In Virginia, Three Enterprising Eighth Graders Impress Producer Steven Spielberg to the Toon of $3,900
Renee Carter, 13, has this habit of ordering by mail, so when she wanted to send a package from her home in Waynesboro, Va., to California last fall, her mom, Frances, eyed it suspiciously. But when Renee told her it was just, oh, a script idea for Steven Spielberg that she and her eighth-grade buddies Amy Crosby and Sarah Creef had concocted, Frances says she agreed to spring for the postage "to humor the girls."
Just as well she stayed on their good side. Though unsolicited scripts are regularly returned to sender, the girls' 121-page illustrated proposal for an episode of the TV cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures charmed its way up the Warner Bros, chain of command to big cheese Spielberg himself. The producer immediately decided, he recalls, that the trio's ideas were "too clever to turn down."
And so he didn't. In fact, Spielberg offered to fly them out to L.A. to discuss producing their script. Upon hearing this news, "I half choked on half my Pizza Roll," recalls Renee, "and I dropped the other half."
It was Renee, a compulsive doodler, who first envisioned sending Toon characters Babs and Buster Bunny off on a trip to Hawaii. Over a series of phone calls and lunchroom conferences at Kate Collins School, she and fellow Toon groupies Amy and Sarah sketched out a mishap-filled vacation for the Bunnys. Then the amateur animators came up with what they thought was the silliest idea of all: sending their extracurricular project to Spielberg.
Last month, the girls and their families received star treatment in L.A., getting chauffeured to dinner in white limousines. The high point was taking a 1½-hour meeting with Spielberg, who "pushed our shoulders down to get us more relaxed than we looked," says Renee. Spielberg helped the threesome flesh out their Toon episode, which is expected to air next fall, then let them loose in his company's video-game arcade.
The three honors students also got a lesson in the the art of Hollywood deal-making: Originally, Warner was going to pay only $250 for their concept, but has now decided to ante up a total of $3,900 to use their drawings as well. With money in the bank for college, Amy and Sarah hope to become singers, and Renee dreams of being a professional animator. Already, Renee knows how to get the rumor mill spinning in her favor. "Some writers at Warner Bros.," she quips, slyly, "are actually getting worried about their jobs."
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