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More stories from the Philips FunHouse Studio

>> Sunday, September 2, 2007

It's a great honor to meet the original developers of CD-i software and thankfully they were involved with the format full of love. The best thing that can happen is that they are getting excited by our website's material and start the conversation. Some of the best interviews available at the vault of The Black Moon Project started like this. So it went with some of the FunHeads, the guys behind the Philips Funhouse Studio and how they were called by their supervisor: Cliff Johnson. We have the pleasure to share some more stories of Funhouse behind the scene, featuring one of the FunHeads: Gordon Brooks.

First a little flashback of Philips Funhouse, told by founder Cliff Johnson: "I shall always love Philips for handing this Fool $4 million dollars to build a team to create and complete three lovingly hand-crafted, puzzle-driven products, the latter two were the kind of Hollywood feature-animation films I’d never made in Hollywood. It should be noted that Hanna-Barbera’s Cartoon Carnival was Philips’ most popular title — I have the royalty statements to prove it! And though Philips gave up the ghost on CD-I in 1996, it is some consolation that CD-I sold more units than 3DO, a similar machine spawned by Electronic Arts whiz, Trip Hawkins.

Hanna-Barbera’s Cartoon Carnival was the first CD-I game to take advantage of Philips’ highly touted Full Motion Video cartridge. You could play Huckleberry Hound’s Gift Emporium, The Flintstones’ Balloon Ballyhoo, Scooby Doo’s Adventure Isle, Yogi Bear’s Pic-A-Nik Place, The Jetsons’ Space Race, and Top Cat’s Top Facts to earn letters. Once you earned all 15 letters of the words CARTOON CARNIVAL, one of 60 classic cartoon clips is your reward. Merlin’s Apprentice is a challenging tale of medieval sorcery in which you aspire to become apprentice to that great wizard Merlin. Yet you must work through many enchantments and outwit a threesome of clever demons to win his favor.

Labyrinth of Crete is a challenging tale of Greek mythology in which you must appease both the King and Queen of Mt. Olympus. Yet you must conquer the treachery within the walls of the labyrinth and seek the gifts of the Gods and Goddesses who await you in their sacred temples. *FunHouse* was my production group at Philips and is best remembered by Brian Allgeier’s outrageous Christmas Cards. Our specialty was puzzle games with sumptuous hand-drawn animation and rousing musical accompaniment. We were the first stop when international visitors toured the Philips facility (which seemed almost daily).

My CD-I career as Director/Producer began when Sarina Simon approached me to do Hanna Barbera’s Cartoon Carnival, ostensibly the same concept as another product I had designed — Disney’s Cartoon Arcade. I set to work on Cartoon Carnival as a team of one, programming the concept in Hypercard in a tiny office on the second floor near the men’s room. I soon created Hypercards for Merlin’s Apprentice and Labyrinth of Crete as well and they, too, were green-lighted. Yet I’d garnered a $4,000,000 budget and had no staff whatsoever to create the projects. That’s how *FunHouse* came to be. It began as 8 determined FunHeads — Gordon Brooks, Paul Mithra, Brian Allgeier, Doran Fish, Brad Parker, Kelly Holthaus, Clayton Wishoff, and myself — and at its peak, swelled to over 30 artists, animators, and programmers."

Gordon Brooks has been featured before in Interactive Dreams with his Funhouse story. Today I'm particularly intrested in what happened to Funhouse after 1996, when Philips decided to pull the plug out of all its media divisions, including Philips Funhouse. Gordon: "We had started a little bit of development on three other titles, an original interactive story called "The Big Old House," a music disc based on the songs of children's singer-songwriter Joe Scruggs (we had even met with Joe at CES to discuss the project), and an interactive simulation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy," about which I had been corresponding via email with the late Douglas Adams."

What happened to Surf City, a Philips Sidewalk production which had the longest development time of all your titles?

"When you first asked, nothing came to mind, so I pulled out an FPD I have and took a look to refresh my memory. That title is enormous! There is so much animation, and so many complicated moves, and so many things to click on, that ever with many of the games being recycled from older Sidewalk titles, it was just too much project for one small group. And I recall the Art Director, Alex (can't think of his last name as the moment) beings something of a bottleneck when I worked with him."

When I have a look at the release schedule I notice Labyrinth Of Crete was released in 1997, but the copyright was from 1995. What happened in those years?

"Philips Media folded in 1996, so that 1997 release was probably the CD-ROM version. I think the CDi version was probably released just as we were all leaving Philips, but the copyright would have been dated when the title was finished rather that when it was released."

"I am very interested to find out more about your project and its purpose, and I would be glad to tell you anything else I can remember. Are you more interested in the people, the technology, the production techniques, or something else? Please contact me whenever you wish. Although CDi was a commercial failure, I recognize much of our groundwork in the interactive titles being done today, and I'm proud to have been a part of it."

Actually, we're fully dedicated to Philips CD-i and every story, anecdote and trivia related to CD-i we all highly appreciate (regarding the visitor stats!). Today, we're trying to share more information about one of the Funhouse prototype software titles: Treasures of Oz. Gordon:

"David McElhatten was the ultimate CDi insider, at least in the California studio. I don't thin much of anything went on there that he didn't know about. There shouldn't be a problem using any of the "Treasures of Oz" visuals; as far as I know, they belong to Philips, unless those rights were assigned to PMPro later, and even then I think it falls under the category of Fair Use. If you have any occasion to use any portion of the soundtrack, however, I'm not clear what the situation would be with the Diana Ross voice-overs; safest I think just to skip over those.

You'll learn a lot more about Oz just by playing it, although I realized when you asked the question that you might not be familiar with the origins of the story other than the MGM musical. Treasures of Oz is based on L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the first of 14 books he wrote about the magical land. The series was very popular in the US, and generated some interesting imitators in Russia, but never seems to have caught on in Europe. If you are interested in reading the book, you can download a free copy from Project Gutenberg (the Oz books are in the public domain).

To answer the rest of your questions, Oz does not require a DV cartridge, and a diagonal pan is a scene where the camera seems to move in a diagonal direction. Easy to do in live action or traditional animation, but a difficult feat in CDi. Treasure of Oz is the only CD-i title that features diagonal scrolling, something that seemed impossible in the first years of CD-i."

A flashback through the Philips Media employee list brings back memories: "One name I wanted to mention, though, was DR, head of POV. I don't know how to contact him, although some time spent with Google might be fruitful. If anyone would have anything of Voyeur 2, it would be him.

And I'm sure he has some good stories to tell. I also remembered that RN has a website where she promotes her art career, and oddly makes no mention of CDi at all in her biography. She can give you the entire history of Kidspace and Sidewalk Studios. I also have a suggestion concerning SS. She has authored several books on education and child development. Last I heard of SS she was with Leap Frog, the education toy company, although I don't think she's there now."

Can you share some details about the 'lost' Philips Studio: Philips Kaleidoscope?

"Actually, Kaleidoscope started in 1994, overlapping my work on Merlin and Labyrinth for Funhouse. I managed to form my own group in order to continue doing children's titles for Sarina Simon after Cliff Johnson announced that he would no longer be doing children's titles. It started and, unfortunately, ended with Oz, although we had done a couple of concept write-up s for other discs. There were actually three buildings at the time Kaleidoscope was formed, all on Santa Monica Boulevard. We had several executive offices in one (that was where Gordon Stuhlberg, and Bernie Kaufman were), and we comepletely leased out one, and had the entire third floor of the other for production space.

We all moved around a lot among those buildings until the executives finally decided to put us all in one building. There was talk of a warehouse in Santa Monica, which pleased those of us who understood that warehouse space is versatile, just what you need for the ever- changing demands of production. But we ended up spending the last one and a half years of our existence in a very fancy, very expensive office building on Wilshire Boulevard. I don't have pictures, but the building was nothing special. And it did serious damage to everyone's overhead budgets.

There was also a studio in Thousand Oaks, which is where Dave Riordan's group was, and another Philips-run studio in Washington, DC. So, I co-directed Merlin, and directed the character animation on Labyrinth. As a filmmaker and animation director, there are a few things I wince at, although only someone with lots of exposure to the animation business would notice most of it (I've been hanging around with animators for about 25 years; I even married one)."

Many thanks to Gordon Brooks, Cliff Johnson and another anonymous FunHead ;) More to come!

1 reacties:

Merijn,  September 10, 2007 at 12:07 PM  

Cool story Bas, nice work! Now if we could just see Oz in action a little bit.... ;-).. Whats the gameplay like and all?

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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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