Richard Tyler is a kid that lives for his phobias. Life is dangerous and he doesn't get tired of pointing out the studies and statistics that prove it. One day, when he gets lost in a thunderstorm, he seeks shelter in a library. To become a real boy there he now has to go through an adventure. Transformed into a cartoon character, he has to face down the evil and the bad and the monstrous in the magical world of reading that suddenly takes on a life of its own. Because, you'd guessed it by now, the library is an enchanted library. He gets help from three books: Fantasy, Adventure and Horror who is very much afraid of the things that lurk in shadows and go bump in the night. One of the characters the four meet during Richard's involuntary journey is Dr. Jeckyll and his equally no good alter ego Mr. Hyde (voiced by Leonard Nimoy).
Nobody sets out to make a bad film. The creative team behind The Pagemaster certainly didn't. Nonetheless, the movie couldn't warm the hearts of film critics. One of the few things to find favor in their eyes were the portrayals of the voice actors not Macaulay Culkin, among them Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. If one starts to read reviews by viewers one finds that reception is still mixed. One of the most prominent accusations directed at the film is that it bombs as a vehicle to get children interested in reading books. David Kirschner, author of the screenplay and producer of the film, anticipated this kind of criticism:
"I didn't create the film as an elixir to the literary problems that exist today, I just created it as an adventure. But parents and educators have made the book important, because it introduces kids to the exciting world of classic literature. I would probably sound smarter if I said that was my intention, but it wasn't." (1)
|Leonard Nimoy & Fantasy|
The Pagemaster evolved from a bedtime story that Kirschner, at the time chairman of the Hanna-Barbera Studios, best known for its children's cartoons, used to invent for his daughters. He succeeded in making his film different from what the audience was used to from Disney, but this in the end backfired. The critics did not notice what to him was important - that there was no song, dance, central villain or love story - but focused on the animation that was not up to par with the standards set by Disney. Despite efforts to promote the film, it did not do well at the box office at the time.
From start to finish production took 31/2 years, the budget was $35 million, and the film opened on November 23rd, 1994 in the US.
I uploaded a video clip with the Jeckyll & Hyde sequence to YouTube. Due to a copyright claim by Fox YouTube disabled the embed function for this clip. Dammit, now as of 2015 it's completely gone. In case you wonder why I'm not sharing more LN stuff...YouTube keeps killing it.
(1) Crisafulli, Chuck, "Pagemaster - Writer/producer David Kirschner readies his cartoon adventure in the land of books" in Cinefantastique, December 1994, p. 38-39.