[The Week in Geek is a weekly Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
We've all heard the news by now that 'GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra' is getting a sequel soon, but you don't have to wait another year for another GI Joe movie. There's a new feature-length documentary, 'Code Name: Blast Off,' that covers Hasbro's insanely successful GI Joe re-branding effort of 1982, turning the unassuming military doll into a bonafide larger-than-life franchise.
The film was created by Tristan Rudat, filmmaker and son of Hasbro designer Ron Rudat who visually spearheaded the GI Joe line from its ground-breaking heyday of 1982 till 1987. 'Code Name: Blast Off' (previously titled Operation Blast Off') tells the story of the re-branding effort through first-hand interviews with the artists, writers, and designers, as well as archival photos and art. Their effort just plain worked -- the revitalized, more super-heroic Joes have seen an incredible amount of longevity, existing in one form or another for over 25 years.
You can see the 'Code Name: Blast Off' trailer after the jump, as well as our exclusive interview with Tristan Rudat. He even gave us a little something extra for the hardcore GI Joe fans at the end of the interview...
What's the current progress of 'Code Name: Blastoff'?
The film is complete. There may be a few final tweaks but it's essentially finished. I'm working directly with my dad on a DVD cover, and I keep finding more awesome photos and Polaroids that are sort of begging to be in the film. At a certain point you have to just say, "It's done."
How aware were you at a young age that your father's GI Joe creations were appearing in toy aisles, on TV, on t-shirts, bedspreads, school supplies, etc?
As a child, age 6 or 7, I remember when my father brought home the first round of GI Joes. I was captivated immediately. He basically explained to me, "This is what we do. We create toys." I thought, "Cool." I like toys, and these action figures he brought home, were my new favorites.
Over the next few years the line was exploding throughout the world, but I had little awareness or interest in that. I was too busy playing with GI Joe. The first time I realized something was happening on a truly phenomenal scale was the GI Joe cartoon episode "The Traitor." In this episode Dusty is referred to as "Dusty Rudat" in an elaborate double agent plot. This absolutely blew my mind. I knew my dad liked to inject little details in the toys like phone numbers and birthdays, but this was our family name being said over and over throughout the entire two-part mini-series, on television. I taped it and showed all my friends, but that was the moment I became aware that my father and the Joe team's creation was way more huge than anything I could have imagined. Years later, I am often reminded of the impact these characters have had on people from around the world. It's still truly amazing.
Hasbro has re-launched GI Joe several times since the early 80's, but they always seem to retain the core group of characters from that original re-branding effort. Why do you think that is?
I believe it's a testament to the strength of the original characters, who at this point have really taken on a life of their own. Hasbro adjusts the aesthetics and plays with color, but the essential character traits and elements are never far off. They've experimented with other characters, but I am sure the market also helps to insure there will always be a Snake Eyes in one form or another.
Who was your favorite G.I. Joe character?
Out of the first round, I loved Flash, Snake Eyes, and then Storm Shadow came out and ruled. Crimson Guards are stand-out favorites. Blow Torch was rad and I always really loved the look of Recondo. Big shout-outs to Dusty and Leatherneck as well. I feel like Dusty is the go to GI Joe now, for both me and my dad. Special thanks to Larry Hama for that.
Were you a fan of the recent live-action GI Joe movie? What did they get right and what could they improve (or who could they add) to make a kick-butt sequel?
Yes, I am indeed a fan of the live-action film. I think they got it right. It is a Hollywood film so it's bound to be a bit different than the toy, the comics, or the cartoon. There's so much to live up to, and I felt the movie succeeded in being its own story. I loved Snake Eyes -- perfect casting and perfect execution of that character. When he first appeared, it was goosebumps central for me. I also liked Scarlet and I liked Dennis Quaid as Hawk. The only thing I didn't like was how Cover Girl died. It's like -- she was hot, she had one line and then she gets stabbed. Where was her parachute?
'The Rise of Cobra' was definitely an awesome ride though, and, just like the toy, it actually alludes to a lot of real-life near-future technology, as well as some plausible fantasy. The highlight for me was seeing a giant Cobra logo at the end. That was awesome. I looked over at my dad and was like "DUDE!!! Your design!!!" It's tough when you are trying to establish a new movie franchise like that; you have a lot of ground work to cover in a short amount of time. Again, I think they did it, and you'll see a second film that will take it beyond. I'd love to see a cameo of my dad in there, and of course I am stoked to see if Dusty finds his way into the next story. Now that the foundation is laid, you can probably expect to see a lot of massive action. Considering the talent that's been assembled, I have no doubt we'll see something extraordinary next year.
To pre-order a signed, limited edition DVD copy of "Code Name: Blast Off" via paypal ($20 for the film, plus $5 S&H) or from Tristan directly at Dusty.Rudat@gmail.com.
Below is an exclusive outtake from the documentary, featuring designer Ron Rudat's post-film reaction to 'GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.'