Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Zenn Scarlett Blog Tour: Guest Post from Author Christian Schoon

I am over the moon to have Christian Schoon, author of the fabulous Zenn Scarlett, here as part of the blog tour! So when I first heard about the book, I learned from Christian that he had previously worked for Disney. Now, being the Disney alum and fangirl that I am, I had to know more. When I was asked about a topic for a guest post for this tour, I immediately knew I wanted to hear more about his time working for Disney, not because it really relates to the book, but because it's fascinating and I, personally, love to know more about author's backgrounds. I hope you enjoy what Christian has to say about his time with Disney; he obviously has some great stories and I am insanely jealous. :)

About the book:

When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year...
First off, thanks to Rachel for inviting me to stop by and for hosting this portion of Zenn’s blog tour. Rachel asked me to write a bit about my time at Disney, and I’m happy to oblige.

Apparently, when I applied for a copywriter position with Walt Disney Home Video (back in the day…) I was one of about 500 applicants. At least, that’s what my boss told me after I got the gig. Maybe she was just being nice.

In any case, this was really a dream job for someone like me. As a grade schooler, I’d visited the Anaheim Disneyland and immediately wrote to the company asking how I could be a guide on the Jungle Cruise and “…when could I start?” And so I got my first rejection letter. Polite, but dispiriting, as they all are.

So, jump ahead a few years. I’m now a copywriter at Altec Lansing, a consumer electronics company whose offices were, coincidentally, about a quarter mile from Disneyland. Shortly after Altec moved to another SoCal site, I saw an ad in ADWEEK for the Disney copywriter slot. I applied and forgot about it, got called in for an initial interview, then two more interviews over the next month, then was offered the job. Very excited.

When I started at Disney, home video was still housed on their Burbank studios lot. I was seriously toon-struck as I walked down Goofy Street or Mickey Lane (might be Mickey Street/Goofy Lane, I can’t remember). Some of home video’s offices were in the old Ink & Paint Building, where the cells for the revered Disney animation classics were laboriously hand inked. For lunch, I’d get a sandwich from the commissary and walk over to the back lot and eat sitting on the old, crumbling stucco walls of the Zorro set, or maybe hang out with the studio’s half-feral felines on the porch of the That Darn Cat house or stretch out in the yard of the house Tommy Considine (sp?) lived in when he transformed into The Shaggy Dog.
As for my work, I was suddenly spending time in screening rooms watching some of the truly wonderful old Disney films and TV shows I’d grown up with – and then getting to write about them. I did back of video package synopsis copy, press releases, taglines, magazine ads, short “behind the scenes” or other promotional video scripts. For some of the scripts, we’d then do remote shoots. I spent a day poolside with Annette Funicello when she graciously agreed to help us roll-out the home video release of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Classy lady. (and I had SUCH a crush on her as a kid.)

Good times, good times…

A year or so after I started, most of the home video department was moved just across the street from the studio to a small complex known as the Pago Pago Building (it was named after the still-operating little bar on the corner, where some of the Classic-age Disney animators used go drink after work).
It was shortly after this move that the Great Awakening took place: for a number of years, Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller had presided over a more-or-less sleepy interlude in Disney’s history. So, he was edged out, and Paramount’s Michael Eisner brought in as CEO, with Warner Bros. Frank Wells as President. This utterly transformed the place. Movie production went from almost moribund to life in the fast lane. Before I knew it, they were bulldozing the Zorro set and all the other unused units on the back lot and putting in trailer houses full of hot new creative types and accountants.

It was an amazing process to witness. Suddenly, Disney was reaping massive profits again. But I gotta say, the atmosphere was also radically different. About this time my boss left to work for a start-up video and film production company. She made me an offer to follow her, and I took it. A year or so after that, I struck out on my own and became a full-time freelance writer. And while the freelance life suits my temperament much more than cubical-dwelling, I look back on my Disney years with a huge amount of nostalgia and fondness. It was a great time to be there. Oh, and I never did get to captain a Jungle Cruise boat. But, as part of what they called the Disney Way One management program, I got to spend part of a day at Disneyland dressed up as Eeyore and wandering among the guests at the park. Now, I’m a kinda cynical guy, I admit it. But the pure, streaming, unambiguous love that emanated from kids the second they laid eyes on that donkey… I can still feel it. And while Eeyore isn’t technically a Disney character, the bulky, kid-magnet costume I was encased in certainly was. And all I can say about that is “Well done, Walt, well done.”

About Christian:

Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about - and received an education from - these remarkable animals.
Author info: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

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