David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2002
Read the SIDEBAR FIRST
November 2001—I had a conversation with a fellow at alt.fantasy.er-burroughs who blamed all of ERB Inc's "failures to tell the Tarzan story" on Danton Burroughs and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. This fellow's name is not important, but his comments represent a fairly loud and recurring voice among ERB FILM FANS expressing a common complaint that Danton Burroughs specifically—a grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs and officer of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.—failed in his duties and Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. failed to capitalize on the great author's product. Each time I encountered these negative voices I would post my saved reply, but now that the possibility of a Barsoom movie based on Princess of Mars approaches I continue to hear negative comments from various sources. I have resurrected my original post for the purpose of this article, made some expansions in key areas, and present it here as an ERB fan's statement that the difference between doing business and fan adulation has many levels—and the average fan, no matter how ardent, is generally clueless and wears blinders. The negative commentary by the "trash Danton" brigade is posted in italic.
As recently as twenty-two years ago I was one of those fans perplexed by what appeared to be reluctance on ERB Inc.'s part to produce or expand the works of ERB. More recently, as I grew into business and began to understand trademark/licensing models, as well as copyrights I began to realize how difficult it was to make projects move—the variables of compliance, cost, value returned, overhead, residuals, term of operation, exclusivity, and PATENT as applied to existing TRADEMARK. Intellectual property law is fascinating and infinitely more complex than tort or criminal law. As recently as five years ago I met a fine bunch of folks who knew the principals as either acquaintance or friend, and in the last two years I have become an acquaintance (via telephone and mail) of one of the principals at ERB Inc.
Damn few know ERB Inc. is busy busy busy, not just with current contracts but future contracts, and (sad to say) a recurring bundle of gold diggers in the form of lawsuits, etc. Truth to say, it is amazing that Danton Burroughs remains as bright and cheerful each time we speak.
ERB Inc appears to be very comfortable in whoring out it's character to whoever waves the right amount of dough.
And why not? ERB himself was the master of licensing his intellectual properties not only in book, film, or radio, but in various sides such as toys, dolls, bread, oil, etc. See TRADEMARKS for the various registered in commerce uses of the Tarzan trademark.
However, you would think ONCE , Danton Burroughs would exert an effort to secure writers and /or producers...
Reality check. What evidence can you present that Danton has ANY overt control over the corporation's direction or projects? Obviously Danton Burroughs is a significant participant and Jim Dandy fellow himself, but he is an officer of the corporation who must answer to others and is not, and never has been, the be-all end-all buck-stops-here fellow. He HAS routinely offered his personal memories of grandpa ERB and input his observations of the works at times during the creation process of various projects, but please do not slander Danton's participation in the ERB corporation. Business is business—and it does appear ERB Inc is conducting business to their profit. It also appears YOU have no concept of their business, corporations in general, or filmatic reality. Hang on, I'll tar that feather for you a bit more before mounting you on the rail...
How is it that Harry Potter, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Horatio Hornblower, Nero Wolfe and James Bond (periodically) get straight adaptions from the original source material and Tarzan, by God— the grand dad of the Twentieth Century Super-Hero gets screwed up progressively worse in each new adaption?
First, those listed above are not treated all that kindly in film translation and secondly, ERB himself defined what HOLLOWOOD (sic) could do with his TRADEMARKED CREATION. Get a clue and get off the whine box. In 1932 ERB granted certain and specific uses of the Tarzan TRADEMARK to MGM in his contract with MGM and HOLLOWOOD in general has followed that FILM INDUSTRY blueprint in the years subsequent. Why? No legal grounds would have to be explored because the films were derivatives of FILMS not books, and the box office was largely boffo for decades.
Can Danton Burroughs not use the truck-load of Disney money to find someone who actually has READ even the Cliff's notes to the first book?
Get off the slam Danton wagon. He's an ordinary guy who happens to have an extraordinary grandfather who created a family corporation in which he has a part, but not a deciding part. It is these comments regarding Danton which I find both offense and clueless. Danton Burroughs does inject his personal input when projects arise, enthusiastically at times! Yet at the end of the day decisions will be made to the benefit of the corporation, the family, and the TRADEMARK. AND WHETHER THE PROJECT HAS MERIT.
Why can't anyone with creative talent see that to do the book (any in the series) as is would be amazing entertainment and would also be FRESH.
There are two Tarzans. The Tarzan of the Books and Tarzan of the Films. Bear in mind that the more famous of the Tarzans is the FILM version which is, by contract with ERB himself resulted in the Weismuller version and all the derivatives thereof. The odd-ball Tarzans attempting to tell the "real Tarzan" have routinely flopped at box office...Hugh Hudson's absurd Tarzan: Legend of Greystoke and the more accurate but still largely fantasy Tarzan and the Lost City. Disney's sanitized Tarzan (1999) and recent Legend of Tarzan TV series present ERB more strongly than the vast majority of film versions from any decade—the core elements of what makes Tarzan tick!.
Anyone could see how cinematic the original novel is by looking at Joe Kubert's comic adaption. Hell, you could use his comics as a story board to make the film!
Kubert did offer a fine adaptation, but if one is honest, these adaptations bend more toward the film versions rather than the author's original texts. Why? Visualization. Film, Comics, even the newspaper strips have defined the POPULAR VISUAL concept of Tarzan. We cannot ignore that influence, nor should we.
Disney completely ignored ERB's plots and themes and yet Danton Burroughs is happy to do business with them.
Danton did not have final contract approval, but his approval was sincere. And as a long time ERB fan I approved, too. See my review of the Disney Tarzan film.
I like the art myself, but it was a COMPLETE destruction of Burrough's work. Obviously, it was made for kids—but then so was Kubert's adaption and it is faithful to the Novel.
Kubert left so much out it ticked me off—as a long time ERB fan—but what the hey, I did enjoy it immensely as an ERB fan starved for whatever any production company might offer!
...but why would any true ERB fan or a blood relative to Edgar Rice Burroughs be happy with complete disrespect to the original?
Define "complete disrespect to the original" and do so with specifics as I have long been an original lamenter as regards ERB's works in different media...in print his words shine, elsewhere we have differing opinions. Yet, I have been generally pleased with the works of the Grand Master of Adventure as translated to slice of life comic books (Dell, Gold Key, Marvel, DC), television, short film and animation, as well as recent audio books; yet through all these various permutations I do not observe anything that approaches "complete disrespect." There is, of course, the incident of an independent, non-authorized, pornographic Tarzan and Jane film the ERB family and ERB Inc fought. If they had no respect why would they have made the effort?
I hope to see the day when Tarzan becomes public domain.
At present, in the United States of America and Canada, the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs are in public domain AS NOVELS if prior to 1923. Publish the authors WORDS all day long as public domain: However, new works of Tarzan are covered by the continuing and IN FORCE TARZAN TRADEMARK. The works of Burroughs, in general, are protected by TRADEMARK and COPYRIGHT and unless ERB, INC goes to sleep over the next 22 years, new TARZAN TALES ARE VERBOTEN.
Until then, I'm seeking investors to help me buy out ERB Inc completely and restore this archetype and other ERB property to it's original integrity.
This brash statement is intriguing. First, ERB, Inc. can sit and do nothing but rake in extensive and voluminous royalties and licensing from now until doomsday with only three people in the office. Overhead is low, they retain full control, retain the Tarzan TRADEMARK, and have little or no reason to listen to HOLLOWOOD tradepapers from time to time. Second, I admire your cajones in thinking you can attempt a hostile takeover of an established USA/CA corporation (I estimate it would take capital exceeding US$300m to just to get their attention).
No more Max Keller/ Joe Lara interpretations.
Keller's determination to produce their vision AND to make sure no one else would have access to the product as long as they paid the royalties. As long as Keller was in compliance nobody, not even ERB, Inc. could change their course of action. Get facts straight. Meanwhile, the ERB, Inc license is at work creating dollars for the corporation. Why would anyone wish to denigrate the profit model that ERB himself created?
Nothing but the genuine quality work which ERB published.
Define "quality." ERB himself classified what he wrote as "damphool litrachoor." Took himself as a grain of salt and was damn glad anyone bought it.
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Too often I have this conversation with people who consider themselves fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Most of them are fans of the movies first who subsequently discover the novels and, in that reading, see how Hollywood treated the written work, i.e., simplified and dumbed down. Tarzan is the premiere Burroughs product, there is no doubt of that. There have been many versions of Tarzan in film, television and comic books, some more true to the original than others, yet in all of these versions of Tarzan the core principles of Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous character has been observed.
What troubles me in recent years is film tier fandom blaming Danton Burroughs for the quality of the film products and doing so without any knowledge or understanding of how films are made, much less how ERB Inc. works with film production companies.
Bottom line: Blame the film production companies for their failure to be true to ERB's words—not Danton or even ERB Inc. The worst blame that can be directed to ERB Inc. is that they have diligently maintained the Tarzan Trademark, worked with those authorized to use the trademark within the limitations of that permission, and pursed those who would sully the trademark.
Danton, meanwhile, remains the most accessible and amenable officer of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., is a genuine fan of his grandfather's work, and remains a supporter of ERB fandom. Idiots with a clueless agenda bent on muck-raking ERB Inc. should take note: vinegar catches no flies but any fly caught in honey is caught. While there is no honey at ERB Inc. there are bright and eager minds happy to meet and greet people and new ideas—and if existing contracts do not prevent—are more than willing to work toward new projects ERB!