Meet the Man who Pranked the Internet with Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit
If you’re of a nerdy persuasion, chances are you might have come across Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit (Super Turbo Atomic Mega Rabbit in the UK because the authorities there had a really weird beef with the word 'ninja' in the '80s). In March this year an old VHS copy of an ‘80s classic cartoon surfaced on YouTube, setting the online anime community alight with excitement – and false memories. After some alarmingly assiduous detective work from cartoon fans, it was discovered that the trailer was a hoax… And last week the brains behind Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit revealed himself at an event in London’s East End.
Wesley Louis, a designer and director with The Line, is the brains behind this elaborate animation stunt. As a young boy, Wesley would spend hours creating elaborate homemade comics – and as an adult he decided that it was time to bring them to life. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with him after the big reveal…
LBB> Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit – it’s an old clip from a vintage 1980s kids’ cartoon… only it’s not. What’s the idea behind it?
WL> It’s based on a comic I did when I was thirteen [check the comic out here]. When I was younger I was into Thundercats, Samurai Pizza Cats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, particularly the episode with Miyamoto Usagi. I’ve been working in advertising since 2009 and just wanted to do something that was closer to the type of animation I wanted to do in the first place. Something visually cool.
The original comic and lunchbox on display
LBB> Why, of all the animal kingdom, did you choose a rabbit?
WL> He was inspired by Usagi Yojimbo, who is also a samurai rabbit. All the heroes in the cartoons I liked were anthropomorphic. I wanted to choose animals you wouldn’t expect. You don’t see many chicken heroes or cow villains.
LBB> The animation is an elaborate prank – can you tell us about how you made the animation as authentic as possible? What sort of research did you do and what sorts of details did you apply to the film to make it as believably old school as possible?
WL> Max (Taylor) was adamant that, even though we’re using computers, we emulate each process from the ground up. The clean up would have to feel like pencil, which would be processed to look like it was photocopied onto cel. We got our mate Chris King to put it through VHS a few times to give it a warn out look. Originally we did it in 16 x 9. We exported it in a 4 x 3 aspect ratio.
LBB> How did you seed it? Was it a case of ‘shove it online and see what happens’ or was there more of careful strategy?
WL> My intention was always to make two films: ninja rabbit and mega rabbit. Back in the ‘80s we weren’t allowed to use the word ninja or show nunchcucks. Ninja rabbit has both. I spoke to Tim and Max and we decided to take the idea even further. We made a fake cel and badly photocopied model sheets and posted them on backdated blog posts.
LBB> You even went to the extent of creating old lunchboxes and selling them on eBay! Why lunchboxes?
WL> We only did one lunch box and put it up on eBay Japan. If we just put the intro out and people research STANR, they wouldn’t believe it. We created the cels and lunch box so that people could have a discussion about it.
LBB> Did you expect people to really believe it when you started out? What’s the weirdest reaction you’ve seen online?
WL> I personally didn’t think that people would believe it. I thought they would nab us on the first day. But I carried on regardless. Max and Tim were confident with the idea. Some people claim they remember it from their childhood. Only one person cracked it and traced it back to The Line, but everyone on the forum ignored him.
Some of the fan art was weird. The weirdest was from the Furries – a subculture I was never aware of before. They’re people who are interested in anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities. One person actually drew the characters naked. And stuff.
LBB> The online community has gone to incredible lengths to decipher the film and prove it as a fake – how was it watching all that unfurl?
WL> It was interesting. Usually you already have a following, so when you post a project your following will post their feedback pretty quickly. Here we had no following. We had 40,000 views in two weeks from strangers. There was an uproar among fans of the genre trying to find out who was behind STANR. It almost felt like we were being hunted. But it was nice to see that, even when people guessed it was fake, they were still keen for it to be real.
The big reveal...
LBB> Super Turbo Atomic Mega Rabbit was unveiled on Thursday night– and there’s a VR experience too. Why did you decide to take him to VR (I guess, in many ways, the most ‘80s platform there is!)?
WL> It was a happy accident. No Ghost only got involved because I wanted a 3D maquette of the tank as a reference for drawing. Then I asked No Ghost if he minded doing one VR character and he wanted to do all of them. A couple of weeks later he came back and asked if we wanted a VR game. No Ghost had been wanting to make a game but had no material and I had all the material ready. We benefited from each other and it was great fun to collaborate. It was incredible – they are characters I drew and there I was sitting next to them.
LBB> Tell us a bit about The Line – who are you and how would you describe what you do?
WL> We are a collective of animators, directors and designers who make anything that makes a good story. We primarily work in 2D animation although we’ve crossed over into 3D. We do our own self initiated shorts; character design, storyboarding, editing… We all have different skillsets and they compliment each other. The films we make personally we make because we want to see them made. They reflect who we are as individuals and are very different. Check out Max and Tim’s ‘Amaro and Walden’s Joyride’ and Sam and Bjorn’s ‘Everything I Can See From Here’.
LBB> You’re repped by ETC – how do The Line and ETC work together and collaborate? Was ETC involved in Mega Rabbit?
WL> Our collaboration started from Talk Talk ‘Date Night’ and they decided to keep us from there. They push us to create our own content. We spoke about doing some shorts and the ETC guys said they would support them if they like the idea we pitched. Ninja Rabbit was among the ideas and they loved it. They’ve given us a space to work, they bring in their expertise in terms of post production and effects and have added a professional element to what we do. They’ve opened avenues which would have been hard by ourselves. We’re very grateful.
LBB> People who have had their curiosity piqued by Mr Mega/Ninja Rabbit and his antics would probably love to know – can we expect to see any full episodes or new outings in the future?
WL> It was never an intention. However, it’s had a good response. If it’s something people want to see more of – then definitely. It depends on the feedback I get. But I have been thinking about it a lot recently…
Category: Music video , Short films