Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I Like Tom Cruise -- With Guest Appearances by Captain Planet and E.R. Cruz

Surely, short of Fatty Arbuckle, there is no celebrity who's had to deal with more bad press than Tom Cruise. The guy can't seem to get a break from our scandal-loving, tempest in a teapot "news" media. True, he did jump on Oprah's couch, but it's equally true that the man is one of the nicest celebrities the Mayhem ever met.

In the late 1980s Ted Turner was looking for an animation studio to produce his environmentally themed superhero, Captain Planet. Ultimately the series went to DIC, where it was assigned to supervising producer-director and the Mayhem's pal, Will Meugniot. Meugniot, Neal Adams, Paula La Fonde and Kathi Castillo jumped on the the character design while studio head Andy Heyward and his upstairs team jumped on promotion for the developing series.

With his genius for ballyhoo in full swing, Andy put out a call for celebrity voice talent willing to help save the Earth by lending their skills and names to Captain Planet. DIC was swamped by offers from ecologically-minded TV and movie stars, but the very first A-List celebrity to respond was the world's biggest box office star, Tom Cruise. He was instantly offered and accepted the role of Captain Planet.

A few weeks later, the studio was a-buzz -- Tom Cruise was coming to meet with Andy and the team. Instructions were quickly passed around the studio, no cameras, no video, and please don't bother Mr.Cruise when he comes through the office.

After the management meetings, Cruise was excited by the project and wanted to see the pre-production team in action, so he was handed off to Meugniot for a tour of the bullpen. Few things terrify animation studio heads around the world more than celebrity interaction with their crews. (Believe it or not artists can sometimes be lacking in restraint.) So it was with some trepidation that Will took Tom around to meet the "guys" and see how the show he was backing with his name was coming along.

Now, to understand the moment which was about to transpire, the Mayhem introduces you to the third member of our cast, E.R. Cruz, one of the greatest comic artists to come out of the Philippines. Famous for his work in the Warren and DC mystery books, as well as a memorable run on the Shadow, E.R. was one of the mainstays of The Real Ghostbusters and Captain Planet art teams, doing dozens of incredible backgrounds for both series. Physically, E.R. was of small stature, had stringy dark hair, popbottle glasses, and an endearingly sweet smile.

So, back to the story: Cruise's studio tour was winding to its finish with nary an incident, when Will took him to the area with the background, prop and character designers. Many of the crew members were comic book artists and the area was decorated with amazing artwork by some of the best cartoonists in Los Angeles. Tom paused to admire the drawings as Will gave him a quick rundown of the Who's Who of artists working on Captain Planet. And that's when it happened:

E.R. was up out of his chair and approaching the biggest box office star in the world with outstretched hand and goofy smile! "Tom Cruise, I am your long lost cousin, E.R. Cruz!"

And here's the reason the Mayhem thinks Tom Cruise is a good person: instead of shying away, Cruise met Cruz's advance with an equally huge smile, a big handshake, a man hug -- and an offer to have a picture taken for "the folks back home". Nice guy!

As a footnote, ultimately DIC and Cruise couldn't work around the actor's insanely busy schedule and after recording a few episodes, parted ways. Meugniot wishes he'd saved Cruise's work as Planet, but he didn't.

Here's the Captain Planet Title designed by Will Meugniot, Greg Davidson, and Larry Houston:

As always, all images are copyright their respective owners. The Masked Mayhem images and related text are copyright 2009 by Will Meugniot.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, must have been a blast to work with Tom Cruise. I don't know why he gets such a bad wrap. I honestly don't know why people care so much about the real lives of movie stars. All I know is he has made some great movies. I mean Top Gun... Solid gold.