Monday, September 04, 2006

Full Circle...An Essay on Perserverance and William Shatner!

Here's a neat story that kind of brings me full circle in my career. There's a bit of a lengthy set-up to this story so please bear with me.

During my first real animation job as a junior Prop Designer at Nelvana on the 1994-1995 season on 'Eek! the Cat', William Shatner did a guest voice playing himself. The character was named " Commander Bzerk " but it was basically William Shatner Spoofing Capt. Kirk from STAR TREK.

When William Shatner agreed to do Commander Bzerk's voice, he said he would only do it IF he could approve the design of his character. This is usually unheard of as 'Eek!' would regularily have celebrity guests, but usually our Senior Designer would just design the character, get the Director to approve it, and then that would be it! However, Shatner wanted full approval so he asked our whole Design team to take a stab at designing Commander Bzerk! Usually we have just one Character Design artist per show, but our Producer, on Shatner's insistance, had us all take a stab at designing 'Bzerk'. It sounded fun. But as the newly-hired, low man on the totem pole, I knew my design would not be any match for the powerhouse Designer's we had on the team. I KNEW that in order to win, my design would have to have some sort of personal connection to Shatner's life or career in order to stick in his head long enough for him to pick it.

So, being a Star Trek fan, I dug out and re-read a few books I had on Shatner and Star Trek. In one Star Trek book I had found at a garage sale as a kid, I discovered that when Shatner was very young and going to acting school in Ottawa, he was so poor all he could afford was the fruit salad from a department store in Ottawa called "Kresge's". Kresge's was a chain of department stores in Canada that had a diner in the center of the store so you could shop and have lunch. 'Kresge's' turned into 'WoolWorth's' in the early 1970's, then to 'Woolco' in the late 70's, then it became what we all know as 'Walmart'. Apparently Shatner was so poor, he ate this fruit salad everyday for like 4 years and if he " ever see's that damn Kresge's fruit salad ever again I get a violent reaction!".

*NOTE: (For Star Trek fans, the actual book I am referring to is called " Making Star Trek" by Stephen E. Whitfield. It is regarded as one of the most important Star Trek books ever written, and this piece of info about Shatner appears on page 219!)

THAT WAS IT!! That was the 'thing' I needed to incorporate into my design!! THAT WAS THE LITTLE PIECE OF INFO THAT WOULD SET MINE APART! I had never seen that info on Shatner ever printed anywhere again! How many people besides me and William Shatner would even KNOW THIS?! I knew I would not win on the strength of my design alone, but my design along with this personal-piece of info, IT HAD TO WORK!!

The next day, the whole design team got together to view all the designs....I had worked all night perfecting my 'secret weapon'. It was Commander Bzerk holding a plate with a sign in it reading: KRESGE'S FRUIT SALAD! When we laid them all out to view, one of my best friends on the crew, Steve Daye (a helluva Designer in his own right), saw mine and asked what " Kresge's fruit salad" meant. I bullshitted some sort of an answer to him, but he knew me better. He knew it was some sort of a ploy. Before we faxed all the designs to Shatner's people I remember Steve saying " Damn him....Darin's up to something sneaky...and knowing him it will work!"


The next day we recieved a fax from Shatner's people that read:

"Mr. Shatner likes the design with the fruit salad!"

IT WORKED!...and Steve didn't talk to me for a week!

I tried with the help of our Producer to get the design autographed by Shatner but no such luck. He was on to bigger and better things. Even when I found out that Mr. Shatner was the Guest Speaker at my 1999 Sheridan Animation Graduation ceremony I tried to get the design signed, but AGAIN no luck. For 12 years I have had this fax and Design of 'Commander Bzerk' sitting around gathering dust in my portfolio...until now... fast forward to present day. 12 years later...Sunday Sept.3rd 2006. Toronto Fan Expo and the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek. William Shatner and Leaonard Nimoy are both showing up to sign autographs for fans...



Blogger Smook said...

Nerd, and now you made Kevin a nerd too.

Why didn't you ask me to go? HUH?

6:47 PM  
Blogger Steve Daye said...

Hahahaha! That's awesome! You really are a nerd and if I recall, I didn't talk to you for two weeks!! Great story Cub!

7:55 PM  
Blogger Zoinks Scoob said...

Great account! Good to know someone else remembers the "fruit salad" story.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Crunchysock said...

That's awesome that you know about the fruit salad too. I was just talking about it with a Trekkie friend of mine and he'd never heard about it. I remember the book (I collected tons of Star Trek books as a kid) I think the cover was silverish, right? Anyway, I googled "William Shatner" and "fruit salad" and yours was my first hit.

5:49 PM  

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