“Pork chop sandwiches!”
“Give him the stick! Don’t give him the stick!”
If you’re someone who grew up in Generation Internet, these seemingly nonsensical catch phrases not only make perfect sense to you, but have been part of your lexicon and, after all these years, can still make you laugh. While the big budget action flick G.I. Joe: Retaliation is now playing in theaters and will likely clean up at the box office this weekend, for many G.I. Joe will forever be associated with some low budget, but tremendously creative (if not completely absurd) dubs of the old animated PSAs.
Back in 2003 Eric Fensler, a writer and the man behind Fensler Film, goofed around with the audio and visuals on those cartoon PSAs and a classic meme was born. Hollywood.com caught up with Fensler to reflect on the humble beginnings of the Internet phenomenon he created a decade ago, in the moments before Internet phenomenons were even a thing.
“I used to watch the cartoon growing up so I was a fan. I found this G.I. Joe: The Movie in a five dollar bin, watched it and on the DVD special features it had all 25 of the PSAs on it,” he recalled. Fensler was working in an editing suite in Chicago at the time and in his down time “would put them on my hard drive and mess around with it. I made like four of them and showed them to friends and we were laughing so I said, ‘I guess I’ll make the rest of them’.”
Fensler, who said he did “maybe…half of the voices” then recruited his pals to get in on the action. “I was doing them all at the beginning and then I got sick of hearing my own voice so I would just pull in my roommates or my girlfriend or friends or whoever was around at the house. I’d have them do a voice and then [I’d] pitch it or pitch it down.”
Fensler’s roommate at the time had provided the voice for the famous “Snow Job” clip. “I think we were drinking whiskey and watching it and just laughing,” Fensler recalled, “I remember messing around with the visual, making the kids look at him and then look away and playing with that. He did a really good accent. We were just goofing off.” (Watch that video, for roughly the millionth time, below).
In fact, Fensler had no aspirations for the videos beyond just goofing off with his pals and making each other laugh. “I wasn’t even going to put them up on the Internet,” he admitted. “It was 2003, there was no YouTube, you had to make all these compressed files, it would take forever and then loading them up onto a server using dial-up was tedious. That whole process was hard.” He added, “Mainly I would watch them with no sound and then figure out ways to manipulate it visually and then I would look at it over and over again and mold it until it felt like it was done.”
Unlike most viral videos of today, Fensler’s clips were created and eventually gained traction in a way that’s now practically unheard of. “I was passing them around on VHS and showing them around in art galleries and that’s how it got around at first. My girlfriend at the time said, ‘You should just put them up on the Internet, that way a lot of other people can see them.’ She was right. But I was just freaked out by the Internet at that time…I still am, I guess,” Fensler said.
While the gallery that had represented Fensler had initially hosted the clips on their website, Ebaums World got their hands on it. “They downloaded the movie files, which is fine, that’s what it was there for, but then they watermarked it and put it up on their site and sorta claiming that they had made it in a sense,” Fensler said, adding, “Eventually people knew the source of where it was coming from.”
But that knowledge proved to be troublesome for Fensler, who received a cease and desist order from Hasbro in 2004 to take the parodies down or face legal action. Fensler obliged, but as evident by its continued popularity on sites like YouTube, it didn’t have a permanent effect. “I was…fine with it because it was already on a lot of different sites or people had the original movie files,” he said of the cease and desist, “I just took them down and that was that.”
While Fensler — who also worked as a writer on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! — is gracious for the success of his hilarious G.I. Joe PSAs (“Anytime I’m doing something,, the GI Joe thing gets mentioned and everyone seems to respond to it in a good way. It did open a lot of doors”) he admitted that he himself hasn’t watched the clips in years and he’s stunned by their staying power. “It’s been ten years since I’ve put them up on the Internet…and yeah, it’s surprising that something could last that long. Nowadays it usually kind of comes and goes and is a flash in the pan.” All together now: “You’re not cooking!” “Yeah dude!”
[Photo credit: YouTube]
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