UT-Austin students put ‘edgy’ spin on ‘Arthur’ in creepy Halloween photos

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. 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Movies & TV

Saturday events include African American Book Festival and more
Saturday events include African American Book Festival and more

Nightlife Still Austin Whiskey’s Texas Rye Gin Release Party. If a whiskey distillery is going to release a gin, you can bet it’s not going to have gin’s usual neutral grain spirit. Celebrate the launch of this new flavorful gin, featuring a Texas-grown rye, at this all-day party. Dolce Neve Gelato will be dishing up a special grapefruit...
Bubbling up: Austin brands quench thirst for sparkling water options
Bubbling up: Austin brands quench thirst for sparkling water options

Austin is known as a hub for craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, but another beverage, completely nonalcoholic, has also begun to flood the city. Since early 2017, four homegrown sparkling water brands have launched here, joining another that has been on local shelves since 2010. In a town that seems to pretty much run on Topo Chico &mdash...
Weekend events continue with City-Wide Garage Sale and more
Weekend events continue with City-Wide Garage Sale and more

Theater & dance “Locked-In.” Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre and multimedia artist Yuliya Lanina present this collaborative performance that explores our relationship to our devices and how they have changed, advanced and altered our world permanently. The show will open with Lanina’s premiere of “This is a Test of the...
Where to find some peace and quiet in Austin
Where to find some peace and quiet in Austin

Sometimes Austin feels like a Texas version of the city that never sleeps. Every now and then, a break from the festivals, concerts, happy hours and crowds can be therapeutic. But where can you actually experience peace and quiet in a city that’s constantly buzzing? We’ve pulled together a list of places perfect for stopping to smell the...
15 tips for floating the river in Central Texas
15 tips for floating the river in Central Texas

Summer is officially here, which means it’s time to float down one of Central Texas’ many waterways in a tube and soak up some sun. If you’ve never been tubing or floating the river, here are some things to remember for your trip. 1. Figure out the best place for your group. Different rivers (and different areas of each river) often...
More Stories