The #WeBroughtBackMST3K Kickstarter Screening Tour was a success! PLUS: Meet the NEW GYPSY!
Dear MST3K Revival League,
Joel here. I'm just getting home from spending two weeks on the road for our Kickstarter screening tour, where we finally got to show over a thousand of you amazing backers a first look at what we've been working on for the last year, and man, I've gotta tell you: it's just been such a great experience for all of us, getting to meet so many of you and hear your reactions.
Also, I know it's been a little while since the last "big" update, so I really appreciate you all being so patient, and letting us put in the time to focus and get things right. Things have been really busy, between finishing up post-production on the final new episodes, and then running these screenings. I know it's hard to wait, but like I've said all along: more than anything, I want to make sure we get these new episodes right, and I don't want to spoil anything.
The good news is, once the new episodes are released, we'll still have plenty of time to talk about everything we've been doing, and also, I think it'll be easier to understand what I'm talking about once you've seen the episodes. So, thanks again for being so patient over the last year.
And, now that all fourteen episodes of Season 11 are "in the can," I should be able to spend more time writing updates again, so that we can all come together and count down the days until MST3K returns. (And hey, if you don't want to do the math... that's just 46 days away!)
So yeah: for today, I thought maybe I could tell you a little bit about our special Kickstarter screenings, and introduce you to someone I've been waiting for you to meet.
THE KICKSTARTER SCREENINGS
Before I tell you about those screenings, I want to tell you that these events weren't part of the "Livestream Screening" that we promised as a reward for backers who pledged for EXPERIMENT 025 and higher. You didn't miss the online screening reward! That's still going to happen before Netflix releases the new season on April 14. We're working out the details now, so I hope we'll have those for you in the next week or two.
Anyway, over the last two weeks, we got the chance to screen our first new episode – let's just call it "Experiment 1101" to avoid spoilers – for three really terrific crowds of backers, along with some of our family and friends, in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. We also got to answer some really fun questions, and even do a little demonstration of how the upgraded Crow and Servo puppets work. (Don't worry: we recorded some of that for the special "Kickstarter Edition" DVD extras, so even if you weren't there, you'll still have a chance to see it!)
Now, before you start asking other backers for details, you should know that we had to ask everyone to sign a "Non Disclosure Agreement," promising to keep the details secret until the new season is released on Netflix:
But, even though I asked all the backers who joined us not to tell you what movie we riffed, or answer specific questions about the new season, I think it's okay for them to share some of their general thoughts and feelings with you.
(Actually, I know a lot of them have been doing that in the comments for a week or two, but maybe they'll do it again on this update, so you can ask them questions. Just don't ask them for specifics, because they're not allowed to share them yet.)
Anyway, for us, these screenings were just an incredible, encouraging way to "test" the new season out, and the reactions really reassured all of us that we're on the right track.
To tell you the truth, when we were first planning our Kickstarter, I was a little worried about the idea of taking the season pilot out for an early "test drive" like this, but Ivan told me it would be a really valuable way to get feedback and encouragement and know how things were going before we premiered it for the rest of the world. And man, he was so right.
Actually, even some of the most hesitant backers who came to our screenings came up to all of us afterward, and told us that they think we got the tone of the show "just right," and that they're really pleased to see how well Jonah, Baron, Hampton, Felicia and Patton picked up the tradition and kept it going. If you're still worried about the new cast, I hope that will help you relax a bit and enjoy the last few weeks of waiting a little more.
If you were one of the backers who came out and joined us, I just want to say "thank you" again – we had a really wonderful time, and I hope you did too.
Now, all of the screenings were a lot of fun, but I want to take a few minutes to share something very special that happened while we were on the road. See, we have one more cast member you haven't met yet, who actually lives in Chicago… so I thought that a screening in her own town would be the perfect time to introduce her.
MEET THE NEXT GYPSY
Ever since we finished our Kickstarter, I know that one of the most common questions about the new episodes was if Gypsy would be back on the Satellite of Love. Well, if you saw the photo that Netflix released last week, then you've already probably put two and two together, but I'm pleased to make it official:
Gypsy is back for the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and thanks to some design adjustments, and the wonderful talent of her new voice – Miss Rebecca Hanson – she'll be more involved than ever before!
Now, I want to introduce you to Rebecca and tell you a little bit more about her, but before I do, I also want to share a little bit of the thinking that we put into Gypsy for the new season.
The first thing I should tell you is that I know how loved Gypsy is, so I've always known we'd bring her back. But I've also got to tell you that, even though we love Gypsy too, I felt like there were some problems we had to solve, because when we created her for the original episodes, I think we just didn't spend as much bandwidth on developing her as we did with Tom and Crow, and it kept us from including her in the show more. But, as you know, she became this really beloved character, even though we didn't see her that often.
Anyway, personally, I felt obliged to give her a little more of a creative "hug" this time around, and to figure out how to solve some of the problems that kept us from using Gypsy more often, or in more interesting ways.
At the same time, I really tried to approach the new episodes of MST3K the way a designer would, and tried to make sure it was easy to understand from a newcomer's perspective, and not just for folks who knew the show. (That way, the new MST3K wouldn't just be a love letter to the past, but maybe also a love letter to the future.)
So, when you think about it that way, there are a few questions that a newcomer might ask about Gypsy based on the past episodes, like…
- Why didn't Gypsy appear more often in the theater and sketches?
- Why did Gypsy appear to be “slightly dim”?
- Why was Gypsy always voiced by a man?
Let's talk about those questions one at a time, okay?
1. Why didn't Gypsy appear more often in the theater and sketches?
This is such an important question. The thing to tell you is, when I first thought up Gypsy, I was mostly just wanting to create a really big robot – kind of like Sweet-ums in The Muppets. To build her, we used a baby car-seat carrier. That was helpful, because she was very lightweight... but she was also very huge and unwieldy, which made it hard to include her in a lot of sketches or bring her into the Mystery Science Theater.
This time around, we spent considerably more time and energy "upgrading her" to have more flexibility, so that she can do more, and participate more in the show. By flexibility, I mean we've got some really cool new innovations that allow her to do way more.
I'll leave it at that for now, but you'll see what I mean right in the first new host segment – and after that, I can tell you more about how we designed her.
2. Why did Gypsy appear to be "slightly dim"?
As you might remember, the old Gypsy was also kind of… simple.
Now, I realize that back in the day, we explained that by saying, "Most of her memory is dedicated to running the higher functions of the ship." So it gave her obvious mental challenges a little more context: Gypsy was very busy. Over time, though, I started to see how this was also keeping Gypsy’s personality from being able to grow, the way that Tom and Crow could grow.
The good news is that, since the old episodes, times have changed. Back then, it might have make sense that an individual robot wouldn't have enough processing power to do her job and also talk coherently… but now, the concept of "the cloud" has sort of solved that. So, I'm happy to say that while the new Gypsy is still busy maintaining the ship, she can also have conversations. That gave us the chance to pull her into more sketches, and to let her drop in to riff in the MST. I'm hoping that in time, Gypsy can become a little bit more of a "full" character.
3. Why was Gypsy voiced by a man?
There was one other problem, too. Over the years, I started to feel a little self-conscious that our “slightly dim” character was a female, but voiced by a man. Think about that for second. It sounds kind of weird when I say it, doesn’t it? And honestly, there was no good reason why she had to be voiced by a man, other than, "That's just the way we did it back then."
So, when we started making plans to bring back Mystery Science Theater, I became pretty invested in casting a woman to take on the new, fuller role of Gypsy. I wanted to find a performer who had the comedic chops and sense of self to embellish and build on what we already know about Gypsy, but also to take on new ideas from the creative team and writers. Just as important, I wanted someone I knew would be confident enough to "hang in there" and be part of the ensemble with Jonah and Baron and Hampton. And, of course, I wanted to find someone who was a fan of the show, and who I knew would help us care for it.
Well, man, I've gotta tell you… we found her.
MEET REBECCA HANSON
Now, If you were one of the backers who received our "thank you" postcard from set, you may have noticed that there was an extra signature on the back, along with me, Jonah, Baron, Hampton, Felicia and Patton.
In fact, a few of you even wrote to ask me, "Who is Rebecca Hanson?"
I'm so glad to finally get to tell you more about her.
I met Rebecca about four years ago in Chicago, and simply put, I just really liked her. She was so funny, and talented, and a “good hang” too! Adding to all that, on a professional level Rebecca has been performing improv, sketch comedy, and singing and writing in Chicago for over a decade. She has toured all over the US and is a proud alum of The Second City National Touring Company and ComedySportz Chicago too.
And honestly, I think in the back of my mind, I was hoping to give Gypsy a hint of a Midwestern voice. Rebecca can do lots of voices and dialects, but deep underneath all that, she’s an Iowan!
At the same time, Rebecca also has a second ongoing role on the new MST3K as one of Kinga's minions, whose identity I will reveal in a later update! Plus, Rebecca is writing on several episodes of the new season as well. And she did so well that, next season – Lord willing and creek don’t rise – we’re hoping to give her even more writing assignments!
Also, now that we're on the other side of production and I've seen the finished episodes, I just have to tell you: Rebecca has already done an amazing job being Gypsy, and quite frankly, she’s added some great new wrinkles to the character that I simply couldn’t have anticipated.
Long story short, I’m really thrilled with her work and I think you will be too!
We're very lucky to have her on the Satellite of Love with us. So, now that the secret is out, I hope you'll go say "hi" to Rebecca on Twitter, or in the comments, and give her a warm welcome from the MST3K Revival League.
Of course, there's a lot more to share with you, because so much has happened over the past few weeks, but I kind of need to unpack.
Next time, I'll share more details about some fun new developments in our plans to bring MST3K off the screen and into new places, and if we can get a few more details locked up, I'm hoping to announce the date and time for our "Online Screening" of the first new episode and a live Q&A with me and our new cast. Our team is working on that now, so stay tuned!
Hope everyone had a great weekend.
46 days until new MST3K!
Cheers & Thanks,