The Other Shannon - Director's Commentary . Otherwise known as "Young Milks This Thing For One Final Post." . DELETED SCENES! GRATUITOUS SEX! FULL FRONTAL NUDITY! LOTS AND LOTS OF BLAH BLAH BLAH!
First of all my sincere and abject apologies to Chris Phipson, the father of SigOcean Figgy, and the folks who were on the SigOcean Figgy waiting list after me -- I knew I was going to hold onto him for a while, but I never intended it to be as long as it turned out to be. There's no excuse for keeping him here almost four months. So I really am sorry for bogging this thing down. Hopefully the final product redeems me somewhat?
On to business. Once the Phipsonator had talked me into joining this traveling SigOcean circus, I knew I had to do something special. We're all pretty much used to it by now, but when you think about it, having two guys named Shannon as active AFOLs in the online Lego community at the same time is a pretty weird thing. Seriously, what are the odds? If you're named John or Chris or Dan or Mike or Dave, you're used to other guys having the same name. When you're named Shannon you're used to being the only one. So right from the beginning there was this connection, and a sort of latent rivalry. Suddenly being forced to share the "Shannon" spotlight, it was only natural that we should clash. If not for real, then at least in fictional form through our sig-figs.
The story began to take shape in my mind immediately after Chris's initial email, and was essentially complete within a week or two, long before SigOcean ever arrived in my mailbox. I wanted it to end with neither one able to claim a clear victory, just as I suspect would happen in real life -- if we took a poll of those with a preference, it would probably be a pretty even split between which Shannon was considered the best on MOCpages. You could make the argument here that Young won because he averted the coup -- but only through chickening out, sidestepping a clear win for Ocean via a time-travel cheat. It never happened. Each lives to fight another day.
I built these corridors well before SigOcean Figgy arrived at my house, while I was still in the midst of frantic preparations for BrickCon08. They were easy, and it would be one less thing to build once I actually got into the project. (Not that it sped the process along much, oh well.) The signs were a late addition after I took some test shots and realized that the writing accompanying this section was not nearly strong enough to save eight or nine straight pics of boring gray walls, even with the cameos by several characters from previous MOCs -- it needed some more visual interest.
The corridor sets were modular: Five 16x16 baseplates for the floors -- three straight sections, one T-junction, one corner. Several 16-long wall sections, I don't even remember exactly how many -- one with a doorframe (with interchangeable different colored doors), some plain walls, and a few with attachments to accept direction signs. Also one corner wall that stayed on the corner baseplate; everything else could be shuffled around into different configurations as the need arose.
The first room built after SigOcean got here. We'd recovered from BrickCon, and I was ready to dive into this large, ambitious project. I think the excitement and eagerness shows here: in my opinion it's by far the most impressive room, visually and detailwise. (The tan and light gray vertical stripes make it for me, I really like how that turned out.) I imagined The Skunk Works to have a lot of guest rooms in different colors -- the Red Room, the Green Room, the Yellow Room, etc. SigOcean gets the Blue Room because a) I have a lot of blue 2x2 tiles, and b) blue = water = Ocean. And I think he'd pick the room with a big aquarium. The sign over the door is obviously redundant -- originally every room was going to have a sign saying what it was. But the more I thought about it, the less sense that made. If anything, the signs should be outside the room.
The second room built. Not a whole lot to say about this one, except that for my classic spacemen, the decor had to be blue and old light gray, with a splash of yellow and black. I should have gone Eylar-style on it with some proper lighting -- it looks more like the Spaceman Cafeteria, or Spaceman Employee Breakroom than a lounge.
Robo the bartender is from the official Lego Classic Space canon as well -- while I was building this room someone on flickr posted a page of the original instructions for the little robot from the FX-Star Patroller, one of my favorite sets as a kid. I immediately recognized it, and overcome with nostalgia, quickly decided he needed a place in the Lounge. I had to lengthen his legs so he could reach over the bar, though. (The "Screaming Viking" reference I thought no one would get is from the TV show Cheers.)
The war room wasn't even supposed to exist at all. As originally written, this conference took place in the throne room. Then in toying with designs for that, I came up with the technique of the tan squares on the black wall (perhaps my favorite element in the whole project). The throne room was to be castle-like (a visual representation of Young getting medieval on Ocean's ass), but this looked more Japanese, or modern stylish. It was too good not to add to the project, so the conference was moved out of the throne room and into here.
I was at a loss as to what to do for the flooring -- eventually, with the pseudo-Japanese walls I thought some 1x4 tan plates connected on the ends might look like a woven bamboo mat or something, but I didn't have nearly enough. I added some brown and dark blay, and it still wasn't enough. So I added some black. Then some dark blue. Then some dark red. In the end it didn't look anything like what I'd wanted, but I thought it was interesting enough to go ahead with.
By far the worst set, I feel bad about how mailed-in this one is. Especially since it's the first room you see in the story, and the last. Obviously a spoof of the transporter room on the original Star Trek, this room was produced during a fit of increasing depression and severe builder's block. This was the second to last set built, and by that time I'd already held onto SigOcean Figgy far too long, and I was feeling guilty about that. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to finish and mail him along, but nothing I tried to build worked. I'd step aside from this and try to build other stuff just to get the creative juices flowing, and nothing. Everything I did sucked.
So this is very forced. There should be a door in the wall between the control panel and transporter chamber, as there is on the show. I couldn't be bothered. "Gah, too much trouble," I growled. "Just slap something together so I can take some damn pictures." The wall itself is boring, just square tiles. The stripe along the wall, the common motif of every set in the tale, doesn't flow with the stripes along the transporter chamber -- there's no artful transition from wall to transporter. The bank of computers for the control panel couldn't look more slapped-together. To complete the lazy, don't-care look is the floor, an upside down baseplate instead of a nice brickbuilt design like every other room has.
After the transporter room debacle, I wanted to redeem myself with the throne room. As the last set to build, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel -- the pressure was easing. This is the biggest set, and the only room that had all four walls built. Each wall is composed of three separate sections that can pop out, kind of like what I did in Space Ninjas 2. There was enough action taking place in here that I wanted a few different camera angles, rather than just looking through one invisible "fourth wall."
I agonized over what kind of stripe to put along the wall in this room, what kind of clever pattern or SNOT technique I could wow the fanboys with, and finally decided to just keep it simple. This was the seat of power for The Skunk Works, so the skunk stripe used in the corridors was carried over into here. That badass throne (which didn't photograph that well, being all black) was constructed much earlier -- rather than a suitable throne being built to go in the room, a suitable room to house the throne had to be built.
(Useless factoid - Back when MOCtag was still new and at the height of its popularity, I was constructing a scene with the working title "Rory, King of the Animals," depicting a sort of royal procession along a red carpet, with a cheering throng arrayed on an expanse of ninja-wall flooring. Obviously that never came to fruition, but I always liked that carpet with that floor so it got resurrected here.)
"Shannon? That's my name!"
"I thought I was the only one!"
"A pain I know all too well."
"So this is what it feels like when doves cry!"
As you hopefully know, this was a reference to that great Simpsons moment where Milhouse meets another Milhouse. There should be an emotional man-hug to go with the verbal exchange, but it was impossible to get the two Shannon-figs into an embrace without it looking... amorous. They always ended up face to face. Not really where I wanted to go with the visual. So I settled for a hearty handshake as Ocean steps out of the transporter -- which, the more I look at this shot, the less like that it looks. I'm not quite sure what's going on here. I'm kind of weirded out now, let's move on...
There are a lot of shots of Ocean and the spaceman plotting which ended up not being used. There was a lot more talk in the original script, which was later cut out to improve pacing and story flow. Those cuts were especially deep on Young's side -- Zaius goes down the list of the various Skunk Works factions, separating them into the loyal and disloyal columns. It was basically an inventory of all the different kinds of minifigs I own -- Indians, Insectoids, UFOliens, Exo-Force, Star Wars figs, etc. It would have been of no interest to anyone, and what was worse, the accompanying dialogue was not particularly funny. It added nothing at all to the story; rather, it was dragging it down.
The chickens with the pikes are the ceremonial Elite Roosterian Guard. I wanted to mention that in the story because I really liked the sound of it, but didn't see a good way to casually work it in.
"Is she three women at once?"
As originally written, it was five. This should in no way be construed as a devaluation of Mrs. Sproule from being worth five women to being worth only three -- it was changed for the simple reason that six minifigs was too big a crowd for that bed. In real life, Other Shannon wouldn't trade his wife for a hundred horny hotties, or even one Debbie Gibson. At least, that's what he should be saying if he doesn't want to spend the night on the couch.
Which brings us to the part all you perverts have been waiting for. SEX! SEX! SEX! Some reviewers have voiced displeasure about questionable content in a few of my MOCs. Yes, I do know that children visit this site, and no, it has never been done expressly to offend anyone. I don't believe I have ever done anything disgustingly graphic or explicit; on the few occasions I felt the need to insert some adult content, I tried to handle it in a subtle or, failing that, at least a playful fashion.
Are the sex scenes absolutely essential to the plot? No, but it wouldn't have been the same if the girls had distracted Ocean with milk and cookies. And it's not as if I fashioned a little Lego penis for him to stick in one of the holes on the back of the girls' legs -- that would cross the line from being a bit risqué, to being wantonly vulgar. Obviously there will be disagreement over exactly where that line should be drawn. It is my personal belief that a pantomimed sex act between Lego minifigures should be no more traumatizing to a child than the countless depictions of bloody violence in Lego form that can be found everywhere on MOCpages and other sites.
The decision to "censor" certain images with the black bar was made at the last minute. I waffled for a bit -- in blacking out those parts, was I calling more attention to the material in question, making it that much more in-your-face? In the end I added the bars because, in my opinion, it was funnier. I was censoring naughty bits, as I believe the Brits call them, that the minifigs don't technically possess!
I tried in this shot to have the aquarium block out the offending region of a pantsless Ocean, but I thought it also blocked out too much of his legs to work.
"...he's got the wizards on his side for sure."
"Damn! He'll have magic! That hurts, Zaius."
The smile on SigYoung's face should have been photoshopped out for this scene. I tried to change the smiley expressions in every picture where one was blatantly incongruous, and missed this one. More importantly, Zaius is missing his handheld time machine in this whole sequence. Ever since the Chronos Project, he's supposed to carry it around everywhere -- you never know when you might need it in a pinch. I can't believe I forgot it here. In fact, this probably isn't even Zaius. I might have grabbed one of his stunt doubles instead, which would better explain it.
"And wipe those smiles off your faces!"
While I was going through the pics and photoshopping out smiles on the Shannons, I got to the spacemen here. That's a lot of smiles to erase, I thought. Laziness, and an opportunity for silly Lego humor won the day. My spacemen date from a time when a perpetual smile was the only expression a minifig ever had -- it seemed only natural that they would have no choice but to wear it, no matter what they were feeling inside.
The "beaming" effect and the wizards materializing turned out pretty well, especially since as far as Photoshop effects go, I was totally flying by the seat of my pants, experimenting and making it up as I went along. This was one of my biggest worries going in, that I would need the special effects to really polish this thing off, and that I would totally butcher it.
By now you all know there are plenty of sight gags and things going on in the pictures that are not alluded to in the text. I think my clumsy Photoshop work may have gotten in the way in this one. The one wizard vanishing the rack SigOcean was hanging from is probably pretty obvious, but the two disarming the Corporate Military, turning their weapons into a banana and turkey drumstick respectively, may not be as clear. This particular scene would have benefited from some slight rearranging of the figs, and some more practice adding the effects.
"...wow, he actually said 'G'day mate'..."
Nobody has brought it up, but I thought I'd explain why Ocean's dialogue doesn't sound particularly Australian. We all know Aussies talk funny. I am not fluent in Downunder slang, so to include it would have involved a great deal of research to get it accurate. That was not going to happen -- too much work on top of what I'd already committed to. Alternatively, I could have made up a bunch of crazy words like on the Simpsons ("Bullfrogs? That's a funny name! I'd have called 'em Chazwozzers!"), and peppered his speech with those. He would have become a lame caricature, and no one would have understood a word he was saying. Which might have been fine in another scenario, but there was an actual STORY here, and I wanted people to be able to follow it.
And that's more than enough of this. I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this project. I always follow the practice of building and writing to please myself -- when others like it too that's just a bonus. That being said, it's always gratifying when people comment favorably on my MOCs, and with all the time I spent on this one, the positive response was particularly satisfying. Thank you.