CORNERSTONE'S VERY FUNNY VERY WIDE™ HOLY GRAIL TRADING CARDS
by Hans ten Cate
Sunday, 22 September 1996

Cornerstone Communications, Inc. (CCI), now known to many Python fans as the company responsible for an array of t-shirts and a set of 114 trading cards based on the original Flying Circus episodes, has done it again! This past June, Cornerstone released a set of 76 Monty Python & the Holy Grail Trading Cards!

When Cornerstone obtained the licenses to the Monty Python Flying Circus series in early 1993, they also obtained the rights to use material from the "Holy Grail" and "Life of Brian" films. Owners of the original card series may remember seeing teasers promising new sets based on these two popular Python films. Well, now part of the wait is over! The Holy Grail cards have been available since June 6th but, unfortunately, Python fans may have to wait a while before seeing any "Life of Brian" cards (see "Welease Bwian" in Daily Llama Issue 13). Still, the Grail cards are a treat and definitely worth the purchase price.

The "Holy Grail" trading cards feature full-color still images taken from an original 35-mm print of the film. The reverse sides of the cards are made up of trivia and text taken from the original film scripts, including scenes which did not make it into the final version. In addition, the reverse sides feature many behind-the-scene photos (provided by the Python Office in London) along with Terry Gilliam's art and pre-production doodles by Terry Jones.

Cornerstone invented a very new and very unique "Very Wide™" format for the Holy Grail cards. The set is made up of 2 1/2" x 4 11/16" cards, each featuring stills from the film in their original aspect ratio (which is the width-to-height ratio originally seen on movie theatre screens).

Walter Rowan, Managing Director of Cornerstone, explains that "... although we had copies of every color Grail shot from the Python archives, there were not enough to do a set and tell the story. That meant using a print of the film... To take advantage of the larger image provided by a wide-screen 35 mm print... we decided to offer the cards in our 'Very Wide™' format."

Roger Saunders, of the Python office in London, provided Cornerstone with a newly-struck print of the film this Spring. CCI then used a company in Los Angeles to duplicate individual frames selected by Cornerstone. Since it was critical that the print be preserved in its entirety for future use, Cornerstone had to have frames reproduced without cutting the print. Doug Finical, one of Cornerstone's staff artists, watched the movie on videotape and noted the most crucial scenes to include in the 76-card set. Selecting the actual 35-mm frames was cumbersome, to say the least. Cornerstone had to jury-rig a viewing desk and then found that the color balance on the film came off too green when compared to the videotape. The color balance was fixed digitally, however, after the selected film frames were transferred to Kodak Photo CD.

The original print was rushed back to England so that Terry Jones could take it to a film festival in Bulgaria and the cards were printed over a four week time frame in late May/early June. Adds Rowan, "...the copy of the film we sent back had Post-It notes stuck in the reels to mark the individual frames we wanted to duplicate. There was not enough time to take them out prior to shipping, but we never got a complaint."

As with the original card series, Cornerstone has included an EXTREMELY rare card - a beautifully illustrated foil card featuring the Holy Grail ("God be praised!"). This card can be acquired in one of two ways... collect the six Knights of the Round Table foil cards (also pretty rare) and send those back to Cornerstone. These cards will be marked and returned with a Holy Grail card. Note that some Holy Grail cards have also been randomly inserted into the individual card packs. So it IS possible to find the Holy Grail on your own (well, provided you buy enough packs of course!).

Python fans can obtain the Holy Grail cards in three ways: as a full factory set (all 72 cards, without the foil chase cards, $18.00 U.S.), an uncut press sheet (also without the foil cards but makes a nice poster, $37.00 U.S.), or a display box (24 packs of 9 random cards each, $35.00 U.S.). Of course, you can still buy individual packs from collectible-card stores near you.

Python fans wishing to find out more about Cornerstone's trading cards and their other Monty Python products can visit the Official Cornerstone website [Cornerstone no longer has an official site it seems, not sure if they are around any more - 16 April 2002]. If you want to reach them telephonically (maybe order a few sets?), call them directly toll free at 1-800-846-7725 in North America or (520) 722-1304. Remember, the cards can also be purchased from the PythOnline Shopping Arcade [also defunct - 16 April 2002].


Card design Copyright © 1996 Cornerstone Communications, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Monty Python Very Wide Cards™ is a trademark of Cornerstone Communications, Inc.; Film images are copyright © 1996 The National Film Trustee Company Limited; Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a trademark of Python (Monty) Pictures, Limited.

Sources:

  • Walter Rowan, "What's all this then...?" in Cornerstone Communications' The Inside Trader, Issue Number Two, Winter 1996, pp. 1-3, 6.
  • John Blocher, "Python Confidential" in Cornerstone Communications' The Inside Trader, Issue Number Two, Winter 1996, pp. 5-6.