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October 10, 2015

The Sci Fi Digital Press Tour report, part four

by Keith McDuffee, posted Jul 5th 2007 12:56PM
flash gordon panel
It's hard to believe that the previous three set visits happened in one day, not to mention the three panels. The next day we were up at the crack of dawn and ready to embark on the last stop of our tour, the set of the new Flash Gordon series. We'd also be seeing some footage and artwork from the new Sci Fi miniseries and "re-imagining" of The Wizard of Oz, Tin Man.

A tour of the sets of Flash Gordon

When we arrived at the Langley studios for the set visit and panel, it felt like we were walking onto a horse ranch rather than a film studio. In fact, there were horse stables around the perimeter of the main building, so this wasn't at all far from the truth. There were pigeons flying around inside and squawking, which we were told does interfere with filming "a bit." I sort of felt bad for this newbie show, having to be staged so far out of the city like it had to prove itself first.

flash gordon set visit
After the panel interview we were brought over to check out some of the costumes for Flash Gordon, which were set up on mannequins through a hall that also served as a small set for the show. Along the walls there were photos of some of the costumes not displayed and also some of the existing ones as worn by extras. Our guide, costume designer Heidi Samuda, had a lot to say about each costume; she's clearly someone who enjoys her work immensely.

The most interesting part of this portion of the tour was being able to check out the costumes very closely, even touching them and handling the weapons that were set inside sheaths. On the Baylin costume was a gun and a blade. The gun lit up with a blue light at its tip when the trigger was pulled and the blade was impressive in that it seemed to be completely forged just for the purpose of this show. It was very light and not very sharp, but it was metallic.

One of the costumes we were shown (among many) was one for the Hawkmen, which was definitely cool looking and made of -- get this -- ostrich skin.

flash gordon set visit
We walked over to a large open area that served as sort-of a courtyard in the main city. Above the entire area we were told would be green screens where they would add the city backdrop with flying vehicles. Off to one side of this room was a large door that, when opened, would be a sort of heliport for arriving ships.

flash gordon set visit
The next stop on the tour was Princess Aura's bedroom. Really it was nothing special to look at, and honestly that may just be due to not having seen the show at all. I mean, would we have been as excited to see the inside of Adama's quarters if Battlestar Galactica hadn't yet been seen?

The bedroom set relies on the use of green screens in its windows to give the appearance that the room is overlooking a vast city in Mongo. we were told that this is a multi-purpose set, used occasionally as Rankol's torture chamber and Ming's security vault.

flash gordon set visit
The next stop was Dale Arden's apartment. This was a cute little set reminiscent of something we might have seen on the Eureka stages. It has a cute little kitchen with some plastic fruit and cabinets stocked with cans and whatnot. The bedroom seemed a little weird to me in that the bed and end-table were very low to the floor -- maybe it's just a style thing. Notice in the image above how it really looks like sunlight is filtering through the window -- obviously just an electric light, but even in person it felt real.

For a small apartment or house it was a nice place to live (for a fictional place, that is.) With the exception of some beams overhead, the ceiling was completely open.

flash gordon set visit
The Mongo dungeon was next. This is one of the show's twelve standing sets, which include Dale's apartment, Zarkov's lab, Rankol's lab and Dale's workplace (TV station). Many of the other sets were at another location five minutes up the road from where we were, but due to time limitations we stayed put.

Something I noticed when looking at these pictures I've included is how the lighting changes how something is filmed versus how you see it in person. The dungeon wasn't nearly as dark and foreboding as this picture shows, yet here it is unaltered and looking pretty freaky. We were told that they pump in fog/smoke (likely dry ice) to create an even creepier feeling, including shafts of light from above. The doors to the dungeon cells were similar to those on the BSG sets, with some metal parts and most of it wood or light composite material.

One area I don't have shots of was a small but tall set that was made for some particular stunt fighting scenes. There wasn't a landing cushion under it, but you could clearly see one would easily fit in place. A green screen covered the ceiling above the topmost part of this set, which meant shots would be taken looking up of course.

With that, we were off to see ...

tin man

A quick look at Tin Man

As we walked around the sets of Flash Gordon, I couldn't keep my attention away from an area set aside for us later with easels holding covered photos. Obviously there were going to be part of our preview of the Wizard of Oz reimagining, Tin Man. It turns out I was right.

Unfortunately I don't have any images from this to share, so I'll just have to describe a bit of it. Most of the preciously covered photos were artist renditions of different scenes from Tin Man. Initially when I heard about this project, I wasn't really sure what to expect and was more skeptical than anything. Once I saw these images I wanted to see the show NOW.

Tin Man is a re-imagining of the L. Frank Baum novel, 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', not the movie we all know quite well. But even to that point, this is quite a different telling of that story. Here is a quick list of things you may or may not know about Tin Man that I learned that day:

  • Dorothy is known as "D.G." (Dorothy Gale).
  • The "Outer Zone" is what we knew to be Oz.
  • Emerald City is called "Central City."
  • The Wizard is known as "The Mystic Man" who has act in a Moulin Rouge-like place called the "Twister Cabaret."
  • Glitch (the scarecrow) actually had part of his brain removed and has a zipper going along the top of his head where he was opened up.
  • Raw (cowardly lion) is not a Lion but dresses in lion skins and has a lot of facial hair to make him appear lion-like. He is also a seer like the rest of his race.
  • Cain (the tin man) is called a "tin man" because in the O.Z., that's what law men are called. When D.G. discovers him, he's locked away in a large tin iron-maiden-like outfit out in the middle of nowhere, imprisoned.
  • This was a nugget we almost weren't told. Toto is named "Tutor" (or something like that) and he is not D.G.'s dog back in Kansas. Instead, he's a shape-shifting creature from the O.Z. that later tags along with them. He can become a man, a dog.
  • A Professor Marvel-like character called Professor De Milo appears in the show as a traveling whore house of sorts. We were told that originally they thought of calling him Penis De Milo, but of course that would ruin the family image wouldn't it?
  • The first scene in the show is D.G. riding in her motorcycle to the little cafe she waitresses at. Her work outfit is the familiar blue gingham dress.
This is not a lollipop and cute little munchkins version of 'Oz'. Think techno, cyberpunk, steam punk, dark and gritty. The yellow brick road is a worn out, dirty brick path. The witch's crystal ball is a techno-style looking glass. The little people are called "guild fighters." People from Dorothy's real life will not suddenly look familiar to us in The O.Z.. And the flying monkeys, call mobacks, are meant to be scary.

We got a look at what will basically be the full commercial trailer for the show. In my humble opinion, the artist renderings made me more excited to see the show than the trailer itself, though the trailer was definitely surreal in how different it was. Again, this is definitely not the Wizard of Oz like we know it nor is it meant to be.

I spoke with Mark Stern after the presentation, and he's clearly very proud and excited about Tin Man. I asked him about the similarities this had to 'American McGee's Alice', the videogame. He was definitely familiar with the work but felt the 'Alice in Wonderland' story wasn't really all that interesting. "I mean, she's a dumb girl who fell in a hole -- what's so great about that?"

So, have you read enough about my trip yet? Check back hopefully tomorrow for a wrap-up post and hopefully more pictures from the trip.

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Keith, I just want to compliment you on the attention to detail that you've brought to these personal accounts of the digital press tour. I've enjoyed reading them a lot. Of course, it has me wondering where I sign on for a job like yours :)

July 05 2007 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know what series would make a killer replacement for BSG on Sci-Fi, in the same "gritty reimagined" light? "STAR BLAZERS". Yeah, you read me right, Space Battleship Yamato would be *the* series. It has action, character development, romance, and the undertones that made the re-imagining of BSG such a damn good show.

July 05 2007 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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