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Philips FunHouse: Introduction

>> Monday, October 9, 2006


My favourite Philips Games Studio was definately Funhouse. I was highly impressed with the animation techniques they filled their CD-i games with. With only three games put to the market, Philips Funhouse was led by Cliff Johnson and inspired by puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles. We paid a visit to one of the "FunHeads": Gordon Brooks. Enjoy his extensive look on the history of Philips Funhouse and find the hints of the hidden games!

"I started out with the Kidspace group when my friend Rusty Mills, the first animator at Kidspace, asked me to come in because he knew that I had a background in both music and animation, and they needed someone to translate the musical beat timings for the songs in Cartoon Jukebox onto exposure sheets, the frame-by-frame time maps that animators use to keep everything synchronized to the sound track.

But it was my computer background that landed me a permanent job at Philips (then American Interactive Media). We were using a tool for compositing animation onto backgrounds that was not yet on the market--Autodesk Animator. Steve Segal, the animation director, and Rusty had been sent to classes to learn how to use Animator, but they were still unable to get it to do one of the most important functions they needed. You see, the coloring function of Cartoon Jukebox required that certain color masses on the screen be assigned to certain positions in the color look-up table (CLUT). But every time Steve would composite animation with a background, the CLUT would get squeezed to its smallest possible size, and colors would get mapped to the wrong place.

I stayed up very late one night with the animation files, a copy of Animator, and the draft manual that Autodesk had sent. By morning I had solved the problem, and I was immediately hired to manage the post-production. That was what it was like in the early days. Nobody really knew how this was going to work, so anyone who could show an ability to solve problems and learn new things was given the chance to do so, and we got a lot of amazing things accomplished that way. I eventually became Post-Production Supervisor, which involved not only preparing the actual files for delivery to the engineers, but also organizing the work that the artists did so that we could easily find things when they were needed, and being the go-between between the creative staff and the engineers (being the only one there with a strong background from both sides). This often came down to the directors asking for something that the engineers would swear was impossible, followed by a long discussion between me and the engineers, followed by the engineers finding a way to make it work anyway.

Even when I started taking on other tasks, I continued being involved in Post on all of my titles through Hanna-Barbera's Cartoon Carnival. But more about that later. As I recall, the Kidspace titles were Cartoon Jukebox, Sandy's Circus Adventure, the two Richard Scarry discs, and the two Mother Goose discs. Kidspace was transformed into Sidewalk Studios after Frank Huttinger left as executive producer, to be replaced by Rebecca Newman, with Gary Drucker continuing as Creative Director, and pretty much all of the rest of the crew intact, although both Rusty and Steve Segal had by that time moved on to other projects. The Sidewalk titles included The Berenstain Bears On Their Own, the two Aesop discs, Miniature Golf, Surf City, and Crayon Factory. As time went on I had less and less to do with the Sidewalk titles, as I was developing Merlin's Apprentice, at first for Sidewalk. I started training a new Post-Production Supervisor for Berenstain Bears. My work for Aesop and Mini-Golf was mainly advisory, and by the time Surf City rolled around I was in the process of moving over to the Funhouse group and volunteered to edit the music because the animation for many of the songs was going way over budget and regular editor didn't have to musical background to cut the songs down without changing the beat or making obvious noises at the cuts. I had no involvement whatsoever in Crayon Factory.


As I said, Merlin's Apprentice was originally going to be a Sidewalk production, and it was an original idea of mine. It was based on the old text adventure games where you go around to different places, solve puzzles, gather objects, and eventually solve the game as a whole. (As you can see by the finished project, the idea was thoroughly transformed into something else by the time Cliff Johnson and I got through with it.) But Sarina Simon decided that Merlin didn't fit in with the Sidwalk titles. At that time, Cliff Johnson was working on Hanna-Barbera's Cartoon Carnival, pretty much on his own. Cliff was the award-winning author of a few wonderful puzzle games for the Macintosh: The Fool's Errand, At the Carnival, and 3 in Three.

So Merlin and I moved over to Funhouse, where it was transformed into a classic Cliff Johnson puzzler (what Cliff liked to refer to as "Challenging Tales of Adventure"). I was co-writer and animation director for Merlin, and I brought in some of my contacts from the animation industry who were between pictures (and background artist Doran Fish from Sidewalk, who had done many of the concept sketches for my version of Merlin) to give Merlin it's rich look and surprisingly fluid animation (which can be attributed especially to character designer/animator Susan Zytka and animator Brad Forbush). Another thing that made Merlin so rich was the use of two-plane animation, which had been used at Sidewalk, but never to full advantage. At Funhouse we squeezed every byte of bandwidth out the the realtime stream to deliver the most detailed backgrounds we could fit in.

Now, while I was working on the story and animation for Merlin, we were still working on Cartoon Carnival, and naturally Cliff needed someone to do Post, and I just happened to have some experience in that area, so I did Post on that title at the same time, and also edited all of the sound effects (Cliff was going to hire the effects editor from Sandy's Circus Adventure, but I didn't like her work--and neither did she, preferring mix engineering to editing--and talked him into letting me give it a go. I was very busy). Eventually I hired an assistant for Cartoon Carnival, and she moved up to Post-Production Supervisor so I could concentrate on directing the animation and editing the sound track for Merlin as well.

Production schedules overlapped greatly at Funhouse, so we would be finishing Cartoon Carnival, producing Merlin, and doing pre-production writing, art, and game design for Labyrinth of Crete. We were also developing a lot of game ideas that never happened. Among the ones I remember were a CDi adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" (Cliff is a personal friend of Sondheim, who is a devoted puzzle fan), and a CDi version of 3 in Three. Also on the drawing board at Funhouse was a title called Treasures of Oz. Oz was supposed to another one of Cliff's "Challenging Tales of Adventure," but things started to get a bit complicated at Funhouse.

It was pretty crazy. I was developing games and a story for Oz, while still fulfilling my commitment to finish the sound track for Merlin. There were three of us to start with: me, art director Teri Farrell-Gittens, and engineer Susan Rosenberg. Eventually Merlin got finished, production of Oz got underway, and we came very, very close to finishing the title (within two months, I would guess) before we all got laid off and the projects that hadn't been released were cancelled."

Thanks to Gordon, we will continue with the story later with an extensive look at one of Funhouse's unreleased project: Treasures of Oz. There's even another story behind the eventual production group: Philips Kaleidoscope, which is also fascinating to hear. Keep in touch and visit the forum for any questions you might have.


The once and forever



1991 - 1995

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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