THE PRIDE LANDS MYSTERY MAN

An Interview with Larry Deck
by David Cleary

Dave Cleary: Larry, welcome! It's nice to have you here. First, give us a little background. Things like your age, where you live, marital and family status, where you are from originally, where you work and what you do--that sort of thing, just to get us started.

Larry Deck: Hi, Dave. It's very nice to be here. Prior to TLK, my life is just a blur, but I'll see what I can do. I'm originally from The Township of Tonawanda, which is a suburb just outside of Buffalo, New York. I grew up there and got my undergraduate degree from Buffalo State College. After that, I spent a year (that seemed like an eternity) in Long Island, New York working for the Sperry Corporation. After leaving Sperry, I moved to Syracuse, New York where I lived for nine years and worked for Lockheed Martin. While in Syracuse, I picked up my Masters Degree from Syracuse University. In June of 1995, I moved once again, this time to New Hampshire. I'm currently employed by the Raytheon Company. I write software for various military and commercial projects. I'm married and have two little girls, both of whom are huge Lion King fans (just like their dad).

DC: You hail from Buffalo? So that explains why you're a big fan of buffalo wings! The original restaurant that created them is located there, is that right? I assume you've had wings from the "original source." Buffalo's a real snow magnet, too, if I remember correctly. I'd bet it's not as bad as Dave Braun's city, Winnipeg, however.

LD: Leave it to Buffalo to take a part of the chicken that most people throw out and turn it into a delicacy! I've had wings made with more "secret sauces" than I care to admit to. But yes, "buffalo wings" are native to the city.

Snow? You bet it snows in Buffalo! However, the funny thing is that Syracuse actually gets more total snow than Buffalo does. Buffalo gets into all the newspapers because it tends to get all its snow in a relatively short time. The majority of the snow ends once Lake Erie freezes over. Syracuse on the other hand gets its snow a little bit at a time for the entire winter. However, I must agree that neither of these snow belt cities can shake a stick at Winnipeg. Dave must sure love it there to brave both the bugs and the snow.

DC: How old are your girls? Do you watch TLK with them?

LD: Their ages are 6 and 4. I watch it with them as often as I can.

DC: When did you first see the film? Did you like it right off, or did you have to warm up to it?

LD: I recall seeing trailers for TLK during the spring of 1994 and was totally blown away by them. However, when the movie came out it received very poor reviews in the Syracuse papers. I had all but written it off till I heard the music! Once I had listened to the soundtrack, I knew I just had to see the movie on the big screen. Boy, do I thank the Great Kings of the Past that I did! Not only did I cry through most of the movie, but I was also speechless for hours after. It's not an exaggeration for me to say watching TLK changed my life.

DC: Did you buy the soundtrack CD before seeing the movie? Your answer suggests that you might have. If so, what motivated you to buy the soundtrack of a movie you had never seen before?

LD: Yes, you are correct, I had listened to the soundtrack before I had ever seen the movie. I fell in love with the music and had to buy the CD so I could listen to it often. The music is so wonderful that it stands on its own. I knew that I would still like the music even if I didn't like the movie.

DC: Are you a big Hans Zimmer fan? Was that why you bought the soundtrack? Or did someone recommend the CD to you?

LD: I hadn't even heard of Hans Zimmer before TLK. Now I'm a big fan. Brian Tiemann recommended several additional soundtracks that I also picked up. These include "The Power of One," "K2," and the soundtrack to the "Millenium" PBS television series.

DC: How many times have you seen TLK? How many times in the theater and how many times on video?

LD: Sadly, the first and last time that I saw TLK in the theater was during the Xmas 1994 re-release. I saw it in the only theater that was still showing the movie. However, I think that I've more than made up for it by seeing TLK several hundred times (no joke) on home video. As you will recall, I have two little TLK fans at home that just love watching it with their daddy.

DC: Do you have a favorite scene in TLK? A least-favorite scene? If so, which ones?

LD: Picking a favorite scene is a hard one because I have so many. Several scenes that emotionally affect me the most are when Mufasa "walks from the stars" and speaks to Simba (the Mufasa's ghost scene) and the scene following the defeat of Scar when Simba climbs Pride Rock to take his father's place as king. When Simba gives out his mighty roar, I get chills down my back! Both these scenes get me every time.

My least favorite scene is easy, this being the Simba/Scar fight. The slow motion shots of Scar and Simba standing on their hind legs slugging it out just don't work for me at all.

DC: Your favorite TLK character is Nala. Tell me what sets her apart for you.

LD: To me, Nala represents the ultimate in a "significant other." She is intelligent, willing to "risk it all" for the ones she loves, and she loves unconditionally. Oh, did I forget to mention that she's as sexy as, if not sexier than, any of Disney's human characters--plus she has a voice that just makes you purr!

DC: What makes TLK so special for you?

LD: Wow, you sure know how to ask difficult questions! In its most basic form, I see TLK as a boy's coming-of-age story, much like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" are for girls. But my appreciation goes much deeper. It's so hard to explain. It all goes back to how TLK affected me when I saw it in the theater. All I can say was that TLK was made for me. It has prompted me to reevalauate myself--where I was going in life and, most importantly, how I was getting there. I have learned several very important lessons from TLK, the least of which is that before you can be happy in life you must first be true to yourself, and then you must be willing to fight for what you believe in.

DC: You mentioned something about reevaluation of the self, where you are going in life, and how you are getting there. How does this specifically apply to you?

LD: I lately have discovered new and enlightening elements to my personality and soul. Aspects of my life that I never knew existed. I had the good fortune to be going through these "growing pains" at the same time that I was becoming a true TLK fan. I found that the wisdom and lessons contained within the story of "The Lion King" proved invaluable to me as I found my way "on my path unwinding."

DC: Are you generally a big Disney animation fan, or was TLK an unusual experience for you on that score?

LD: I grew up watching Disney animation. However, until I had children, I never had the chance to sit down and really appreciate these films. I must say that watching TLK made me stop and take a second look at Disney animated movies and animation in general. Now I make sure I see every such movie at least once on the big screen.

DC: Which Disney films (besides TLK, of course) are your favorites? Did you have a favorite Disney animated film before TLK?

LD: I can remember being very impressed by the animation in "The Little Mermaid" and by the characters in "Aladdin." However, I would have to say that my favorite pre-TLK Disney movies are "The Rescuers Down Under" and "Beauty and the Beast."

DC: Are there any non-Disney animated films that you like? If so, which ones?

LD: Oh yes, I very much liked "An American Tail--Fievel Goes West" and "Balto." If you were interested in knowing which non-Disney animated movie I like the least, without a doubt it has to be "Thumbelina."

DC: I'd guess "Balto" holds a similar appeal to you that TLK does.

LD: Yes indeed. It's a wonderful story. Balto is not accepted into his society because he is half dog and half wolf. He struggles to prove himself over and over again to his peers, who choose to disregard him because of "what" he is instead of looking at "who" he is. In the end, he beats the odds and is finally able to gain the acceptance and validation that he so rightly deserves.

DC: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think of you as sort of the "mystery man" among TLK fans. Most of the fandom know your name, yet in a way you remain a somewhat shadowy figure to many.

LD: I'm not surprised at all by this description. I first got involved with the TLK newsgroup back in July/August of 1995. I really started to meet people when I started "Mufasa's Quote of the Day." I was pretty active in the TLK internet community until early 1996, when I kind of dropped off the scene. A very busy work schedule and a number of personal issues kept me very occupied. However, through all of this, I've managed to stay in contact with a core group of TLK fans that I correspond with regularly. Add to this that I've never written any fan fiction and it all adds up to my being less than a household name.

DC: You have done some very influential things for the fandom despite your low profile. I'd bet not many people were aware that you started "Mufasa's Quote of the Day"--not to mention "Timon's Joke of the Week." What motivated you to start that? And when did you begin doing this?

LD: I started MQoD back in mid-1995 just after I discovered the Lion King newsgroup. I had purchased a copy of Mufasa's Little Instruction Book and was enjoying the quotes so much that I began sharing them with my friends at work. I then began sending them to some of my new friends from the LK newsgroup and before you knew it, I was sending them out to dozens and dozens of people. I turned MQoD over to Jason Ahrens after doing it for about six months because I found it harder and harder to find the time to do it, plus I was rapidly running out of quotes!

DC: The "Joke of the Week" was your idea as well. Did you contribute any jokes to this feature, or did you mostly solicit outside entries for this?

LD: You are right, TJotW was also my idea. I wanted a way to spice up the daily quotes and figured that a little humor was the way to go. Little did I realize just how "little" humor was involved! Seriously, I only came up with one joke, while the majority of them were contributed from the TLK community. If I remember correctly, you submitted an ungodly number of jokes yourself!

DC: Guilty as charged. :) Do you remember the joke you contributed to TJotW? Just curious.

LD: For the life of me, I can't remember. I should check Ken Leung's MQoD archives and see what the first TJotW was. That one was mine.

DC: Dave Braun also gives you a lot of credit for establishing the First Church of Simba. What was your role in that?

LD: I can remember having many long talks with Dave Braun in late 1995. Often, we spoke of the wonderful fan fiction that the TLK community was producing. One evening, Dave told me how TLK was verging on becoming a cult movie. He felt that if it could be a cult, then why not a full-blown religion? Right from the start, I knew it was a winning idea and encouraged him to pursue it. I also acted as a sounding board for him as he bounced ideas off me. I think that Dave has done a super job with the Church. It's truly an inspired piece of evolving fan fiction.

DC: I agree! The FCOS is one of my favorite web sites. Did you coin the saying "The Lion King is a way of life?" (TLKiaWoL). The origin of that motto is a little obscure.

LD: Um...well...this is a matter of some debate. I feel that this issue is best left to the learned scholars and historians to decide.

DC: Are you involved with the TLK-MUCK at all?

LD: I tried to get involved back in late 1995. I only got as far as creating my own character (Mshenga the fennec) and building him a burrow. As I mentioned in an earlier question, job and personal issues limited the time that I could devote to developing my character and actually participating in the MUCK activities. I do want to add that Mshenga is alive and well and may yet wake up from his long hibernation.

DC: Tell me a little about Mshenga. Is he like you in real life? I'm sure he has bigger ears than you do...but how else is he like and unlike you?

LD: Mshenga is a fennec and I am a human; beyond this slight difference, we are pretty much identical. When I created Mshenga, I gave him the qualities that I strove to possess in myself. Such qualities as "a fierce devotion to his loved ones" and "when he makes a friend, it's a friend for life" I feel are a real part of who I am. You're invited to read his biography that's located on my homepage.

DC: What's the address of your web page?

LD: The URL is: http://www.empire.net/~larryd/

My homepage contains everything that you ever wanted to know about Mshenga and myself. It's a little guided tour of my life, complete with a photo album. I must point out that my page is still under construction and I plan numerous updates during the Xmas holidays.

DC: Are you a TLK merchandise collector? If so, do you have a lot of stuff? What do you consider to be your prize possessions? And which are your most unusual items?

LD: I have collected a fair amount of TLK toys and trinkets in my travels. Two of my favorite pieces are a small statuette of Adult Nala and my LK baseball style jacket. I have other items that include the full set of TLK postage stamps as well as a number of t-shirts. My most unusual items have to be my LK Christmas tree ornaments, LK earrings, and LK video game tokens.

DC: Video game tokens? That's very unusual indeed. Did you get those at Disney World? And tell me more about those Christmas tree ornaments.

LD: In EPCOT's "The Land" exhibit, the feature attraction is the Lion King "Circle of Life" journey. When exiting this exhibit, there is a video game room nearby. The token machines dispense TLK game tokens. There are five in the set: Nala, Simba, Rafiki, Timon, and Pumbaa.

I was able to pick up the three Christmas tree ornaments at the "Christmas Shop" at Disney World in Florida. One is Simba reclining in his hammock of vines, the second is Young Nala sitting in a Christmas stocking, and the third is Young Simba swinging from a candy cane. They were all a "bit" overpriced, but you only go around once in life...

DC: I understand that until very recently you had a big "shrine" to the movie in your office cubicle. Now that's what I call committed fandom! :) Describe what a visitor may have seen if they had dropped in on you at that time.

LD: My shrine still exists--however I am on loan to another division at Raytheon and am not currently sitting at my old desk. When entering my cube, you would see a framed movie poster and the cover art from the TLK soundtrack and "Rhythm of the Pride Lands." I also have about a dozen framed stills from the movie that were printed out on a color printer. I have my TLK calendar, purring Nala plushie, about fifteen plastic (PVC) figures, three ceramic figurines, koosh balls, assorted buttons, plus my pride and joy--a framed cover from the 1995 Orlando Yellow Pages which featured Simba atop Pride Rock addressing the animals of the Pride Lands. There a a few other odds and ends, but you get the picture.

DC: You also have an interesting story involving your "special Friday t-shirt" at work, if I'm not mistaken.

LD: Yes! On Raytheon's Friday "dress-down day," I got in the habit of wearing my favorite Lion King t-shirt. This is the one that features Scar and the hyenas on the front with the caption on the back that reads "I'm surrounded by idiots!" I got more compliments on this shirt than on any other LK items that I kept on display at my "shrine." One woman that works in the cafeteria kept inquiring about how she could get one of these shirts for herself. She decided to pass on purchasing the shirt directly from Disney World when I told her what it cost me. I also had a former boss of mine say that he liked the graphic on the front of the shirt but not the saying on the back. He must have correctly guessed that I was trying to "send a message!"

DC: What other hobbies and interests do you have?

LD: I enjoy reading and watching science fiction very much. In addition, I am a big follower of the manned space programs of both the US and Russia, as well as being a fan of aviation in general. Other interests of mine include a passionate love of music and technology. One might say I'm a technophile.

DC: You said you're a sci-fi fan. You like "Babylon 5" a lot. Anything else in this genre a favorite of yours? Movies? Other TV shows?

LD: Other favorite sci-fi movies of mine include "Dune," "2001," and the "Star Wars" series, plus "Star Trek--The Wrath of Khan."

DC: Sean Connery is your favorite actor. Are you a big James Bond fan? Which movies of his do you especially like?

LD: My favorite James Bond movies include "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," and "Doctor No." Other Sean Connery favorites of mine are "Outland," "The Hunt for Red October," and "The Rock."

DC: Hee hee! "Disco rules!" you say. Do you trot out a white suit a la John Travolta and dance to '70's Bee-Gees tunes? :)

LD: I'm afraid that my leisure suit went the way of the dodo many years ago. However, I've been known to spin up my Bee-Gees and Abba albums every now and then. Seriously, most people don't realize that disco really never died, it simply was relabeled "dance beat" music. My favorite "dance" groups include La Bouche and The Pet Shop Boys.

DC: Let me close this interview by saying "many thanks" for your time and answers. I wish you the best in all things TLK and non-TLK related. It was great to get the chance to talk with you! :)

LD: Thank you, Dave. I must confess that I've had a blast being interviewed for Pride Lands Online. In fact, I've been looking forward to it ever since I got a chance to check out the first issue a couple weeks ago. I must say that I was very impressed by Pride Lands Online. I can appreciate the time, effort, energy, and dedication that goes into putting this magazine together. All these qualities show through in the excellence of the publication. My hat's off to all the members of the magazine staff for a job well done.

In closing, I also wish to extend my warmest wishes to all the members of the Lion King community at large. It is through your devotion and love that we as a "family" are able to keep the spirit of TLK alive. Remember...The Lion King is more than a movie, it's a way of life! :)


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