HARVEY KUBERNIK VISITS LONG-GRIN
2022 HARVEY KUBERNIK INTERVIEW
WITH AUTHOR TRAVIS EDWARD PIKE
Harvey Kubernik is a music journalist, pop culture historian, and author of 18 books (including three published by Otherworld Cottage Industries: It Was Fifty Years Ago Today THE BEATLES Invade America and Los Angeles (2014), The Doors Summer's Gone (2018), and Docs That Rock, Music Thar Matters (2020). His most recent title co-authored with brother Kenneth Kubernik is the critically acclaimed Jimi Hendrix, Voodoo Child (Sterling/Barnes and Noble (2021).
(left) Harvey Kubernik visits Long Grin.
(photo left courtesy Otherworld Cottage)
Q: Youíve novelized your original musical screenplay, Morningstone, into an award-winning, contemporary musical fantasy adventure novel (retitled Changelingís Return); you've released your live, 1997 world premiere performance of your award-winning epic rhyme fantasy adventure, Grumpuss, on DVD; and are now revisiting your Long-Grin Saga, a fantasy-adventure series youíve been developing for decades, exploring the events leading up to and including highlights of the Arthurian legend through an extraordinaty cast of characters, known and hitherto unknown, including Long-Grin, the red-backed, scaly, black-bellied, tusked, bat-winged dragon said to have defeated the white dragon in battle. When did you fascination with dragons and the fantasy adventure genre begin?
A: Iíve been a fan ever since my mother and grandmother began reading me fairy tales frequently inhabited by supernatural beings, humans with magical powers, and fantastic creatures, especially dragons, some fierce, destructive, and terrible to behold, but others, wise, helpful and protective, all leading up to The Long-Grin Saga I began writing when I was a junior in high school.
To this day, dragons are arguably the most popular of all the mythological creatures, evidenced by the numerous tales of dragons told in disparate cultures worldwide, and with the advancing knowledge of pre-historic dinosaurs, (not mythical, just extinct), the popularity of dragons has only grown. Recent feature cartoons like How to Train Your Dragon, and the three incredibly popular CGI dragons in the HBO series Game of Thrones continue to contribute greatly to their popularity, and my unadvertised Long-Grin website has had over 6 million visitors, so I expect dragons to continue to inspire writers, readers, and viewers until and unless humanity goes the way of the dinosaurs.
My dragon Long-Grin is a creature not unlike the heraldic dragon appearing on the ethnic Flag of Wales, and Arthurian legend specifically describes a battle between a red dragon and a white, in which the red dragon (symbolic representation of the native British), overcomes the white dragon (representing the Anglo-Saxon invaders). In my tale, Long-Grin is both a physical and metaphysical presence, first appearing a few years after the Roman withdrawal from Britain, and continuing through to Arthurís final Battle at Camlann (between 537-542 AD).
Q: Iíve seen the mockup in your office, and I am a witness to your dragonís long grin, but is there something more to the dragonís name?
A: In my story, the dragon never reveals his dragon name (if he ever had one). He is first called Long-Grin by Princess Gwyn when she and the dragon discuss her terrifying fate and the reason she has been kidnapped, imprisoned in a tower cell of the dragonís master, the evil sorcerer, Akimera, guarded by Long-Grin to see she doesn't escape.
Akimera is a sobriquet, a name he took for himself to instill fear of his shapeshifting abilities, derived from the "chimera," described as a fire-breathing hybrid creature created from parts of different animals, sibling to Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades that guards the gates of the underworld, and the Hydra, an enormous, nine-headed, snake-like monster slain by Hercules. I thought I'd invented the name until my senior year high school English teacher read my story and asked if I derived it from that mythological beast. I hadnít. That was the first I'd heard of ďa Chimera,Ē but it is not unusual for me to discover illuminating layers and hidden meanings in my works, sometimes years after I first write them, and Akimera is a sorcerer whose evil plan is revealed in the story. I could have given him a different name, or several different names. It is his vile character, and not his name, that is important. But readers might find its unsuspected antecedents interesting, sort of a ďwhich came first, the dragon or the egg?Ē
Q: That provides me with an excellent example of the mysticism I detect running through your properties, side-by-side with the folklore and mythology.
A: Good point.
Q: When did you get interested in mythology and folklore?
A: I suppose it started with the fairy tales, most derived from folklore and mythology. When I first learned to read, it wasnít all Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff. It was Aesopís Fables, Hans Christian Andersen, and The Brothers Grimm. Thatís not to say I didnít read all the childrenís classics about pirates, knights, dragons, kings, outlaws, early explorers and conquerors by Samuel Clemens, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Shakespeare, Jack London, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the list goes on.
Many of those books and authors made it onto the silver screen, and in my formative years, I was uniquely introduced to many Hollywood classics, from Gunga Din, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Charge of the Light Brigade, King Richard and the Crusades, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and one of my all-time favorites, The Court Jester. And we dare not overlook the musicals. Broadway shows brought to the screen, the MGM classics like The Wizard of Oz, anything and everything with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the Disney animated musical features that inspired me to get into cel-animation.
Q: When was that?
A: About the same time, I began writing Long-Grin, during my junior year in high school, when I bought a copy of Halas and Batchelderís Technique of Film Animation featuring insights about their production, Animal Farm. When I discussed it with my father, he allowed me to study a Disney animation post-production script, timed and describing every shot and camera angle, and I began writing a script of my own. That summer, I worked as a dishwasher at Bonazoliís Beacon Restaurant in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, earning enough money to buy two precision-tooled SOS animation discs with triple posted top and bottom rulers to align cels, and bought enough pre-punched paper, Rapidograph pens, camel-hair brushes, cel-tested paint and began creating cel-animation. The massive, single-frame Oxberry multiplane animation stand installed on the top floor of the enormous house on Lake Avenue was seldom used, but the camera crew was kind enough to add my cels to the end of a reel of film they were sending to the lab, and when it came back, my drawings came to life.
Q: Thatís when you started doing animation for your fatherís motion picture company, Pike Productions.
A: Yes, but until then, most of what I did for Pike Productions was painting over the glossy packaging on Pepperidge Farm packaging, boxes of Hasbro, Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers games and toys, with matching flat color that photographed better. I continued to submit my animation to refine my skills, but I only created two commercial clips of animation that ever aired, both for the Duncan Yoyo Shrieking Sonic Satellite television campaign.
Q: When you began writing Long-Grin, it was a one-off fantasy adventure film, but in 1985, you began re-writing it as a theatrical series encompassing the entire Arthurian adventure. How did that come about?
A: I was fascinated by the period, the stories, and the players. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to tell their stories. The Long-Grin Saga Part One: The Courtship of Princess Gwyn actually opens about 428 AD, 17 years after the Roman Legions withdrew from Britain, and reveals how Nial, a young warrior of suspect lineage, ends up winning the hand of a native princess, Gwyn, an only child and heir to the throne. In the course of events, Nial becomes the warrior king of his native followers, outlaw to their powerful enemies, and along with his princess, progenitor of the Arthurian bloodline. The saga is largely about the competing forces at work after the Roman legions withdraw, the period to which the Arthurian legend rightly belongs, and set in those tumultuous times, addresses ďhighlightsĒ of Arthurís accomplishments, revealed through the dragon and a large cast of other characters, known and hitherto unknown, and first revealed in The Long-Grin Saga.
Q: Can you give me some examples?
A: I can, but wonít. I mean to reveal them all first in Long-Grin, but some of mye observations are contemporary and not yet connected to the legends of King Arthur. Two things being particularly problematic for me in the earliest versions of Long-Grin, had to do with his description (in my title song for the animated version, ďA Red-backed, Scaly, Black-bellied, Tusk-ed, Bat-winged DragonĒ), but from the start, he was too large and too heavy to fly with his bat-like wings, so I decided they were vestigial. It turns out, theyíre not, but thatís all Iíll say about them for now.
Even more problematic was the idea a dragon could go unnoticed, in an area inhabited by humans. If there was a dragon in the neighborhood, how was it that no one was ever aware of it? Surely, if herds of cattle or flocks of sheep were disappearing, wouldnít someone notice, and investigate their disappearance? That conundrum was finally solved in 1983, when an unknown species of dinosaur (Baryonyx), was discovered in a claypit in Surrey, England. It was a fish-eater, and since no one knows how many fish are ib a lake, it's impossible to know if the fish population is increasing, decreasing or remaining in balance.
Q: As your saga continues to develop, you keep adding new characters. Who are they and how will you weave them into the narrative?
A: The short answer is The Long-Grin Saga roughly spans 130 years, during which, aside from Long-Grin and the Lady of the Lake, all the original characters will have perished, and we will be dealing with the offspring of the native tribes, new Saxon settlers, raiders and mercenaries, and dispossessed Romano-Britons forced to flee their estates in Britain after the legions withdrew, and returning under arms from their estates in Armorica, determined to reclaim all they had lost. So it will naturally require many new principal and supporting characters, but not necessarily established stars. Rarely on set at the same time as the principal cast, some of the supporting cast and extras may arrive early and finish their business days before the principals arrive, or arrive after the principals have moved on, and be photographed by second units. And some of the more colorful ancillary characters may end up included in The Long-Grin Sagaís character collections, like the character sets from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, The Hobbit, and Game of Thrones.
Consider this. If Part One: The Courtship of Princess Gwyn is as successful as I believe it will be, it will provide a platform from which to continue the adventure, adding to licensed character sets that are promotional, collectable, and incidentally establish another potential revenue source. And that said, I have to get back to work on the development and composition of The Long-Grin Saga.