By Leif Conti-Groome / May 8th, 2016
Although it is Mother’s Day, the movie Mother to Earth has little to do with the celebration of maternity. This documentary is currently seeking funds through Kickstarter to tell the fascinating journey to the release of EarthBound Beginnings. The game was released in Japan as Mother in 1989 and did well enough for Nintendo agree to a Western localization. But soon after, the big N reneged on this decision and the translation lived on only through prototype cartridges and urban legends. Things were better for Mother 2 since it came out in North America as EarthBound and slowly developed a large cult following over the years. The documentarians from 54&0 Productions are going to pull back the curtain on these eccentric fans and detail their contribution to a release 25 years in the making.
The most interesting part of Mother to Earth‘s Kickstarter is the examination of those gaming sub-communities that never get enough of the spotlight. 54&0 Productions have/are going to interview a number of game collectors, rom hackers, and auctioneers of rare and mystical game cartridges to chronicle this (mostly) untold story. How did those long lost localized Mother carts ended up on the internet for all to enjoy in the early 2000s? As much as I’m interested in hearing how Nintendo finally caved and released EarthBound Beginnings on virtual console, I’m even more curious to meet the fans who kept this game alive for 20+ years.
Among the various original prototype owners and data-miners that are part of the documentary is Phil Sandhop. He was the English script writer for the original translation of EarthBound Beginnings. And while Phil has done various interviews before about his experience with the Mother franchise and I’m guessing that his Mother to Earth debut will be the must-see appearance by the translator. Although he’s moved on from video games to work in IT and to provide mobile DJ and casino entertainment, he’s worked on classics such as Super Mario 64 and Tetris Attack. He’s definitely a legitimate personality to give credence to this documentary.
Since the Mother series has generated so much love and talent from its fans, Mother to Earth is looking to celebrate that aspect of the fandom. There will be an original score for the film by Austin O’Rourke and Cole Masaitis that will, of course, be a tribute to the music found within the game. There are also multiple contributing artists that are using their own personal styles to capture the scenes and memories from Beginnings in their sketches and paintings. Most impressive is Jorge Manuel Velez whose promo work for the project looks gorgeous. The fact that he’s also worked on the television show Archer is a real plus in my books. All the extra artwork and music is mainly aimed at the backers as extra incentive to back the project.
For their backer rewards, 54&0 Productions is relying on a lot of nostalgia to bring people on board. There’s the usual digital copy at $10 USD but every tier above contain the scratch-n-sniff inserts that many fans will remember being packaged with player’s guide for EarthBound. Other add-ons include an air-freshener, an OST, and, most 90s of all, a pog set emblazoned with Jorge’s fantastic designs. At $25 USD you get a DVD copy of the documentary and at $35 USD you get the Blu-ray release. At $100 USD you get either the DVD or Blu-ray, a t-shirt, and you get to choose one of the extra bonuses listed above. At $250 USD you get the special collection for the doc that includes both disc formats, special development updates, and you get a version of the movie that is only available during the Kickstarter campaign.
I’ve had a little bit of back and forth with the people behind the production studio and their enthusiasm for the project always shines through. On top of giving me a ton of unused art assets for the original Mother and explaining the significance of some of them to me, the team also gave a teaser for a large section of the documentary with regards to one of the prototype cartridges:
“We won’t reveal everything, yet, but I’ll give you a big unpublished tip about the most well-known of the protos, the TK-69 cartridge. That particular cartridge was given to a (now closed) second-hand game store in the Seattle area called Famcom Games by a former NoA employee. That’s how all of this craziness started. I won’t name names quite yet.”
I wish that this information was covered on the campaign page. Only a few names are given for the list of interviewees and after working on this project for 2 years, you’d think there’d be some examples of uncovered personal stories or video snippets of conversations with people showcased in the doc. I think the lack of any examples of how the finished project will look is the biggest oversight. Looking through videographer Christian Deitering‘s work, there’s a bunch of video game related content such as covering panels and live let’s plays. However, there’s very little content that carries over to my idea of a what a professional documentary should look like. Maybe that’s more of the editor’s job; to make static shots of people talking feel more dynamic. There’s also no indication on how the team fits in with the scope of Mother to Earth. Why are they hunting down this story? What does the game mean to them? It builds confidence when you can see where passion lies; that this isn’t just a story that will get people buying our movie.
Aside from these criticisms, I think this is a very interesting project with very creative people behind it. But it’s up to your own judgment and research whether or not you think this is a movie that is worthy of your cash. I’m hoping to grab an interview with 54&0 Productions soon to shed more light on the behind the scenes and the grand adventure they’ve set about untangling. The project is currently sitting under 50% of the $35,000 USD goal with 11 days to go. If you do want to do your mother proud (?) and pledge, Mother to Earth ends on
DocumentaryEarthBoundEarthbound BeginningsMotherMother to EarthNintendo