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August 12, 2002

Cacciatore di Dinosauri
Posted by Teresa at 02:11 PM *

You’ve seen those cars on the road whose owners have, in return for a fee, volunteered to have their car turned into a moving billboard? My former employers at Acclaim want to go that one better by enlisting actual human beings to become Turok, Dinosaur Hunter for a year.

(A quick recap for the Turok-challenged: In the original 1950s version he was Turok, Son of Stone, a brave Kiowa warrior who gets trapped in a Lost Valley populated by dinosaurs (which he calls honkers), prehistoric tribes, aliens, lost civilizations, meat-eating plants—all the usual stuff. It was irresistibly cheesy—Indians and dinosaurs!—and had the weightless joy of a cool idea that hasn’t been ruined by thinking about it too hard.

The Turok license was picked up in the early 90s by Valiant Comics. They moved the Lost Valley to an alien dimension, changed the dinosaurs to malevolently intelligent bionosaurs, and changed the title to Turok, Dinosaur Hunter (in the Italian editions, Turok, Cacciatore di Dinosauri). It was at Valiant that I first got to know Turok, and learned the book’s prime directive: Never let your colorist paint a dinosaur purple, or it’ll look like Barney.

Acclaim, the game company that got rich off Mortal Kombat, bought Valiant, acquired the Turok license, and turned him into the star of several video games. There’s a major new one out. They’re promoting it. Add one more datum, which is that Acclaim’s corporate genius appears to consist of finding new ideas by randomly tripping and falling on top of them—a few are good; most aren’t—and you have the whole backstory.)

Got that so far? Back to this promo campaign:

Become ‘Turok’ for $785

LONDON (AP) — Wanted: Adventurous video game fans willing to change their identities. Must sign names, pay bills and otherwise identify themselves as a dinosaur hunter called Turok.

It’ll be interesting to see how that interacts with the trademark status of “Turok”.
Hoping to push back the frontiers of advertising, a British marketing firm said Monday it would pay 500 pounds ($785) each to five people for the right to transform them into human billboards for a fantasy superhero.
They want people to face down their bank, landlord, girlfriend, university financial aid counselor, insurance agency, medical records office, personnel department, and the local newspaper’s human-interest columnist, not to mention the IRS, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and pretty girls they’re chatting up in bars, all for the right to call themselves “Turok” for a year—but all Acclaim will pay them to do this is a few hundred pounds? Ho. Igor say Acclaim ad/promo guys cheapskates, campaign doomed to fail.
Acclaim UK is seeking applicants who will legally change their names for one year to promote the latest installment of its video game series about Turok, a time-traveling American Indian who slays bionically enhanced dinosaurs.

The Institute of Science in Marketing, a business group supporting the effort, expects that its so-called Identity Marketing technique will catch on as the next big thing —

Somehow I doubt this.
— for companies eager to reach consumers dulled to the impact of conventional ads and clothes that bear product logos.

“It’s not a gimmick, like they’ll tell their mates down at the pub they’re name is Turok. Every form of their identity will have to change for this to work,” said Acclaim spokesman Andrew Bloch. “They’ll be walking, talking, living, breathing advertisements.”

Everything? The hairdo? The diet? That fetching loincloth? The habit of casually dispatching the local livestock? The omnipresent tomahawk, knife, bow, and arrows, which are gonna go over big at airport security checks? All this, when Acclaim isn’t even going to help pay for the wardrobe?

But if Acclaim’s not going to have them go whole-hog spread-eagle Turok, what is it going to have them do?

Acclaim UK, whose parent company Acclaim Entertainment is based in Glen Cove, New York, is launching a Web site Tuesday where would-be Turoks can apply. The firm expects thousands of people, male and female, to participate.
I expect there are quite a few citizens of the third world who look reasonably similar to Turok, consider five hundred pounds a non-trivial sum, and wouldn’t find it a hardship to have Western courts legally change their names to “Turok” for a year.
Acclaim UK will cover the legal costs each winner incurs in changing his or her name. In addition, winners will received a computer game console, as many video games as they can play and a token sum of 500 pounds ($785), Bloch said.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Turok play a video game.
“The type of person that would apply to become a human billboard is the type of person who would like to speak about it. They won’t be doing it for the hard cash,” Bloch said.
He’s kidding himself. Turok’s a good character, but he doesn’t attract devoted freebie emulators. Furthermore, and I’m not being the least bit judgemental about this, people who are that devoted to comics and video games don’t tend to look like Turok.
The plan grew from the need for companies to generate attention for their products amid the daily white noise of advertising. Acclaim hopes that each new “Turok” will act as an ambassador for the game, taking time to explain the origin of his or her name to anyone who asks.
Hoo boy, that sure is effective advertising. No touring, no appearances, no ad/promo backup, no nothing; just casual conversations about where you got your silly name. What makes this idea even more effective is that in the new game, Acclaim has changed the character’s name to Tal’Set.
“The video games industry has a habit of always striving for newer and more unique ways of targeting customers and with Identity Marketing, I think we’ve topped the lot,” said Acclaim spokesman Shaun White.
Did you think that comics and gaming companies were somehow immune to the Dilbert-nature?
The firm’s target audience ranges from teen-agers to Turok enthusiasts in their 40s. It expects that the first five Turoks — others may come later — will be socially active and may even work in the video games business.
These prospective Turoks are most likely active in the gaming community. So who are they going to talk to? Why, their friends, of course—who are already into video games, and know all about Turok.

And a deal like this is just what someone working in the video game industry would want: Having to wear the name of one character, from one video game, from one company. The only way that’s not a problem is if you already work for Acclaim.

Bloch described the original Turok as big and good-looking.
True; and never so much so as when he was drawn by Rags Morales. (Just thought I’d mention that.)

Anyone who’d make a plausible Turok is already employable as a professionally pretty person. I can’t see them agreeing to spend a year as this one character for a few hundred quid, or having all the publicity glory attach to that character’s name and career instead of their own. Or maybe athletes? Some of them would make pretty good Turoks. Can’t you just imagine the sportscasters having a field day with that one?

“You’d be quite proud to call yourself Turok if you knew who he was,” he said.

Applications for the Turok name-change project can be made via the Web site www.mynameisturok.co.uk. The closing date for entries is Sept. 2.

Don’t everybody jump at once.

UPDATE: Dorothy Rothschild says the BBC says Acclaim says they’re getting takers. I am puzzled and curious, and will keep watching.

Comments on Cacciatore di Dinosauri:
#1 ::: Anita Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2002, 11:39 PM:

"I'm Turok/Spartacus!"

"No, *I'm* Turok/Spartacus!"

#2 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2002, 12:48 AM:

And what's amazing is, that's not even the dumbest idea they've had. Or did you forget buying advertising space on tombstones to promote Shadowman?

#3 ::: Christian Claiborn ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2002, 05:33 AM:

I'm going to refer you to our accounts department now. If you have any further questions, I'm Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, and my extension is 177.

Thanks for calling Pacific Bell.

#4 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2002, 03:56 PM:

"The Institute of Science in Marketing"?

As the Continental Op put it:

"I was trying to count the number of lies in those six words, and had reached four, with the promise of more, when the dinosaur I was hunting came through the front door."

#5 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2002, 07:53 AM:

I imagine that one could find unwaged young people willing to take the name "Turok" in Britain. Many probably don't have to explain except to their mates and their parents. "'Ere, don't go calling me `Chalky,' me name's `Turok' no, innit?"

Following your "Tal'Set" link, I discover that he is being urged to "take up the mantle of Turok." I find this confusing, because the characters in the game seem not to have invented fireplaces.

Another character, `The mighty warrior Djunn (pronounced "Junn")...' is a man of few words but too many letters...

#6 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2002, 12:54 PM:

If one is unwaged in Britain, one usually has a UB40 or similar document, and they are fairly particular about the name on those. "Duke of ... Eddinborough. No, it only sounds like that, right? 's' really 'Chaffinch' or summat."

And Djunn (Djunny to his friends) is in fact pronounced "Throatwarbler-Maneating-Mangrove," but by the time he'd finished explaining it his companion had usually been devoured by a carnosaur (pronounced "honker").

#7 ::: Steven Cain ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2002, 05:03 PM:

The authorities are indeed very particular about the various not-quite-identity-cards in the UK. It has to be the person's real name, which I construe as meaning that if they've changed it by deed poll to Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, then that is the only name that can legitimately appear as the primary identifier.

My beloved wife would know more, but she's very tired while settling into her new life as a senior civil servant. Sufficiently senior that she's wondering if it's wise for her to publish fripperies by web and zine that might be google-linked with her official persona in the ship of state. But hey, she could solve this at a stroke if only she changed her name to Turok the Dinosaur Hunter. Maybe I'll suggest it. (If you don't hear from me again, I probably did.)

#8 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2002, 05:37 PM:

Thog not want to be Turok.

#9 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2002, 06:21 PM:

"T. T. D. Hunter." Heck, in a world that has "Vin Diesel" (ne9e Mark Vincent) in it, that's pretty darn ordinary. Just think, they could be promoting Crash Bandicoot, Donkey Kong, or Ms. Pac-Man ("-with- the hyphen, thank you very much"). Or Cylert, for that matter.

Teresa, I forget: did Acclaim get Doctor Spektor along with the rest of the Gold Key crowd? I could almost see being him for a year, though I doubt Elise would wear the Indian Princess getup.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 02:09 PM:

Cylert? There's an idea: Paying you to name yourself after a prescription drug. Or maybe you could name superheroes after drugs -- "Provigil" has a nice ring to it. Can't be worse than the nomenclatural fads that brought us characters named Hazmat and The Eliminator.

Valiant didn't pick up Doctor Spektor from Western. I don't know why, any more than I know why they did pick up Turok, Magnus, and Solar. There were a lot of things about that program that never made sense.

For instance, on some of the titles they did license, Valiant/Acclaim meddled so much with the original characters and premises that you could only identify them because they'd kept their original names. Those were expensive names. Using them meant the books were still under license, and still had to be approved issue-by-issue by Western; and if the revamped versions had turned out to be wildly successful, Valiant still wouldn't have owned them. Talk about betting against yourself!

#11 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 02:15 PM:

Remember when every genetic or mysterious disease had a Poster Child? Now we have spokespeople.

So is Bob Dole gonna be "Viagra" now?

I could be Cylert. I'm sort of an ADHD poster child, and Cylert sounds like a superhero name. "The adventures of Cylert, King of the...wait, what was he King of? Cylert, the Mighty! ...or whatever."

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 04:56 PM:

Want to join up as a team? I've been taking it since the mid-80s.

#13 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 05:46 PM:

The Cylert Sisters? Sounds more like a 40s girl group...come to think of it, if we combine doses we can probably sing "Abba Dabba Dabba" together--in Latin.

But no, you're right. Cylert to the rescue! Our scene opens with our bowler-hatted (no puns) hero happily surfing the web. Then, a tight closeup: "Oh shit!" he exclaims, and suddenly dashes out of the room.

Cut to a living room interior. Our cat-suited heroine is sprawled, unconscious, on a sofa, half-buried under half-drunk cups of coffee. (We might wonder if she's half-drunk, too, but we know what's really going on.) Our hero rushes in, dashes back and forth a few times, then shakes her gently but firmly.

"Mrs. Nielsen Hayden, we're needed," he says, then adds "and I forgot all about it. Actually we were needed yesterday, but..."

Hey, it could work!

#14 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 05:51 PM:

But this scheme does sound like a great way for a disaffected teenager living at home to annoy his parents: "But mum, you told me to get a job!"

#15 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 08:13 PM:

I've always fancied NasalCrom as a fantasy villain name. And "bioflavonoids" as henchbeings.

#16 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 02:02 AM:

Hoo boy, great suggestions Chris. I've always wondered what it was about NasalCrom that bothered me. But, Teresa, I *don't* want to know what The Eliminator's superpower is.

MKK

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 10:15 AM:

Relax; his powers aren't what you imagine. For that, you want the Crimson Pigeon.

#18 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 12:22 PM:

In brightest pub, in downturn bad,
I shall discuss my nom de ad;
Let those who joke ask me knock-knock,
That my reply include "Turok."

-- sorry, Alfie and Julie.

#19 ::: Kip T. Williams ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 02:42 PM:

i

I peered at Medusa
And her eyes petrified me
Into the son of stone.


ii

I took their money
And figured I'd blow it all
Turok all night!

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2002, 08:04 PM:

Such joy.

#21 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2002, 11:59 AM:

"13 Ways of Looking at a Secret Identity", a start:

4

A man and a superman
are one
A man and a superman and a secret identity
are one

#22 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2002, 03:24 PM:

According to this BBC page, there are 6000 people who haven't thought of Teresa's objections to the plan... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2197292.stm

#23 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2002, 12:40 AM:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Turok.
Turok who?
Turock da door, ya use da key.

#24 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2002, 01:01 AM:

Turok walk into a bar. Turok Smash!

#25 ::: Kip T. Williams ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2002, 10:05 AM:

Turok, or not Turok: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the end to maintain
The name your parents have bestowed upon you,
Or to adopt, against the sense of others,
A video sprite's title? To change: to keep
No jot; and when we keep we also do
Without a modest pile of currency
That could pay the rent. To change, to keep;
To keep another's name: now that's the thing
For when we make such change, who would know us?
When we have filled out papers and filed a fee,
Or had it paid, who'd send us mail?
Who'd know us when they saw our name in print?
The fond parent, the alumni reunion,
The mailing list we joined, and the whole world
We so carefully built up beforehand
Of debts, honors, connexions to our peers,
Commercial accounts, charity requests,
And solicitors for sundry products...

On second thoughts, I'll sign! Give me a pen.
And at the end of a year's vacation,
I might be ready for restoration.

#26 ::: dsquared ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2002, 05:46 AM:

Unfortunately, the "applicants" they are likely to get are bright-eyed young adults who want to get a job in the UK's notorious advertising industry, and who think that they'll stand out/make contacts/etc by taking one for the team in this manner.

Compare the young journalist working on The Sun who was "promoted" to be the National Lottery correspondent on condition that he change his name to "Lenny Lottery".

The poor bastard was later caught drunk driving, and under UK law, if you've been committed of a felony under a name, you can't change that name for five years ....

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