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Page 261: Runaway Train
For readers interested in the behind-the-scenes story of how we made The Last Express, this 1997 article by Tomi is a great place to start. She wrote it for Newsweek with the not-so-secret agenda of hyping our game release. The full article and other archival materials from the game's production are in the Library.
Page 263: The Sands of Time
In 2001, the Prince of Persia series was moribund. My planned third game of the 2D trilogy had been cancelled in 1993; an attempt by Broderbund's short-lived Red Orb division to resurrect the franchise in 3D had flopped. That's when I got a phone call from Yves Guillemot — founder and CEO of Ubisoft, a fast-growing French publisher seeking new IP with international appeal.
Broderbund had been acquired by The Learning Company, which was then acquired by Mattel, which then dumped it in a hot mess. Yves, quick to spot an opportunity for Ubisoft, picked up The Learning Company's entertainment portfolio at a bargain price. It included games like Myst, and Prince of Persia.
I joined a young team at Ubisoft's Montreal studio to make Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The stars were with us. The new Prince of Persia swept the 2003 industry awards, catapulting POP back to the top of the charts and giving the prince the extra life every video game character wishes for.
Page 264: Jerry Bruckheimer
That's my friend and screenwriting mentor John August at my side as we pitch Prince of Persia to Mike Stenson and Chad Oman of Jerry Bruckheimer Films, who are looking for their next Pirates of the Caribbean.
(Uncannily, when you say "Chad Oman" fast, it sounds like Shadowman.)
Here's the two-minute video pitch trailer we showed them in their office, homemade from PlayStation 2 game footage.
Page 264: Morocco
Four years and five screenwriters later, cameras rolled for Disney's Prince of Persia movie in the sun-baked Morocco desert and freezing-cold Pinewood Studios. Mike Newell directed. With no pressing duties on set, I was free to indulge my new sketchbook habit.
I used to draw as a kid (see Replay, page 26), until I discovered programming and video games. After a thirty-year break during which my main work tools were the keyboard and telephone, I started sketching again in 2008.
Looking at my Morocco sketches now, I see that fifteen years of practice has made a difference. In drawing as with most acquired skills, daily progress can feel invisibly slow (or even going backwards), but it is cumulative.
Page 265: Tomi
February 4, 2010
Tomi Pierce died on Monday, bowing finally to the ravages of ALS.
There can be few worse diagnoses — an inexorable, untreatable neurodegenerative disease — and for Tomi, just 54 when she was diagnosed and with so much to look forward to, it was especially brutal, especially unfair. Tomi certainly felt it was. She fought the disease, seeking out frontiers-of-medicine treatments and, Tomi-style, confronting it with a paradoxical and whimsical mix of maudlin resignation and I'm-going-to-beat-this verve. She organized her last birthday party in 2009, a "wake without a corpse... yet" as she liked to describe it, as a "Memento Mori" event: there were black balloons, an Izzi Kirkland-created skeleton piñata, and Tomi wore skeleton earrings. She was greatly amused by the guest who asked her what "Memento Mori" meant in Japanese. If you can't beat death, you might as well join it.
Tomi had no end of advantages over the rest of us — she died at 56 looking 26 and, despite her occupation, her brain was definitely a pre-internet model, with a photographic memory capable of storing and retrieving vast quantities of data, pieces of music, and reams of poetry in various languages.
As the daughter of a geophysicist, the early odds seemed to favor a scientific career for the extraordinarily precocious infant. By 18 months, she could recite the periodic table by heart. But Tomi's lifelong propensity for taking the other path asserted itself early (perhaps under the influence of her maternal grandfather Yojiro Ishizaka, one of Japan's most beloved novelists), and science ended up being relegated to her younger sister Naomi, while young Tomi turned to music, literature and poetry. When Tomi at age 8 wondered about a philosophical issue raised by C.S. Lewis's Narnia books (what happened after The Last Battle?), rather than bother her school teacher, she simply wrote directly to the author — and received a thoughtful reply, one which Lewis's biographers are still puzzling over. With Tomi's intellect and memory, toiling over schoolbooks was unnecessary. Standardized tests, it turns out, can have some benefit in identifying brains like Tomi's; despite attending a large public high school in suburban Denver that provided little in the way of actual education, she scored perfect 800s on her SATs and achievement tests. Harvard and Yale both accepted her, but Yale offered a scholarship. Yale it would be.
Tomi was fearless, and had an irrepressible zest for adventure. She was a consummate tomboy. There was the time she woke up her friend Claire Hill and insisted they take Claire's horse Trixie for a midnight ride. Where would you take Trixie at midnight? Onto the Lakewood Country Club golf course, which always looks so inviting for a ride but which, for some unfathomable reason, prohibits horses. Trixie's hoofs marked many a green that night.
Tomi was also calm under fire. Even at age ten, she was the one you'd want with you in a foxhole. When, on a subsequent escapade, Claire and Tomi found themselves lost in the Rockies with night fast approaching, Tomi kept Claire calm by insisting they sing all the Gilbert & Sullivan they knew (which was a lot), remaining unflappable throughout until the right trail finally materialized. Their singing wasn't bad either, as judged by the cellist Rostropovich, who overheard the two girls singing a Bach invention on a ski lift in Aspen and invited them home for a command performance. Claire's father was upset that they had spoken to a stranger until he discovered the identity of their mystery admirer.
Tomi has escaped more than her share of close brushes with death over the years, including amoebic dysentery and a bus accident high on the Khyber Pass, a military coup in Kabul, a near-fatal attack of peritonitis in the south of France, and severe injury in a car crash, whose aftermath caused her to drop out of Cornell Law School and enroll instead in Stanford Business School, where she graduated with an MBA in 1982. In her brief stint at law school, she dumbfounded her first-year torts professor when put on the spot by answering in class, "Education is more than the simple recitation of facts." The exchange ended with the professor, his back against the wall, saying: "This is a classroom, not a courtroom, young lady."
Tomi took a leap into the fledgling software industry to co-found Sensei Software in 1984 under the wing of Doug Carlston, founder of Broderbund Software. There were two results: First, an award-winning line of educational products, Calculus, Geometry, and Physics; and second, Tomi was forced, much to her chagrin, to actually learn calculus, geometry and physics.
Tomi's years of toil in the Broderbund attic at 47 Paul Drive launched a long creative association with game designer Jordan Mechner, who was programming Prince of Persia in the next room. Jordan's 1997 adventure game The Last Express showcases Tomi's storytelling brilliance as well as her wide-ranging acquaintance with European literature and culture. The research stage of this four-year labor of love included a journey into the bowels of Paris's Gare de l'Est to coax from retired French railway employees certain closely guarded secrets of the 1914 Orient Express, an odyssey Tomi documented in her Newsweek article about the making of the game.
Tomi cleverly escaped the scenic delights of a San Rafael industrial park to decamp for Paris, where she lived and worked for a year setting up the new European division of Broderbund. Whether Tomi was actually fluent in French at the beginning of this project, as she claimed when applying for the job, may never be known; what is certain is that by the end of it, she spoke French not only fluently, but poetically, sometimes expressing business matters in phrases so lyrical that her Parisian colleagues were left shaking their heads in respectful amazement.
In 1994, Broderbund Software founder Doug Carlston, having previously secured the publishing rights to Tomi's software products, secured even more valuable future rights by marrying Tomi herself. Doug's daughter Colleen served as flower girl, strewing rose petals across the Colorado landscape during the ceremony.
Tomi's love of cinema, tracing back to her undergraduate days as a director of Yale's Berkeley Film Society, found expression throughout her life, not only in her writing and photography, but in her participation in a myriad of diverse projects: from Chavez Ravine, an award-winning PBS documentary about the neighborhood displaced by Dodger Stadium, which Tomi executive-produced, to the catacombs, secret passageways and puzzle rooms woven throughout the magical home she and Doug designed and built in Snowmass, Colorado.
Tomi's unique intellect, and almost preternatural ability to unerringly home in on the crucial point in a bewildering mass of data, made her invaluable as a consultant to Applied Minds, MetaWeb, and other clients. During this time, she also devoted immeasurable care and attention to her son Denman through the most difficult stages of a childhood beset by life-threatening health challenges and autism spectrum disorder. Despite his disabilities, Tomi's loving care insured that Denman had a magical and fulfilling childhood. Even as her own abilities began to diminish through her long and difficult illness, she rejoiced in Denman's achievements of milestones that doctors had told her might never be possible. She never wavered in her complete faith in his potential. Den's world of nurses and caregivers became the focal point of her life and among her closest companions.
Through it all, Tomi and Doug lived a life rich in adventure and foreign travel, often including friends and family in their journeys to Africa, Albania, Iceland, and Japan, where Colleen developed strong ties with Tomi's Japanese family, becoming fluent in Japanese and attending Kyoto University.
For her last venture, Tomi returned to her tech startup roots, co-founding 24 Hour Diner with Patrick Tufts. Typically of Tomi, she insisted on working right up to the end, holding her last board meeting less than a week before her death. Tomi loved to think creatively and strategically about the challenges facing the young company as it found its way in the world.
What no biography can capture is the extraordinary generosity that permeated all Tomi's relationships, from her nearest and dearest to people she met only once; from the world's great intellects, movers and shakers, to the toll-takers on the Golden Gate Bridge who knew her by name. Tomi had an extraordinary gift for connecting with people on the most personal, human level, seemingly without effort and often within moments of the first meeting. She had a charisma that couldn't be simulated or feigned, because she was only being herself. She thought constantly of other people — as anyone who has traveled with her can attest, having been subjected to the endless delays and inconvenience of her insistence on finding the right gift not only for her friends and family, but for a long list of others. When she mailed the final payment for her college loans to the financial office at Yale, she sent along a big box of chocolates to everyone in the office. They wrote back to thank her, noting that no one in the long history of that institution had ever thanked them so graciously before.
Tomi was generous not only with gifts but with her time, help, and advice, maneuvering and strategizing for others' benefit; most valuable of all, she was generous of herself. Deeply loyal, she inspired loyalty in others. (She could also hold a grudge for a remarkably long time.) In her wide-ranging interests, pursuits, and travels, she brought together people from universes that don't normally intersect.
Tomi lives on in the hearts of all of us, but especially of Doug, Denman, Colleen, Art and Rui, Naomi, and the rest of her family, as well as the countless friends around the world who have been touched by her unique spirit. A bright light has gone out but continues to sparkle in our memories. We miss her terribly.
See the comments in the archived blog post for more thoughts and memories people have shared about Tomi.
Page 268: Dr. Benjamin Ziegler
Each time a new character entered the Replay story, I had to figure out how to draw them. Here's my first page of exploratory sketches for my dad's grandparents, and some of the reference photos I used.
Page 269: Vienna
My image of Vienna is inextricably linked to a favorite movie, The Third Man (directed by Carol Reed, starring Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles and Alida Valli). I became obsessed with it in 1982, when college film societies still charged a buck for admission, then shipped the rented 16mm reels back to the distributor the next morning. The Third Man was the first movie I got access to on VHS, giving me the magic power to rewind and re-watch scenes to study the filmmaking. For an aspiring film student, that was life-changing.
The story Tomi and I wrote for The Last Express probably owes more to The Third Man than to any other film (plus a fair bit of Indiana Jones and The Maltese Falcon).
Page 273: Carnaval
Researching what posters my dad might have walked by as a schoolboy in Nice, I learned that the town's famous annual Carnaval was cancelled two years in a row, in 1940 and 1941. So the 1939 posters would have still been up, and probably peeling. (Did I mention I love old posters?)
My visit to Nice in February 2022 happened to land during Carnaval.
Page 279: Johanna
After Papi's wife and daughter joined him in Havana in October 1940, they moved from his bachelor apartment on the Malecón to a bungalow in the new suburb of Almendares. My aunt Johanna (then age 4) has vivid memories of that anxious year they spent praying her brother, grandparents and aunt Lisa would make it out of Europe too. And vivid memories of the garden.
Because of travel restrictions and Covid pandemic concerns, during the two years I spent drawing Replay in France, my contact with my family in the U.S. was by phone and video chat. In March 2022, I made my first trip to New York since 2020. I got to see my dad in person and spend a few days with him and my aunt Johanna.
I'd reached Chapter 8 in the book, so the timing was perfect. Johanna's collection of photos and letters, and an excellent short personal memoir she'd recently written, helped me envision their life in Havana. During that visit, I recorded an impromptu video of her and my dad reminiscing about the past.
Page 282: Giraffe Hunters
My dad remembers Paul handing him this book through the window just before their train pulled out of Marseille. It was an adventure story about a Boer hunting expedition in Africa.
Since it was one of the only books he had during the ensuing weeks of travel, he reread it many times.
Page 283: Last Train
My dad did a series of tempera paintings in Havana a few months later, depicting their journey. This one shows the bedlam at the Saragossa train station.
Page 286: Happy People
Another tempera painting by my dad, of their first stop in Portugal.
Page 287: Lisbon
And two more, showing their hotel where he was sick in Lisbon.
Page 291: Reunited
Two children reunited with their father in Havana, Cuba. Late 1941 or 1942.
Page 292: Joji, Elsa and Erich
My dad's cousin Erich survived Auschwitz; his parents did not. My grandfather tells part of their story in his memoir:
On arriving in the U.S. and Canada, Erich and his brother John changed their names to Forster. Eric got his Ph.D from Columbia, like my dad, and became a pioneer in dielectrics and electrical insulation. I remember him visiting us with his family in the 1980s, when I was getting into computer programming. (He encouraged me.)
My first morning in Nice, February 2022, I woke up early and went for a walk to the castle above the old city. I stumbled onto Nice's Jewish cemetery, and a monument I hadn't known existed.
The wall was inaugurated in January 2020, just before Covid lockdowns started. It holds the names of 3,602 Jews deported from Nice to the death camps.
I stepped closer and saw the names of Elsa, Erich, and Josef Feingold, with their ages and birthplaces. The Hoffmanns were listed too.
I can't explain why seeing their names had such an impact on me, or why typing this even now brings me to tears. I think what moved me was the wall's solid physical presence, overlooking the city. Anyone who climbs that hill can see it and touch it. So there is at least one remnant in Nice to show that my dad's Uncle Joji and Aunt Elsa, and their friends the Hoffmanns, once lived there.
Page 294: Grandparents
My dad's grandparents, Benjamin and Gina Ziegler, wrote a steady stream of postcards and letters to their children and family abroad right up to the end. My aunt Johanna in New York and our cousin John Ziegler in Sydney preserved and scanned most of them.
These three postcards were sent from Vienna to their daughter in New York and son-in-law in Havana, in 1940-41.
In April 1941, Benjamin and Gina were forcibly relocated to Poland in a mass deportation of Jews from Vienna. Papi writes in his memoir:
"They were detained in a school building in the Castellezgasse in the 2nd district for a week or so, and from there deported in cattle wagons. After arrival in Poland, the train had stopped in an open field in the area of Kielce and the people were told that they could go, wherever they wanted, and try to find a place where to live. So, the next village they could find was Kunow, and they found there a room, perhaps with a kitchen, on the ground floor of a small house."
An excerpt from his translation of the first letter they received from Poland (written by Gina; Benjamin had become ill during the journey):
Kunow, April 20th, 1941
"My dearly loved children:
You would not have dreamed about it that I would write to you from such a summer resort! Besides, both of us were cowardly and did not want to write, but Minny, who like all the other relatives there are our good angels, was right when she said that you would prefer a direct letter from us. So, all the love-efforts were for nothing. You could not imagine what Julius, Feldmanns, Neustadts, Terry had tried to do for us. If we only would have sent telegrams two weeks earlier! We hesitated thinking that you would be hindered in your exertions for Lisa. Now we don't know anything about Lisa and Franzerl! I have before me your letter of March 17th. Can you imagine my feelings? Instead of being closer to you, we are now so much farther!...
Embracing and kissing you three, your dearly loving Mother."
This was during the period when my grandparents were scrambling to get my dad and Lisa out of France. There was no way to know whether they were safe in Nice, whether danger was far-off or imminent. In fact, they got out just in time to escape being deported in the roundups of 1942.
Correspondence with the parents in Kunow continued. My aunt Johanna (age 4) dictated this bit soon after my dad arrived in Havana:
"Dear Grandpapa and Grandmama,
I send you many kisses. Franzi and Lisa have already arrived, and we have again a telephone. Before we did not have one. It is very beautiful here. Franzi and I sleep in the same room, and Franzi got a new mosquito-net, and Lisa sleeps in another room, my aunt. And in all the rooms the walls have been painted, and they have painted them beautifully.
Franzi has caught already many butterflies on the meadow, and was already at the dentist, but he did not do anything for me, put only a little iodine into a tooth. I went to the movies, saw Snow White and the Three Piggies. And then I saw the bull and the duck. For my birthday I got beautiful white, high shoes. And now Franzi will write."
These last two postcards from Kunow were sent (in photostat) via a relative in Vienna.
Their final letter is an explicit farewell to the children. My great-grandfather enclosed a long philosophical treatise, "Explanation of the Universe," which he called his legacy.
After the war, the Polish family that had provided lodging to Benjamin and Gina Ziegler wrote to our family, describing my great-grandparents' stay in Kunow, up to the day they were deported to a death camp. They enclosed Benjamin and Gina's personal effects, including photos, letters, birth certificates, and their correspondence with the U.S. Consulate in Vienna trying to obtain visas.
In 1962, Lisa succeeded in obtaining a death certificate from the Austrian government, acknowledging that since nothing had been heard from her parents since their deportation twenty years earlier, the state agreed to consider them legally as deceased.
Page 297: A Dream
My grandfather inserted this final page (PDF) in his memoir in 1984, six years after completing it.
Read more from the Replay Annex.