exclude 300 and Watchmen from it, by the way. Mainly because those are based on specific graphic novels that in no way tie into any other comics. so screen adaptations of those need(ed) a treatment more akin to adapting a regular book or novel (meaning covering the closed plot instead of picking elements from a never-ending one). That, and I think Snyder just used them as excuses for gratuitous violence and excessive slow-motion at the expense of real decent and sincere storytelling. Just because the source material is highly visual in nature, you don’t automatically get a free pass to water down and alter the story so much so that the screen shots are all that’s left, and especially if said shots are contrived ones that completely change the characters and that aren’t even from the source material. Ahem. But that’s just my humble opinion.

    One last comic bit before I go to bed. I think the two latter X-Men movies didn’t do so hot because, foremost in my mind, they tried to cram way too much into them. There were a lot of character camios that were totally unnecessary, for example, as if they were just name-dropping as many faces as possible. And the plot was on crack in terms of speed- some stuff dragged out unnecessarily while other stuff was jam-packed so fast that you’d miss something important if you blinked. I chock that up to bad writing and an inability to adapt from comic to screen. And maybe I’m nit-picky sometimes and loosy-goosy others, but while I think there was potential in how they explained Phoenix, they ruined it in the writing by doing what I said makes a comic book movie fail (which is the second reason): they kept going back and forth between comic camp* and serious cinema. And I guess I lost all hope when they spent all that time developing Nightcrawler (in what I thought was a pretty decent fashion) in the second movie, only to have him completely drop off the face of the earth in the third. It’s kind of pathetic that the video game provides more explanation for why he’s not there than the movie. (But again, this is me soap-boxing…)

    And, yeah, I saw the book. This is where I do my Smeagle voice and say, “Me wants it.” I watched the bonus features for season 1 a few days ago- made of awesome. I haven’t listened to the audio commentary yet, but that’s on my list of things to do (a list that just gets longer, or so it seems…).

    *By the way, I’m by no means saying comics are inherently campy and can’t be serious. I’m talking more about superhero comics because the suspension of disbelief for them is of its own kind and doesn’t work for a movie unless you know it comes from a comic or is meant to be like one. Meteor Man, for example, is a great comic book-ee movie that isn’t based on an actual comic book- and, in fact, it inspired a limited series from Marvel- because it sets itself up as a comic-on-screen. Blankman is another that set itself up that way, and it works divinely because it gets so meta at times. I could ramble so much more, but I seriously need to go to bed.


  6. Genevieve #

    All the comic book/movie chatter on the podcast and in these comments makes me seriously gleeful. Joy abounds in my life right now, which is good, because I’m trying desperately to stay up late so as to readjust my schedule for an all-nighter I have to pull at work, and I didn’t have much hope until now. I could overthink comic books and their adaptations until dawn.

    @Gab – I think, when you talk about the films being “comic-book-ee” it sounds like you’re discussing what I tend to refer to as the atmosphere. Comics are, obviously, such a visual medium that I’m often willing to forgive imperfections in script or even continuity if a film truly manages to capture the FEEL of the comic. Essentially, this is why I was able to enjoy the first XMen movie, and From Hell.

    (speaking of From Hell, speaking in terms of “atmosphere” rather than “camp” allows us to include the more GN-specific adaptations; after all, even long running comics have specific closed arcs to choose from when adapting, so the limited storyline isn’t that much of an issue.)

    There’s movies based on comic books, and then there’s movies that say, “Hey, that’s a good storyline – I think I’ll use it!” or “Wow, those characters are insanely popular – I could profit off of them!” Adapting a comic is SO much more than just telling a story. A really fantastic, non-comic example of this is the movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It wasn’t a *great* movie, no… but the set design, costume design, and just the general FEEL of the movie drew significantly from Brett Helquist’s illustrations. Comic book adaptations, across the board, could take a lesson from that film.

    Perhaps that’s why it seems so much more challenging to develop a good comic book movie from a long-running series that has gone through several different definitive artists. The writers tend to do an alright job of choosing story arcs to cover (generally… OK, sometimes…) but the designers don’t seem to be willing to commit to a single artist’s vision. They either start from scratch as though the characters were utterly independent from their print representations (ludicrous, of course) or they’re inconsistent.

    You don’t see that as often in short-run series, because they generally have a single artist… but the thing is that even long run titles *that are creator controlled* tend to fare better in adaptation. Cases in point: Hellboy & Sin City.

    @ Gab & Megan – There’s also the Thor movie coming out soon… and I don’t care what ANYone says, I’m totally psyched for it! Isn’t there supposed to be the Antman one coming, too?

    Re: MtG – I’m gonna have to fall on the side of “simple” in this argument. There are fiddly bits, mainly regarding what’s legal when, and which series are allowed in which tournaments, and the way that they’re *constantly* introducing new rules… but that’s not *actual* complexity in terms of depth, it’s just a glut of rules that are easy enough to look up if you forget one. In terms of actual game play, if you can read, you can play. It’s all right there on each card, even more so now than when the game started (it seems like they print more info on each card with each new series!) Deck construction, if you even bother with it, instead of just buying preconstructed, is nothing more than a numbers game; you churn through the math and figure the odds, and there’s not too much left to chance, really.

    re: the Castle novels – I don’t watch the show, so I don’t really care about that in particular, but I think the concept of cross-media exploration is brilliant, and it seems to me that ABC has sort of a stranglehold on the idea. Maybe they just have shows better suited to it. Personally, I think it’d be *hilariously awesome* if NBC sold Law & Order: SVU rape kits, but that’s (hopefully) just me.

    One Last Thing: I am absolutely unable to comprehend the appeal of Titanic. You guys were talking about it as though it’s awesomeness were just a given, but WOW. There are very few movies I hate as much as that one.


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