When Blink-182’s Dude Ranch was released in June of 1997, I was JUST coming out of the 6th Grade. For the most part, my musical taste ranged from Blues Traveler to a post-grunge movement that was quickly growing tired amongst my group of friends, and you can tell the typical suburban kids were yearning for something fun that would reinvigorate their love of music. As the following school year had come to pass, I swear to you, every kid that came to school was riding a skateboard to class and had bleached their hair blond to the point of it being near white – clearly inspired by Tom DeLonge’s look in the “Josie (Everything’s Gonna Be Fine)” video that had come out JUST before Thanksgiving of the same year. As months turned to years, Blink 182 would go on to sell over 30 million records worldwide, ushering in a pop-punk movement that would be a mainstay on the charts for years. I think most can agree that together with Green Day, Blink-182 influenced a music and pop culture industry that sorely needed an injection of freshness.
I would never think that 14 years later that the same blond-headed kid in the “Josie” video would be talking to me, and when I brought up his influence on fellow grammar school peers, he would chuckle, followed by a quick, “Sorry ‘bout that.” Of course there was no need to apologize, because Tom’s success with Blink-182 afforded the guitar player an opportunity to front his own musical project, Angels and Airwaves, a group he says did not have the grandiose ambitions to duplicate the success of his prior work, but rather was to be used as a platform in an effort to produce other artistic ventures. This endeavor has so far accumulated a documentary, four albums, and a live-action critically-acclaimed sci-fi movie entitled Love. Tom would go on to re-form Blink-182 after a brief hiatus, and some would say that this is where the humble beginnings of Poet Anderson came about.
During the return run of Blink-182, the band’s management got a hold of a new animated short produced by one Sergio Martins, who together with his twin brother Edgar, would put together an animated piece for the band in an effort to solicit a chance to collaborate on a much bigger project. Tom would respond with his latest work, Poet Anderson, a project he had began developing with sketch-artist Mike Henry aka Zatransis after a chance meet at San Diego Comic-Con, in which Tom would take a liking to an early sketch of Poet developed by Ben. Tom sent the twin brothers from Portugal the idea to see what they could come up with. What he got in return was Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker.
During my call, Tom explained that he told Sergio and Edgar, “The first thing that you guys had sent me back, I just knew that you guys understood exactly where I was coming from when I pitched it.” Turns out that both the animators and DeLonge were avid fans of Aoki Densetsu Shoot! and it was this level of mutual admiration that allowed Tom to fully trust Sergio and Edgar to flesh out a world that would adhere to dream walkers. “Other than Poet, Sergio and Edgar were responsible for all of the characters and for creating settings like ‘Genesis’,’’ notes Tom. “I pretty much left them alone to do their thing without any artistic constraints.’’
This is a vast difference than what the norm is here in America. Ninety-five percent of all animated television for adults is comedy, with TV networks leaving very little wiggle room to expand. Adult Swim’s Toonami, for instance, continues to be a shell of its former self, merely re-playing the same marathons over and over with basically only Space Dandy providing a truly original experience. Nickelodeon’s one shining example of breath-taking action-adventure, The Legend of Korra, has been turned into the red-headed step-daughter you don’t talk about for the Viacom-owned network. A similar confinement is presented in Edgar and Sergio’s homeland of Portugal, where childrens shows (and maybe some commercials) provide one of the only ways to make a living as an animator outside of animation festivals. And don’t think Poet Anderson is a silly attempt for Tom to push more copies of his upcoming album “The Dream Walker,’’ which releases the same day as the film, both of which will be available on AngelsandAirwaves.com. As a matter of fact, if you were to go watch the video for the album’s first single, “The WolfPack’’, you probably wouldn’t even be aware of an animated project coinciding with the musical release. Instead, consider both the album and the animated project like a big ol’ barbecue hosted by Angels and Airwaves, where instead of hot dogs and hamburgers, you get music, a movie, and a whole lot more.
Unsatisfied with the current paradigm of animation, Tom DeLonge has made it a personal mission to make sure everyone knows who or what Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker is. And this isn’t just some lame attempt by a known musician to slap his name on a property, crown himself executive producer, and let the chips fall as they may, “this is a full time job, right now…everything else including my bands are secondary to what I have been doing for Poet.’’ The result is a Dark City-meets-Tron-esque landscape containing what could best be described as gothic Disney-looking characters.
The 14-minute short film certainly lends itself to fans of dystopian, post-modern worlds that are seen in blockbuster feature films like Cloud Atlas. “We wanted to do something completely different,’’ says Sergio, “and Tom has allowed us to do that.’’ Nowadays it doesn’t matter anyway, because unlike the days in which Tom and his fellow Blink bandmates had to rely on the likes of MTV to push their craft, we now have ample mediums in which to stream and view content on the internet. Combine that with Tom’s bands accounting for about 12 million fans on Facebook, and you’ve got a built-in fanbase. “I’m fortunate to be in a position that I can create and release art with complete creative control and not worry about outside influences,” he says. Most animated works would feature producers that could rattle off a half a dozen influences mostly derived from animation, for Poet Anderson: Dream Walker, Tom would count films as Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange, and in an almost devilish point of interest would point out that,‘Stanford studies show that people who have nightmares, perform better during the day because they are better prepared for what might happen.’’
It’s the concept of dreams that provides the basis for Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker, as the film follows an anti-hero named Poet as he tries to balance real-life with a dream world – where on one hand he’s in what looks to be a somewhat serious relationship, but on the other hand, Poet begins building new ones as he survives against night terrors.
I guarantee that there are studios with double the staff in Burbank, California that wish they could produce what is, in essence, a mesmerizing animated experience ripe for an audience yearning for an alternative to what is normally presented to them. ‘’I always try to surround myself with artists that are smarter than I am.’’ Moving forward, Tom has promised novels, merchandise, a prequel comic series set to release in 2015, and a full-length featured film that will begin production next year. The world of Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker showcases glimpses of a world that has a lot of potential for additional adventures that already include monsters, other dream walkers, and a governing force that’s up to no good. Suffice it to say, viewers of Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker are going to want more after watching the short film…and more is what they will get.
The irony here is that almost 20 years after Tom DeLonge danced around a bathroom with his classic bleach-blond hair that influenced my friends at school, he (along with twin brothers from Portugal) again is producing art that will surely influence a whole new generation that could have just as many subversive effects in our present day animated pop culture as anything that has been released in the last ten years. Don’t be surprised if at Comic-Con next year if you come across a bunch of kids exiting the convention center while clad in all-black attire, wearing eye shadow, and holding umbrellas, getting ready to do battle with their night terrors.