Get Over Here: How ‘Mortal Kombat’ Was Resurrected From Franchise Fatality

Mortal Kombat premiered in arcades in 1992. Over the years, this franchise has spawned nine video games, two movies (with a third currently in development), and two TV series. Then, it stalled.

2010 was not a banner year for MK. No films or TV series since 1997. The most recent video game shared with the DC Universe. The head had been ripped off and the blood drained from this once thriving franchise.

Enter Kevin Tancharoen.

With $7,500 of his own money and a crap ton of favors and luck, Tancharoen put together an eight-minute trailer as a pitch to Warner Brothers to direct the in-development MK film. As someone who once literally sent a Diagnosis Murder spec script to Dick Van Dyke, I can definitely say that there is no love in the ‘verse more powerful than nerd love.

The result? Tancharoen was hired to direct ten episodes of a web series in the MK universe. The first episode was released on Machinima’s YouTube channel, and additional episodes will continue to be released exclusively through this site.

What does this have to do with business and promotion? Everything!

Numbers make me happy.

Promote Yourself

Tancharoen marketed himself by showing his film as a product. It was an expensive marketing plan – $7,500 and two months of work and a basket of I.O.U.’s to all the friends he’d called on to help him out – but he was able to get the studio’s attention in a way that a resume or cold calling never would have achieved.

Similarly, you can market yourself to a potential employer by showing them an example of work you could produce specifically for that company. Many employers will ask for samples of previous work (if it’s appropriate for your industry), but creating something uniquely tailored to your interviewer’s interest is an excellent way to set yourself apart.

For example, if you were looking to be a blog writer at Quality Logo Products, you could send in a sample article about promotional products or see if you could pull the ol’ Die-Hard-IS-related-to-stress-balls angle. An event planner could provide a sample itinerary based on packages the company already offers. Basically, you need to put an image of yourself already employed with the company into the interviewer’s mind.

Are they leathery? No? Then we're good.

Promote Potential

Not every rookie is able to knock a home run his first time out. Directors like Frank Darabont and Orson Welles cranked out masterpieces as their first efforts in the film industry: The Shawshank Redemption and Citizen Kane.


Those are guys you sign up right away. The guy who made Piranha Part Two: The Spawning gets tossed right back into the water.

Except… maybe there was a glimmer of something you liked in Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. Maybe somewhere in the opening scene with two people interrupted mid-underwater-booty by murderous fish, you saw an inspired camera angle or stunning character development. You agree to take this young director under your wing.

The second movie he makes is Terminator. Congratulations, my friend. You just invested in James Cameron and can wipe your ass with hundred-dollar bills.

Although accomplishments look great on paper, awards and honors are limited to very few and may not reflect effort or talent as much as opportunity and popularity.

Whacky Willie's Wonderful Widgets, how can I help you?

You like? I have more hanging inside my trench coat if you’re into the sketchy back alley thing.

Promote Your Products

Besides that warm fuzzy feeling you get from fulfilling someone’s childhood dream, the WB executives had ulterior motives for paying Tancharoen to make webisodes: they had a video game coming out.

The first episode of MK: Legacy premiered on April 11th. The ninth MK video game hit shelves on April 19th. Coincidence? I think not.

The renewed fervor over live-action MK skyrockets overall interest in the franchise, leading to customer driven searches for additional content. From there, it’s like shooting hungry piranhas in shallow pools with a high-powered rifle.

What kind of promotional tips can you pull from this MK situation? Do you find that giving a potential employee a “test run” helps you make an informed choice to invest in the right person? How do you set yourself apart from other interviewees in the job market search? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


Cupcake image credit

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Scooby DOO!

    Without logo products, your brand does not have a voice. With out making noise you’ll never be heard.

  2. Joseph Giorgi


    Not many people know that “Piranha II: The Spawning” was Cameron’s debut feature. Kudos to you! Also, the fact that he sold his original “Terminator” script to the producers for a dollar (with the stipulation that he be allowed to direct) probably played a part in getting him the gig as well–it’s definitely an interesting way to self-promote.

    Congrats on another stellar post!


    • Jana Quinn

      There is no limit to my knowledge of unproductive information. Thank you.

      I had no idea he sold Terminator for a buck (and the right to direct). That’s a pretty good investment. If the movie failed, all of the blame would have been on his shoulders. Risky move there, Jim.

      Thanks. 🙂

  3. Vern-Matic

    The initial (preview) video that came out was around 2009 and re-sparked interest in the brand. It was done w/out Warner Brothers knowledge, but once they saw how many views on Youtube it had they totally got behind the idea. It is kinda like having an interview at QLP and selling for them before you get the job to show what you are capable of.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for the head’s up on the 2009 release. I couldn’t find the original upload of the trailer/pitch, so I went with the 2010 date on the video I linked to.

      A lot of people seemed to think it was a real trailer for a movie coming out, and it wasn’t until Jeri Ryan Tweeted that it was a pitch for the studio that people realized what it was. I wonder how the studio first found out and what their initial reaction was.

      To be a fly on the wall…

  4. Amanda Sneed

    Nice post Jana, way to tie everything together!

    Yet another movie I haven’t seen….I’m going to have to see these!

  5. Jill Tooley

    That MK trailer is amazing. I know quite a bit about the Mortal Kombat franchise and the storyline holds true to the games’ story for the most part. I can’t stand it when my favorite franchises’ adaptations get brutally massacred…

    However, I didn’t know much about Kevin Tancharoen or his talents prior to now – I’m quite impressed! He must be ecstatic that his efforts were rewarded so well! It was certainly no coincidence that the new XBOX 360 game and the webisode were released that closely together. This success story just goes to show what we can accomplish if we want it badly enough! (It’s a shame that the whole “Help Nathan Buy Firefly” thing didn’t pan out like I hoped. What I wouldn’t give for some more Firefly…sigh…)

    Oh, and I’d just like to say that the new Mortal Kombat game fully lived up to my expectations. The character models look wonderful (although there is a ridiculous amount of boobage in all of the ladies’ costumes), the fights are bloodier and gorier, and they brought back tons of elements from the original games. Of course, fatalities are still very much a part of the game, and I was also happy to see Babalities (turning your opponent into a crying baby), the hidden fights triggered by certain stages and moves (like original Reptile), and the classic “TOASTY!” sound effect/image that randomly comes up from uppercut moves. I wish they’d brought back the Friendship finishing move, though!

    Great post and a big KUDOS to MK for getting the comeback it deserves!

    • Jana Quinn

      I must say I’ve missed the Mortal Kombat boat. We never had it on any systems I had growing up, and I think I just let it slip by as another fighting game. Hearing you and others talk about it so passionately as well as reading these articles about how this project came to be, it’s clear that it’s much more than that.

      Boobage is pretty standard these days in fighting games. There is no way that any female superhero/supervillain could ever stop themselves from having a wardrobe malfunction in the “clothes” they are wearing let alone fight to the death. And don’t even get me started on the heels…

  6. JPorretto

    I have NEVER (Gasp) played Mortal Kombat. But I will have this disc spinning in my PS3 drive soon enough. I can’t wait to play as Kratos!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      You should be ashamed of yourself, Jeff. You’d better have the new MK game running 24-7 on your console (even while you’re at work or asleep), just to make up for never playing the originals. 😉

  7. Ness

    Awesome post, and I had no idea that there is actually a new Mortal Kombat movie in the making. Even though they’re ridiculously campy, I still liked the original movies. I might have to re-watch those soon….

    Also, I spent a lot of last weekend rocking the new Mortal Kombat game. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone on a binge like that, and it was totally worth it. My thumb actually hurt from using the d-pad on the controller — I haven’t played a game that much in a long time! I’m both ashamed and proud to admit this. :/

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