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Johnny Thunder and The Secret of Marco Polo is an animated brickfilm made using Stop-Motion Animation. It was released on YouTube in thirteen parts between August 23 and October 24, 2008, with a lapsed DVD release over the same time period. The film loosely follows the 2003 LEGO Orient Expedition story line and started a saga of films based around the LEGO Adventurers characters.
- Release Date: August 23, 2008
- Running Time: 99 min.
- MPAA Rating: PG-13
- Director: Andrew Bermudez
- Producer: Andrew Bermudez
- Writer: Daniel Bermudez
WARNING: This section contains spoilers. If you do not want to read this, skip to the next section.
The film opens with historian Block Sauniere leaving his office at the Marco Polo Museum in Venice, Italy only to be shot by an unknown assassin. The next morning, Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) finds the body and informs Sauniere's friend, Dr. Charles Kilroy, who in turn summons Johnny Thunder, Pippin Reed Thunder, and Harry Cane to Venice. Associate Prof. James Digalot insists on coming along, but Johnny persuades him otherwise.
At the crime scene in Venice, they meet Robert Teabing, a strange man who expresses interest in aiding them. Looking around, they discover the clue "Behold the Dragon's Footsteps" has been written onto Block Sauniere's chest, which points to the room's only fireplace. While investigating the fireplace, Harry accidently trips a lever, causing Marco Polo's lost diary to fall out from behind a painting. Dr. Kilroy discovers a map of India, leading to "The Sting of The Jungle" and more importantly, the first step to the lost Golden Dragon of Marco Polo. Together, Johnny, Dr. Kilroy, Pippin, Robert, Dan Brown, and Harry set off to India.
Meanwhile in Xi'an, China, Lord Sam Sinister, along with henchmen Patrick, William "Billy the Kid" Parker, and Nevada Smith, forges an alliance with Chang Wu, a crazed war lord who believes himself to be Qin Shi Huangdi, the first Emperor of China, reincarnated. Chang needs Sinister to get him the Gem of Fire that will grant him mystic powers so he can conquer China. In return, Chang will give Sam the Golden Dragon.
In India, Johnny and his friends meet Babloo, a young jungle guide, who agrees to take them to "The Sting of the Jungle" aka The Scorpion Palace. However, the mentioning of "The Sting of the Jungle" causes the townsfolk to flee in a panic, leaving the adventurers and Babloo alone on the street. In the meantime, Chang Wu's assistant, Jing Lee, checks up with Lord Sinister to see how the excavation at the Indian ruins has been going.
After a trek atop a pair of Babloo's elephants, the adventures reach the palace, where they split up. Robert however, reveals himself to be Sinister's spy, as well as the killer of Sauniere and captures Johnny. While Dr. Kilroy, Harry, and Babloo are ambushed, Pippin and Dan manage to escape, but return to rescue the others, and the Golden Shield, just as the Palace collapses, killing Nevada Smith. On the Shield, they find a map leading to a Temple at the summit of Mt. Everest. However, Billy the Kid, overhears.
After receiving supplies and transportation from Sherpa Sangye Dorje, Johnny and co. are attacked by a Yeti, who Pippin scares off with her camera flash. Sinister and his cohorts team up with Ngan Pa, a peg-legged Yeti hunter bent on finding and killing the "White Ape." On the way to the temple, Billy dies in an avalanche.
At the Temple, the two groups meet and are confronted by The Shaman of the Mountains, who guards the bridge to the Golden Sword. To get past the Shaman, each of them must answer three questions right, or be flung into chasm. Johnny goes first and is only asked personal questions, and is allowed through. Robert steps up and is asked math problem, to which he replies "What?", and is thrown of the cliff but survives by clinging the cliff with his pickax. Dr. Kilroy comes next and confuses the Shaman who states, "Huh?" and is thrust into chasm himself. Lord Sinister gets to the Sword first and escapes with his men by helicopter.
The explorers follow Sinister to Xi'an, where they meet Jing Lee, who is actually a spy for General Mao Zedong III. The group is then ambushed by Chang Wu's forces and Jing is captured. However, her brother Jing Loo helps the adventurers escape the city. Minutes later, Mao's army attacks the city. During the chaos, Sinister and Chang Wu escape to Chang's Dragon Fortress.
Later, Johnny and his friends infiltrate the fortress but are captured as Chang Wu absorbs power of the Gem of Fire and becomes superhuman. The Chinese Army then attacks the fortress. To fight them off, Chang summons Jun-Chi, a lion-dog monster who turns the tide, forcing the Chinese off for the moment. Jing Lee escapes and attacks Wu, knocking the diamond out of his hand to Dan, who smashes it. This causes Chang to rapidly age into an old man and Jun Chi to falls apart, allowing the Chinese soldiers to break through. Mao personally shoots Chang Wu at point-blank range in the back. After the battle, the explorers solve a puzzle and discover The Golden Dragon. With the help of Mao, the Dragon is safely transported away from the fortress with Sam Sinister standing atop a cliff, being irritated by Patrick and vowing to get Johnny in the second film.
Many attempts to create a Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film based around the events of the LEGO Orient Expedition sets exist, many of them dating as far back as late 2003, when the LEGO Studios Movie Maker Set was still in use. However, the renditions from back then were far more faithful to the original storyline than the final film is today. These older versions are now lost.
Pre-production for Johnny Thunder and the Secret of Marco Polo officially started April 2005 with the idea to re-create the Orient Expedition storyline while adding and omitting elements to make the film a personal work. Some of the elements omitted include the elephant chase and the Great Wall of China encounter.
The film was officially announced on August 25, 2006, which included the release of a simple teaser on the Kilroy Was Here! DVD. At this point, the script had begun to take shape into the version as it appears today. An opening scene in the African country of Benin (modeled after the Horn of Africa opening in the Orient Expedition online comics) was deleted and replaced with the current murder scene. Mao Zedong III, Block Sauniere, Jing Loo, and Dan Brown were also added at this point, along with the revolution subplot. Robert, who betrayed the adventurers right at the beginning in Africa, was re-worked so that his betrayal came later.
Right before filming started July 2007, more changes were made, including the removal of a cable car chase and merging Mao Zedong III's three aids into one character, Lieutenant Mong Hu. After all was said and done, filming started on July 30, 2007, but then was halted that November due to the creation of the now-defunct series Mystery Lego Theater 3000.
On January 1, 2008, filming resumed quickly, for there was less than a year left to get the film done. The hard work paid off, and the filming wrapped on April 11, 2008. From there, the film was edited together, but encountered some errors along the way. In the first week of August, most of Act 2 was corrupted and had to be re-edited in just one week, with great success. After three years, the film was officially released on August 23, 2008.
The film, from the start, had astoundingly positive reviews. While it is not Mustache Maniacs Film Co.'s most popular and watched film (that honor goes to Forest of Fear), it is still the most beloved film made by them, and continues to be the primary source for new dedicated fans, spawning a whole series of films. The first sequel, Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile, was released on July 16, 2010. Another sequel, Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients, was released in 2014, with more films in the works.
- Plot Hole: How were Dan and Pippin able to find the other adventurers when the Scorpion Palace was collapsing? True, Johnny alluded earlier to Lord Sinister that they must have had the map, but if they did, then why did the adventurers have to split up to find the Scorpion Palace when they first arrived at the ruins?
- Visual Error: When a bank in Xi'an collapses during the battle for Xi'an, the top of the backdrop is visible.
- Visual Error: In the shot where the adventurers are driving to the Coughing Dragon Opera House, the camera's reflection is visible on the side of the half-track for a portion of the shot.
- Johnny Thunder (Daniel Bermudez)
- Pippin Reed Thunder (Lauren Hoxie)
- Dr. Charles Kilroy (Andrew Bermudez)
- Harry Cane (Andrew Bermudez)
- Dan Brown (Antonio Pagan)
- Lord Sam Sinister (Andrew Bermudez)
- Patrick (Garrett Schelske)
- William "Billy the Kid" Parker (Al Bermudez)
- Nevada Smith (John Stabe)
- Robert Teabing (Teresa Bermudez)
- Block Sauniere (Al Bermudez)
- Babloo (Luke Stabe)
- Sherpa Sangye Dorje (Andrew Bermudez)
- Jing Lee (Jim Freeman)
- General Mao Zedong III (Al Bermudez)
- Lieutenant Mong Hu (Alex Hoxie)
- Aid (Daniel Bermudez)
- Col. Michelle Mustard (David Hoxie)
- Chang Wu (Wes Rudnick)
- Ngan Pa (Steve Hoxie)
- Maharaja Lallu (cut from film)
- Prof. James Digalot (Demitrius Zavaleta)
- Shaman of the Mountains (Wes Rudnick)
- Jing Loo (Daniel Bermudez)
- Male Venetian Police Officer (Nathan Stabe)
- Female Venetian Police Officer (Chloe Zavaleta)
- Indian Merchant (Luke Stabe)
- Blue Thief (Daniel Bermudez)
- Orange Thief (Al Bermudez)
- Purple Thief (Andrew Bermudez)
- Cop Hat Henchman (Al Bermudez)
- Wild Hair Henchman (Andrew Bermudez)
- The Obliterator (cut from film)
- Horatio Schmidt (Erasmus Zavaleta)
- Rambo Commando (Al Bermudez)
- Base Camp Clerk (Garrett Schelske)
- Tygurah (n/a)
- Yeti (n/a)
- Jun-Chi (n/a)
- Andrew Bermudez - Creator, Director, Producer, Animator, Editor, Voice Acting, Writer
- Daniel Bermudez - Assistant Director, Writer, Advisor, Voice Acting
- Teresa Bermudez - Script Editor, Advisor, Voice Acting
- Alvaro Bermudez - Voice Acting
- Antonio Pagan - Voice Acting
- Erasmus Zavaleta - Voice Acting
- Demitrius Zavaleta - Voice Acting
- Chloe Zavaleta - Voice Acting
- Lauren Hoxie - Voice Acting
- David Hoxie - Voice Acting
- Alex Hoxie - Voice Acting
- Steve Hoxie - Voice Acting
- Luke Stabe - Voice Acting
- John Stabe - Voice Acting
- Nathan Stabe - Voice Acting
- Wes Rudnick - Voice Acting
- Garrett Schelske - Voice Acting
- Jim Freeman - Voice Acting
- Between the film's release and January 9, 2010, this was the longest brickfilm ever made. The honor is now held by The Ice Storm.
- This film has its own fan page on Facebook, making this the only Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film to receive one. It was created to celebrate this film, while speculating about the then-in-development Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile. The page is no longer in use.
- The original opening scene in Africa was modeled after both the opening of the Orient Expedition online comics and the Benin myth of the Wututu Bird. The current opening scene is modeled after the opening for The Da Vinci Code.
- In a strange twist of fate through rescheduling and omissions for voice acting, a man (Jim Freeman) ended up playing a woman (Jing Lee) and a woman (Teresa Bermudez) ended up playing a man (Robert Teabing).
- This is the first Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film to feature an online version of the film right at its release.
- The scene featuring the Shaman of the Mountains is a play-off of the bridge crossing scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- Harry's line about Lord Sinister's men "digging in the wrong place" is a reference to the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- During the final battle, many of Mao Zedong III's men fire right at the camera, mimicking the finale from the cult film A*P*E.
- Mao's line, "I love the smell of fireworks at night," is a reference to the film Apocalypse Now.
- The Battle of Xi'an features many pop culture references, including those to Patton, The Matrix Reloaded, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.