Kings in the Corner is a 2003 short film by Dozerfleet Productions. It is the first production since the early days of the Dozerfleet founder's work in high school at developing a concept for The Mutt Mackley Show. It is in this piece that the characters Gambino Penguin (portrayed by a Beanie Babies Waddle doll), Smiley Toucan, and Detective Hooper are first established as characters. While this is a spin-off of the idea for the Mutt Mackley program, Mackley himself never appears in this production. Released in March, the film was shot in February of 2003.


Ignoring his childhood advice, Smiley Toucan decides to lurk about at night in an alleyway in an unspecified town. He runs into Gambino Penguin, believing Gambino is an equally-lonely bird looking for someone to talk to. Instead, Gambino jumps Smiley and begins strangling him in an effort to mug him. Smiley begs Gambino to let him go, insisting he doesn't have any money on him. Gambino continues to pressure him, disappointed at the lack of cash to be mugged.

Out of nowhere, Detective Hooper shows up pretending to be a normal bum. He deceives Gambino into agreeing to a game of "Kings in the Corner."

The two of them continue to play, as Smiley disappears from the scene. Gambino is impressed with Hooper's skills, and accuses him of cheating. Hooper insists he is merely lucky. The two continue to taunt each other as they play for money. In the end, a flashing spotlight blinds the both of them. A voice hollers out that the police have arrived and that nobody move. Hooper then reveals to Gambino that the whole thing was a setup to catch him.

Officer Hornet puts the cuffs on Gambino and thanks Detective Hooper for providing the distraction.

The end credits indicate that the story has ended.


Character Portrayed by
Smiley Toucan A stuffed toy toucan of unknown manufacturer
Officer Hornet A bee-like action figure toy of unknown manufacturer or brand
Detective Hooper Cloud 9 Toys, Inc. brand basketball figure with arms, legs, and a face.
Gambino Penguin Waddle of the Beanie Babies franchise


Video Capture

The video was shot using a news-style camera borrowed from the LCC television department and a DVCAM digital video tape. The same tape would also be used to make The Blue Face Film Strips. The footage shot for KitC was done with low F-stop numbers, never exceeding f/2.8. White balance didn't matter as much for this project as it did for Blue Face, as the excessive blue hue was done intentionally as a cheap way to create a night sky effect. While a streetlight orange effect would have been desired, there was no way to setup such a system with the equipment provided. Therefore, the city of unspecified name appears to be experiencing a blackout.

Differences in the releases

Due to the years that passed from the creation of the original and the years the sequels came out (a difference of 4-5 years), there have been several adjustments to the script and duration of the edited piece. The next few sections document the most fundamental of these changes.

Musical differences

In the lost-to-the-ages original 2003 version of Kings in the Corner, the Larry Carlton song "Fingerprints" is taken directly from the hard drive of a Macintosh in a lab at Lansing Community College. No musician credit is provided, as this version was not originally intended to be viewed outside of the Film 118 class in which it was used. By contrast, the 2008 version involved taking a microphone directly to a speaker and recording off an Internet stream, in an effort to compensate for the loss of the original soundtrack. The result is a slightly-reduced quality in the music; which is barely noticeable since the only remaining copy in the world of the 2003 incarnation is on a degraded VHS tape.


Gambino Penguin, mugging Smiley Toucan

The 2007 version was made in desperation to have at least one restored version of KitC available for public viewing. As a result, it was edited together from the KitC raw footage CD-R in a bedroom of the same house where The Blue Face Film Strips and Volkonir Journals: Attempt #43 were shot. The house at that time did not have a cable Internet connection, so no attempt was made in December of 2007 to retrieve a copy of the original song. Therefore, a tune by the Irish Film Orchestra was used in its stead. The Irish Film Orchestra is given credit in the video itself for their work.[1] Larry Carlton is only credited in the YouTube side credits for the 2008 version[2], since this version tried to be a "near-perfect" recreation of the 2003 version with only the title card, Dozerfleet Productions logo, and Dozerfleet Studios logos added.


Liberties were taken with the 2007 and 2008 versions to improve some of the dialog from the 2003 version, which was rushed.

  • Smiley Toucan's line of: "Hi, wassup?" in the 2003 version was replaced with: "Well hello there!" to indicate that he was merely trying to be friendly to Gambino; whereas the original line seems to indicate falsely that the two had a prior relationship.
  • Smiley's line of: "Hey, what gives?" is replaced with: "Come on, what gives?" This was a simple case of poor memory.
  • Gambino never originally uttered his threat "O' yah dead!" explicitly. That was added for the '07 & '08 releases.
  • Gambino's line: "An' why doesn't I believe yuz?" is replaced with: "I know yez gott it! Foik it oveh, prettybird!!!" This change was made for increased topical clarity. It was also an inside reference to the phrase "prettybird" that was believed to be uttered by the house family's parakeets, which were not around in 2003.
  • Hooper's line: "Hey, I got money! I'll play ya for some!" is replaced with: "Hey there, I've got some dough! I'll play ya for it!"
    • This is to make it clearer that Hooper intends to gamble with Gambino.
    • The original line leaves his intentions ambiguous, as well as making Hooper seem a softer character than he should be.
  • Gambino's questioning of Hooper's choice in game selection is spelled differently to keep his dialect intact.
  • Hooper now says "A card game..." before announcing that they will play "Kings in the Corner."
    • This is to add clarity to viewers not familiar with the game.
    • The original assumed everyone viewing the film was familiar with the name of the card game.
  • The line: "Pitiful, simply pitiful!" used to be colored orange to indicate that Hooper was saying it. It was recolored green to indicate Gambino saying it after a lucky card move.
    • The significance of this change is that in the original, Hooper is the cocky one and Gambino is a frustrated, dumb oaf.
    • The rearrangement indicates that Gambino thought he was winning not only in the card game, but in the world of crime also.
  • The following line by Hooper of: "Guess what, buddy! I win!" becomes a twist at the end, showing how Gambino's overconfidence that he had things figured out proved to be his downfall.
    • The original script had this line as Hooper being a sore winner; which didn't fit with the moral of the story.
    • The original's motivation was to indicate early on that Hooper would win no matter what Gambino tried to do. The change, however, creates a plot twist more consistent with the story's moral message that one can never be too certain that they have any situation completely figured out (a variation of Murphy's Law).[3]


One reason for the fact that the re-releases are considerably shorter than the original is because the quote cards are up on screen for a total of ten seconds fewer than the original. In addition to the edited quote card times, the theme of the changing numbers on the clock is missing in the re-releases. The original version's clock showed approximately that the characters were taking a remarkable amount of time to play their game.

This is because the original Film 118 w/Jeff Hamlin assignment at Lansing Community College was to show a passage or progression of time. However, this passage is irrelevant to the story and therefore, poorly motivated. Because of this, the footage of the clock was edited out entirely for public release. The combined shortening of the quote card durations and removal of clock scenes cut the times on the movie by about 51 seconds. The original version was consistent with the assignment parameters that the video had to be "between 2 and 4 minutes long." For public release, there was no duration pre-requisite.

Character names

This segment of The Mutt Mackley Show was created back in 2003, when only Mackley himself had a name.

  • Waddle, the Beanie Baby model used to play Gambino, was known merely as some penguin Gangster. He would not be identified as having a name until he and Mutt Mackley would perform in a music video for Linkin Park's "Somewhere I Belong."
  • The basketball toy, Detective Hooper, is the only character to be identified by name in the entire movie.
  • Smiley and Officer Hornet did not receive their names until 2008, and Officer Hornet is not in the sequel 3-13.


Kings in the Corner remains controversial among critics as to whether or not it was a "good movie." Generally, this short has been met with mixed reviews and ambivalent opinions.

Special effects

The visual effects were achieved using very low-tech tricks. The police car flash effect was accomplished by merely waving double-thick gels of orange and blue types rapidly back and forth in front of the single studio light that was used for lighting the set. When the police spotlight was flashed to subdue Gambino, the studio light that had been pointed slightly off-camera and covered in multiple layers with blue gel was allowed instead to flood the scene with unaltered light. This same effect would be re-purposed for the 2007 music video of Gambino and Mackley's version of Linkin Park's "Somewhere I Belong." In the event of that movie, the footage of the orange and blue flashing gels was deliberately off-balanced in the camera's white balance correction setting to make the orange look more red. The redness was then further enhanced digitally.

Puppet work

The characters in this piece were all stuffed toys, save for one action figure. Therefore, shots were often on the screen for very little duration to compensate for the fact that the figures could not move. When Gambino is strangling Smiley, for example, the camera moves to compensate for the fact that Gambino cannot. The figures did not owe themselves well to stop-motion animation, especially seeing that a video camera was being used to capture the footage. One revealing mistake is when Hooper hobbles onto the scene. In the far lower right corner, the puppeteer's right hand and arm are clearly visible.


Shortly after the movie was produced, it was printed to a CD and to VHS. The VHS version would survive for many years. The CD would be stolen later in the summer of 2003 by a Muskegon resident. Finally, KitC was added in January of 2008 to YouTube, and was made available for a time on the Dozerfleet MySpace page. The 2007 version was released on January 12th[4], and the 2008 version on January 13th[5].

As of August 18th of 2010, no versions of KitC are available on the web anymore. Like The Blue Face Film Strips, Kings joins a number of similar Dozerfleet projects that were to be sent into archives to make room for new material.

Design philosophy

The design philosophy behind the shots for this movie are the following:

  1. With the right lighting, any mood can be created even without adjustable facial expressions.
  2. With the proper camera angles or the proper alignment and lean angle of a subject in a frame, all one needs to add are the right elements of light and color to create almost any mood or emotion.
  3. Point 2 can happen regardless of whether or not characters have movable extremities to assist their body leans to accommodate the gesture they are trying to depict.
  4. With the right combination of the above and good dialog (written or spoken), almost any abstract concept or motivation for an emotion can be conveyed with reasonable effectiveness; even in the absence of a face.

In lay-man's terms

This section is for those who are not design students and/or would prefer more informal definitions to use on a design survey exam.

  1. Where you put your lights is critical to your mood effect.
  2. Angles, leans, lighting, and color are the most important parts of composition.
  3. Faces, arms, legs, etc. are optional items, but very beneficial ones.
  4. Use sound and/or captions wisely to reinforce your point if the above tricks aren't good enough alone.

Examples of other Dozerfleet works employing this design philosophy include:

  • Stationery Voyagers (characters with no arms, legs, or visible faces)
  • The Trapezoid Kids (characters with no visible faces or heads distinct from the rest of the body)
  • Ciem and sequels (characters with faces hidden behind masks)
  • 3-13 (characters without adjustable facial expressions, save for Mackley)
  • Volkonir (characters without adjustable facial expressions, character without adjustable body)
  • The Blue Face Film Strips (character which cannot adjust his facial expression nor possesses a visible body with extremities to aid in gesture)

Outside of Dozerfleet, these techniques are used to a heavy extent in tokusatsu programs such as Power Rangers to depict the Rangers' feelings in spite their faces being constantly hidden behind helmet visors. Other programs, such as VR Troopers and even the Spider-Man film franchise, have also tried this technique; but with less-effective results.


In addition to the shelved concept for a Mutt Mackley-based TV series, this Mutt Mackley concept spin-off's official sequel would be titled 3-13. Unlike KitC, 3-13 would be shot on 16mm film stock rather than DV tape.


The FILM 118 class not required to use original music for the movies they made; but was expected in their end credits section to provide credit for whomever made the song that they did use. In the final movie, this was required. However, for the time progression assignment's purposes; it was not necessary. The selection of the Larry Carlton song "Fingerprints" was a coincidence of there being no other song more appropriate available at the time on the Mac station where the edits were made in Adobe Premiere 6.0.

The use of Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 for the re-releases was viewed as a sort of poetic justice. The selection of the Irish Film Orchestra's piece was, as stated above, a desperate substitute. By that time, it had been decided that no song fit the soundtrack for KitC better than "Fingerprints."


  1. Kings in the Corner—2007 Restored Version at YouTube (video). January 12th, 2008.
  2. Kings in the Corner—2008 Re-Re-Release at YouTube (video). January 13th, 2008.
  3. "Science Jokes 9: Miscellany." Science Humor Netring.
  4. Kings in the Corner—2007 Restored Version at YouTube (video). January 12th, 2008.
  5. Kings in the Corner—2008 Re-Re-Release at YouTube (video). January 13th, 2008.

See also