Arts + Culture

Meet the Ugandan Student Filmmaker Who Gave 'Arthur' a Viral Teen Drama Twist

We speak with Daniel Nkoola, the mind behind the viral trailer that remixed your favorite childhood cartoon into a teen drama.

Halloween 2017 wouldn't be relevant without the numerous black creatives executing amazing costumes that were out of this world.

One viral moment that surrounded the holiday was the reimagining of everyone's favorite cartoon as a dark, teen drama.


These photos did numbers on Twitter, and we wanted more. Then came the trailer shortly after by Ugandan student, Daniel Nkoola.

Nkoola is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Texas from Uganda in late 2001 and remembers Arthur being one of his favorite cartoons to watch growing up.

He says he's always been a storyteller, but it wasn't until he discovered YouTube in its early days that he realized he could tell stories with the few resources he had.

"I didn't need to have lots of money or equipment to hold my own on that platform," he says in an email to OkayAfrica. "YouTube has changed significantly, but back in 2009 it seemed to democratize visual storytelling. Not before long, I knew that film would be my medium of choice to tell the stories that were on my heart."

Read our conversation below, where we talk further about the inspiration behind this project and his creative process.

Antoinette Isama for OkayAfrica: What sparked the idea to put a spin on a nostalgic cartoon that we all love?

Daniel Nkoola: As Halloween approached, I knew I had a shot at finally going viral with a solid group costume. At some point, the growing popularity of Riverdale (which I had never seen at the time) crossed my mind, and I thought of how goofy it would be to take an even more innocuous children's cartoon and put an edgy spin on it. I asked myself, "What kids' show has no place being adapted into a teen drama murder mystery?" While in the shower, Arthur came to me. And I knew immediately that it was perfect because of how hilariously absurd it would be in the teen drama genre (therefore, the more we commit to the bonkers premise, the funnier it becomes), and also because of how much of an essential text it had become on the twitter platform in the last couple of years. I knew from the success of the memes that a large portion of Twitter users were familiar with the cartoon and/or children's book, in addition to having a universal familiarity of the YA-drama genre. So I knew people would get the joke.

What was your creative process with the staging, lighting and costume design?

A few nights before we shot, I made a trek around campus to search for gorgeous places that would have adequate lighting in the night time. We relied almost exclusively on that light which was already present (supplementing it occasionally with our cell phone flashlights, and using our clothes as makeshift bounces/reflectors). Luckily for all of us, Ukairo Ukairo (@ukairoukpai) has a great eye, and is gifted with a camera. He knew how to make the most of the locations to accentuate all of our beautiful faces.

Ukairo and I determined blocking and staging on an impromptu basis upon reaching each location. It was important to me to maintain visual variety (with regards to color, composition, movement, pace, volume, etc.) so that the scenarios we shot looked like various scenes from different episodes of this fake television show when put in trailer form.

Costuming was a collaboration on everyone's part, with each person constructing the majority of their own outfit. I basically sent each actor a picture of their Arthur character, and told them to put an angsty, college-millennial spin on the character designs. They could take enormous liberties, as long as they incorporated the main colors worn by that character in the original cartoon. I supplied animal ears, and D.W./Rachel Obimah (@missnewyorkgiant) did some minimalist makeup based on what animal each character was (for example, Buster's whiskers).

How do you feel about the positive response the trailer has received so far—especially since it's in the midst of going viral?

It's exceedingly gratifying. I make things for the pleasure of an audience, so the fact that it's reaching so many people, who also happen to be enjoying it, makes me feel wonderful.

Can we expect more of these trailers from you?

This specific project was strictly a Halloween endeavor. But you can expect other kinds of video content (short films, visual mixtapes, etc.) over the course of the next 6 to 7 months and onwards. Among these projects is The Mountaintop webseries.

Sponsored
Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement Africa

Tonight, Come Join Junior Achievement Africa in New York City

Frank Aswani, Special Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Higherlife Foundation will be giving the keynote speech at the Facebook offices about investing in Africa's future.

Sponsored content from Junior Achievement Africa

In just 15 years, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world. How we prepare them now will determine the course of our businesses and our economies.

JA Africa is moving the needle of youth economic empowerment in Africa, bridging the gap between education and the world of work through: Entrepreneurship education, Financial literacy and Workforce-readiness. Over 240,000 students are equipped each year with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in the workforce and take on business leadership in the future.

Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement Africa

Join JA Africa, Facebook and OkayAfrica for an evening to learn why youth economic empowerment is important in Africa and how you too can invest in Africa's future. You will hear the stories of JA Africa alumni—brilliant young Africans who are changing the trajectory of the continent.

Our keynote speaker, Frank Aswani, Special Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Higherlife Foundation, will also be speaking about the importance of work and economic growth for youth. Until last month, Frank led the Business Development team at African Leadership Academy delivering on corporate partnerships, network development and managing strategic relationships.

We hope to see you this Friday, September 21st at 6:30 PM at Facebook's office: 225 Park Avenue South. Email juniorachievementafrica@eventsatfacebook.com with your full name and email address to RSVP.

Events
Photo: Zahara Abdul.

The Spirit of Nyege Nyege, Africa's Best Underground Music Festival

It was a non-stop four-day celebration of music, art and culture.

The thousands of local and foreign party-goers who made their way to the Nile Discovery Beach Resort in Jinja, Uganda for this year's MTN Nyege Nyege festival had a weekend of intense fun in store for them

Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the town's most significant geographical sight. Jinja Town prides itself of sitting right along the northern shores of Lake Victoria, next to the source of the River Nile. From several parts of the district, one can get a stunning view of the famous river as it starts its journey to the Mediterranean Sea.

The annual four-day festival also breathes life into this otherwise laid-back and charming town. With the introduction of MTN as a sponsor, Nyege Nyege promised a bigger and better event. This would include a venue tripled in size, with two additional stages (Spirit of UG stage and Dark Star Stage) and a larger self-contained camping area. For those who do not favour camping, there were several hotels and guesthouses near the city centre, a few minutes by motorcycle taxi (bodaboda) to the venue.

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Audio

Mannywellz & Adekunle Gold's 'Yeoo' Will Soundtrack Your Weekend

You're going to have this one on repeat.

Mannywellz is a buzzing Nigerian-born artist whose music blends influences from hip-hop, RnB and West African rhythms. His recent Soulfro EP has earned him millions of streams online and he's even opened for Jidenna on tour across the US.

Manny is now sharing his latest single "Yeoo," an uplifting and addictive remix of his Soulfro standout track that sees him link up with Nigeria's Adekunle Gold.

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