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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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