Interview with Jeffrey Scott
Saturday, January 26, 2002
JS = Jeffrey Scott
JS: It's been a long time, so I won't be able to answer all your questions but I'll give it my best shot.
MM: How did you get the job of writing for "Captain N: The Game Master"?
JS: Interesting story. I had written several series for Andy Heyward at DIC, and he asked me to write the Captain N series. It was my m.o. at the time to write entire series. I had been doing this, on and off, for about 13 years. So I agreed to do the series. But the Vice President of Childrens Programming at NBC, Phyllis Tucker-Vinson, somehow got the idea in her head that I wasn't that great of a writer. She told Andy that all of my Muppet Babies scripts had to be rewritten. I wanted to write the series, but more importantly, I wanted to disabuse her of the idea that my Muppet Babies scripts were heavily rewritten. So I called Jim Henson, who was shooting a movie in London. It's a testament to the quality of Jim's character and kindness that he took the time to actually call Phyllis and set her straight about my contribution to Muppet Babies. The next day I got the job.
MM: How familiar were you with video games at the time that you got the job?
JS: Actually, I wasn't that familiar with video games. So Andy shipped me a Nintendo system and some games, and I started playing them. I didn't have to do too much, because all I wanted was to know the lay of the land and to understand how the various characters related to the game. It wasn't important that I be a fanatic and know everything about a game, because we had decided that the stories would only be loosely based on the game environment. We wanted to tell stories about the people and explore parts of the world that were not part of the game itself. So I used just enough locations and characters and hardware references to keep the flavor of the games.
MM: Why and when was the title of the series changed from "Captain Nintendo: The Game Master" to "Captain N: The Game Master"?
JS: The series was initally called Captain Nintendo: The Game Master. But it wasn't long before we got word from the network that we needed to eliminate the Nintendo name. At the time there was a big outcry that Saturday morning cartoons were becoming commercials for toys. And to have the Nintendo name in the title was just too much for the networks. It would have been like naming a show "Mattel's Barbie". So "N" was as close as we could get.
MM: Was the N Team originally called the Nintendo Team?
JS: Don't recall.
MM: You wrote the first 13 episodes. Why were you the only writer for Season 1 of the series?
JS: As noted above, that was just what I did. Studios trusted me to write all of the episodes because I had done so successfully many times before (and after).
MM: How much of the background and premise of the series were already set up for you, and how much was left to you to decide?
JS: I don't recall developing this series, which means that someone else probably laid out the basic elements. And I don't recall what, if anything, I added to the show.
MM: Did you decide which games to use in the episodes, or were you told which games to base the stories on?
JS: I believe the games were chosen for me by the network and/or Nintendo.
MM: Did you have to do any game research for your stories?
JS: Not much. Now and then I would play a game to better understand the environment and characters, but mostly I would just ask some questions in order to better understand the games. This was necessary because I could never get all the way through a game, at least without spending weeks trying. So I'd get an outline of the game and characters from Nintendo. But I would play them a little so that I could get the feel of the action, music and interplay, and thus be able to bring this to the stories.
MM: Some episodes didn't seem to center on any particular game. Rather, there was an episode that dealt with a magic lamp and another episode that dealt with a made-up place called the Mirror World. Is there a reason that not all episodes were based on a specific game?
JS: Once we established the characters and their relationships, we decided to tell stories about them rather than simply focus on the precise game worlds. I'm sure hardcore gamers would cringe when we'd take license with the accuracy, but if kids wanted to see only totally accurate game play they could always play the game(s). We were exploring beyond the games to what was happening "behind the scenes". So I had fun with the characters and their relationships, like when I had Simon fall in love with Mother Brain.
MM: Do you happen to know why Samus Aran, the heroine of the game Metroid, was not featured in the series, even though the main villain of the series was Mother Brain from Metroid?
JS: Never heard of her. That could be why. :o)
MM: Do you happen to know why Mario, the most popular video game character of all, didn't appear in the series?
JS: Mario wasn't used BECAUSE he was most popular. I think Nintendo knew that they wanted to save Mario for his own series. Companies like to develop their lesser known characters, and it's not uncommon for them to hold back the good ones for their own series or movies.
MM: The main villain in the CastleVania game series is Count Dracula, yet he's always refered to as simply "the Count" on Captain N. Were you told to avoid using the name Dracula?
JS: Don't recall.
MM: Were you given any rules about what you could and couldn't do in an episode?
JS: I'm sure I was, but I cannot remember anything specifically.
MM: Was there a writers bible for the series?
JS: Again, there usually is, but it's been so long I simply don't recall.
MM: Would you describe the stages of writing a Captain N episode from the idea to the final script?
JS: It was the same as with any series. Once you know the format and characters of the show, you come up with premise ideas that fit within both characters and format. So a story could come out of some piece of the environment or game action, or could come from one or more of the characters. Premises lay out the simple beginning, middle and end of the story. Once these were approved I'd flesh them out into outlines. A half-hour outline consists of 15-20 "beats" or scenes, broken into two or three acts. In the outline the entire story is told, including a description of all the action, gags and plotting. As with the premise, the outline is read by the network and studio and changes are made which are incorporated into the story. I rarely ever rewrote an outline, though this was occassionally necessary. The outline is turned into a first draft script, which simply transforms the outline into dialog and description, much like a live-action script. The script goes through as many drafts as needed to make everyone happy (though I'm always happy with the first draft). Most scripts take two or three drafts.
MM: How long did it take to write one episode?
JS: It varies. I've written many half-hour scripts in one day, though two is more common. I usually have a week to write a script, so sometimes I would write an outline or premise while writing a first draft script which would make it take longer. The best way to describe how long a script takes to write is in hours not days. I would say it takes me about 10-12 hours to write a script.
MM: In "Kevin In Videoland", the scene that shows Kevin on Earth before he gets pulled into Videoland is live-action. Did you specifically call for that in your script?
JS: As best I can recall, that was the basic format of the show--i.e. that Kevin was sucked out of live action and into the animated game world. This was going to be shot for the opening titles of the show, so I used it in the opening of the pilot episode.
MM: There are two versions of "How's Bayou". Version 1 aired only once, and it looks far from complete. Backgrounds are missing. Some scenes are longer. Some scenes are shorter. Some of the footage is edited together badly. Do you know why this happened? Were you asked to revise your script for version 2 of the episode?
JS: I don't recall what happened with this episode.
MM: Did you ever attend a recording session for the series?
MM: Did you watch the series when it came on TV?
JS: A few episodes.
MM: Did you choose which songs would be featured in each episode?
MM: The Stooges are mentioned in two episodes. Any reason for that?
JS: Well, seeing as how my grandfather was Moe, I guess it's just something I think of now and then. If it made sense to make a Stooges reference, and was funny, I'd do it. Nothing more esoteric than that.
MM: Kevin references a specific classic "Star Trek" episode in "Simon The Ape-Man". Are you a "Star Trek" fan?
JS: Funny you should ask. I just returned home from 4 days in Las Vegas at the NATPE Convention (where producers and studios meet from all over the world to uy and sell television shows). I stayed at the Hilton Hotel, which is home of "Star Trek: The Experience", which is a virtual reality ride much like "Star Tours" at Disneyland. They snap your picture with a digital camera before you take the ride. So after I got off the ride (which was pretty cool) I got a free picture of myself on the bridge with Captain Kirk and the gang. Ironically, I was wearing a yellow cap at the time which perfectly matched my Star Trek uniform. I'm sure my grandkids will think I actually flew with Kirk. So I'd say I'm a fan of the original Star Trek, and the subsequent movies with Kirk & Company.
MM: What was your reason for using so much slapstick humor in the series?
JS: When a series is bought the network ususally has an idea of how dramatic or comedic it will be. So I just put the level of humor in it that the studio and network wanted.
MM: About which age group was the series aimed at?
JS: I didn't think much about age groups at the time. In fact, I generally didn't think about age groups. I'd just write shows that I would like to watch. That said, I'd say the series was intended for the 6-11 market.
MM: Was it aimed primarily at boys, girls, or both?
JS: I don't recall specifically what the demographics were, but I'm sure we added the female characters to attract girls, even though boys were more into video games.
MM: Captain N seemed to be a Magic Reset Button series. At the end of every episode, with the exceptions of "Kevin In Videoland" and "Videolympics", everything was set back to the way they were at the beginning of the episode. Neither side came any closer to victory. Why was this done?
JS: Most cartoon series don't have a progressing arc like some live-action series. One of the reasons for this is that sometimes episode 7 gets finished, and airs, before episode 6. So the episodes are generally written as separate entities, with no consecutive timeline. Thus it's not possible to progress the story or develop the characters over time.
MM: Why did the N Team never go on the offensive against Mother Brain and instead just waited around until she attacked?
JS: I guess because it's not politically correct. Being "offensive" is something only a bad guys are supposed to do. Though you and I know that a good offense is the best defence, I don't think the networks could confront this concept.
MM: I'm going to ask you some questions about specific episodes now. If you don't remember what you were thinking at the time that you wrote it, then please just make an official ruling based on what I tell you.
MM: In "Kevin In Videoland", Kevin is shown to be live-action on Earth and animated in Videoland, yet he never seems to notice or ask about this. Later, in "Metroid Sweet Metroid", Kevin is fooled into thinking that he's going home. He walks into an area designed to look like his neighborhood. However, after a while, he says, "Something weird is going on. We didn't even change back to normal." This is the only episode that acknowledges a difference in Kevin's appearances on Earth and in Videoland. Later, in "The Big Game", which you didn't write, Dr. Wily brings some of Kevin's Earth friends to Videoland. They don't seem to notice or ask about being animated. Is there really a difference between the way people and things appear on Earth and the way they appear in Videoland?
JS: I'll have to take your word for it that Kevin doesn't react to the animated world because I haven't read the script in 14 years. As to why, you got me! I'm sure this was discussed at the time, but I don't recall. I'm normally very concerned to keep things logical and consistent, sometimes to a fault. It's possible that we simply assumed that Kevin just knew he was inside a video game and therefore didn't react to it or mention it.
MM: In "Kevin In Videoland", Mother Brain's army had been laying seige on the Palace of Power for the past seven years. After the rest of the N Team rescues Princess Lana from Mother Brain and returns to the Palace, the army is gone with no explanation. What happened?
JS: I give up! -- Seriously, it's been too long for me to remember any of these stories. As I am usually a very accurate writer, I can only assume that some part of the story was cut and left a hole. It couldn't POSSIBLY have been my fault. ;o)
MM: In "How's Bayou", a flashback is shown of Kevin on Earth just before he gets pulled into Videoland, but he's playing a different game (the one that the episode is based on) than the game that he played in "Kevin In Videoland". Did you make mention in the "Kevin In Videoland" script that he should be playing a specific game and then later retconed it in "How's Bayou"?
JS: Don't recall. Sounds like a simple production glitch, probably caused by having pre-production done in Hollywood and animation done overseas. When in doubt, blame it on the foreigners!
MM: In version 1 of "How's Bayou", when Kevin asks Lana to visit Earth with him, she replies, "Some other time, Kevin. I've got too many responsibilities here." Lana's response wasn't included in version 2. Later, in "The Big Game", Dr. Wily brings some of Kevin's Earth friends to Videoland. After they're sent back to Earth at the end of the episode, Lana tells Kevin that they'll automatically forget their trip to Videoland, and so would Kevin when he goes back. This contradicts what you wrote in "How's Bayou". It's probably just a story goof, but would Kevin really forget, or did Lana just say he would to get him to stay in Videoland?
JS: Personally, every time I've returned from being stuck inside a video game I've forgotten everything that happens. The proff of this is that I can't even remember ever being in a video game. So it must be that we just forget it all once we return. How about you? Can you remember ever being in a video game?
MM: In "The Most Dangerous Game Master", Dr. Wily builds an android to defeat Captain N. He sends King Hippo and the Eggplant Wizard to the Palace of Power to get a recording of Kevin's worst fears, which Wily would use to program the android's mind. They get Kevin's memories of Mike Vincent, a school bully that beat Kevin up on Earth. Dr. Wily programs the android to be Mike Vincent. But the confusing thing about this episode is that Dr. Wily had already completely built the android and dressed it as Mike Vincent before he got Kevin's memories, so he had no way of knowing about Mike Vincent. Right after Kevin's memories were downloaded into Hippo and Eggy's recording device, Kevin says, "I feel funny" and "It's as if someone was peeking into my darkest memories. And there was someone from my past, but I can't remember who it was." What's more confusing is, when Kevin is told that "Mike" is really an "android duplicate", Kevin says, "So, that's what I felt before. You [Mother Brain] pulled Mike out of my memories. He's not even real!" Mother Brain replies, "Oh, he's worse than real. He's everything you're afraid of rolled into one." Later, Kevin talks to the android and says, "But if you were really programmed from my memories of Mike Vincent, then you can't be all bad." After the android is destroyed by saving Kevin's life, Kevin says, "I became his friend again." So, did Kevin really know a guy named Mike Vincent back on Earth?
JS: Sure he knew a Mike Vincent. Either that or Phyllis Tuker-Vinson was correct and I can't write for s....
MM: That's all for now. Thank you for the interview, Mr. Scott.
JS: All for now?!?! You mean there's more? This felt like a college final. Do I get a PhD if I get these all right?