Johnny Thunder and The Secret of Marco Polo is an animated brickfilm made using Stop-Motion Animation. It was released on YouTube in thirteen parts between August 23 and October 24, 2008, with a lapsed DVD release over the same time period. The film loosely follows the 2003 LEGO Orient Expedition story line and started a saga of films based around the LEGO Adventurers characters.
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
The film opens with historian Block Sauniere leaving his office at the Marco Polo Museum in Venice, Italy only to be shot by an unknown assassin. The next morning, Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) finds the body and informs Sauniere's friend, Dr. Charles Kilroy, who in turn summons Johnny Thunder, Pippin Reed Thunder, and Harry Cane to Venice. Associate Prof. James Digalot insists on coming along, but Johnny persuades him otherwise.
At the crime scene in Venice, they meet Robert Teabing, a strange man who expresses interest in aiding them. Looking around, they discover the clue "Behold the Dragon's Footsteps" has been written onto Block Sauniere's chest, which points to the room's only fireplace. While investigating the fireplace, Harry accidentally trips a lever, causing Marco Polo's lost diary to fall out from behind a painting. Dr. Kilroy discovers a map of India, leading to "The Sting of The Jungle" and more importantly, the first step to the lost Golden Dragon of Marco Polo. Together, Johnny, Dr. Kilroy, Pippin, Robert, Dan Brown, and Harry set off to India.
Meanwhile in Xi'an, China, Lord Sam Sinister, along with henchmen Patrick, William "Billy the Kid" Parker, and Nevada Smith, forges an alliance with Chang Wu, a crazed warlord who believes himself to be Qin Shi Huangdi, the first Emperor of China, reincarnated. Chang needs Sinister to get him the Gem of Fire that will grant him mystic powers so he can conquer China. In return, Chang will give Sam the Golden Dragon.
In India, Johnny and his friends meet Babloo, a young jungle guide, who agrees to take them to "The Sting of the Jungle" aka The Scorpion Palace. However, the mentioning of "The Sting of the Jungle" causes the townsfolk to flee in a panic, leaving the adventurers and Babloo alone on the street. In the meantime, Chang Wu's assistant, Jing Lee, checks up with Lord Sinister to see how the excavation at the Indian ruins has been going.
After a trek atop a pair of Babloo's elephants, the adventures reach the palace, where they split up. Robert however, reveals himself to be Sinister's spy, as well as the killer of Sauniere and captures Johnny. While Dr. Kilroy, Harry, and Babloo are ambushed, Pippin and Dan manage to escape, but return to rescue the others, and the Golden Shield, just as the Palace collapses, killing Nevada Smith. On the Shield, they find a map leading to a Temple at the summit of Mt. Everest. However, Billy the Kid overhears.
After receiving supplies and transportation from Sherpa Sangye Dorje, Johnny and co. are attacked by a Yeti, who Pippin scares off with her camera flash. Sinister and his cohorts team up with Ngan Pa, a peg-legged Yeti hunter bent on finding and killing the "White Ape." On the way to the temple, Billy dies in an avalanche.
At the Temple, the two groups meet and are confronted by The Shaman of the Mountains, who guards the bridge to the Golden Sword. To get past the Shaman, each of them must answer three questions right, or be flung into chasm. Johnny goes first and is only asked personal questions, and is allowed through. Robert steps up and is asked math problem, to which he replies "What?", and is thrown of the cliff but survives by clinging the cliff with his pickax. Dr. Kilroy comes next and confuses the Shaman who states, "Huh?" and is thrust into chasm himself. Lord Sinister gets to the Sword first and escapes with his men by helicopter.
The explorers follow Sinister to Xi'an, where they meet Jing Lee, who is actually a spy for General Mao Zedong III. The group is then ambushed by Chang Wu's forces and Jing is captured. However, her brother Jing Loo helps the adventurers escape the city. Minutes later, Mao's army attacks the city. During the chaos, Sinister and Chang Wu escape to Chang's Dragon Fortress.
Later, Johnny and his friends infiltrate the fortress but are captured as Chang Wu absorbs power of the Gem of Fire and becomes superhuman. The Chinese Army then attacks the fortress. To fight them off, Chang summons Jun-Chi, a lion-dog monster who turns the tide, forcing the Chinese off for the moment. Jing Lee escapes and attacks Wu, knocking the diamond out of his hand to Dan, who smashes it. This causes Chang to rapidly age into an old man and Jun Chi to falls apart, allowing the Chinese soldiers to break through. Mao personally shoots Chang Wu at point-blank range in the back. After the battle, the explorers solve a puzzle and discover The Golden Dragon. With the help of Mao, the Dragon is safely transported away from the fortress with Sam Sinister standing atop a cliff, being irritated by Patrick and vowing to get Johnny in the second film.
Many attempts to create a Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film based around the events of the LEGO Orient Expedition sets exist, many of them dating as far back as late 2003, when the LEGO Studios Movie Maker Set was still in use. However, the renditions from back then were far more faithful to the original story line than the final film is today. These older versions are now lost.
Pre-production for Johnny Thunder and the Secret of Marco Polo officially started April 2005 with the idea to re-create the Orient Expedition story line while adding and omitting elements to make the film a personal work. Some of the elements omitted include the elephant chase and the Great Wall of China encounter.
The film was officially announced on August 25, 2006, which included the release of a simple teaser on the Kilroy Was Here! DVD. At this point, the script had begun to take shape into the version as it appears today. An opening scene in the African country of Benin (modeled after the Horn of Africa opening in the Orient Expedition online comics) was deleted and replaced with the current murder scene. Mao Zedong III, Block Sauniere, Jing Loo, and Dan Brown were also added at this point, along with the revolution subplot. Robert, who betrayed the adventurers right at the beginning in Africa, was re-worked so that his betrayal came later.
Right before filming started July 2007, more changes were made, including the removal of a cable car chase and merging Mao Zedong III's three aids into one character, Lieutenant Mong Hu. After all was said and done, filming started on July 30, 2007, but then was halted that November due to the creation of the now-defunct series Mystery Lego Theater 3000.
On January 1, 2008, filming resumed quickly, for there was less than a year left to get the film done. The hard work paid off, and the filming wrapped on April 11, 2008. From there, the film was edited together, but encountered some errors along the way. In the first week of August, most of Act 2 was corrupted and had to be re-edited in just one week, with great success. After three years, the film was officially released on August 23, 2008.
On December 1, 2017, it was announced that this film will be remade from the ground-up in order to tackle some of the controversies that the film had garnered over the years, such as accusations of racism in regard to Babloo and the Indian Thieves, as well as realize concepts that were not technically possible at the time. No release date has been announced as of yet.
The film, from the start, had astoundingly positive reviews. While it is not Mustache Maniacs Film Co.'s most popular and watched film (that honor goes to Forest of Fear), it is still the most beloved film made by them, and continues to be the primary source for new dedicated fans, spawning a whole series of films. The first sequel, Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile, was released on July 16, 2010. Another sequel, Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients, was released in 2014, with more films being released after that.
- Plot Hole: How were Dan and Pippin able to find the other adventurers when the Scorpion Palace was collapsing? True, Johnny alluded earlier to Lord Sinister that they must have had the map, but if they did, then why did the Adventurers have to split up to find the Scorpion Palace when they first arrived at the ruins?
- Visual Error: When a bank in Xi'an collapses during the battle for Xi'an, the top of the backdrop is visible.
- Visual Error: In the shot where the adventurers are driving to the Coughing Dragon Opera House, the camera's reflection is visible on the side of the half-track for a portion of the shot.
- Johnny Thunder (Daniel Bermudez)
- Pippin Reed Thunder (Lauren Hoxie)
- Dr. Charles Kilroy (Andrew Bermudez)
- Harry Cane (Andrew Bermudez)
- Dan Brown (Antonio Pagan)
- Lord Sam Sinister (Andrew Bermudez)
- Patrick (Garrett Schelske)
- William "Billy the Kid" Parker (Al Bermudez)
- Nevada Smith (John Stabe)
- Robert Teabing (Teresa Bermudez)
- Block Sauniere (Al Bermudez)
- Babloo (Luke Stabe)
- Sherpa Sangye Dorje (Andrew Bermudez)
- Jing Lee (Jim Freeman)
- General Mao Zedong III (Al Bermudez)
- Lieutenant Mong Hu (Alex Hoxie)
- Aid (Daniel Bermudez)
- Col. Michelle Mustard (David Hoxie)
- Chang Wu (Wes Rudnick)
- Ngan Pa (Steve Hoxie)
- Maharaja Lallu (cut from film)
- Prof. James Digalot (Demitrius Zavaleta)
- Shaman of the Mountains (Wes Rudnick)
- Jing Loo (Daniel Bermudez)
- Male Venetian Police Officer (Nathan Stabe)
- Female Venetian Police Officer (Chloe Zavaleta)
- Indian Merchant (Luke Stabe)
- Blue Thief (Daniel Bermudez)
- Orange Thief (Al Bermudez)
- Purple Thief (Andrew Bermudez)
- Dalton Harrod (Al Bermudez)
- Brett Milledge (Andrew Bermudez)
- Bobby Schneider (n/a)
- Radio Rebel (Andrew Bermudez)
- Punk Rebel (Daniel Bermudez)
- Red Hair Rebel (Teresa Bermudez)
- The Obliterator (cut from film)
- Horatio Schmidt (Erasmus Zavaleta)
- Rambo Commando (Al Bermudez)
- Base Camp Clerk (Garrett Schelske)
- Tygurah (n/a)
- Yeti (n/a)
- Jun-Chi (n/a)
- Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
- Venice, Italy
- Marco Polo Museum
- Lucknow, India
- Scorpion Village
- Scorpion Palace
- Kathmandu, Nepal
- Mt. Everest
- Temple of Mt. Everest
- Xi'an, China
- Dragon Fortress
- Andrew Bermudez - Creator, Director, Producer, Animator, Editor, Voice Actor, Writer
- Daniel Bermudez - Assistant Director, Writer, Advisor, Voice Actor
- Teresa Bermudez - Script Editor, Advisor, Voice Actor
- Alvaro Bermudez - Voice Actor
- Antonio Pagan - Voice Actor
- Erasmus Zavaleta - Voice Actor
- Demitrius Zavaleta - Voice Actor
- Chloe Zavaleta - Voice Actor
- Lauren Hoxie - Voice Actor
- David Hoxie - Voice Actor
- Alex Hoxie - Voice Actor
- Steve Hoxie - Voice Actor
- Luke Stabe - Voice Actor
- John Stabe - Voice Actor
- Nathan Stabe - Voice Actor
- Wes Rudnick - Voice Actor
- Garrett Schelske - Voice Actor
- Jim Freeman - Voice Actor
- Best Screenplay (The First Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Fan Choice Awards; 2011)
- Best Supporting Actor (Garrett Schelske as Patrick Hooligans; The First Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Fan Choice Awards; 2011)
- Best Lead Actress (Lauren Adkins as Pippin Reed Thunder; The First Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Fan Choice Awards; 2011)
- Best Lead Actor ( Andrew Bermudez as Lord Sam Sinister; The First Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Fan Choice Awards; 2011)
- Best Picture (The First Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Fan Choice Awards; 2011)
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
Johnny Thunder and the Secret of Marco Polo contains examples of the following tropes.
- Ace Pilot: The character of Harry Cane.
- Adapted Out: While most of this film's content never appeared in the LEGO Orient Expedition sets, the film does not include the elephant and car chase or the entire sub-plot with Maharajah Lallu looking for the sunstone from the sets' comics. In fact, Maharajah Lallu isn't even in the film, though his minifigure is used for a thief.
- Adaption Expansion: While based on the LEGO Orient Expedition sets, this film includes a plethora of characters, additional locations, and an entire sub-plot not found in the source material.
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Just about all of the adventurers are this. Dan Brown is essentially the only subversion.
- All There in the Manual: Since this film was released five years before the official cinematic universe was established, there is plenty of information about this film that was established years after its debut. This information includes:
- Who Block Sauniere really was. It's confirmed in Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients that he was a member of the Freemasons and one of Dr. Daniel Thunder's five associates.
- How Lord Sam Sinister found Patrick and the rest of his henchmen. While Patrick touches upon it here, the entire story is told in Patrick: The Movie.
- The name of the henchman who gives the status update about Chang Wu's spy. His name is Dalton Harrod, whose name originated from a YouTube comment by Colby James, which gives this character a name and (non-canon) back-story. This was referenced for the film Patrick: The Movie, where Dalton made his first named appearance.
- Why Chang Wu is insane. He's a former electrician, who was caught in a workplace accident that clinically damaged his brain.
- The name of the henchman that brings the thieves to Lord Sam Sinister. His name is Brett Milledge, a poacher working for Sam who was also named by Colby James. Unlike Dalton Harrod's fan backstory, Brett's character profile is entirely canonical.
- Robert's true intentions. He's a member of the Illuminati, as revealed in Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients by Dr. Jim Carew, a friend of Johnny's that is also a member of the Illuminati.
- The unknown henchman that accompanies the villains up Mt. Everest. His name is Second Lieutenant Bobby Schneider, who was also named by Colby James. Just like Brett Milledge, his fan character profile is fully canonical.
- The unnamed henchman that delivers the Gem of Fire to the Dragon Fortress. That's Horatio Schmidt, who would go on to become a major supporting character in both Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile and Journey to Siberia.
- Artistic License - Geography: Despite the research that went into this film, there are plenty of geographical inaccuracies in this film. They are:
- There is no such thing as a Marco Polo Museum in Venice. While one does exist, it's located in Korcula, Croatia.
- Despite what is depicted in the film, there are no jungles or elephant herders anywhere near Lucknow, India. In fact, anything the looks like a small village in Lucknow is wrong, since that city has more in common with downtown Los Angeles than the grass huts in the jungle image that most people associate with India.
- The film shows the trip from Kathmandu, Nepal to Mt. Everest Base Camp taking only a few minutes. In reality, this trip will take three days at best, since the two are nowhere near each other and require travelling through multiple villages along the way.
- While it is true that the Great Wall of China does pass near the canonical location of the Dragon Fortress, that area of China (near Datong) is more barren than seen in the film. The lush nature of the landscape as seen in the film is something more associated with eastern China, where the more iconic portions of the Great Wall are located.
- Artistic License - History: The Temple of Mt. Everest is not located on the mountain it is named after, but rather on Lothse, a mountain just south of Mt. Everest's peak. It is implied in the film that Marco Polo himself hid the Golden Sword there during his many missions for Kublai Khan. The only problem is that, not only was Mt. Everest not successfully scaled until 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary, Marco Polo never travelled anywhere near what is now modern-day Nepal, let alone Mt. Everest.
- Artistic License - Religion: It is true that Muslims ruled India in the time that Marco Polo was in China working as a liaison for Kublai Khan, but what the Scorpion Palace gets right in Mughal Architecture, it gets one thing wrong about Islam, and its all in the name. Islam forbids the artistic depictions of the creations of Allah (God), which has resulted in Islamic art consisting of flowing, organic, and abstract patterns and designs (like what is seen in some of the Scorpion Palace's arches). While seeming innocent to Western eyes, placing a giant scorpion statue (with scorpions definitely counting as a creation of Allah) in an Islamic palace would be nothing short of blasphemy.
- Awesome Aussie: The character of Johnny Thunder.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Battle for Xi'an essentially encompasses the entire city.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: The Yeti chases the adventurers in the Himalayas. This is also the target of Ngan Pa's revenge.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: To explain how a helicopter can fly near the summit of Mt. Everest, Lord Sinister replies, "It's a movie. Anything can happen."
- Civil War: What Chang Wu's rebellion has resulted in.
- Cool Boat: The adventurers board one of Chang Wu's ships to sneak into the Dragon Fortress.
- Cool Plane: Ngan Pa, or at least his brother, has one that the villains use to fly up Mt. Everest.
- Deadpan Snarker: The character of Pippin Reed Thunder.
- Dragons Up the Yin Yang: Being a story that culminates in finding a treasure in China, what would be more befitting of a Chinese treasure than a massive Golden Dragon?
- Expy: More or less of Indiana Jones. This film adaption downplays the similarities, however.
- Goldfish Poop Gang: Lord Sinister's own henchmen are this, as they trod on with their boss throughout the adventure, even as each member dies one-by-one, only leaving Patrick and Horatio to return in the sequel.
- Hook Hand: This film marks the first appearance of Lord Sam Sinister in the official cinematic universe, and his most distinguishable trait is his hook, which replaces his left hand.
- Hordes from the East: Chang Wu's rebels are this, though they do stay within the geopolitical borders of China.
- Land of Dragons: How China is depicted in this film.
- MacGuffin: The Golden Dragon is this.
- The Mole: Played straight with the character of Robert Teabing, but inverted with Jing Lee, who is a mole infiltrating the villains' operation.
- Multinational Team: Johnny Thunder is from Australia, Dr. Kilroy is from England, and Pippin Reed Thunder, Harry Cane, and Dan Brown are from the United States. Along the way, Babloo from India, Sherpa Sangye Dorje from Nepal, and Jing Lee from China also help them.
- Noodle Incident: This was initially done as a joke, but Patrick interprets Lord Sinister's rhetorical question about how he got his henchmen literally by mentioning that he rescued them from an Egyptian Tomb where they were trapped and were forced to eat their partner. No further mention is ever made of this event, and it would go unexplained until the release of Patrick: The Movie twelve years later. However, the Famous Swiss Expedition is only mentioned once as "The one where everyone died" and nothing more. It has yet to be resolved, but will be explored in this film's remake.
- Parallel Conflict Sequence: The battle for the Dragon Fortress encompasses the outside helicopter raid, the Chinese Army fighting Jun-Chi, and Jing Lee fighting Chang Wu.
- Plot Coupon: The three golden treasures of Marco Polo are this.
- Predators Are Mean: Tygurah, Yeti, and Jun-Chi all attack the heroes.
- Product Placement: Parodied with the Samuel Adams gag in the Coughing Dragon Opera House.
- Sequel Hook: Parodied at the very end of the film, where Lord Sam Sinister literally vows to get Johnny Thunder in the sequel.
- Sim Sim Salabim: How India is depicted in this film.
- The Shangri-La: How Nepal is depicted in this film.
- Spaghetti and Gondolas: How Italy is depicted in this film.
- Street Urchin: The thieves are this, as they only steal to survive.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: Both the revolution and treasure hunting plots run simultaneously, often influencing each other.
- Yellow Peril: The character of Chang Wu.
- Hidden Character: At the very beginning of the movie, when we see the Marco Polo Museum for the first time, there is a bum sleeping on the sidewalk. He also dropped his wine glass.
- Stagehand Visible: This one is very hard to see. When we see Xi'an for the first time (near the beginning of the film), some guards execute two civilians. On the other side of the shooting, you can see the 1st unit cameraman taping the action.
- Hidden Character: An astronaut is standing right by the car that explodes in Xi'an.
- Hidden Character: In Xi'an, you can see part of General Grievous while Lord Sinister is talking outside after the helicopter attack.
- Gold Brick: This hidden extra is actually a piece of the chair that Mong Hu sits on inside General Mao's headquarters.
- Hidden Character: This one's an easy find. In Venice, The Joker is standing on a white balcony. He is best seen from the panoramic shot.
- Hidden Character: Radia is hiding in the same scene as The Joker. She's ordering fruit from the market.
- Hidden Character: In the scene where the waiter is sweeping up garbage, you can see Anakin reclining on a bench.
- Stagehand Visible: In Venice, you can see a grip man operating a wind machine along the side of the canal. You can best see it when Johnny, Pippin, and Harry are riding in the gondola.
- Stagehand Visible: When Johnny and his friends leave the Marco Polo Museum, you can see a mobile camera unit behind them. This one is also along the side of the canal.
- Hidden Character: In Lucknow, India, Professor Quirrell is riding on top of the bus that tips over.
- Hidden Character: A Star Wars rebel pilot can be spotted in the panoramic shot of Lucknow, India. He seems to be hanging around a small shop.
- Hidden Character: When the civilian hides inside the coffin, you can see the the Infomaniac from LEGO Island standing behind it.
- Hidden Character: Yes, even Torgo, the man with the giant kneecaps from "Manos," the Hands of Fate, had to get in somehow. He is the last to flee in Lucknow when Dr. Kilroy says, "Sting of the jungle."
- Stagehand Visible: Flash forward to Lord Sinister's hut in India. After the henchman tells Lord Sinister that the thieves arrived, he gets dismissed. As the henchman walks out the door, you can see the best boy standing outside the door.
- Stagehand Visible: After Babloo yells, "Go on, girl," he whips the elephant, sending it forward. As the elephant leaves the frame, you can clearly see the boom operator hiding in the trees.
- Hidden Character: Indiana Jones is hiding in Kathmandu. He appears to be standing on a terrace above the store Climb "R" Us.
- Hidden Character: When Lord Sinister hijacks the car in Kathmandu, you can see a clone trooper standing on a balcony.
- Hidden Character: Digger, the Dino hunter from Dino Attack, can be seen at the Kathmandu Airport. He's standing on the balcony that leads to the helipad.
- Stagehand Visible: Up in the Himalayas, Dan comments on how far they've traveled. Behind him, you can see the production assistant hugging the mountain. Look quickly, because this stagehand disappears after the camera turns back to Dan.
- Gold Brick: Inside the Coughing Dragon Opera House, a gold brick is part of one of the support posts.
- Hidden Character: The Master, the villain from "Manos," the Hands of Fate, can be seen performing the prologue for Mulan.
- Stagehand Visible: When Johnny and his friends arrive at the river in China, look for a production assistant. He's behind a bamboo shoot, and is most visible when Harry says, "Ah, I see."
- Stagehand Visible: When Johnny and his friends get captured in the Dragon Fortress, a rebel says, "Hands up!" During this line, you can see the assistant director standing behind her, who looks a lot like Johnny.
- This film has its own fan page on Facebook, making this the only Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film to receive one. It was created to celebrate this film, while speculating about the then-in-development Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile. The page is no longer updated.
- The original opening scene in Africa was modeled after both the opening of the Orient Expedition online comics and the Benin myth of the Wututu Bird. The current opening scene is modeled after the opening for The Da Vinci Code.
- In a strange twist of fate through rescheduling and omissions for voice acting, a man (Jim Freeman) ended up playing a woman (Jing Lee) and a woman (Teresa Bermudez) ended up playing a man (Robert Teabing).
- This is the first Mustache Maniacs Film Co. film to feature an online version of the film right at its release.
- The scene featuring the Shaman of the Mountains is a play-off of the bridge crossing scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- Harry's line about Lord Sinister's men "digging in the wrong place" is a reference to the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- During the final battle, many of Mao Zedong III's men fire right at the camera, mimicking the finale from the cult film A*P*E.
- Mao's line, "I love the smell of fireworks at night," is a reference to the film Apocalypse Now.
- The Battle of Xi'an features many pop culture references, including those to Patton, The Matrix Reloaded, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.