Hey Poptropicans—this is a guest post by Tyler Naimoli, an aspiring children’s book author and current illustration/journalism and design college student. The original version of this post can be found on his blog. Minor changes were made for the version below. Enjoy!
Tyler begins his post by giving a few reasons why a Poptropica movie doesn’t seem feasible right now, such as the recent layoffs of several respectable Creators, for whom he is now writing a Poptropica movie script, and the lack of attention Jeff Kinney has given Pop in favor of Wimpy Kid. Despite this, he hopes to see a film happen and has plenty of ideas to share…
Poptropica, one of many virtual worlds
While thinking about this whole thing, it occurred to me that virtual worlds in general are a largely untapped medium in film and even television. This is all the more interesting in an age that seems to be adapting just about anything that it can for these mediums, and the closest such media right now to virtual worlds are video games (even if nearly all adaptations are sadly lacking), apps (say what you will about their reasonability, though The Angry Birds Movie mostly worked) and perhaps even toys such as the Lego Movie franchise (Oh, the emojis? Um…don’t know what you’re talking about).
Aside from Poptropica, there are so many other virtual worlds that, while I can’t speak for all of them, contain varying degrees of potential to be adapted into film and television. Especially in today’s movie climate, people are interested in new things instead of sequels and reboots, and this interest in adapting as much media as possible is partly to blame.
For this alone, a Poptropica film or TV show or just any kind of major virtual world adaptation makes sense. It would not only be an original idea that would immediately interest audiences, but the goldmines of potential that virtual worlds possess means that if done right, such adaptations can be something that audiences can truly enjoy and appreciate. So why shouldn’t Poptropica lead this charge, before another virtual world potentially beats them to it?
The craziest part about this is that Jeff Kinney is aware of this. When Sandbox Networks acquired StoryArc Media in June 2015 (then called the Family Education Network), Kinney actually brought up the first official statement regarding the idea of a Poptropica film adaptation:
It’s a big day for Family Education Network and I’m proud to be part of this next chapter. The Sandbox team truly understands the informal learning space, what kids want, and how important it is to reach out to parents and teachers at the same time. They will support us with establishing Poptropica as a consumer storytelling brand for all media, languages, territories, and delivery devices, for generations to come, and I’m delighted that in time we’ll be seeing the stories and characters from FEN brought to life on the big screen.
And what’s the lore of Poptropica in particular?
Ignore the latest developments of the franchise for a minute. Ignore the popularity that leaves much to be desired for a minute. Let’s just embrace the universe as a whole, and everything that all the media has provided and established up to this point in order to understand why a film or television adaptation of Poptropica is so reasonable.
So, what is Poptropica, anyway? Is it a virtual world? An alternate universe? It just might be both. Poptropica’s past remained a mystery for years, until Poptropica: Forgotten Islands (available on iOS and Nintendo 3DS) revealed quite a bit about its history.
According to the game, Poptropica started out as a single landmass. Then a series of cataclysmic battles between giants and monsters took place in an attempt to rule the great land. However, no clear winner emerged. Instead, the beasts’ great power caused the very land they were fighting for to crumble beneath them, triggering what became known as the Great Flood. It would be this flood that would create the islands of Poptropica as they are known today. The original Poptropicans who inhabited the landmass prior to the flood fled underground to escape the destruction, where they emerged many years later as the Mabaya. Poptropicans from distant lands then landed on their islands, who called themselves the Trinity Syndicate.
The Syndicate attempted to colonize these lands which escalated into a war between the groups, and during this war, monks set out to protect the artifacts that would allow the aforementioned history to be documented. The war ended in a Mabaya victory, enticing the Syndicate to flee back to their lands in an attempt to save their pride. But they were forced to make peace with their enemies and remain inhabitants on the islands when they learned that their own people, wretched with greed, were unwilling to take them back. Later, pirates arrived on these islands who ironically attacked the Syndicate themselves, when they were saved by a young hero.
And that’s just Forgotten Islands.
Other media such as the graphic novels revealed even more about Poptropica, such as its peacekeeping organization, the Protectors, and their purpose of protecting Poptropica’s unique time-based properties as a highway of history. Time periods frequently stop their progression in time to occur on some islands, with such islands often occurring simultaneously. They periodically disappear and reappear, allowing a traveler to essentially travel through time without the use of a time machine. Astro-Knights, Mythology, Skullduggery, Mystery Train, Wild West, Arabian Nights and Greek Sea Odyssey are just a few of such islands.
Even when these time periods slip back into the time stream, one can head to Time Tangled Island and actually use a time machine invented by Poptropica’s preeminent scientist, Professor Peter P. Pendulum, to continue their travels.
The graphic novels also revealed the nature of Poptropica’s connection to our world, in which Poptropica is not just an alternate universe but a collection of such universes. Poptropica specifically uses the many-worlds interpretation variant of multiverse theory, in which even the most minor events cause the creation of new timelines, to the point that every possible event that could’ve happened in our timeline happened in other timelines.
Aside from the islands in which time periods settle, many other islands also disappear and reappear, which originate from and move across these multiple universes through a collection of time crystals at the heart of Poptropica known as the Nexus.
This offers much explanation for Poptropica Worlds, the infinite worlds one can encounter and create in Poptropica Realms, the connection to our real world (which Poptropicans may perceive as just another world), and the children’s book characters and properties that also occur on some islands such as Nabooti, Big Nate, Great Pumpkin, Wimpy Wonderland, Red Dragon, Wimpy Boardwalk, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Galactic Hot Dogs and Timmy Failure. It also explains why Poptropolis Games sinks and rises every 100 years, why the islands in the online games don’t appear in the graphic novels, comic strip and Forgotten Islands, and vice versa.
Travel from Earth to Poptropica and back is generally not controllable. The graphic novels show that one can accidentally end up in Poptropica via strange portal-opening storms. Interestingly, the comic strip shows another means via scientific accidents.
However, one gains much control over this travel via access to time crystals from the Nexus. There is also one island in particular that could hypothetically allow travel back to Earth: Mocktropica Island, which explains how Poptropica is also a virtual world. Admittedly, because it hasn’t been explained too well how Mocktropica Island fits into the Poptropica universe, this next part isn’t terribly rooted in fact and comes more from my movie script.
My own take on the plot of a potential Poptropica movie
From what I get, Mocktropica is the result of Poptropica being discovered by computer programmers, when they caught sight of and entered its portal-opening storms in 2007. Inspired by what they saw, they made a virtual world based on their findings, deciding to not reveal Poptropica’s existence to the world in order to fool the public into thinking it was an original idea.
However, instead of making a game about what they found, they decided to build the game through Poptropica itself. This essentially made the game a window to Poptropica, and with the right technology, a portal to Poptropica through cyberspace. This could explain the comic strip’s technologically-based means of accessing Poptropica, how the player goes so far as to end up in Poptropica’s servers during the Mocktropica Island quest, and how Poptropica’s rival developers at the Mega Fighting Bots website got to Poptropica in the first place. The Protectors allowed them to do this as long as it did not allow a global catastrophic risk to either Poptropica or Earth, which the programmers promised to do, and Spencer Albright watched over the project.
The programmers began by settling on an uninhabited island which they called Mocktropica Island, then building Poptropica Worldwide Headquarters and the technology that would serve as the bridge between Poptropica and cyberspace, and cyberspace and Earth. From there, they were able to properly travel between Poptropica and Earth this way, allowing them to build the game from not just the outside (telling the public that this was the only way they built it), but from the inside as well (telling the public that Mocktropica Island was just a metafictional idea).
The game would prove to have a powerful influence on Poptropica, as expanding the window would require technological interference to the islands that would be featured in the game. Although most of it is harmless, when the programmers started out on Early Poptropica Island, they were still learning. This could explain the 8-bit designs of the pilgrims, in which they were still trying to understand the designs of Poptropicans until they perfected the technology.
But even today, the programmers aren’t perfect. Glitches are accidentally created that occasionally menace Poptropicans, which the programmers usually fix without much difficulty. And events such as the Mocktropica Island quest happen. Even so, none of these events were considered great enough for the Protectors to shut the game down. Whew!
And if this explanation of the Poptropica universe isn’t enough to convince you that the franchise is worthy of a film or television adaptation, consider the stories that can be told of characters such as Ned Noodlehead, Super Power Island’s premier crime fighter who is at odds with the fact that he is the brother to supervillain Betty Jetty. Or C.J., the genius of Shrink Ray Island who designed its namesake device, or the day-to-day activities of the Protectors. Or the story of how the blimp was built on Monkey Wrench Island, or what a typical day on the island is like for Crusoe. Perhaps the most obvious stories to tell, however, are the antics of Oliver Hartman, Jorge Flores and Mya Wong, or maybe even a typical day at work for a Poptropicanized Jeff Kinney (dare we dream).
And that’s not even getting to the rich rouges gallery of villains that have been created over the years to oppose these heroes, as well as some of their interesting and overlooked origin stories that could be touched upon as well. Dr. Hare, Copy Cat, Speedy Spike, Sir Rebral, Ratman, Crusher, Betty Jetty, Director D., Vince Graves, Binary Bard, Black Widow, Zeus, Medusa, Captain Crawfish, Gretchen Grimlock, El Mustachio Grande, Mr. Silva, E. Vile, Ringmaster Raven, Myron Van Buren, Omegon, Princess Scheherazade, Octavian, Red Baroness…the possibilities are endless.
Even Dr. Cumulo Nimbus from the Blimp Adventure DLC quest, Arthur Eraser from the Pencil Warrior coloring book, and perhaps even the infamous Afro Guy glitch present some interesting antagonistic potential. And when you take all these things into consideration, you might get a synopsis like this:
Oliver Hartman may be the coolest kid in school, with his popularity and good looks, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. His genius-hating peers don’t know he’s hiding a machine that could save the world. They make him bully kids such as Jorge Flores. He’s also got something of a distant relationship with his half-sister, Mya Wong, that he can’t quite understand.
When his mother learns of his actions, she takes him to the science fair to inspire his intelligence. A malfunctioning science project thrusts Oliver, Jorge and Mya into Poptropica, an alternate world consisting of an uncharted group of islands whose existence is only known from an online game. As the kids try to find a way back to Earth, little do they know that Octavian, a staff member at the school, was a Poptropican and former member of its peacekeeping organization, the Protectors, who exiled him to Earth for his views on governing time and space and his crimes with the organization’s time crystals.
Now that he’s managed to follow the kids back to Poptropica, he’s redirecting his plans elsewhere to get his revenge—plans that involve where the game was built at Mocktropica Island. Octavian was the only Protector to ever witness the disastrous glitch known as Afro Guy, accidentally created by the developers, before the glitch was successfully contained.
With the game connecting Poptropica and Earth together, Octavian’s plans are going to threaten the existence of both worlds. Get ready for high-octane adventures as Oliver comes to terms with who his true friends are – and just how important his intellect may be. Be ready to explore, collect and compete!
And let’s not forget the soundtrack – I’m thinking an epic remix of Jeff Heim’s music. A remix of the Home Island theme can play at the beginning of the movie, as Spencer Albright explains Poptropica’s history via voice over, accompanied with breathtaking illustrative visuals. 😀
With that being said, a film or television adaptation of Poptropica, or just of virtual worlds in general, just has to happen. It’s not the first thing that can be done to restore Poptropica’s greatness, but it’s the ultimate dream for the fanbase that can be achieved once Jeff Kinney shifts his focus, as I previously explained.
Although I have all the major ideas for the script, I’m still working on the details and putting it all together. This is where the fans could come in, and I’m totally open to adjusting the script accordingly to whatever the fanbase believes is the best route to take with it. So, Poptropica fans: What are some ideas you have for a Poptropica movie? Share them in the comments, and let me know if you’d like to work together!
The game may not be thinking big right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t.
Until then, pop on, folks. 😉
Hope you enjoyed this guest post by Tyler Naimoli! If you did, you may also enjoy his first guest post on the PHB about Jeff Kinney. Be sure to also check out his website, Naimoli Children’s Books Blog, where he discusses children’s media and shares his own work.
The Poptropica Help Blog welcomes interesting Poptropica insights from anyone in the Poptropica community with thoughts to share. You can find some tips and guidelines on our Write for the PHB page. We also encourage sharing blog posts on the PHC.
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