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Awesomely Absurd ‘Dune’ Coloring and Activity Books Defy Reason, Sense, Taste

As we’ve all known for years now, the true purpose of the internet isn’t the connecting of disparate communities, or making the vast wealth of human knowledge accessible to anyone with a Netbook and a Starbucks. No, the internet is for taking the incredibly weird stuff that once might have sat in a shoebox or on a bookshelf, and spreading the lunacy as far and wide as possible. And in that arena, Meredith Yayanos WON THE WEEK over at Coilhouse with her reason-defying presentation of the children’s coloring and activity books released to promote David Lynch’s 1984 film version of Frank Herbert’s DUNE. The brain recoils! Neon pink flame, ahoy!

For those unfamiliar (and its dire box office numbers and lackluster video sales would seem to indicate a great many are unfamiliar), Dune is an epic space fantasy based on the classic novel by Frank Herbert, about a young man named Paul Atreides who perseveres through murderous palace intrigue, galactic drug dealing conspiracies, and a barren desert world filled with thundering worm monsters to become a messianic figure in intergalactic politics. David Lynch wrote and directed the 1984 film adaptation that, while truncated by Universal Pictures from its original 5 hours to a more commercial 137 minutes, remained largely faithful to the source work and retained a great deal of the depth and intelligence of Herbert’s writing.

Universal Pictures, however, was not looking for depth and intelligence. As evidenced by the coloring and activity books Yayanos displays, what Universal Pictures wanted was a Star Wars of their very own — a whiz-bang space adventure for eight-year-olds that they could merchandise the heck out of to the wide-eyed kids that just a year previous had wheedled their parents into buying plush ewok dolls and toy lightsabers. Instead, Lynch and producer Dino De Laurentis provided them with a dark epic actually fit for consumption by thinking adults. Imagine their chagrin.

The saga of Dune‘s production is an infamous mess, including the halving of the film’s runtime, as well as rumors of a budget that ballooned to $75 million, twice the reported $40 million, and of strange behavior from the marketing department — jerking around critics with multiple canceled screenings, leaking word that the new studio head had screened the film and hated it, and generally creating a sense of doom and terror regarding the movie.

Harlan Ellison, writing in the August ’85 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, posited a troubling yet troublingly plausible theory that Dune was a victim of studio politics, the aforementioned new studio head wanting to ensure that Dune flopped as big as possible, so as to embarrass his predecessor (who had green-lit the thing) and make himself look better in comparison.

Such is the weirdness of Hollywood maneuvering, and in light of such, the bizarre sight of the Dune Coloring and Activity Book becomes so much more understandable. Somewhere along the line of Dune‘s years-long production schedule, a decision was made at Universal to create the kind of kid merchandise that had sold so well for George Lucas, to capitalize on what would doubtlessly be the latest “sci-fi” monster smash.

Later, when new management sent all the pieces scattering across the board in a crazed attempt to sow chaos and doom, no one noticed or cared that some segment of the marketing department was blithely trundling along, turning psychosexual alien faces, psycopathic royalty, and intergalactic narcotics into fun all-ages activity pages. Now on display through the glory of the internet and the good auspices of one Meredith Yayanos:

Much more available if you just click through to Coilhouse. Enjoy. And…what’s wrong with your eyes?

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