If there were a ‘ten things that made us the nerds we are list’ there’d be a few without question: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek. There’d be a few probables: Red Dwarf, Spaced and there’s osome that many of us would be hard-ressed to deny. One of these would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Owen looks at what could have been.
Part 1: Buffy: The Animated Series
Buffy Summers is a name that will go down in history; she is the Slayer, a girl that can kick ten bells out of any vampire or monster that threatens her home of Sunnydale. After a mediocre movie adaption starring Kristy Swanson, writer Joss Whedon managed to convince television executives that there was life in the young girl yet and they commissioned Buffy the Vampire series. Having more control over this version, the version he wanted the movie to be, Joss Whedon wove a series filled with teenage angst and characters you fell in love with and over the next six years, it would reach new heights including its own spin off Angel, Buffy’s true love who had to leave after the climatic events of season three’s graduation.
In 2001, Joss Whedon came up with the notion of an animated version which was green lit by Fox in 2002. However for reasons unknown it was never produced until in 2004 the notion was once again revived. To this end a four minute presentation was created which would demonstrate what this series would convey. It was almost Buffy reborn and this animated series would take place way back during season one when everything was new and the characters were finding themselves. This move however was exactly the way to go because after seven years the actors knew their characters inside out so were able to give their season one personas a brand new edge. Star Trek the Next Generation’s Jonathan Frakes, Will Riker himself, once said it would amazing to go back to their first season of the show and play their characters once more as, after nearly seven years, they would be able to go back and give a completely new dimension to their initial performances. That’s kinda true for life itself; how often have I said if I knew then what I know now, things would be different.
The plan was that the series would be run on Fox Kids but that ceased operations. It was then offered out to other networks but no one wanted to take it. In an interview Joss would later compare it to sitting on bags of money that he couldn’t give away. It seems bizarre that a show that had literally been a monster hit all across thee world and changed the face of television for millions of teenagers by preaching the message of empowerment no matter what your shape or size, would suddenly be a no go area. I’ve never understood this notion in American television that a series has a shelf life of seven years and that’s it. No, it doesn’t. A series has a life span as long as the writers can keep writing and not get all lazy and sloppy as they did in the Next Generation’s latter years. Deep Space Nine deserved to go on, Angel deserved to go on and fans wanted Buffy to go on. So it stood to reason that an animated show would be a sure fire hit given its parentage. SO when 2004 again brought up the possibility of a new animated show, the four minute presentation that can be easily watched on the net was created. What made this also equally special was that most of the regular cast came back to voice their characters, exactly what many actors could only dream of.
Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head and Alyson Hannigan all returned to voice Xander, Giles and Willow respectively. However Sarah Michelle Gellar had no interest in returning to voice Buffy so she was replaced by Giselle Loren who had voiced the role in computer games. Listening to it now, it’s an almost perfect copy of Gellar’s voice and Loren fell into the role quickly and brilliantly. The dialogue was sheer Whedon and it was like watching the show all over again. It opened like many an episode did with Buffy, apparently a defenceless young girl trapped in an alley with a vampire whom she proceeds to kick the life out of then stake. Hitting herself on the head with the stake after the vampire is dust is another nice touch; something directly lifted from the show to prove Buffy wasn’t infallible. Remember that this animated show (I can’t say cartoon as that devalues it somehow) was a relaunch for young viewers who may have found the television series too scary or at times adult for them to watch so we now had the possibility of a brand new generation of Buffy fans to reintroduce the legend to.
Older fans had the continuing adventures of season eight and nine in comic book form so this was brand new territory for everyone without the tedious explanation of who Buffy was and what she was doing. It was all right there in the animated feature. The nerdy Xander, the erratic Willow of the early days and the strict Giles who was a Watcher through and through and a Buffy who has a party to go to as long as an apocalypse doesn’t happen. Which it does. Another touch was that budget was no longer an issue and we have Buffy swallowed by a dragon as it smashes into the library before she forces its jaws open vowing not to get dragon spit on her clothes before the party. This was pure Buffy as written by Joss Whedon and Joseph Loeb. They knew these characters and could rewind them while carrying elements they had garnered over the seven years. Other regulars would have joined them if it had gone to a series including David Boreanez and Charisma Carpenter as Angel and Cordelia.
But Whedon insisted the animation had to be of a high standard akin to Batman: The Animated Series and Animaniacs. In his view it was pointless in doing a show like this if it wasn’t beautiful to watch. To Whedon that may have been a factor in the no sale because that type of animation was slightly more expensive to produce. But he stuck to his guns that this was the direction the show had to be done in.
And by September 2005 the animated show was effectively dead.
All in all eight scripts were written with two being incomplete. The opening episode ‘A Day in the Life’ written by Loeb and Whedon was followed by ‘Teeny’( a shrunken Buffy episode), ‘Lunch is Revolting’ and ‘The Back Room’, all written by Jane Espenson, a writer who had served five years on the show. Other episodes would have seen Buffy get her driving licence along with a demon instructor while the rest remained untitled. Espenson did however reveal two Buffy quotes on her website to give fans a taste of what might have been.
Buffy uses her super strength by accident in a volley ball game.
“Sure, I can hold back. Call me Dairy Queen cuz here comes the soft serve.” She pauses. “Sorry, that was kinda lame.”
Both Nicholas Brendon and Joseph Loeb have said although the project is dead, there is still hope. The final quote goes to Loeb.
“You can’t stand in the way of pop culture.”
Below is the only footage from the ill-fated series that’s known to be available…
Part 2: Buffy The Un-aired Pilot Episode