The Last Bastion - The End of The Beginning of the End
I'm going to try something a little different today. Don't worry, we will get into the Last Bastion stuff in a bit. But first I want to take a step back and talk about...
Adult Animation: My Thesis
While the majority of original IPs I develop are for kids 6-11, people who know me personally are very aware of my...uh..." raunchy" personality. The fact I also create adult animation properties should come as no to anyone, but the actual content often catches people off-guard. So let me start with a statement: I HATE stoner comedies and I despise unnecessarily gory, overtly sexual content without narrative justification. Let us address the first one before moving forward: If you need to be mentally impaired to ensured your comedy's effectiveness ...then I'm sorry. It's garbage. That's right America. Come and get me!
As for sex and gore, I have no problem with either. But I do when they feel gratuitous or unjustified. Basically, if these scenes are there just to check off the box of "adult", then the people who need them cannot be defined as adults. It's childish as all hell. Coming from someone with my brand of juvenile humor, that says a lot! I've produced a ton of silly animated shorts that were designed to provoke. But we're talking mainstream media now...so standards should ideally be higher.
Animation isn't for kids, or adults. It's just a story vehicle. The rules that determine what's "adult" vs "kids" content should be consistent but for some reason, here in the US, people still struggle with how to juggle this concept of "animation for adults" and they put it in silly boxes. Make no mistake, if you're an audience member - it is intellectually insulting to you. But this finally changing...
I've been preaching this for many years, and I'm happy to see a sudden shift in Holywood's view of how to handle animation that isn't aimed at kids. Like every piece of media: an animated show doesn't have to check a single box. It can check multiple. Last Bastion seems like it checks off a lot of the standard boxes at first. But like a lot of my content - it's a vehicle that aims to disarm you in order to sip some important shit into your brain when you least expect it. So what's the statements behind Last Bastion?
Last Bastion: The Statement
A writer or artist needs to have something to say for the narrative to stick. Before I talk about Last Bastion's statement, I'm going to start with one that should not be controversial but sometimes is:
Nostalgia is Poison
Let's put the psychological, political, and social aspects of this statement aside for a second and focus on media. Sorry to tell you, but when it comes to entertainment in particular - things weren't better when you were young. They were worse.
The bar was lower: in TV, in film, and in comic books. It doesn't mean that good things weren't there. It just means that the content audiences today consume is, generally speaking, of higher quality. Nostalgia is a weapon. It's aimed at weakening your objectivity and your analytical mind. That is why it's so effective in politics, it's inherently designed to trigger an emotion that stems from your narcissism and sense of self-importance.
So...these are my personal opinions and I think they bring an extra layer of depth when reading about "Last Bastion". If you've made it this far without sending me an angry email you are probably looking for an explanation. Get ready, because this is going to get a bit confusing when you read...
"Mall guard Randy Beef bravely defends the perfectly preserved Bunt Creek Mall in a lawless, post-apocalyptic world." Last Bastion was co-created by my wife, Lisa Wong and I, with incredible art by our dear friend, concept artist Maya Lior Pitzer. It is an adult animation show about an 80s mall that magically survives a nuclear holocaust and is standing, fully preserved in a Mad Max-esque world. Our protagonist is Randy Beef, a middle-aged mall cop from a small town in fictional Bunt Creek, Arizona. He's a naive, idealistic, and sweet-natured buffoon. He was frozen in the massive mall-shaped time capsule and woke up to a world that has very little joy, comfort, or sugary, glazed donuts.
Randy started working at the mall in the 80’s! Perms, neon lights and cheesy Synthpop dominate the cultural landscape. Bunt Creek mall was at the forefront of this trend, bringing with it a tidal wave of hope with promises to revitalize the town. For young Randy Beef, the town's first mall guard, the grand opening was his time to shine. Unfortunately, as time went on, his staple of American society, slowly lost its relevance and like most malls across the country, Bunt Creek mall was failing. Randy, for whom service to the mall was a true calling, sadly faced this harsh reality. On Bunt Creek’s last night, Randy closed up the mall for the last time. Devastated, he stayed overnight, enjoying his fortress of servitude one last time.
And then...the world went to shit. A nuclear war decimated the world on the same day Bunt Creek Mall shut its doors. Whether by fate or misfortune, when Randy woke up, 70 years have passed. For reasons no one can explain, Bunt Creek Mall and everything
in it, are perfectly preserved. The post-apocalyptic world that surrounds Randy has lost its way. Civilization crumbled, leaving a world of violent tribalism, mutated species, killer cyborgs, and no hope for peace. In this broken world, Randy Beef, finds his calling: watching over Bunt Creek Mall. This Last Bastion of our civilization, in all its
diabetes-inducing, capitalistic beauty, now serves as a neutral zone that can reintroduce to the world what it lost. And its brave guardian, Randy Beef, is the only one who knows how to run it.
You may be scratching your head right now thinking: "Wait...didn't he just take a huge dump on nostalgia? This entire show relies on the exploitation of 80s nostalgic cheese! blasphemy!" Well, if that's all you took away from this, you may want to stick around for a while longer. Things will become clearer as we go down the rabbit hole and talk about...
Last Bastion sports a mix of characters that metaphorically represent our cultural past, present, and future. They were designed to give each other, and the viewers some much-needed perspective. Let's start with our lead:
Randy represents the past. He's naive, honest, sentimental, and stupidly optimistic. His fear is one of"irrelevance". He sees Bunt Creek mall as a reflection of himself. If the mall becomes irrelevant to people - does that extend to him? Is he useless? does he have no lasting value? Does he deserve to be forgotten? He sees the mall as the greatest point in his life, as well as the peak of human civilization. The world around him now is dreadful, hostile, and tense. He thinks that like before, this mall can act as a middle ground between all warring tribes. A safe haven where humanity is distracted by neon lights and consumer products instead of dealing with their anxieties, paranoia, and existential dread. In his head - that's what the mall is and that is what it has a second chance of becoming. He wants to bring joy and peace and this is the only way he can visualize it and imagine it happening.
Liz represents the present. She's a punk-rock mall rat that equally seeks trouble as she does attention. She's a sarcastic, stubborn, and rebellious high schooler that used the "shitty" mall as a hiding spot from everything she hated about her life. When you run away from school...where do you go? when you avoid home drama like the plague, where do you seek shelter? Unbeknownst to Randy, Liz was sleeping at the mall's basement the day the world went boom. He knows this little mallrat very well. She made it her daily mission to torment him on the job. Truth is, Liz was both ironically hanging out in the mall and seeing it as a wonderful distraction from her rough home life. She gives Randy shit, while secretly seeking out his unconditional kindness toward her, despite her contrary nature....because no one else in her life has ever cared for her in this way. For Liz the new world represents a one-time chance to start fresh. The mall was already her second home, and now she's going to make it her first. But this character's bottled-up, unresolved baggage will come-a-knockin' over time. Don't you worry....
Kara represents the near future. She is who we are becoming. She grew into this post-apocalyptic world and is known for being a notorious thief that values her freedom above all. She's brave, secretive, and pragmatic to boot. Kara became a lone wolf because that's what this reality taught her to be. Trust no one, invest in nothing, survive, and don't let anyone slow your ass down. Kara arrives at the freshly unearthed mall while being chased by a gang of savage bandits she just betrayed. Randy's offer to give her a place to settle and a job to perform came at an opportune time. It's only temporary though. You'll see! She's just waiting for the right moment to get back out there. Kara may be rough around the edges but she is perhaps the sharpest out of everyone in the cast. She recognizes something in the other characters that they often can't see: she can see straight into their deep-rooted sadness. Takes one to know one, huh? This empathy is in conflict with her instincts. Those just tell her to run. To her the mall's nostalgic artifacts carry no emotional resonance, but under Randy's clunky leadership the mall successfully paints a picture of what the world could become. Peaceful. Stable. Neutral...or at least trying to be those things. For the first time in her life, Kara finds a place worth sticking' a flag in and she will certainly fight to defend it.
Zoltax represents the future we will create if we don't change course. He's a hulking, cybernetically enhanced road warrior with a bad case of undiagnosed PTSD. He used to be a hired goon for the bandit group that chased Kara down. Hell..she was HIS primary target for a while. Like his humanity, Zoltax's memory is in fragments. He doesn't know how he ended up half-man and half rust-filled death machine but "shoot to kill" is an easy command to follow, so he doesn't have to stop and think too much about it. Zoltax's career as a bandit ends with he sees Liz for the first time. She immediately reminds him of someone from his infrequent flashback bursts. Someone he knows his past self held dear. Zoltax turns his back on his gang and becomes the mall's muscle, as well as Liz's personal bodyguard. Having a man-tank to carry her around and follow her every order sits well with her. As the show progresses and Zoltax's buried personality starts resurfacing, we find out that Liz reminds him of his daughter Lux, who died in the same bandit raid that got him to the brink of death...that led to him being re-built as a killer cyborg.... oh...yeah, you can see where this one is going. Spoiler alert! throw another detail into the mix: Liz is actually Zoltax's great aunt. Take a moment to wrap your head around that one and let me know if you figured it out.
Last Bastion is an awesome IP. Isn't it? I barely got to pitch it anywhere. When we made it there wasn't a lot of hunger for adult animation and executives didn't know how to parse something so...bizarre. It may still have a future, but my writing partner Elliot Sperl and I are now working on a new property that took some inspiration from this concept and used it to make something very different. So I'm currently more focused on that.
If you've read through the character profiles you probably know that nostalgia is what I used as a "lure" but not as the narrative driver for Last Bastion. This is a show that uses nostalgia to contextualize and represent our values during specific times in our history: as individuals and as a society. But it also helps expose the weaknesses, the hidden truths, the things we were trying to run away from by building these cultural symbols. Last Bastion was designed to force people to re-examine, to be objective, to be introspective and to learn what's truly worth keeping VS what should be stayed buried under piles of radioactive dust. Last Bastion is a great representation of my own identity as a creator. The over the top and comedically engaging facade are there to ease your mind while I shove my boot up your candy ass with some heavy criticism and cerebral mindfuckery. I'm well aware that this blog post was quite different than my last ones. Hope you enjoyed it regardless!