Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.
Some University of Texas at Austin students gave a classic children’s show a spooky twist in a Halloween-themed photo shoot. With some clever lighting, costumes and ears, the group created a dark take on the cartoon show and children’s book series “Arthur.”
Daniel Nkoola, a second-year film student at UT, said the idea came to him in the shower. He was born in Uganda but has lived in Texas since 2001. He reached out to Ukairo Ukairo, another student filmmaker whose video about black students wearing du-rags on campus went viral through the BET Twitter account.
“I thought it would be fun to put an edgy ‘Riverdale’ spin on a childhood show,” Nkoola said. “We talked about the nature of viral culture and how the next generation of filmmakers will have to resort to new media to put them on the map.”
He said Arthur was the perfect choice because he knew it already had viral potential.
“Twitter has this sort of nostalgia value,” Nkoola said. “[Arthur] was so popular last year, enough to be ‘memeified.’”
The photos were shot in front of the Perry-Castañeda Library, the Dobie development and near the McCombs Business School in the university area. The shoot took around four hours and lasted until 2 a.m. Nkoola played titular aardvark Arthur and supplied the cast with the different animal ears.
The cast of characters was made up of other students and included Grant Kanak as Buster, Gianni Alexander as Francine, Arri Caviness as Muffy and Isaiah Garcia as Binky.
Rachel Obimah played Arthur’s little sister D.W.
Kalen McGuire played The Brain.
Nkoola said he reached out to various connections he had with other film students to cast the photoshoot and also direct messaged people on Twitter.
“The group you see in these Arthur pictures, we’re not a squad,” Nkoola said.
The initial tweet of the photos went viral with nearly 60,000 retweets and 185,000 likes. The actor who plays Jughead Jones on “Riverdale,” itself a dark reimagining of a popular children’s cartoon, even shared the love.
“Cole Sprouse retweeted the Arthur pictures and it felt like we made it,” Nkoola said. “The whole project was designed to circulate on Twitter.”
The response to the photos has been overwhelmingly positive, with numerous Twitter users writing that they would watch the show and admired the representation of the cast.
“The biggest surprise was that people wanted an actual show,” Nkoola said. “People were not being ironic when they said ‘I would watch this show.’ It seemed to resonate with people in a way that I didn’t anticipate. “
Nkoola said the cast also shot a “trailer” for this angsty version of “Arthur,” which will be released soon. In addition to the “Arthur” shoot, Nkoola and Ukairo teamed up again for a “Kids Next Door”-inspired shoot.
“‘Kids Next Door’ didn’t appear organically in my mind. Someone mentioned it in the comments to do ‘Kids Next Door’ with a ‘Mission: Impossible’ concept,” Nkoola said. “We tried a lot more visual storytelling for ‘Kids Next Door.’ A lot of our photos look like stills from a movie.”
He said he dreams of writing and directing big budget features in Holllywood. If these photoshoots are any indication, he’s got a fanbase waiting.