Advertisement

Archive for Monday, September 18, 2006

Ani-mayhem

Online animation provides Kansas University students outlet for comedy, campus satire

September 18, 2006

Advertisement

Nolan T. Jones could be speaking in code, or he could be describing a scene in his animated cartoon.

Frankly, it's hard to tell.

"When the dog's at the party," Jones says, "he gets ripped out of his mind and starts hitting on the whale."

It turns out, it's not code. It's a scene from "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" - an animated online college campus where koala bears and frogs drink beer together, and raccoons ride unicycles down dorm hallways while other critters try to knock them off with dodgeballs.

It's the brainchild of Jones, a Kansas University senior from Pittsburg who's majoring in theater and film. But he's gathered about 20 people - including his four roommates - to write, voice, animate and market the animated show, which will be distributed only on the show's Web site, www.zookmayhem. com.

There already are two 1-minute segments available for download at the site. But the official launch of monthly 15-minute episodes, which should be around Oct. 9, comes at a time when the Adult Swim cartoons are extremely popular, and online-only cartoons such as "Red vs. Blue" are gaining in popularity.

Basically, Jones and his pals are doing the show just for the heck of it - and certainly not to get rich.

"We're fully intending to distribute it online, and back it up with DVDs," he says. "When you go to a conference or something, you see the 'Red vs. Blue' guys and people say, 'Hey, that's the "Red vs. Blue" guys.' Nobody here would mind being the 'Zook Mayhem and the Bandits' guys."

This screen shot from "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" is the work of Nolan T. Jones. The animated show is distributed on www.zookmayhem.com.

This screen shot from "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" is the work of Nolan T. Jones. The animated show is distributed on www.zookmayhem.com.

The premise

The show is set at the University of Campus, not too far a stretch from "University of Kansas." The main character, a raccoon named Zook Mayhem, dies but decides to come back as a ghost to wreak havoc on evil university administrators.

Jones says the reason to make all the characters animals was a practical one.

"It's easier to tell animals apart than drawing people," he says. "We're not good artists."

Basically, Jones says, the show is supposed to mimic a real college campus. (By the way, some students in scholarship halls really do play Hallway of Death Unicycle Challenge.)

"It's something the average college student or even adult can relate to," says Riley Dutton, a junior from Arma. "People sometimes say stupid things when they're drunk."

Chris Moodie, a senior from Pittsburg who voices a character, says he always enjoys reading the scripts, which usually are written by Jones.

"I think they're funny," Moodie says. "And if I think they're funny, my friends will think they're funny."

Learning the trade

During a character voice recording session for "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" at Wescoe Hall, Kansas University senior Nolan Jones, Pittsburg, center, listens as sophomore Jose Artiaga, St. Louis, left, and senior Chris Moodi, Pittsburg, practice their lines

During a character voice recording session for "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" at Wescoe Hall, Kansas University senior Nolan Jones, Pittsburg, center, listens as sophomore Jose Artiaga, St. Louis, left, and senior Chris Moodi, Pittsburg, practice their lines

Jones had been thinking about doing some sort of an animated show since high school. He says his roommates finally convinced him to pursue it.

"None of us had experience with animation," Dutton says. "Those one-minute shorts took 40 or 50 hours to do. We had no idea what we were getting into."

But now, the crew is getting faster with the animation software. After the script is written, it's recorded in a studio in Wescoe Hall before being set to animation at the students' home in North Lawrence.

"It's been frustrating at times, and we yell at each other," Dutton says. "But sometimes we do something unintentionally and it's hilarious in a recording session. There is basis in fact. You take what you know and exaggerate it. That's comedy to me."

'Spreading the word'

Perhaps the most interesting part of the project is the type of following it can generate through only word of mouth and Web-based promotion.

"Zook Mayhem and the Bandits" has its own page on Facebook.com, a popular networking site for college students. And the crew has purchased advertising on other Facebook sites, in addition to having segments available on the video-file-sharing site YouTube.com.

The crew members also are hyping the show on their World of Warcraft game message boards and telling anyone else they know about it.

"It's spreading the word," Jones says. "We're juniors and seniors in college. We have friends all over the place."

So far, the Web site is getting 50 to 400 hits a day, and that's before any full episodes are available. Jones did receive a $600 undergraduate research award from KU to track who views the "Zook Mayhem" site.

Jones hopes the episodes will have a broad audience base.

"It's got espionage and suspense," he says, "but really it's a bunch of apathetic college students who like to shoot the (breeze)."

Video

Watch a segment from an upcoming episode of "Zook Mayhem and the Bandits." Enlarge video

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.