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“Dynaman”: Night Flight’s popular series featured rubber monsters, good looking Japanese teens, silly jokes, and cool pop music!
Dynaman is peak Night Flight with its blend of rubber monsters, good looking Japanese teens, silly jokes, and cool pop music. Night Flight Plus is currently streaming three episodes of the bonkers, re-dubbed parody of Kagaku Sentai Dynaman, featuring members of “The Kids In The Hall” and music from Billy Idol and Huey Lewis & the News. Watch “Cy Steinberg,” “Rhinoman,” and “The Lizard Of Oz” right now at Night Flight Plus!
In 1988, (or perhaps 1987, depending on who you ask), “Night Flight” premiered Dynaman, a re-dubbed parody of the seventh Super Sentai series, Kagaku Sentai Dynaman.
The show featured hyperkinetic editing, quick zooms cribbed from Kung fu flicks, and plenty of very early computer special effects. Dynaman was like anime or manga come to life in hyper real color.
The concept was simple: a cohort of Toronto-based comedians — including several members of “The Kids In The Hall” comedy troupe — inspired by Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily re-dubbed Japanese spy flick — reworked the dialogue of an old Japanese television series to very silly effect.
Dynaman also utilized some of the coolest pop music of the day creating a singular — and even in the Internet age — cultish phenomenon.
Night Flight caught up with Kevin McDonald and Bruce Pirrie, who both wrote for and performed voices on the show, as well as Gideon Brower, who penned the Dynaman 5th Annual Convention Special.
“A Toronto producer, Patrick Whitely — who was a line producer on SCTV — approached Bruce McCulloch with the idea,” explains Kid In The Hall Kevin McDonald of the origins of Dynaman.
“A year and a half earlier, when Lorne Michaels had first discovered us, he had hired Bruce and Mark McKinney to write for “Saturday Night Live,” which they did for a season. Bruce then became a working writer, writing for Canadian awards shows and things. So knowing how good he was, Whitely approached McCulloch to write it.”
According to McDonald, Michaels was finalizing the deal for “The Kids In The Hall” to make their way to HBO and they got involved with Dynaman in the interim.
Bruce Pirrie was a Toronto based comedian who had just finished a six year stint with Second City as an actor and writer, working the Toronto main stage with Saturday Night Live alum Mike Myers as well as performing with Scott Thompson and Mark McKinney of “The Kids In The Hall” in the Second City Touring Company.
“I had also done some small roles on the ‘SCTV’ show where I became friends with Patrick Whitley, a producer on the series,” says Pirrie. “Patrick would later tap me to work in various capacities on other productions of his, including Dynaman.“
The origins of Dynaman remain shrouded in mystery, and while the comedians were certainly taking the piss out of the show a bit, it was all done in good fun according to the cast and crew.
“Dynaman reminded me of a Japanese show called Ultraman that was dubbed into English and was my favorite show as a child,” says McDonald. “It was played straight and was obviously and inspiration for the Japanese creators of the original Dynaman.“
“I wasn’t familiar with the original Sentai series from Japan specifically,” adds Pirrie “but I do recall having seen a knockabout, insanely hyperactive superhero entitled Inframan at the Toronto International Film Festival in its first few years of operation.”
In its original Japanese iteration, Dynaman was known as Kagaku Sentai Dynaman, and the seventh entry in the Super Sentai series, which began with Himitsu Sentai Gorenger in 1975.
It would seem that at any given time in Japan, a quarry or open field would become a battle ground for a quintet of heroes in brightly colored uniforms taking on a big ugly monster.
The Sentai series always featured a battle between good and evil and Dynaman is notable as it’s the first Sentai series to feature spandex and do away with the scarves that had been a staple of the costuming up until this point.
The Sentai series is still popular in Japan to this day and its influence can be felt in Voltron, the “Lucasploitation” epic Message From Space, and, of course, the new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film due out this summer.
“It was painstaking and took many, many hours to come up with jokes that fit the length of what the original Japanese actors were saying,” reveals McDonald. “One thing I remember contributing was that the people on the ship screamed in pain every time they beam down to a planet … because it hurt so much.”
“We wrote it really fast,” remembers McDonald. “A couple of weeks. And then Bruce McCulloch took it over by himself and polished up the scripts.”
Gideon Brower worked for ATI, the company that originally produced “Night Flight.”
Brower would take public domain footage that ATI owned and re-dub them similarly to what McDonald and the crew were doing with Dynaman.
“The actual production was done by a guy named Chuck Hammer. He had a studio where he and his assistant would take out all the dialogue and replace the explosion sound effects,” explains Brower.
“The entire production was incredibly laid back and fun to do,” recalls Pirrie.
“Kathy Lasky, whom I was onstage with at Second City played Dynapink and I believe a certain percentage of lines were improvised during the recording, if only to vaguely fit the lip movement of the original unmasked performers.”
“When it came time to record the voices, McCulloch suggested to Whitely that Mark should do one of them,” explains McDonald. “I remember Mark telling us that anything subtle that we had laughed so much at when writing it was not coming out anything close to subtle as the voices were recorded.”
The reworked plot of Dynaman featured: “five good-looking Japanese friends from all walks of life: Wooshi, their leader, is Dynared! Huba, able to reach tall trees, is Dynablack! Franky, the human outboard motor, is Dynablue! Cowboy, the slow-thinking weapons expert, is… Dynayellow! Franky, the human outboard motor, is Dynablue! And their main squeeze, Slojin is Dynapink!”
In each episode, the “dynakids” would do battle with Bernie Tanaka and Mel Fujitsu, former collegues of their boss, Dr. Ho, as well as as a cabal of monsters including Spunky The Wonder Squid, Mr. Flipper and the Reptiles That Go “Whee!”
“Patrick just told us which parts we would be playing when we were hired,” explains Pirrie. “I dubbed in the voice of Dynayellow aka ‘Cowboy.'”
One of the most memorable parts of Dynaman was its use of American pop music during its fight scenes. Music from Morris Day & The Time, Billy Idol, Robert Palmer, and Huey Lewis & The News was featured prominently in each Dynaman adventure.
“Patrick chose Huey Lewis & The News’ ‘Hip to Be Square’ because he felt that it reflected the do-gooder characters in the show,” recalls Pirrie. “I think he chose the song recordings from some list that they could easily acquire the rights to. I believe that he was hoping, if nothing else about the show clicked, it would at least capitalize on the then current fervor for rock videos.”
With its mixture of cool pop music, goofy juvenile humor, and just plain weirdness, Dynaman fit perfectly in the “Night Flight “ wheelhouse, which showcased ‘80s new wave counter culture every weekend on the USA Network.
Dynaman ran for six episodes on “Night Flight” in 1988, and then got a second life, running on Nickelodeon’s “Special Delivery.”
“We recorded the handful of episodes and moved on to other work as we waited to hear if the series was sold on the strength of the ones we did,” recalls Pirrie. “Evidently no one was particularly interested in recording more, so like so many other projects, it just disappeared.”
“‘Night Flight’ wasn’t really generating anything of its own at the time, reveals Brower, who co-wrote later episodes of Dynaman with Shari Roman (who died in 2009). “They acquired their programming from different places. While I was there, we were the only production, even if we were simply replacing all the audio.”
“At this time I was still working in the mail room,” adds Brower. “I was working in the library as well which was a loosely organized room of shelves with tapes all over the place which can be seen in the Convention Special.”
The actors in the Dynaman 5th Annual Convention Special were mostly Brower’s college buddies from his days at Yale.
“These were folks who had just moved to New York and they were all available,” explains Brower. “They were all available to do anything.”
In 1993, producer’s Haim Saban and Shuki Levy took a similar approach, adapting Toei’s sixteenth Super Sentai installment, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, into the hit Fox Kids show, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
“I have to tell you the truth, I don’t think I ever saw a finished episode,” admits McDonald. “It was a fun job and I believe it was the first real money I made from comedy. I have nothing but good memories from it. Maybe one day I’ll actually watch one.”