Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol

Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol

One of the cool-but-frustrating things about doing this is that I sometimes get to see really neat things that you won’t be able to.

I don’t mean that as a taunt, but as recognition that this animated film/documentary (a fascinating blend) is currently playing film festivals, so the ability to see it is limited. (The filmmaker provided a copy of this for me to check out.) Hopefully, that doesn’t remain the case, as Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol is a really neat portrait of how fandom can change lives. It’s also about the nature of inspiration.

Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol

In 1980, Dion Labriola began writing to teen actor Ike Eisenmann (best known for Escape to Witch Mountain, although there’s a tiny clip of his appearance on Wonder Woman included here). What he went through to even find his name, and then an address, was a history lesson in itself, pre-internet.

Dion was writing a story about a kid finding himself on another planet and wanting to get back to earth. He wanted to make an animated movie. But in suburban Akron, Ohio, that wasn’t a likely possibility.

Still, he kept plugging away at the story, all though junior high and high school. He wanted Ike to voice one of the characters in his movie. Then he found out that Ike also wanted to be an animator, which inspired him, so he kept searching for his address and sending letters, which were most often returned.

Ike Eisenmann

Ike Eisenmann, during his acting days

Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol combines documentary footage and animation, both of the kid he was then and his proposed film. I liked the style used for the memories of the kid drawing and writing, which looks like this:

Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol art

This is a great way to capture that unrestrained kid’s imagination, as he remembers growing up geeky. There are a lot more interesting elements to this, but I don’t want to spoil the revelations happening in this short (about an hour) film.

The trailer is available at the film’s website. The film is currently playing the Napa Valley Film Festival, virtual this year.

This is a topic — of how and whether you let your idol know of his inspiration to you — that’s been much on my mind lately, as I contemplate where one draws the line between devoted fandom and taking things too far. The way actors and creators inspire others to create is one of the most special things I know. I very much enjoyed watching this story.

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