Ernie Fosselius

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Ernie Fosselius
Ernie Fosselius Star Wars.JPG
Fosselius in 2010
Born 1945 (age 72–73)
San Francisco, California, United States
Occupation Artist, Satirist, Filmmaker, Director, Writer, Editor, Performer
Years active 1970s–present

Ernie Fosselius (born 1945) is an American artist, satirist, filmmaker, writer, editor, performer. He is best known for his satirical spoofs of popular films, including the Star Wars parody Hardware Wars.

Film career[edit]

Fosselius' film career began in the early 1970s when he co-created 20 original animated counting films for Sesame Street.[1][2]

Fosselius is known for his satirical short films. The first appeared in 1976 in Mother's Little Network,[3] a Pythonesque sketch comedy show for WGBH-TV in Boston, among the shorts were The Hindenburger,[4] in which a flying cheeseburger burst into flames over New Jersey while a radio announcer (voiced by Fosselius) emotionally sobbed: "Oh, the humanity, Oh, the cheese!" And a short featuring a yellow cab filled with several talking stuffed animals called "Taxidermist".

Porklips Now was a send-up of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now which starred Billy Gray of TV's Father Knows Best.

Fosselius was hired by Universal Studios to develop comedy screenplays. After working for many months on an original script entitled Two Guys from Space, the studio pulled the plug on the project but offered him the directing job on Pee-wee's Big Adventure as a consolation. Fosselius passed on it and went back to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where he made his living as a sound effects and foley editor on many feature films including Ed Wood, Serial Mom, "Young Einstein, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Amadeus.

Fosselius continued to write screenplays (11 scripts that never went into production, including co-writing the Zippy the Pinhead movie with cartoonist Bill Griffith) and work in post-production film editing. He stuck with the movie business writing and directing "industrial" shorts ("Lights, Camera, Accident"), and as a special effects fabricator (including work on RoboCop 2)

Ben Burtt asked Fosselius to contribute unusual voices and vocal effects to several Lucasfilm productions, such as the two pilots in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He provided the voice of Poggle the Lesser in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and voiced the sobs of the Rancor Keepers, Malakili and Giran, in Return of the Jedi. He also contributed to the music score of Return of the Jedi and is credited with co-writing the song "Lapti Nek". Additionally, he voiced the "Ack Ack"s in Mars Attacks! and was also the voice of Trantor the Troll in Ernest Scared Stupid.

Fosselius directed the Eegah episode of Cinema Insomnia with Mr. Lobo and, staying true to his directing technique, also created many of the props. In 2009, Fosselius created a satirical "tribute" to Ed Wood with his short film, Plan 9.1 from Outer Space, which featured hand-carved wooden caricature puppets of the actors in Ed Wood's film, Plan 9 from Outer Space.[5] The puppets lip synched the edited soundtrack of the original film.

Hardware Wars[edit]

Fosselius' biggest hit was his 1978 parody Hardware Wars,[4] a 26-minute satire of Hollywood coming attractions that took on the cultural juggernaut that was Star Wars.

Complete with cardboard sets and intentionally visible wires holding up ships which were various household appliances, the film was shot over 4 days with a budget of around $8,000. When released, the film became a hit on its own, reputedly grossing an estimated three million dollars over its lifetime (but the true amount is not known), making it one of the most popular and profitable short films of all time, but Fosselius netted very little of that profit.

In later years, George Lucas called it his favorite Star Wars parody. Fosselius was "honored" by Lucasfilm when Hardware Wars was given the Pioneer Award at the 2003 Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. Fosselius felt that this fan-film designation was a re-categorization of his spoof that wiped out the original intention of the film as a satire.

Inspite of Ernie's strenuous objections, a completely unauthorized digitally “enhanced” version of Hardware Wars was released in 1997, hijacking the original satirical intention of the original movie. Ernie tried to stop the release (which was a violation of copyright) by insisting on a sticker to be attached to every cassette. “Not authorized –at all – by Ernie Fosselius”. This never happened. In Fosselius’ opinion: “The unauthorized digital pirate version was an atrocity. First of all, the original film sold maybe a million copies so clearly the fans liked it just the way it was. If it ain’t broke, why “fix” it? So why digitize it when it’s a satire of digital films? A lot of time, thought, effort and artistic intention went into creating a world on film which was the polar opposite of the hi-tech futuristic world it was satirizing. The cheesier - the funnier by comparison. To try to seriously imitate that world, not starting from scratch, but by defacing and abusing the award winning, fan-pleasing parody film and its audio and visual art, is an abomination, alienating loyal fans – and copyright infringement.” The resulting “atrocity” which destroyed E’s artistic and comedic vision, the destruction of his artwork and design and direction, cost Ernie the credibility of countless fans of HW and the suspicion that he did it for profit, but no money was ever received.

"Hardware Wars" was finally released on DVD in its original form in 2002. Fosselius worked on restoring the original stereo soundtrack, adding additional material and original outtakes, and recording a director's commentary that itself was satirical, poking fun at similarly self-indulgent tracks. However, Fosselius reportedly flummoxed the technicians who performed the telecine transfer and who made attempts to digitally remove the strings and wires and clean up the print, not realizing that the "defects" in the original were put there on purpose.[citation needed] Fosselius later teamed up with Jonathan Morkin's Apprehensive Films to release a 30th-anniversary DVD.

Fosselius compiled a small commemorative book, "The Making of Hardware Wars," a nostalgic look back at low-budget, old school, analog film making. It told the inside history of his short film in rare candid behind-the-scenes photos, fun facts and stories, including a section on how it was done, and who was involved in making it.

The latest Star Wars film, "The Last Jedi", features a brief but unmistakable tribute to "Hardware Wars": a ship - looking exactly like the vintage steam irons of Hardware Wars - flies into frame shooting jets of steam and lands, resolving into an actual iron. The director states "It was no con-incidence".

Musical career[edit]

Fosselius played with an acoustic folk music band at San Francisco State College. In the mid-sixties Fosselius co-founded and performed with the San Francisco "folk rock" band Earth Mother and the Final Solution. Later he co-founded the band The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, for whom he wrote the song "Hipsters on Parade". He performed a one-man band in the mid-seventies in San Francisco's Cannery, as a street musician.

Other works[edit]

Fosselius has continued with a lifetime obsessive character wood carving. The mechanically animated carved caricatures and automata were displayed in traveling galleries called the "Marvelous Mechalodeon" and the "Crankabout Mechanical Theater", at venues such as "Maker Faire" both entirely human powered exhibit.[2][6][7] Fosselius created a special multiple caricature puppet of the band "The Heavenly States" which stood in for the group in their 2005 music video for the song "Car Wash." Still photographs of these caricatures are in this flickr album.

Fosselius is a lifelong puppeteer ("Puppephobia!") who carves his own satirical caricature puppets and performs on the street, in adult "puppet slam" venues and with the appropriate puppets and themes, for elders and children. After a lifetime of his work in television, film and video he now prefers this more direct form of self-expression, which he calls "Live, 3-D, Animation" exclusively.

Today Fosselius also continues his work as a satirical writer and cartoonist and has self-published several books: "Ernie Goes To Playland", an illustrated story of his childhood terror of amusement parks, "The Hollywood Gift Catalog," useful items to survive the Film Biz. "Grandpa Floyd's Workshop", a revival of his collected 1970's syndicated cartoon strips. The timely "Grandpa Floyd's Post-Apocalyptic Survival Manual", "Invasion of the Mind Snatchers", "Komikon Sketchbook" and The Great Pseudini's Big Book of Magic". More are on the works. He also performs a comedy magic act for children and a comedy act for seniors: "Dr. Placebo's". Laughter is the best medicine."


  1. ^ "Ernie Fosselius Biography". Archived from the original on January 30, 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Artist: Ernie Fosselius - from Renga Arts". Renga Arts. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "NTW Mother's Little Network". WGBH-TV. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Bob Calhoun (21 May 2002). ""Hardware Wars": The movie, the legend, the household appliances". Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "Plan 9.1 from Outer Space (2009) - The Hunt for Edward D. Wood, Jr". Ed Wood Online. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  6. ^ David Pescovitz (14 September 2006). "Ernie Fosselius's amazing hand-whittled automata". Boing Boing. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ernie Fosselius and his Mechalodeon". Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 

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