A documentary about a formerly Japan-only Nintendo game, its international release, and the secret black market of unreleased games.
Mother to Earth is a documentary about the secret history behind one of Nintendo’s biggest cult classics – Mother – better known in North America as Earthbound Beginnings. This game is the first installment in a fan favorite series which brought us many memorable characters, such as Ness and Lucas, which many Nintendo fans may recognize from the Super Smash Bros.series.
We hope this Kickstarter campaign will help us create the definitive documentary showing the history behind the inception of the Mother/Earthbound series and Mother’s failed initial English localization in the early 1990’s. What makes this story so compelling is that this initial failure is only the beginning of an epic journey that would span a quarter of a century. From here we explore why this game was eventually localized 25 years later and how fans have been able to find already-localized copies of the game online since the early 2000’s. While researching for this movie, we ourselves found the answers to thoEse questions deep in the underground subculture of hardcore video game collectors. Some of whom helped leak, hack, and upload a localized prototype of the game decades before its official release. We’re here to show a hidden world of backroom deals, grey markets, and borderline-illegal sales of video games. In this world things are nearly-impossible to track, thanks to cash deals behind closed doors, throw-away usernames, and purposeful obscurification.
This is the first time a film will unveil this utterly fascinating side of video games, a medium known to most as simple entertainment. Yet, it has evolved into a hobby with a discreet andlucrative secondary market, tangled in hoarded information and secrecy. This part of the culture, however, is only the tip of the iceberg as we follow Earthbound Beginnings’s incredible journey, from its initial creation to its eventual release. It’s a story with so many twists and turns that it kept even us on the edge of our seats. We present to you an opportunity to be a part in this unbelievable film that appeals to both gamers and non-gamers alike – And the best part is, it’s all true!
- In 1989, a unique role-playing game by the name of
- was released in Japan for the Nintendo Famicom. Then twenty-five years later, that same game was officially released in North America on Nintendo’s Virtual Console and rebranded as
- for the Wii U. Despite this huge gap in time, this game has managed to attract a
massive fan following
- from all over the world. What is it that makes this game, both the original release and the new localization, so exceptional?
- The easiest answer to that question is that
- is the first installment in the
- series, a strange, funny, and remarkably emotional collection of games. Better known in Japan as the
- trilogy, this series spanned eighteen years of development and has fueled countless fan communities. Despite having unique settings, each game’s story follows the same epic arc: a young boy protagonist embarks on a grand adventure that strengthens his psychic powers, brings him together with new friends, and saves the planet Earth.
- What also makes this series so memorable are each game’s hilarious cast of enemies, ranging from living street signs and monochromatic cultists to mafioso zombies and intergalactic horrors. The series frequent inside jokes, pop culture lampoons, and compelling characters, all make these games easy to enjoy and even easier to fall in love with.
- , the first game in the series, initially sold over 400,000 copies in Japan, making it a commercial success and was
slated for a 1991 release in the United States but that never happened
- . The game was fully translated into English in the early 90’s, but, for several reasons which we will discuss in this film, was shelved before its commercial release with no future plans of ever being released.
- Normally, that would be the end of the sad, but not uncommon, story; a game is translated and fails to launch, never to be seen again. However, our story only finds its beginnings at this point, as over the years, translated carts of
- leaked out of Nintendo of America’s headquarters onto the streets and found their ways into the hands of fans and collectors alike. From here, it was spread all over the internet where it was known as
- . The exact events leading up to this, as well as events surrounding its fan-made release, have been both poorly documented and hotly debated –
After two years of our own work, research, and investigation, we have fallen short simply due to a restriction of our time and resources. This film is the product of countless phone calls, a ton of detective work, love, and dedication. From cold calling phone numbers in the Seattle, WA phone book to deducing email addresses by process of elimination, we have pieced together this entire, amazing story.
While there are bits and pieces of this of this narrative floating around on forums and outdated web pages, we have found so much more than has ever been published before now. The team behind this film is incredibly dedicated and professional, yet they are all bound by a child-like passion and obsession with video games. Mother to Earth is as much a story of the game as it is the story behind the fan communities that have grown around it.
We are launching this Kickstarter campaign to help us fund a feature length documentary of this unbelievable story. The film, once finished, will be made available on DVD, Blu-ray, digital, and streaming services. The film will be closed captioned in English, but we hope to add more languages later on. The film will also have an original score inspired by the series.
Shooting the film will occur over the course of the rest of this year, taking into account availability of the interviewees, and editing will begin as soon as filming wraps. The release and the backer reward distribution are scheduled for simultaneous delivery, with progress updates coming both to the public and backers alike between funding and release. We have been in contact with the interviewees and have already begun planning a filming schedule. Here are just a few of the individuals currently slated:
- Phil Sandhop – The original English script writer for Earthbound Beginnings
- Matt Alderman – Former Nintendo of America Game Play Counselor and former owner of an Earthbound Beginnings prototype
- Joey “Roo” DeSena – Video game expert and current owner of an Earthbound Beginningsprototype
- Steve “Demi” Demeter – Hacker behind the leaked version of Earthbound Beginnings better known as EarthBound Zero
- And Many More!
- [$1] Podunk Tier – By pledging to this tier, you will receive access to the project’s Backer Updates, where we will keep you up-to-date on the film’s development! These updates will be more in-depth than the content shown on our social media pages, as they are exclusive to Kickstarter backers.
- [$5] Canary Village Tier – Not only will you receive the previous tier’s reward, but you’ll get your name in the credits of this film! Just a little thank you to… well, you!
- [$10] Merrysville Tier – Not only will you receive the previous tiers’ rewards, but you’ll also get a digital download copy of the film! DRM free! Go ahead, show your friends! Show your family! Show your dog!
- [$25+S/H] Duncan’s Tier – Not only will you receive the previous tiers’ rewards, but you’ll get a nice physical DVD copy of the film. It comes in an awesome slipcover and has some fun inserts. Did we mention scratch-n-sniff inserts? Well, now we have. Don’t stink up the place.
- [$35+S/H] Snowman Tier – Just like the Duncan’s tier but comes with a Blu-ray copy of the film instead of a DVD copy. Same smelly inserts, but resolution so fine that you’ll wonder why VHS tapes ever existed. Also, the Blu-ray slipcover is different from the DVD. I guess you’ll just have to get both. 😉
- [$100+S/H] Reindeer Tier – Not only do you get the Snowman Tier, and everything that goes with it, but you get a little something special from us. You get one of the add-ons, of your choice, plus a special postcard from us! You might want to write back, we love mail. Sorry, stretch goals add-ons are not included. If you want to downgrade to a DVD instead of Blu-ray, let us know in the backer survey! [LIMIT 50]
- [$250+S/H] Spookane Tier – For the serious Earthbound series fan. You get a special, limited edition BIG BOX that comes with a DVD and Blu-ray copy of the film, even more fun inserts and even more smells! Also, you’ll receive development updates, your name in the credits, and a digital copy of the film. Did we mention that this BIG BOX is limited to this Kickstarter only AND individually numbered? This version will never be available after this campaign. Good luck, resellers! [LIMIT 250]
- [$500+S/H] Youngtown Tier – You get your very own special chat with us! Yeah, that’s right, the production crew – beamed directly to your eyes and ears through the magic of a Skype call, or a phone call, or whatever. Basically, we will contact you during production and have our people talk to your people. And trust us, we want to talk to you, too. Mainly to ask you, “WHY DID YOU GIVE THIS MUCH MONEY?!” Oh, and you’ll also get a special, framed, signed piece of art (exclusive to this tier) to show you how much we appreciate you. Without you… Well sheesh, I don’t know what to say. Just, thank you. Also, the entireSpookane Tier. [LIMIT 10]
- [$1,500] Ellay Tier – You get invited to a very special screening. An early screening! The first screening, actually. Come join us and see all of our hard work, Mother to Earth, before anyone else. Hob nob with the likes of our family, friends, and rest of the crew while we enjoy beverages. Then we will treat you to some amazing burgers and watch the documentary! Travel costs won’t be covered but the hotel costs for you and a plus one will be! To cap it all off, after the showing, you’ll be presented with an honorary mini-baseball bat. We are not liable for any and all damage you cause with that bat. Also, the entire Youngtown Tier. [LIMIT 4]
- [$2,500] Magicant Tier – You get an Executive Producer credit in our film. This means you gave us a lot of money for some words in our movie that we made using your money. Makes sense? Oh, and we’ll just give you like a plaque or something. NO, TWO PLAQUES. Also, the entire Ellay Tier. [LIMIT 2]
- [$10,000] Mt. Itoi Tier – You are cordially invited to be part of the movie and join us indriving a TANK around the desert (South Texas). You have to pay your way there but you get to join us for a “magical” weekend where we drive a tank. You know, just like in the Earthbound Beginnings. This is the best tier, hands down. You get to drive around, run over a car, basically live out your Mad Max fantasies. Reserved for the person out there that wants to do that “once in a lifetime” thing. Only back this tier if you’re willing to hide your bank statements from your significant other for the next nine months. Also, you get Magicant Tier. Tanks for everything! [LIMIT 1]
Scratch and Sniff Sticker Set [$7+S/H] [S/H is $4 in US & $6 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
T-shirt [$25+S/H] [SIZES XS-3XL] [S/H is $6 in US & $12 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Set of Pogs by Jorge Manuel Velez [$20+S/H] [S/H is $4 in US & $6 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Air Freshener [$20+S/H] [S/H is $4 in US & $6 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Digital Copy of the Soundtrack [$10]
Physical CD Copy of the Soundtrack [$20+S/H] [S/H is $6 in US & $10 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Extra DVD Copy of the Documentary [$25+S/H] [S/H is $6 in US & $10 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Extra Blu-ray Copy of the Documentary [$35+S/H] [S/H is $6 in US & $10 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Theatrical Poster by Jorge Manuel Velez (27”x40”) [$50+S/H] [S/H is $8 in US & $22 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
One of Three Miniposters (11″x17″) [$20+S/H] [S/H is $8 in US & $22 EVERYWHERE ELSE]
Currently, Add-ons are ONLY available to the US, EU, Canada, and Japan. We hope to expand this later. If you don’t live in those countries, email us. Also, these designs may be subject to slight changes but we don’t expect anything huge. We decided to use Add-ons in our Kickstarter campaign because we know how you guys are huge fans of physical rewards. Add-ons are great if you want an extra shirt or sticker sheet, but don’t want to change your reward tier. You can even add multiple of the same item if you want! If you want an Add-on added to your initial pledge, it is easy and relatively simple. All you need to do is:
- Click “Manage Your Pledge”.
- Click “Change Your Pledge”.
- Add the cost (plus shipping/handling) of the Add-ons to your initial pledge amount and don’t change your tier.
Don’t do anything else. We’ll handle the rest when we send out backer surveys after the Kickstarter campaign has completed. And message us about ordering multiple items so we can work out a shipping/handling cost and save you some money.
What are Stretch Goals? What a great question, pre-written dialog! Stretch Goals are things that we initially wanted to include in the project but were put on hold due to budget concerns. The great thing about Stretch Goals is that once our initial goal is met, we can afford to put this stuff back on the table and bring you guys probably the coolest stuff we can think of. We believe Stretch Goals are a little tacky to display right from the get-go of a project but we’ll leave you with a little teaser and clue you in that most of our Stretch Goals are either equipment improvements, like better cameras and lights, or additional Add-ons, like more T-shirts, posters, maybe a keychain, maybe something even cooler. This will give us more opportunities to promote and support even more talented artists with our campaign. We also have a few other, crazier, Stretch Goals planned. More on this after we reach our initial funding goal.
Money! I mean, uh, Kickstarter presents a great opportunity for us to fund and publicize our work. That’s convincing, right?
Alright, I’ll level with you: we are using Kickstarter because we need crowdfunding to make this film a reality. We can’t do this project alone; like we’ve mentioned before, we’ve tried for two years and have fallen short to this day simply because we’ve already stretched our time and budget as far as we can. We think this is a fascinating story, and we want to share it with everyone. We have a vision, a dream, and for the first time, our goal is within reach. We can do this, but we need some help – a kickstart, if you will. We have budgeted this movie out as tightly as we can, but we still need help (and funding) to physically go out and conduct our face-to-face interviews and edit the footage. The rest of the funding goes towards DVD/Blu-ray production and distribution. Here’s a handy pie-chart that lays out our initial budget and how we’ll use it:
Kickstarter does have some pretty awesome advantages though. We can interact directly with our backers. That’s fantastic! We want to hear from each and every one of you guys! Message us here, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow ourwebsite or hit us up on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or tumblr. Talk to us and we want to talk back.
Another great benefit to using Kickstarter is that we can do much more than just a traditional release. Not only can we release the film to everyone who supports us, but we can also include awesome Backer Rewards! Backers can get some crazy awesome stuff here, and also help support some talented artists. With Kickstarter, we can also reach a much larger audience than would normally be possible, so everyone who might be interested can find us. It’s unbelievable!
Finally, we are happy to fund our project using Kickstarter because not only can we reach our goal, we have the potential to fund even more than we initially planned. With any extra funding beyond our goal, we can produce more insane stuff that normally wouldn’t even be possible! We want to impress you, we really do. That is why we are here today. Not to simply ask for money, but to ask you to join us, as partners, in the telling of this incredible story.
Josh Bone-Christian – Director, Producer – Initially doing the research for the investigation, Josh has contributed a massive amount to knowledge in both the background of the prototypes and the parties involved. Well versed in Earthbound and an animator by trade, he’ll also guide the project’s artistic aesthetics.
Christian Deitering – Producer, Videographer – As the most experienced filmmaker on the project, Christian has the job of keeping the project realistic and doable. A professional filmmaker, he’ll also be taking care of the production aspects of the documentary and providing the equipment.
Evan Butler – Director, Producer – Evan could probably be best described as a motivational organizer. His role is to oversee and plan more of the below-the-line elements and investigate the backstory while still participating in the creative aspects alongside Josh.
Quincy Pringle – Community Manager, PA – Quincy Pringle will assist in managing communication feeds such as email, social media, updates to the Kickstarter, and also act as a general set of extra hands on the project as a production assistant. He is also an octopus.
Austin O’Rourke – Composer – Austin O’Rourke is a music student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A long-time composer, he has recently been awarded the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award in 2015. A huge fan of the Earthboundseries, Austin will be composing an original score inspired by the series for this film.
Cole Masaitis – Composer – Cole Masaitis is a professional musician and a student at the University of Mary Washington. Cole will be working together with Austin to compose the score.
Alyssa Browning – Lead Designer – A Maryland artist that works in all styles and media, but leans more towards abstract art. When she is not working art projects, she enjoys spending time with dogs, modeling at MICA, or painting sets for a local children’s theatre.
Jorge Manuel Velez – Promotional Artist – A professional illustrator from Puerto Rico. His professional career includes work on Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball and the TV show,Archer.
Audrey Tichanuk – Contributing Artist – This creature lives somewhere in the vastness of space, unperturbed. They like to draw things and play videogames. Audrey has recently received a BFA in Sequential Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design.
Marco Fedele – Contributing Artist, Localization Manager – An artist from Naples, Italy. He works both digitally and traditionally. He’s an Illustrator with a love for comics, having grown-up on Franco-Belgian comics and Japanese manga.
Phillip Stankus – Contributing Artist – An animation student at the University of the Arts of Philadelphia. He currently lives in his hometown suburbs of Piscataway NJ, working on his webcomic and doing freelance work.
Risks and challenges
Filming a movie has a lot of inherent risks. Honestly, our biggest hurdle is scheduling, getting all the interviews lined up and squared away. This is why we are making this the most important step in the entire process. We’ve already handled the rest of preproduction, and postproduction is entirely dependent on completing the interviews in the first place.
The reward to a neat and tight schedule is that everything should flow smoothly and efficiently. In many ways, there’s no risk here, because we already know that we can do this. This ignoring all the other risks, though. This is where we make sure you know that. Lots of unforeseen things could happen between now and the end of this project, for a poor example: the camera could get wrecked, stolen, scratched, breathed on wrong… a pigeon could poop on it! Who knows? In the event of anything going horribly wrong, we will let our backers know as soon as possible.