Christmas came early for me this year.
Way back in March, Amanda and I were visiting my in-laws in Pasadena, California. My brother-in-law Russ McGregor took me to Burbank to have lunch with Bret and Bart Mixon and Greg Jein.Greg Jein is one of the greatest movie miniature builders ever. His CLOSE ENCOUNTERS “Mothership” is in one of the Smithsonian facilities now, and he’s done amazing precision work in many, many films, most recently INTERSTELLAR. He’s been called a “Miniature Giant” and has earned an Oscar nomination.
Another facet of Greg is that he is a serious collector who began amassing movie props in the 70s. This was before eBay, before Planet Hollywood, before prop-collecting was widespread. Back then, props were considered by the movie studios to be stuff that took up space and cost money to store. Some props Greg acquired at auctions, some things he was given by friends, other things he rescued from dumpsters. He had the “stunt double” of the LOST IN SPACE Robot, along with the plaster molds for making all its rubber parts. He owns Phasers and Communicators from the original STAR TREK TV series. He has literally tons of cool stuff in several mini-warehouses.
The Mixon brothers and I have been friends with Greg Jein since the late 1970s, when he came to Houston as a convention guest. The Mixons and I have visited him several times since then. Greg once snuck us into a miniature shoot on the movie 1941, and Steven Spielberg had us thrown out. Another time he allowed us to help his crew cutting and lensing fiber optic strands for the “V’Ger” ship for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. Bart and Bret eventually moved to Hollywood and got into the movie business, and I kept my day job In Houston with Gulf/Chevron.
Back to March: We were having lunch at an Italian place near Creature Features in Burbank. For a number of reasons, Greg was clearing out about 80% of his collection. He asked me if there was anything I’d like to have. Restraining myself, I said I’d love to have the little FIREFOX airplane mockups he’d made for Clint Eastwood, or anything from SILENT RUNNING, which Greg knows to be my favorite film. I told him we’d negotiate a price depending on what he found. He grinned slightly, and asked “Do you still live at the same address?”
Months and months go by. At one point, Bret called me and said he’d bumped into Greg, who’d said “I think I’ve found something Tom will really like.” Bret reminded me that Greg works at his own pace, but that something will eventually show up.
Two weeks before Christmas, the doorbell rings, announcing packages on the front porch. We’ve been ordering Christmas gifts and were expecting stuff from Target and Amazon. But one box was different. It had Greg Jein’s return address on it!
I open the box and I see… objects wrapped in bubble wrap. At first I thought they were two fighter ships from the “V” TV series, which Greg made. Removing the bubble wrap, I immediately knew what they in fact were: A PAIR OF DRONE FEET FROM SILENT RUNNING. Not the external foot shells from the robots, but the internal aluminum frames that enabled the actors to walk on their hands wearing a 20-pound robot suit!
Designed to keep the fingers relaxed and to put all the performers’ weight on their palms, these frames are wonders of engineering and ergonomics. Heavily padded for the palm, they include a sort of fingerless rubber glove to keep them on the performer’s hand.Unwrapping these items was a very emotional experience, and I’m still in a daze that I have these things. There were three pairs of these made for SILENT RUNNING and now I have one of those pairs!
And thanks to the encouragement of my wife Amanda, I am now in touch with Paul Kraus and Jim Dow, who built the Drone robots for the film, and Cheryl Sparks, who actually WORE a Drone suit and performed as “Huey” in the movie with Bruce Dern. I’m sure to learn a lot more about these feet from them.
When I told him about this, Paul Kraus joked “It’s good to know the feet are in good hands.” Bret Mixon quipped “The best SILENT RUNNING collectibles, hands-down.”
Life is crazy, life is good.
I’m almost happy with the site’s basic appearance now.
There is still plenty of work to do. For one thing, I’ve got to compose a huge update for what’s gone on in the last year or so…and what’s going on now.
In the meantime, here’s a link to my Facebook album of Louie’s Leg progress, that probably should have been posted here: Louie’s Leg Album
The pictures show the master forms that will be vacu-formed to create the LOUIE’S LEG kit! This life-sized prop replica will be the leg of Louie, one of the “Drone” robots from the movie SILENT RUNNING (my favorite film). Mark Dowman has researched promotional stills and framegrabs from the film, and cross-checked against some dimensions we were confident of, like an actual Drone headlight from the 70s (no longer available). Mark then drew the most accurate plans ever created, and I made the master parts from MDF.
In the film, the Space Freighter VALLEY FORGE unintentionally “shoots the rapids,” drifting through the rings of Saturn, putting the Drones in jeopardy. Louie the Drone gets his foot caught in a grating and, unable to get to safety, is knocked off the ship by a large ice crystal. Later, Bruce Dern’s character “Freeman Lowell” notices that the other two Drones, Huey and Dewey, have stopped their maintenance routines. A space-suited Lowell goes outside to check on them. He finds them sitting, staring at Louie’s leg. He pulls the leg out of the grating, warns the Drones not to get careless, and tells them to get back to work.
The full-sized leg as shown will stand approximately 12” tall, and be vacuformed styrene, just like the originals.
In the next couple of weeks, I should have the first test shots. I have a little tweaking to do with these parts before I can take them to the plastics shop. We’ll keep you posted!
Time for an appearance overhaul. New theme installed, since the old one was just drab and dark. It’s a mess right now, but will be much better soon.
Well, buckaroos, the negotiations begun at Monsterpalooza in April just did not pan out. I was enthused about the project, the person who was the subject of the kit was enthused, I had a sculptor and an illustrator warming up in the bullpen, but the person’s lawyer and manager made the licensing agreement something beyond my little company’s capabilities. Heck, I think Mattel or Kenner would be hard-pressed to live by the arrangement I was offered.
I do want to sincerely thank my friend George Stephenson for his support and sage counsel during the negotiations. Check out his incredible kits and busts at Black Heart Enterprises. George, I still owe you that steak dinner!
Which brings us to our first non-vaporware product, a licensed Strat-O-Blaster 5000 from the upcoming Bill Hughes movie MATT MERCURY AND THE PLOT OF THE GALACTIC MASTERMIND! Facebook link for the Matt Mercury Movie.
The Strat-O-Blaster 5000 kits are castings made from one of the original screen-used hero props. Castings are by Acme Design, Inc. Very little assembly required. Easily painted to look just like the original prop. More details soon, both about the blaster and the movie!
And this is only the beginning of the MATT MERCURY merchandising. Stay tuned, friends!
Back from a productive meeting at Burbank’s Monsterpalooza, and some great things are in the works!
I’ve reworked some of the text on the “About” and “Why” pages and added some links in the text. I just added two images to the “Projects” page. And I changed the background color. It’ll probably change again soon.
This is the beginning of my blog, where I will share news about things I’m working on for Bronson Canyon Creations and myself.
I have some awesome ideas for the company and some very interesting personal projects I’m working on. I’ll be vague about both topics for today, but some very cool stuff is coming.
Stick around, it’ll be worth the wait.