"Buzz, your girlfriend - WOOF!"
That's just one of the many memorable lines from the 1990 film Home Alone that Penguins players uttered in this year's holiday e-card, a year after they memorably spoofed National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
"It was a great choice," captain Sidney Crosby said. "I knew that one a lot better than I knew Christmas Vacation. This one is just a classic. I've seen it probably a hundred times. There's some really good parts. I remember every part of that movie. Just seeing which guys fit which characters was pretty funny."
While both flicks are holiday classics, they certainly differed in tone and style.
"It was interesting seeing the differences between how we made this one versus last year because the movies were so different from each other," said PensTV producer Mark Cottington, who spearheaded the project along with motion graphics design producer Dave Distilli. "Christmas Vacation is very line-based humor whereas Home Alone is very slapstick comedy. We had to plan around that in order to make it work."
At least 50 hours of prep work went into the project, starting when Cottington and Distilli took the original theatrical trailer and built a new one off that featuring iconic scenes from the movie.
From there, they created a shot sheet and used that to figure out what exactly needed to go into each shot -including clothing, props, framing, lighting, angles and which player they wanted to fill each role.
Every player who was on the roster at the time got a part, as did Penguins broadcasters Mike Lange, Phil Bourque, Paul Steigerwald, Bob Errey and Dan Potash - who stole the show as Kevin McCallister's mom Kate.
Distilli then got busy preparing composites and digital plates for each shot so that he could layer the players in using Adobe Photoshop and AfterEffects, while Cottington booked special effects makeup artist Nathan Blaine - who created the burnt skull cap from the flamethrower - and visited about 5-6 thrift stores in the Pittsburgh area to get the rest of the props.
They had to make sure everything ready ahead of time because this year, they only had one day to shoot the holiday e-card because of the team's travel schedule. So they got to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex early in the morning to set up two green screens and make sure everything was ready crew- and prop-wise.
Overall, the shoot was a tremendous success as everything went smooth production-wise - and the guys had a blast doing it.
"A lot of the players actually knew the movie and they found a lot of connection," Distilli said. "Most of the guys knew their parts without us even explaining them, so they were very excited and enthusiastic."
They were not "les incompetents," as Linnie McCallister (I mean, David Perron) would say. Of the entire group, Cottington said he felt Kris Letang was the best actor.
"With his scene, there was a lot of screaming and he had to be shirtless and just spraying Axe, especially under his armpit to get the right look so it stunk up the locker room," Cottington said. "He went for it."
And while Crosby ceded that Letang was perfect for his role, the captain's Oscar nomination went to someone else.
"I think Mike Lange gets the nod again for Johnny the Gangster," Crosby laughed. "He was the star in the last one and I'm sure he's going to be the star again."
Cottington also named Ian Cole as another standout - and Evgeni Malkin agreed.
"(Cole) was another one because he was the one who actually had the makeup artist paint an iron imprint on his face and had act like he stepped on a nail, so he was falling down and screaming," Cottington said.
Cole, however, was critical of his performance.
"All my parts were just me yelling, so I think my line delivery would have been better than just my yelling voice," he said. "They wanted me to high-pitch scream but I don't know if I'm
very good at that. The first time, I did notice when I stepped on the nail I was laughing as I was yelling in pain, so if that's any semblance of my acting skills, it's obviously not very good. It's pretty poor."
After the eight-hour shoot concluded, Distilli - who studied visual effects in college - spent another 20 hours creating the finished product. The boys watched it on Friday morning when they got to the rink, and howled with laughter the entire time.
"It was pretty entertaining," Chris Kunitz smiled. "We had some laughs at individuals for sure. It's always a good production, but obviously seeing guys like (Daniel Sprong) on there
with a goofy smile always makes the room chuckle a little."
Phil Kessel was another one who got the room going.
"Phil was spot on," Kunitz laughed, jokingly adding, "He didn't even use any makeup
or anything for it, which is surprising. That was his own hat and everything."
Olli Maatta was impressed with how it all came together.
"They did a good job with the bad acting we had," he laughed.
And moving forward, Crosby already has an idea for next year.
"We did the first Home Alone, but there's two. We'll have to do the second one next year, hopefully," he smiled "That'd be good."
OTHER BEST ACTOR NOMINATIONS:
Jeff Zatkoff: "My favorite part was 'Geno' as Harry, with his accent (the Pens center says: "We know that you're in there … and that you're all alone). Or I think Beau (Bennett). Beau looks identical to the pizza guy, which makes it pretty funny."
Daniel Sprong: "I thought I did a pretty strong job but didn't have any lines so I can't say myself. I'll have to go with 'Tishie' (Zatkoff). Tishie was good. He was probably my favorite one."
Olli Maatta: "'Zats' did a good job."
WORST ACTOR NOMINATIONS:
JZ: "Phil. I think they gave Phil the smallest part."
DS: "Letang could have done a better job in the shower scene. I think he was the worst one out of all of us. I could be up there too because I didn't have any lines and the way the last scene went, I should have done a better hug. But I think everything else was good."
OM: "I've got to choose 'Spronger.' He wasn't too good."