For a brief period, it look as if ‘making of’ CD-ROMs were going to be the next big thing – and Stargate was chosen to get them off the ground.

In 1995, it looked like the traditional ‘making of’ book to coincide with the release of a big summer blockbuster was going to become interactive, with the rising popularity of the CD-ROM format. And it took a science fiction film to bring about a CD-ROM companion to a movie.

This particular tale then begins in the summer of 1994 when Stargate was released to (surprise) box office success. This was a period of time, in the 1990s and early 2000s, where nearly every big box office film usually had an accompanying ‘making of’ book released as well. The books were oftentimes really interesting to many a film fan, as this was an era when practical effects still played a large part in film.

I personally enjoyed browsing though these books seeing photos of model makers working on anything from space craft to the White House, creating whatever impossible to film in real life situation the film’s plot tended to call for.

Separately, a lot of big films over the years have been licensed to be used with software titles, and this usually ends up being the home computer/console video game tie in to help promote the film/make some extra cash.

But in the case of the Stargate tie in, it wasn’t a typical video game. Instead, we got Secrets Of Stargate: The Making Of An Epic Adventure Film – and it was something a little bit different.

This, as you might have guessed, as a CD-ROM title, and it offered impressive blurb for the movie fan that wanted to get behind the scenes on the latest film.

The promo copy read:

GET READY FOR THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME WITH SECRETS OF STARGATE, OUR CD ROM ACCESS OF THE EXCITING WORLD OF HOLLYWOOD MOVING MAKING.A phenomenal array of text, graphics, audio and film components await you when you join the STARGATE production team.40 minutes of breath-taking special effects and behind the scenes footage. Over 1 hour of interviews. Original costume and set designs, over 400 production stills, over 700 original storyboard illustrations and more!!!

Courtesy of eBay, here’s what the actual disc outside of the posh box looked like…

To entice the customer, there was another reason the box was so big. My copy came with an A3 replica of a Stargate production design blueprint. In particular, it showed the closeup design of the Stargate’s chevrons. In researching this article, I’ve learned that other copies also came with a free T-shirt and/or a baseball cap.

The actual CD-ROM itself was very interesting and I personally headed straight for all the behind the scenes material. This was the mid-90s, the CD-ROM worked on both PCs and Macs, so all the video footage consisted of little stamp sized windows playing QuickTime video clips. Halcyon days.

Also included on the disc was the film’s trailer along with more clips and on-set interviews recorded with the film’s stars. This was essentially an enhanced electronic press kit, or EPK to its friends. But on top of that, the creators of it had even gone to the lengths of incorporating a whole section on the real history of Egypt so you could further understand how the film tied into history.

The software developer behind The Secrets Of Stargate, Aces Entertainment, was either populated by big film fans or saw a space in the marketplace for such a niche product. More likely both.

Sometime in the late 1990s the website www.themakingof.com (now long gone) also appeared online. This was from the same people who created The Secrets Of Stargate and you could buy that title from them at a discount.

Two new titles were advertised on the front page of the site, for similar CD-ROMS of a pair of 1997 blockbusters, Men In Black and Starship Troopers. Later, 1998’s The Mask Of Zorro was added to that list. All were advertised with similar features. They were to include hundreds of production still photos, storyboards and production artwork, video interviews with the cast and crew, trailers and clips from the film itself.

The promotional copy read:

On our CD-ROMs, ACES Entertainment combines selected motion picture footage* with rare behind-the-scenes photos, out takes, storyboards, production art, interviews, fascinating production anecdotes and biographical/historical information into an all encompassing interactive insider’s look at major film production from start to finish.

I don’t know what the asterisk referred to.

Personally, I thought I had found a little film history goldmine but it was not to be. The website never really updated that much over the years. On two further occasions the website promised new updates but these came and went with very little difference. The only changes that ultimate did appear were disappointing with the announcement of bad news. Apparently, the Starship Troopers CD-ROM was completed but Sony Pictures wouldn’t clear the rights and so it could not be made available to sell.

We’ll never know if the disc was actually produced but the same fate fell upon The Mask Of Zorro with Amblin/Tristar not clearing the rights to that one. Whatever happened to the proposed Men In Black release was a mystery.

If you could consider it compensation, the website instead offered the chance for customers to purchase The Secrets Of Stargate CD-ROM and the first 100 orders would also receive what amounted to a demonstration version of its Starship Troopers title. According to the now defunct site, the disc contained the full menu structure but only a few video interviews and a paltry 25 storyboards. The official making of Starship Troopers book gave you a lot more than that.

And that is where the story of the ‘making of’ CD-ROMs comes to an end, pretty soon after it started. According to the aforementioned website, an update was coming May 31st 2001 but that never happened. By the time the site finally closed in 2008, no further releases had come to pass. Which makes the Stargate tie-in a rarity, one that can be picked up for around £20 on eBay. In the meantime, the making of book very much lives on…

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