>> Monday, March 19, 2007
Even when Philips released CD-i to the market in 1990, they were busy developing the system from 1983 onwards. The introduction of CD-i was planned long before the launch date of 1990, so there were different projects started about CD-i titles. One of these initiators of an early Interactive CD was the Firesign Theatre, a very surreal foursome who produced radio shows and albums starting in the '70s with a "free-flowing, stream of consciousness style" - here's an example MP3 from 'I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus', to give you a vague idea. Searching Google about the Firesign Theatre brings up stories about the 1985 album 'Eat Or Be Eaten', in which "the framing device of this album is a character stuck in an interactive videogame." Interesting!
In fact, a history of the Firesign Theater posted at Disinformation.com reveals: "In 1985 The Firesign Theatre was approached by Philips to write two demonstration games for their new CD Interactive machines. Eat Or Be Eaten, was recorded as a 99 track demo and the accompanying graphics made but the actual finished project was never published commercially. Danger In Dreamland, a Nick Danger Hollywood studio back-lot murder mystery game, was written but not recorded. Eat Or Be Eaten (1985) was salvaged and released as the first CD with subcode graphics." Since the actual Philips CD-i was released in 1991, this must have been something to do with the making of the CD-i format in 1986?
PHIL AUSTIN: In 1983, Peter and Phil and I went to work for The Record Group in Burbank and for three years or so, we hung on for several projects, the biggest of which was called "Danger in Dreamland", a Nick Danger interactive game designed for CD-i, a kind of early CD-ROM. These were the days when the standards of the medium were being argued out between Sony and Philips, for instance. Our company was allied with Philips. "Danger In Dreamland" is a strange project, too complicated for its time, but it was just exactly what eventually happened in CD-i programming. It is a Hollywood backlot kidnapping mystery which features various films, one a kind of John Garfield drama about spud-hunting in the Deep South and another featuring Tex, the (singing) Hassidic Horse. You had to be there. On a backlot filled with intrigue and ... well, danger, Danger roams. The only part of it that was eventually produced was a test sequence in which Andrea Marcovicci, the torch singer, played Lune Chardonnay.
Elsewhere, there's some mention that Firesign's movie The Case of the Missing Yolk (1983) was originally meant to be the world's first 'interactive video' with the help of an unnamed Japanese company and Michael Nesmith's Pacific Arts Video - I presume it would have been like Dragon's Lair? "The trio worked with Mattel's Intellivision wing in the development of interactive video games" in 1982, and further explained: "The remaining Firesigners also provided voices for some of Mattel's Intellivison games, including Bomb Squad and B52 Bomber."]
In fact, the Firesign Theater seem to have been stymied in many major game projects they produced, except one masterminded by founding member Phil Proctor, who mentioned this in a 1995 interview: a CD-ROM that is "a comedic take on some of the more popular adventure-style games that have been out on the market for the last year or two." And, wait for it - it was Pyst, with John Goodman, the Myst-aping CD-ROM parody. VERY odd.
Anyhow, Proctor's Wikipedia entry reveals that he's been infiltrating games in a different way of recent - as a voice actor, since he "did two voices in the GameCube video Game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, and on the Playstation 2's Dark Chronicle. He is the voice of Hakese and Monkey White in the Ape Escape series... Recently, his voice was featured in the video game Dead Rising, as the character Russell Barnaby." So there.
This story is realized thanks to GameSetWatch, DisInformation, Wikipedia and The Firesign Theatre website.