Goin’ Hollywood

As you may or may not know, Gil’s All Fright Diner was optioned by Dreamworks Animation for a possible movie adaptation, and now the creative story team behind Kung Fu Panda has been given the go ahead to do their thing.  This is fantastic news.

I’m really jazzed about this, gang.  While I think Dreamworks Animation has always been tops in the quality of their animation, it was really with Kung Fu Panda that I think they hit their stride.  I absolutely loved Kung Fu Panda, every bit as much as Pixar’s Wall-E.  I don’t know if Panda topples The Incredibles as my favorite movie ever, but it is still a fantastic, beautiful, wonderful film that deserves more respect than it generally gets.  And often lost amid the funny animal characters, the wild kung fu action, and physical comedy, there’s a great story there that a lot of people miss.  Great characters, terrific story arcs, and subtleties that any writer should be proud of.  So I couldn’t be happier that anyone associated with Dreamworks in general or this fine film in particular are associated with a Gil’s movie project.

Obviously, Dreamworks won’t be going R on this.  And I’m cool with that.  It’s true that Gil’s has swearing in it.  And violence.  And sex.  But these elements don’t define Gil’s for me.  I never imagine Gil’s as a gruesome place to visit.  And the sex is so mild that an article in the Chicago newspaper detailing all the lurid “controversy” over the book reprinted the most graphic scene word for word.  The swearing is part of Earl’s character, but there are ways of showing a character is cranky without having them curse every other sentence.

Does it sound like I’m compromising?  Depends on how you look at it.

Frankly, while I have nothing against swearing, violence, or sex in cinema, I also realize that most of my sensibilities as a writer are better for animation than live action.  Gil’s is a weird horror fantasy novel about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, and monster gods.  In the Company of Ogres is all about fantastic characters like ogres, goblins, and demons.  Too Many Curses has nary an ordinary human in it.  The Automatic Detective is about a hulking seven foot robot who fights mutant mob bosses and giant slime monsters in a city of the retro-future.  I like monsters and weirdness and when you get a lot of that stacked on top of itself, after a while, the movie audience will be turned off.

Unless you go animated.  You can do almost anything animated and if it’s good, the audience will play along.  Just check out Up, a moving story about an old man who flies his house with balloons, befriends a boyscout, goes on an adventure where he must help a strange bird escape the clutches of a mad explorer who flies a zeppelin and uses an army of talking dogs.  This would just not work live action.  It would seem bizarre, ridiculous.  But animated…it is the best film I’ve seen all year, hands down.  Touching and beautiful and absurd all at the same time.

Kung Fu Panda seems more grounded in reality to some degree, yet the kung fu element which I so love about the film circumvents all sense of realism.  Characters leap hundreds of feet in the air, punch holes in buildings, outrun gravity, and do things Jackie Chan or Jet Li could never dream of getting away with.  At least not in a thoughtful film.  And, make no mistake, Kung Fu Panda is a thoughtful, intelligent film.  One that I love from top to bottom.

Wall-E is about a robot fighting with / against other robots to save the human race from endless, mindless existence.  Toy Story is about . . . toys.  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is all about a scientist who invents a machine that makes it rain food.  Monster House is about a monster house.  All these stories are pure, unadulterated fantasy.  And that’s what I love about them.  The fact that they create likable characters and satisfying plots from the absurd only makes me love them more.

Does this mean that in the future I’ll start writing with this audience in mind?  No, probably not.  If swearing is called for, I’ll put it in.  If there comes a time when it’s vital to include a graphic sex scene in a story, I’ll write it.  And, heck, I like violence.  Having monsters and robots beat the tar out of each other is just good fun.  But I can get away with this as a novelist.  The written word gives me more leeway than a visual medium, and I will take advantage of that.  But when Hollywood comes knockin’, you can bet your ass that I’ll hop on board and trust these people to know what they’re doing.  If they do a great job, then I’ll be pleased as punch.  If they screw it up, I’ll still get paid, still get exposure, still benefit immensely.

Also, the paycheck is very, very nice.  I like when I get paid money for things I’ve already written.  It’s like mana from heaven, energon from Cybertron.  But you’ll have to excuse the mercenary in me.

In this case though, I have no reason to expect anything but the best from Dreamworks, who seem behind this project and just as eager as I am to make something great out of it.  I think it’s fair to say that I am the future of both fantasy and animated storytelling, and that, in that future, all film historians will refer to this period as the Pre-Martinez Period, before the world realized how cool slime monsters and raccoon gods can be.

I’ll take my Lifetime Achievement Award now, friends.  Or you can wait until I’m formally nominated.  Whatever.  I got time.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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22 Comments

  1. Posted December 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Dude, this is just such AWESOME news! Very much looking forward to seeing what they do with it. And if you end up with too much cash, don’t worry. We’ll help you spend it. :P

  2. Posted December 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Great news! I gotcha covered in my writing column as the Fort Worth Writing Examiner. I’d like to interview you next week for the Dallas Speculative Fiction column if I may?

  3. Posted December 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Gil’s is my favorite books you’ve done, all great, but Gil’s touches all the right spots. This is great news. I’ll look forward to the fantastic fantastical produced by the collaboration of your story and Dreamworks’ animation.

    Congrats!

  4. Kyle
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Agreed that this is great news and Gil’s is probably my favorite, too. When it’s a big hit, then the rest of your books will go Hollywood. Just don’t forget to wave to use little people when you walk the red carpet at the premiere.

  5. Posted December 19, 2009 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Excellent news! Looking forward to it.

  6. Posted December 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Lifetime Achievement Award?

    Curiously, I’m not a member of the academy, but I did write a tribute post, O Superfriend, on my blog yesterday.

    I’m so darn excited for you! Congrats!

  7. Posted December 20, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Congrats! Very exciting news. I loved Gil’s All Fright Diner And I can’t wait to see what Dreamworks does with the story.

  8. Posted December 22, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Congrats to you. such a great news. I´m realy excited what Dreamworks does with your incredible good idea from Gil´s All Fright Diner. I love the book und all your brilliant ideas in it.

    greetings from far Germany !

  9. Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Hello

    I came to this page through the DFW Writers Conference and thought this to be very exciting news. Congratulations. To that end, I wondered if you would be interested in speaking with the Dallas Screenwriters Association? You can find more information on us at http://www.dallasscreenwriters.com, and I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on working with a studio for optioning your book or source material as we screenwriters call it. :-) Also, because you mention that your work lends itself more toward animation, I think that might be interesting for our members as well. Would you please contact me at the email address provided to discuss further? Looking forward to hearing from you.

  10. Rippley
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I love Gil’s All Fright Diner! Is there any chance we’ll see Monster hit the big screen? I think Joss Whedon would be the perfect director for a project such as, Monster.

    Now, get back to work. I’m waiting to read more stories.

  11. A. Lee Martinez
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    There’s always a chance, but it’s really not up to me. Up to my agent to get it in the right hands, and up to those people with the right hands to decide they want to invest the time and money into making it happen.

    Have I mentioned lately how much luck is involved in this biz?

  12. Giga Watt
    Posted January 17, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I think that sounds just fantastic. Gil’s is no doubt going to be an awesome movie. I was hoping Monster would become a movie though since it’s my favorite book. It could happen.

  13. Posted February 5, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I just hope it does not become a kids flick. I think it would lose some of the great edge it has. Fantastic Mister Fox proves that animated “Adult” films work. As that movie is soooo not for children.

  14. Posted February 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    NeuroMan42,

    I don’t agree at all about Fantastic Mr Fox not being for children. I think it did a great job of being entertainment for all ages. Roald Dahl is a big influence on me and its only recently I’ve realised that – one of the great children’s writers.

  15. Andy Burt
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I picked up Gil’s All Fright Diner at the bookstore last year on a whim. The title was very catchy. I loved it and think Dreamworks would do a good job. I recently purchased the nook, and just finished reading The Automatic Detective on it. Loved this one too and plan to read more of your novels. As I was reading The Automatic Detective, I couldn’t help but imagine this as a Hollywood production that could rival Men In Black with your aliens and originality. I hope that one day I would get to see such a movie.

  16. Sean
    Posted March 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    The first time I read this I thought it would make an awesome move. I kinda hoped it would be live action though. Still, it will be awesome.

  17. Connie
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    AWESOME! One of our (myself, my husband and all of the friends that we’ve shared the book with!) favorites that you’ve written! Best of luck!!!

  18. Chris Enterline
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I love this book, and as a comic book artist, I’ve always wanted to draw it up as a comic. I think animation is the perfect route. I mean, sure its very adult humor, but like you said, its adaptable for the everyman audience, and I think it will do well. I’d love to see In the Company of Ogres take the animated route as well. Hopefully this is the beginning of a great future with dreamworks! I just hope it doesn’t turn out like Percy Jackson. That might have been great for the average movie goer, but as a huge fan of the series ( I know it was kids books and all, but I love greek gods and all that jazz.) it failed for me. BEST OF LUCK!

  19. Posted April 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Great news! Loved the book!

  20. Zovesta
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Fantastic news! I’m only halfway through the book, but I know I’ll love the movie when it comes out. Congratz! :) This must be so exciting for you!

    “Also, the paycheck is very, very nice. I like when I get paid money for things I’ve already written. It’s like mana from heaven, energon from Cybertron. But you’ll have to excuse the mercenary in me.” +1

  21. Rose o' the Woods
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait to find out who’ll be doing the voices!

  22. grimdemon
    Posted January 8, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    well when your hanging out with them lol can you tell them some how make the game
    Zombies Ate My Neighbors into a movie also lol

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  1. [...] all about it at A. Lee Martinez’s blog. Way to go, Alex. Speaking for everyone at the DFW Writers’ Workshop, we’re proud of [...]

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