Brow Beat

The Screenwriter of Alley Cats Strike on Inspiring the Longest Plot Summary on Wikipedia

On Thursday we published the results of a Slate investigation that sought to find which movie on Wikipedia had the most detailed plot summary. My initial guess was that the summary would belong to a sprawling epic like The Ten Commandments or Lawrence of Arabia. I was wrong. The longest movie summary on Wikipedia, at 4,266 words, belongs to the 2000 Disney Channel original movie Alley Cats Strike.

Or at least it did when the article was published. Since then, Wikipedia editors behind the scenes have been making alternating changes to the article. The 4,000-plus-word synopsis was trimmed on four separate occasions—including once when it was changed to “tl;dr”—only to be restored to its original glory each time. However, a fifth shortening which brought the summary to a mere 52 words (an almost 99 percent reduction in length) appears to have stuck.

Over the weekend I caught up with Gregory K. Pincus, screenwriter of Alley Cats Strike and perhaps the only man alive who has written more words on the movie than the original renegade Wikipedia editor.

Had you ever seen the Wikipedia article on Alley Cats Strike before?

Nope. I’d never even thought to look on Wikipedia for Alley Cats Strike, so it was new to me when your article came out. 

Is this the first time there’s been an explosion of support from fans?

No, it’s not. For example, back in April 2011, Alley Cats Strike was a trending topic on Twitter! The Disney Channel re-aired the movie (at 2:45 in the morning on the East Coast, no less!), and hundreds of people were tweeting about it and sharing bowling stories, too. There have probably been other times, as well, since people who grew up with this movie are now the right age to be hugely active online.

You also wrote the film Little Big League which has a plot summary of 776 words on Wikipedia. What’s the cult following of that film like?

Little Big League definitely has a cult following, particularly among baseball fans and stat lovers. I’ve always imagined this is because the movie really took baseball seriously—the action looks great, the cast (on the Twins and on other teams) could really play, and there was lots of respect for the game throughout. Plus it and the sabermetrics movement kinda came of age together, and it used to air during rain delays on TBS endlessly so it built fans over time.

The new champion with the longest plot summary on Wikipedia is He Died with a Felafel in His Hand. Do you have any thoughts (or fighting words) on this film?

I’ve not seen the movie, though I’m sure it’s not as good as Alley Cats Strike! Still, I will admit that “The obscene jelly of existence …” is now my favorite Wikipedia section heading.

Do you wish Wikipedia editors had left the page intact? 

Honestly, I think they made the right decision for their site, though I admit it was nice to see the Alley Cats Strike passion—so nice, in fact, that I set up to host the full, now-deleted synopsis. A lot of work was put into writing that, and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste, particularly since it’s now a record-holder. 

If you still have an e-file of the script, how many words are in it?

It’s around 20,000 words (and that count includes each time I’d write a character’s name to show they were saying a line of dialogue, things like “interior” and  “exterior” and times of day, and other non-story related words).

Do you have a favorite line in the longer Wikipedia version? 

I reacted as a “proud author” to the synopsis, I guess I’d say. As a result, I think my favorite line was “Given his inability to convert any 7-10 splits in the past, Todd is distraught.” Because, truly, that’s what the script spent time setting up and what the performance was going for: a bowling moment—a bad split—becomes the Golden Boy jock’s—and the whole town’s—moment of crisis. If that moment doesn’t play right, the movie flops. So, seeing it written with the detail and word choice … yeah. That worked for me!  

What’s the best way for fans to watch Alley Cats Strike now?

While it still shows now and then on the Disney Channel, there’s no longer an official video (VHS or DVD) release and it’s not on Netflix or Amazon streaming. I guess that means that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to watch it most of the time.

The shortest plot summary on Wikipedia is only seven words. If you had to summarize Alley Cats in seven words, what would your synopsis be?

Swing-loving bowlers and jock join forces. Perfection!

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.