Our Friend, Martin
|Our Friend, Martin|
|Directed by||Rob Smiley
|Produced by||Andy Boron
|Written by||Dawn Comer (story)
Chris Simmons (story)
|Distributed by||CBS/Fox Video (VHS)
Shout! Factory (DVD/Blu-ray)
Our Friend, Martin is a 1999 animated children's educational film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American civil rights movement. Two friends travel through time, meeting Dr. King at several points during his life. It featured an all-star voice cast and was nominated for an Emmy award in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming More Than One Hour). It marks John Travolta's voice acting debut. It was the final release under the CBS/Fox Video name.
Miles (Robert Ri'chard) is a wisecracking African American boy who is an avid fan of sports, particularly baseball icon Hank Aaron, but is failing at school. His teacher Miss Clark (Susan Sarandon) threatens Miles that she will make him repeat 6th grade should his grades not improve. He and his class, including his friends, two Caucasian boys Randy (Lucas Black) and Kyle (Zachary Leigh) and a Latino girl Maria (Jessica Garcia), visit a museum, dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.. Randy and Miles explore Martin's bedroom, and are caught by the museum's curator Mrs. Peck (Whoopi Goldberg), who winds up an old watch. The boys hold Martin's baseball glove and the two are transported back to 1941 and encounter a 12-year-old Martin (Theodore Borders) playing with his friends, Sam (Adam Wylie) and Skip Dale, until their mother (Ashley Judd) arrives and reprimands her sons for integrating with the "coloreds". Martin explains to Miles and Randy that Mrs. Dale's hatred of black people stems from the fact she regards them as "different", but violence would only worsen things.
The boys then travel 3 years in time and meet a teenage Martin (Jaleel White) on a segregated train. He explains to them that blacks and whites are unable to integrate and must use separate bathrooms, restaurants and waiting rooms. They later have dinner with Martin's family and while he goes to do shut in rounds with his father (James Earl Jones), the boys travel forward 11 years and meet Martin (LeVar Burton), who by now is in his 20's and works as a minister at the church. He is holding a meeting about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, set off after Rosa Parks, a black seamstress refused to give up her seat on a bus and was put in prison for it. As a result, no black adults or children will ride the buses. Just then, Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), Martin's friend alerts him his house has been bombed. He races home, but fortunately his wife Coretta Scott King and newborn daughter Yolanda escape unharmed.
Turner announces that in retaliation, they will attack the perpetrators with bricks, guns, Molotov cocktails and knives, but Martin stops him, reminding the crowd of Gandhi peacefully standing his ground to exile the British colonies from India and of Jesus teaching love for his enemies. Miles and Randy then travel to the Birmingham riot of 1963 and witness demonstrators squirt black protesters with hoses and set German Shepherds on them. The boys are later transported back to the museum and join their class back at school. The following day, Miles and Randy tell Miss Clark about the events prior to Martin's work and later the class watch a VHS tape of Martin's work. After the class leaves, Maria and Kyle decide to investigate for themselves how Randy and Miles got the information. When the boys arrive at the museum, Mrs. Peck lets them stay but warns them that when one messes with the past, this can affect the present.
Maria and Kyle follow the two boys in and catch them in Martin's bedroom. The four children are then transported to the March on Washington Movement and meets Martin who is in his 30's (Dexter Scott King) and a young Miss Clark, who at this time is a member of the movement and not yet married. When they return, Miles discovers that Martin was murdered. The children travel back to 1941 and bring the 12-year-old Martin back to the present. When they return only Miles and Martin return together and the present is different such as the museum not existing, Randy and Kyle are racists and and no longer Miles' friends or know him, Maria works as a maid and can't speak English, his high school is segregated and named after Robert E. Lee and he and his mother (Angela Bassett) live in poverty, as she no longer has her own business. Martin and Miles figure out that because Martin left his time it alter the future where his civil rights work never happened. Miles realizes the error of his ways and must sacrifice his plans to rescue Martin. Miles bids a tearful farewell, but he realizes he still has Martin's watch and begs for him to come out of his house. Martin returns to his time, where he is shot and killed at his hotel. This results in the present reverting to normal and Miles receives an A+ on his history test, allowing him to progress to 7th grade. He and his friends then vow to continue Martin's work. At the end of the film, Mrs. Peck closes the door to Martin's bedroom as the credits roll.
While the film was released on VHS, and with co-distribution rights with CBS/Fox Video (which in turn was also distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and CBS), the film was also distributed by DiC Entertainment. Andy Heyward, Michael Maliani, and Robby London assumed the position to producing the series, and making a deal with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment & CBS/Fox Video to distribute the series.
Miles Woodman- A carefree, wise cracking 12-year-old, African-American baseball fan who is having trouble in school. His teacher Mrs. Clark is threatening to make him repeat 6th grade if he doesn't start raising up his grade for history..
Randy Smith- A 12-year-old Caucasian skater boy, who talks with a Dixie accent. Miles's best friend, buddy, and partner in his adventures through time. In the alternate timeline, he and Kyle are best buds and pick on black kids like Miles and admire Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini as their rulers of the world.
Maria Ramirez (although on Mrs. Clark's computer her last name is Alverez)- A very intelligent 10-year-old Hispanic girl (she said she skipped two grades) who is a little bit of a snob, but is the first to realize that even though they are different, she, Miles, Randy and Kyle can all be friends. In the alternate timeline, she is unable to speak English and works as a maid, scrubbing the floors of the school. The principal comments on her and the other Hispanic maid, saying that "their kind" are lazy enough without being bothered.
Kyle Langon- A Caucasian 13-year-old bully of the story, but later a friend of Miles, Randy and Maria. He often wears shirts that are small that exposes to his belly button, and tear easily. In the alternate timeline, he is a racist bully to black kids and is best friends with Randy. He get his "lousy" attitude from his dad. By accidentally getting grabbed into one of the time travel adventures, he sees firsthand the effects of bigotry and resolves to turn over a new leaf.
- Robert Ri'chard - Miles Woodman
- Lucas Black - Randy Smith
- Jessica Garcia - Maria Ramirez
- Zachary Leigh - Kyle Langon
- Ed Asner - Mr. Harris
- Angela Bassett - Mrs. Woodman
- Theodore Borders - Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 12
- LeVar Burton - Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 26
- Danny Glover - Train Conductor
- Whoopi Goldberg - Mrs. Peck
- Samuel L. Jackson - Turner
- James Earl Jones - Daddy King
- Ashley Judd - Mrs. Dale
- Richard Kind - Mr. Willis
- Dexter King - Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 34
- Yolanda King - Christine King
- Susan Sarandon - Mrs. Clark
- John Travolta - Mr. Langon
- Jaleel White - Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 15
- Adam Wylie - Sam Dale
- Oprah Winfrey - Coretta Scott King
- Frank Welker - Bull Connor/Chihuahua
- Nicole Palacio - Parker Marie
- Jess Harnell - Reporter #1/Demonstrator #1
- Joe Lala - Reporter #2/Demonstrator #2
- John Wesley - Man/Demonstrator #3
- Elizabeth Primm - Old Woman/Demonstrator #4
- H.P Shimono - Additional Voice