It’s been quite a while since the very first news about the movie project "The Three Investigators in the Secret of Skeleton Island" circulated in late fall of 2003. In the meantime, the information about several script drafts made the rounds while the public was kept in suspense about the developments of this project. Not too long ago the film crew settled down in South Africa to start shooting the movie and Ronald Kruschak, the producer, interrupted his work to hold an interview with Rocky-Beach.com
Rocky-Beach.com: Mr. Kruschak, several entries in the trademark register at the German Patent and Trademark Office indicate that it was initially your company “Studio Hamburg Produktion für Film und Fernsehen GmbH” that owned all necessary licenses, including the title “Die drei ???,” but then Elizabeth Arthur’s name was registered as the license holder. Also, on the cover of the December issue of Studio-Hamburg-Publications "motive" you use the typical white, red, and blue colors. However, both the colors and the title “Die drei ???” were invented by publishing house Kosmos, so what’s the status quo?
Ronald Kruschak: In coordination with Kosmos we agreed that it’s best to use, in the German version, the names which the fans are familiar with. It makes sense, especially in Germany, to focus on well-known logos. The situation with trademark registration is as follows: We are obliged to transfer all registrations made to Elizabeth Arthur. We don’t have the right to register any trademarks on ourselves. However, Elizabeth Arthur allows us to use all trademarks that are registered on her name.
RBc: Are there any plans to co-operate with Kosmos and/or BMG?
RK: We are in constant contact with Kosmos and BMG. We exchange our point of views and will support each other as much as possible in the field of marketing.
RBc: Is it exclusively only Elizabeth Arthur and you who are allowed to publish the ten titles by Robert Arthur here in Germany? Are you planning to re-publish these books, and/or are you going to publish new books based on the movies?
RK: Actually, we would like to have both an audio play and a book based on our movie, but this has to be discussed first. We will keep you informed about any news. We, the movie production team, have neither anything to do with the publishing of the books nor with the release of the audio plays. We have no influence on it and do not interfere in any way. Consequently, we have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that BMG hasn’t released any new audio plays for months!
RBc: Referring to the question marks in the "motive“ magazine: Was this a makeshift illustration only or does it indicate the new corporate design for the German market?
RK: It’s a makeshift illustration I designed together with illustrator Ralph Apfelbaum, an expert in visual effects, some time ago. Ralph was in charge of the visual effects in both of my children movie productions “Hilfe, ich bin ein Junge!” and the TV children series “Vier gegen Z.” It is not decided yet which logo we are finally going to use. On this issue we work closely with our partner, Buena Vista International (Germany), but also discuss it with Kosmos, the publishing house. It is not our intention to establish a new parallel symbol.
RBc: Have you ever considered cooperating with Aiga Rasch (cover artist) in Germany? How about working together with Ed Vebell, who illustrated many covers for the original US series, on the international market?
RK: That idea sounds very interesting. I will talk with Buena Vista about it. If you could come up with more ideas about this topic, we would love to hear more suggestions.
RBc: In the Studio-Hamburg-Interview you said “The process of development requires working with more than one author, including David Howard, Thomas Walendy, and finally Philip LaZebnik.” Did it mean that you worked all together at the same time or did you work with them one after another?
RK: We worked with David Howard, Thomas Walendy, and Philip LaZebnik in succession. With the former we stuck close to the original plot, however, remained unsatisfied, partly because of the fact that the story took place 40 years ago. Furthermore, there are too many flashbacks included in the novel - the pirate story, the bank robbery, the lightning at the amusement park, and the ghost appearance - that is a problem with the script dramaturgy. In other words, half of the movie would have consisted of flashbacks. That is why we had to do some rethinking. It is our and the Arthur heirs’ goal to keep the spirit of the novel’s basic idea, but also to update it for today’s audience and work it up dramaturgically in order to make a movie out of it. Then I chose Thomas Walendy, I knew he would be very good in both rethinking crime plots and comprehending the humor of the 3I. Working with him, the setting moved to South America resulting in a narrative story full of suspense, however, we still had the feeling of not being really up-to-date. Together with Philip Lazebnik, who had worked for Jeffrey Katzenberg at Disney and Dreamworks for ten years, we decided to move the setting to South Africa, the place we wanted to shoot the movie from the very beginning. Robert Arthur had always been writing his stories from a critical point of view, in which characters face prejudices in our society due to social or ethnic reasons. In "Skeleton Island" the character of Chris, the Greek immigrant boy, is the personification of this aspect. In our movie we substitute Chris with a girl from the African Townships. This change might be regarded as an adventurous move, however, it makes sense if one takes Robert Arthur’s original intention into consideration.
RBc: In our interview with you in 2003 you considered the prospect of having a mentor (not Alfred Hitchcock, of course) for the Three Investigators in the movie. Has anything changed on that topic in the meantime?
RK: We had been going through lots of different possibilities for a long time and also had talked to Elizabeth Arthur. Were we supposed to revive Hector Sebastian? Or maybe contact a living star director? Steven Spielberg? Wolfgang Petersen? In the end we decided it’s best if our three boys get their cases directly from their clients. It is impossible to carry out the Hitchcock concept nowadays. What’s your opinion?
RBc: In your three movies you also include the story of Jupiter’s parents who, according to the Studio-Hamburg-Interview, "died in a plane crash.” André Marx (German T3I author) stressed many times that in the US original series it was not mentioned how they actually had died. That’s why in "Das Leere Grab" Marx came up with a plane crash. However, he missed the part in the Crimebusters episode "An Ear for Danger" in which Marc Brandel mentioned that it was a fatal car accident. Well, how come it is a plane crash in your version?
RK: Some time ago I met up with André Marx and talked with him about it. I liked his idea a lot, hence we adopted it. Finally, I would like to thank you for your interest but there is still one thing left on my mind. As you know, we acquired all merchandising rights connected to the movie. I would love to find out what type of merchandising you wish to have? [Please write your suggestions HERE] Best wishes from Cape of Good Hope & Regards from Florian, our director, and Jupiter, Peter, and Bob… Sincerely Yours, Ronald Kruschak