Interview with Jeffrey Scott
The following are some excerpts from my corresponsence with Jeffrey Scott:
For those who don't know, Jeffrey Scott wrote a number of episodes of the D&D cartoon:
After D&D, he went on to write episodes for a great number of cartoons, including some of my other favorites at the time: Muppet Babies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales, The Littles, and Thundarr the Barbarian.
I wrote to him a while back about what he thought of the D&D Cartoon. It lead to some interesting correspondence, mostly on topics other than D&D, but I'll post the "good parts" version below. One thing I find fascinating is that, like many writers, Scott takes inspiration from his religion. He is the first Scientologist I've met and was kind enough to answer my questions about it. So I'm including some of his comments on how this influenced his work. Looking back on his episodes, it's pretty clear to me what messages he was trying to get across. But I think one of the hallmarks of being a good writer is to get the message out- without beating the readers/viewers over the head with it! (Something the writers of MANY kids shows could learn, I think!)
(Following: my comments are in yellow italics)
(I asked him what he remembered from working on the 'toon, and whether he had any funny D&D anecdotes he could share)
I'm touched that you like my stories so much. "Box" and "Illusion" are two of my favorites, too.
So, you want a D&D anecdote, eh? It's been a long time, and I really don't recall much about writing the show.
(After over 400 scripts at the last count- two years ago!- can we blame him? *grin*)
One thing I do recall, however, has to do with the development of the series. I often tell this story to people when discussing good vs. bad series concepts. As you'll recall, D&D was about a bunch of kids who went into a roller-coaster tunnel, and wound up getting sucked into the D&D world. Their goal was to get out of D&D and get back home. I realized after writing several episodes that this was, in fact, the worst possible series format. Why? Because it guaranteed that every episode would end with the kids LOSING! It had to. Otherwise the series would come to an end, as the kids would be back home. So really, the kids could never achieve their goals at the end of a story, and would somehow muff the chance of getting home. Back to the drawing board for the next episode. The moral is, never create a TV series based on a concept where the characters must lose. Give your characters a chance to win. Now, we did have some good stories come out of this format, but the series didn't last. And you'll probably agree that there was a certain melancholy to the episodes, caused by the fact that the kids were trapped. No one likes a trap. And the way the kids (and the viewers) ultimately escaped this trap was by the network canceling the series. -- A happy ending after all!
(While I tend to agree, now that I think of it, a lot of my favorite shows were of the same premise- Voyager, Lost in Space, Land of the Lost....*grin*)
And that's my anecdote. Hope you liked it.
By the way, I found it fascinating that you are into neuroscience and a toon fan. I have a similar interest in the mind, but from a VERY different perspective. I've been a Scientologist for 23 years. In fact, I get many of my story ideas from what I've learned about the mind and life from Scientology. Including "The Last Illusion" and "The Box"!
(I then asked him how Scientology influenced his work, and which ideas were included)
It's been too long for me to remember which Scientological datums I may have included in "Last Illusion" and "The Box". I'd have to read the scripts again, and dig them out of their spider-infested storage box. Yuch! Sorry. I do recall a SuperFriends episode in which a kryptonite meteor was headed for Earth, threatening to kill Superman. The SuperFriends could either save Superman or save the city. Superman told them "We'll make this decision the way we make all our decisions, the greatest good for the greatest number," at which point he immediately told the other SuperFriends to save the city. Though this is a fairly common non-Scientological ethical precept, it was based on my deeper understanding of Scientology ethics. In Scientology we explain life as being made up of 8 Dynamics or urges toward survival. An action is said to be unethical (non-survival) if it harms more dynamics that it helps. So what I would have prefered Superman to say was "We'll make this decision like we make all decisions, the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics," but no one would have known what the hell I was talking about.
I also used one of L. Ron Hubbard's discoveries in the field of study in a Muppet Babies episode I wrote. Hubbard discovered that the number one barrier to study was the MISUNDERSTOOD WORD. He found that the moment a student went past a word he/she didn't understand the rest of the material became more or less "blank". If I told you to attach the creddlefur to the neuron, chances are whatever I said after that wouldn't make much sense. So in a "Muppet Goose" episode I wrote Piggy was reading Little Miss Muffet, and when she read "sat on a tuffet" her imagination went blank until she cleared up her misunderstood word. As a matter of fact, Hubbard's Study Technology is being used in schools around the world and is extremely effective, though still a little bit controversial (probably because it's so simple and therefore makes teachers who couldn't get their kids to learn look pretty dumb).
If you want it from the horse's mouth check it out yourself. The following URL will take you to a 500+ page book online entitled WHAT IS SCEINTOLOGY:
(I then told him about the comic and asked how he'd have gotten the kids home)
That comic about the D&D kids being 10 years older sounds like just the kind of story I'd like to write.
(*sigh* I think we ALL wish he could've written it....at least he knew the original characters!)
How would I get them home? Wow! You're asking me to create. People pay me a lot of money for that. But I'll bite. Give me a second to think about this.......
I know. I'll use another Scientological datum. What if Presto had an out of body experience (in Scientology we call this "going exterior"). He could drift back, either through the portal or just through space, and return home. There, we could have some humor as he meets his friends and family sans body and can't communicate with them until he figures out how to move some objects (sounds like "Ghost"). Then he could somehow get to the amusement park and arrange some similar situation so that the roller-coaster cars go through portal again, this time to where the kids are now stuck. He'd quickly get back to his body (with some difficulty for suspense) then they'd come back the same way they got there, via the roller-coaster, to the shock of a bunch of kids waiting in line! Have I piqued your interest?
(Of course, I couldn't resist sending him one of my endings, and thanking him for responding to the questions of a crazed D&D fan)
I liked your ending. Maybe you should be a writer instead of a brain surgeon!
I don't mind crazed fans at all. e-mail me anytime.