The Pagemaster

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The Pagemaster
Pagemasterthe.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joe Johnston (live action)
Pixote Hunt (animation)
Produced by David Kirschner
Paul Gertz
Screenplay by David Casci
David Kirschner
Ernie Contreras
Story by David Kirschner
David Casci
Starring Macaulay Culkin
Christopher Lloyd
Ed Begley, Jr.
Mel Harris
Voices:
Patrick Stewart
Whoopi Goldberg
Frank Welker
Leonard Nimoy
George Hearn
Phil Hartman
Jim Cummings
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Alexander Gruszynski (live-action)
Edited by Kaja Fehr (live-action)
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(USA & Canada)
Turner Pictures
(International and Worldwide television)
Warner Bros.
(Current international and worldwide television rights holder)
Release dates
November 23, 1994 (1994-11-23)
Running time
76 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million
Box office $13,670,688

The Pagemaster is a 1994 American live-action/animated fantasy adventure film starring Macaulay Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonard Nimoy and Frank Welker. The film was produced by Turner Pictures and released by 20th Century Fox on November 23, 1994.

The film was written for the screen by David Casci,[1] based on a 6-page pitch by writer Charles Pogue entitled "Library Days," presented to Casci by producer David Kirschner. The film was directed by Joe Johnston (live action) and Pixote Hunt and Glenn Chaika (animation), and produced by David Kirschner and Paul Gertz. The film received negative reviews and bombed at the box office, but sold well on home video.

Plot[edit]

Pessimistic Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) lives life based on statistics and fears everything. His exasperated parents (Ed Begley, Jr. and Mel Harris) have tried multiple ways to build up the courage of their son, but to little success. Richard is sent to buy a bag of nails for building a treehouse. However, Richard gets caught in a harsh thunderstorm and takes shelter in a library. He meets Mr. Dewey (Christopher Lloyd), an eccentric librarian who gives him a library card, despite Richard's protests he doesn't want a book, since he's only there to escape the storm. Searching for a phone, Richard finds a large rotunda painted with famous characters. He slips on some water dripping from his coat and falls down, knocking himself out. Richard awakens to find the rotunda art melting, which washes over him and the library, turning them into illustrations.

He is met by the Pagemaster, who sends him through the fiction section to find the library's exit. Along the way, Richard befriends three anthropomorphic books: Adventure (Patrick Stewart), a swashbuckling pirate-like book; Fantasy (Whoopi Goldberg), a sassy but caring fairy tale book; and Horror (Frank Welker), a fearful "Hunchbook" with a misshapen spine. The three agree to help Richard if he checks them out. Together, the quartet encounter classic-fictional characters. They meet Dr. Jekyll (Leonard Nimoy) who turns into Mr. Hyde, driving them to the open waters of the Land of Adventure. However, the group's separated after Moby Dick attacks. Richard and Adventure are picked up by the Hispaniola, captained by Long John Silver (Jim Cummings). The pirates go to Treasure Island, but find no treasure, nearly causing a mutiny. Fantasy and Horror return and defeat the pirates. Silver attempts taking Richard with him, but surrenders when Richard threatens him with a sword. Adventure insults Horror, causing the hunchbook to get captured by Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels. Adventure saves him and they make up.

In the fantasy section, Richard sees the exit sign on the top of a mountain. However, Adventure's bumbling awakens a dormant dragon. Richard tries to fight the dragon with a sword and shield, but the dragon swallows him. Richard finds books in the dragon's stomach and uses a beanstalk to escape; he and the books use it to reach the exit. They enter a large dark room where the Pagemaster awaits them. Richard berates the Pagemaster for the horrors he has suffered, but the Pagemaster reveals the journey was intended to make Richard face his fears. Dr. Jekyll, Captain Ahab, Long John Silver and the dragon reappear in a magical twister congratulating him. The Pagemaster then sucks Richard and the books into the twister, sending them back to the real world.

Richard awakens, finding Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror next to him as real books. Mr. Dewey finds him, and, even though the library policy only allows a person to check out two books at time, lets him check out all three books "just this once". When Richard leaves, Mr. Dewey gives a smile, hinting that Richard's entire adventure was not a dream and that he is the Pagemaster; adding onto this possibility is that Richard was missing his jacket when he awoke. Richard returns home a braver kid, sleeping in his new treehouse. Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror appear as silhouettes on a wall. Adventure says a kiss would make the ending good, yelling in anger when Horror does so instead of Fantasy.

Cast[edit]

Live-action[edit]

  • Macaulay Culkin as Richard Tyler: A young 9-year-old boy who seems to have fear of everything and runs his life based on safety statistics. Culkin is the only actor in the film to portray his character in both live-action and animation.
  • Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Dewey: The eccentric librarian and caretaker of a seemingly abandoned library.
  • Ed Begley, Jr. and Mel Harris as Alan and Claire Tyler: Richard's supportive parents. Alan considers himself a bad father due to his continuous failed attempts to help Richard get over his fears.

Voice cast[edit]

Controversy[edit]

The screenwriting credits for this film were the subject of a protracted legal arbitration with the Writers Guild of America (WGA)[2][3] when its producer, David Kirschner, attempted to claim sole authorship of the screenplay and original story, with no credit for its original screenwriter, David Casci. Typically, proposed credits are submitted to the WGA for approval well in advance of the release of a movie or the publishing of posters or novelizations on which writing credits appear. In the case of The Pagemaster, the producers attempted to claim that, as the film was now largely animated, the WGA did not have jurisdiction to determine credits. Casci had written the screenplay under a WGA contract, as well as previous live-action versions for Disney Television dating back to 1985, also written under WGA contract. These facts positioned the WGA to get involved, testing their tenuous authority over a feature film with animated elements.

After lengthy investigation and interviews with those intimately familiar with the genesis of the Pagemaster project, including three persons within Kirschner's own office, the WGA credit arbitration process determined that David Casci was, in fact, the primary writer, and that Mr. Kirschner did not provide a sufficient creative contribution to the writing process to warrant any screenwriting credit. Upon receiving this determination by the WGA, Fox threatened to pull out of arbitration and release the film without WGA-approved credits, positioning the WGA to be forced to file an injunction blocking the film's heavily promoted Christmas season release.

Ultimately, a settlement was reached, and Fox released the film with both Kirschner and Casci receiving story and screenplay credit, with a third writer, Ernie Contreras, also receiving screenplay credit.

At the time, this case was the most expensive and extensive investigation of its type undertaken by the WGA on behalf of one of its members.

Production notes[edit]

The Pagemaster took three years to produce; the animation in the film was produced by Turner Feature Animation, headed by David Kirschner and recently spun off from Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. The crew included animators who were veterans of productions such as An American Tail (also produced by David Kirschner), The Land Before Time and Aladdin.[4] This was one of the first films to feature live-action, traditional animation, and CGI animation all together. One scene involving a computer generated dragon made from paint was used, a challenge for the filmmakers. All of the fictional works featured in the film were created and first published before January 1, 1923, making them a part of the public domain in most countries. The theme songs to the movie are "Dream Away", sung by Babyface and Lisa Stansfield; the other, "Whatever You Imagine", sung by Wendy Moten.

Many of the cast members have had roles in the Star Trek franchise: Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Whoopi Goldberg played Guinan, Leonard Nimoy played Mr. Spock, Christopher Lloyd played Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Ed Begley, Jr. played Henry Starling in a two-part episode of Star Trek: Voyager, George Hearn played Dr. Berel in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and B.J. Ward played numerous characters in Star Trek computer games, as did Jim Cummings. Composer James Horner was also the composer for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Frank Welker voiced Spock's screams in Star Trek III and the alien creature in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Nothing Human". Robert Picardo played The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager.

Additionally both Nimoy and Welker voiced the character Galvatron in Transformers (with Nimoy voicing him in the 1986 film and Welker voicing him in the television series and again in Transformers: Age of Extinction).

Promotional advertisements for this film used the theme from the 1984 film The Last Starfighter.

Casci's original screenplay included a story arc for the protagonist, Richard Tyler (played by Macaulay Culkin), who begins the tale as a boy who hates reading, but by the end of the film, learns to love reading. The revised screenplay by Contreras and Kirschner omitted the reading-themed story arc, instead emphasizing the boy's journey from cowardice to courage.

According to the film's animation crew, the film went over budget during animation production due to mismanagement and changes to the narrative.[citation needed] The 2001 book Producing Animation by Catherine Winder and Zahra Dowlatbadi (Johnston's assistant on The Pagemaster) recommends against making story changes during the animation process.

Fantasy and Long John Silver are voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Cummings. Both had starred a role (along with Cheech Marin) in The Lion King as three troublesome hyenas.

Reception and release[edit]

The film grossed $13,670,688 in theaters,[5] making it a box office bomb, from its $27 million[6] budget. Film merchandise was sold, bendable figures and soft toys of the main characters, t-shirts, and a Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and SNES game of the same title as well as a PC game. A behind-the-scenes documentary was produced, hosted by Christopher Lloyd playing his character of Mr. Dewey. The film was released on VHS and LaserDisc worldwide on April 4, 1995 (by Fox Video; internationally by Turner Home Entertainment or Columbia TriStar Home Video). The Pagemaster earned a Razzie Award nomination for Macaulay Culkin as Worst Actor for his performance in the movie (also for Getting Even with Dad and Richie Rich) but lost the award to Kevin Costner for Wyatt Earp.

The Pagemaster received negative reviews. The film holds an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.[7] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the way the film's message came across, calling it a "sad and dreary film," adding that its message seemed to be that "books can be almost as much fun as TV cartoons and video arcade games."[8] Brian Lowry of Variety said that the film's principal appeal for adults would be its abbreviated running time, and that it did not do enough with its famous fictional characters, although he noted that, "A more inspired moment has Richard using a book, 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' to escape from the belly of a dragon. Unfortunately, such moments are few and far between."[9] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post, however, gave the film a positive review, calling it a "splendidly original children's fantasy about the world of books." [10] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave another positive review, calling it a "clever, often engaging, and always fast-paced motion picture" that "uses the visual medium to encourage its viewers to reach out with their imagination."

Book adaptations[edit]

Contrary to any claims, the screenplay and film are not based on any book. David Casci's screenplay preceded all novelizations and illustrated books by several years.

A number of books based on the film exist, including an illustrated book attributed to David Kirschner and Ernie Contreras, illustrated by Jerry Tiritilli, which contained large passages from the Casci screenplay without giving Casci writing credit. The film was well into production by the time this book was introduced in the 1993 F. A. O. Schwarz Christmas Catalog. Other properties based on the film include children's story books, pop-up books and other film ancillaries such as toys and games.

In 1995, David Kirschner's novel version of The Pagemaster won the Books I Love Best Yearly: Younger Readers Award in Australia (see bottom of page).

Video game[edit]

In the same year that the film was released, a video game version of the movie came out. It was developed by Probe Software Ltd. and published by Fox Interactive.

Literary allusions[edit]

There are several smaller allusions to poems, books, and rhymes in the movie in addition to the more obvious ones:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rainer, Peter (1994-11-23). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Pagemaster' a Live-Action Adventure in World of Books". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 
  2. ^ WGAw official case # 94SR002
  3. ^ Snow, Shauna (1997-12-13). "Morning Report". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 
  4. ^ The Making of The Pagemaster
  5. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=pagemaster.htm
  6. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110763/#titleDetails
  7. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pagemaster/
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Pagemaster." RogerEbert.com. 23 November 1994. 9 September 2014.
  9. ^ Lowry, Brian (1994-11-21). "The Pagemaster". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  10. ^ "The Pagemaster". Washington Post. 1994-11-23. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 

External links[edit]