Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Little Ninjai

Ninjai Official Website (Chapters 12)
Ninjai, The Little Ninja is an online action/adventure series.


Question: Who is the Ninjai Gang?
Answer: The Ninjai Gang is basically a group of young stuntmen by day and animators, musicians and artists by night. We're really tight. We've been buddies from when we were little kids. Our creative team is primarily made up of people from the ages of 15 and 25.

We're not all based in one location, but are basically spread out all over the world. Once we started doing Ninjai, we started collecting our old buddies from different parts of the world who have different talents and expertise in Flash and music and so forth to work with us from where they are.

Our daily activities involve a lot of physical training, martial arts and stunt-work, so in our leisure time we find ourselves playing a lot of video games and surfing (on waves with surf boards, not on the internet) and stuff like that.

As far as more details on names, etc. of the members of the Gang, notice we don't have the credits on the Ninjai site. We pretty much do everything as a Gang, for example we used to play together as a band and a group, and even though we're not all still in the same area what happens is that one or more of us comes up with a composition idea or a theme, and everyone in the Gang chimes in and improves things and puts in their two cents and so on and so forth. We all try to do everything. So anyway, we've all sort of agreed that we're going to put our individual egos aside, so we don't have to deal with any of that crap.

Question: How did Ninjai come about?

Answer: It was very interesting, we've been working on a live-action project and in between shooting days one of the stunt guys came up with this little stick character and we all started jumping in there, putting in ideas and this and that, and we ended up with this character - a modern-day little kid. But we ended up deciding that this guy was just too violent and had no socially redeeming characteristics whatsoever and we wanted to make him more than that. A lot of the Ninjai Gang are into martial arts and like the spiritual side of martial arts as well and are into meditation and vegetarianism, etc., so we wanted to expand the character into having a deeper spiritual side, besides the violent side. We're going to go more into depth on that on the DVD. We're going to do an exclusive DVD to try to raise funds, showing all the different art and how the art expanded and so forth.

The more we got into Ninjai, the more we began to realize that Ninjai is going to be really popular. So the little character who started off as a little project has become a big project. We're doing it in Flash because we have gotten good at Flash and we're able to do it ourselves and be self-sufficient and not have to hire professional animators, and we just feel comfortable using Flash.

We decided to put Ninjai up first, but we're still working on our live action stuff, and we believe that that's going to really blow people's minds. We also have two other animation projects in mind-we just don't have the manpower right now to do them in really high quality.

We're really excited about our live-action project and we're still hoping to put that on the Internet. The reason we're doing it on the Internet is because we don't need to please anybody except ourselves.

Question: So is there a message behind Ninjai?

Answer: To be honest, no. But any Ninjai fan will know that in addition to the action and humor and stuff like that, there are a lot of deep philosophical, mystical and spiritual subjects being dealt with. This unique blend of heroic action or violence, sweet gentleness, dry humor, slapstick and deep philosophical questions and ideas is what has made Ninjai popular to people of all ages.

Question: So you didn't set out to do Ninjai for a particular age demographic in order to be able to do a certain kind of marketing to achieve commercial success?

Answer: No. Ninjai was not even created for the purpose of entertaining anybody. Basically we do Ninjai for ourselves. It's what we enjoy. In other words, if you look at Ninjai you're basically getting a glimpse of the strange and contradictory people that are behind it. Some of us are, to put it nicely, extremely immature and others are really grave and serious about life. And most of us are just a strange combination of fun-loving craziness and spiritual gravity. After all, you've got to remember we're all stuntmen which requires a strange combination of insanity, daringness, love for action, pushing the envelope, fun-loving attitude-and also seriousness. Looking at us from the outside though, most people would just say we're nuts.

Question: Ninjai has a lot of violence, there's no getting around that. Obviously you're not anti-violence, yet at the same time Ninjai is very sweet and childlike, so is his little bird friend. Are you trying to tell young people something here?

Answer: Not really, I guess that's just our personalities and our world view. We don't believe in violence for the sake of violence, but as martial artists we hold the viewpoint that violence is neutral. Violence can be used for good or evil. For so many years we've been sort of pissed off watching people in Congress and a lot of other people saying that all violence is bad and they should take all violence out of TV and movies and so forth. These people don't know what they're talking about. If these congressmen and people really believed violence is bad, they would not take tax money to build and maintain the military might of the United States. We don't believe or like those kind of videogames where players are killing or smashing innocent people, driving over them with their cars, and getting points for that kind of meanness. But on the other hand, it's crazy to be trying to indoctrinate young people into believing that violence can never be used for good. Sometimes violence can be used to protect innocent people and to protect our freedom.

The problem is that young people, like everyone else, instinctively know that sometimes violence is necessary. People know that this is true. But when we hear the message that all violence is bad and we're all supposed to be pacifists, then we know that's a load of crock, so young people end up rebelling by just engaging in all kinds of violence or playing video games that are violent and so forth. So in other words, what we really need is to be taught that violence is not good, but sometimes it's necessary. That's why we like martial arts. Because in martial arts we're taught how to fight, but we're also taught values and that we're not supposed to be the aggressor. We're taught that we should respect others and have peace within ourselves. Real martial artists aren't violent people that are macho and need to put on a big show about how tough they are.

For example, most of us in the Ninjai Gang are vegetarians. We don't believe in killing animals unnecessarily just because people like the taste of blood. We think it's hypocritical for people to say that they're pacifists and they're against violence when they're eating burgers, killing animals and destroying the environment without caring about it.

Anyway, we think it's hypocritical for political leaders to be criticizing all violence in movies or TV or whatever without making a distinction between violence which is promoting a good ideal and violence which is promoting something negative. Movies or TV shows in which the hero is violent because he's the protector of innocent people or is forced to use violence to carry out his mission of helping people-those kinds of productions are good for people. On the other hand, productions that glorify gangs, gang members or people going around killing innocent people and using violence for their own selfish purposes and so forth-those kind of productions, whether on TV, film or video, should be condemned.

Question: Has it been difficult?

Answer: Yes. It's been a lot of fun too, but I guess you could say we became victims of our own success. As our fans know, we've had a lot of struggles financially to keep Ninjai alive. Especially after we put up Chapter 5-our server crashed and we had to go around begging our friends and family members for more money so that we could buy space on mirror sites so people didn't have to wait 6 hours to download the episode. We had to get another server and upgrade our bandwidth situation, so it's costing us a lot more now to stay afloat. We basically had to go out and make the money ourselves and work on Act II at the same time. None of us is rich or has been to college or university, so our jobs are all low-tech work, washing windows, fixing up and selling used cars and stuff like that. It is a struggle, but we're determined to make Ninjai continue.

Some big entertainment companies have contacted us and asked us if we want to make a lot of money by selling them the rights to Ninjai to make movies, videogames, merchandising, etc. In other words, they would pay us a large upfront fee and they would then own the Ninjai character and pretty much be able to do with him whatever they want. If we went that route we could certainly pay off our debts and make a huge chunk of change, but the fact is, we can't stand these Hollywood companies and could never just hand creative control over to these people in good conscience.

Question: Do you have plans for Ninjai beyond the web?

Answer: We knew Ninjai would be popular but we never knew he would be this popular, and now that he is this popular, of course we're thinking of television and feature film and so forth.

Video game companies are contacting us to do a Ninjai videogame, so there's a lot of potential there, but we're just focusing now on creating the new chapters and figure that if we keep putting our love and time into Little Ninjai, all those things like television series, movies, or video games will work themselves out and will all come. We don't want to get sidetracked from the creative side to the business side and figure the business side will just take care of itself, the more people hear about Ninjai and want to see more of him.

Where are members of the Ninjai Gang located?
All over the world.
What do you do for a living?
Different members of the gang do different things. A lot of us do low-tech work like washing high-rise windows, fixing up and selling used cars, and stuff like that.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
None of us has any spare time. Basically we spend our time working as much as we need to make ends meet and pay for Ninjai; practice our martial arts and stunt work; work on our live-action production, which will blow people's minds as much as Ninjai has; make music; do crazy stuff like go surfing in places we probably shouldn't (by surfing we mean in water, you know, with surfboards); play soccer; play videogames; get in trouble.

How did you get started on Ninjai?
Was there a connection between that and the live-action project you're working on? Yes. One of the boys got injured on the set doing a stunt. Being immobilized, he was stuck indoors and started working on this character because he didn't have anything else to do. He showed it to the rest of us for our input, and as a team we took that character through a lot of changes over the next few months. For example, in the beginning it wasn't a ninja, it wasn't set in the past, and it wasn't set in Japan. It was just a stick figure! Gradually Ninjai, the character you now know, was born. So sometimes bad things happen to good people, but good people end up doing good things even though a bad thing happened to them. So a big positive has come out of a temporary negative of a physical injury. If he didn't get injured, there would be no Ninjai. It's interesting the way things work out.

Why did the Ninjai Gang try to do Ninjai on the Internet?
We try to be self-sufficient in everything we produce, as much as possible. We want to take things as far as we can without getting other people's money and help, because otherwise we lose control. So the Internet was a great opportunity for us to introduce the character and concept, and we didn't have to come up with a million dollars to do a TV pilot and so forth. But to tell you honestly, we didn't really think about things that far ahead of time - we just really enjoyed what we had done, and we thought other people would too, so we decided to put it up on the Internet. We weren't really thinking ahead or making any big plans.

What is your favorite website?, of course. To tell you the truth, we don't have much time to surf the Web.

Tools used:
Flash 5. We're using Flash because we've gotten good at it, and we're able to do it ourselves and be self-sufficient. Although in order to keep up with the demand, we are starting to have to look for key animators who like Ninjai and are really good, whom we can afford. Does anybody know anyone? E-mail us here.

Describe your animation process:
Everything starts with the character, the person Ninjai. As far as we're concerned, he's a real person, and what he does next, where he goes, what he's feeling, what other characters are in there, and what they're feeling and who they are, that's where it's all coming from that's the main reason it takes us so long to come out with episodes. We're just absolutely crazy sometimes about making it look as good as possible and creating the right moods and atmosphere and so on.

Official Ninjai Desktops

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im a big fan of Ninjai..
As an animator you guys rock