Nickelodeon Animated Short Features 'Menehunes'
Children's television network Nickelodeon this week released a digital animated short called "Menehunes," a fun and colorful story loosely based on the menehune of Hawaiian mythology. There's young Leilani and a hidden village of menehune in the trees, a gang of cockroaches, and more than a few silly tropical-themed puns.
It was written by Chris Albrecht, who grew up in Hawaii, but has worked in tech on the mainland for some time. He discovered directors and films for Atom Films, drove video and multimedia at Gigaom, and produced and edited content for mobile gaming company Kabam.
He'd been flexing his creative muscles all along, and had been working on ideas and pitches that would eventually become "Menehunes" for years. He was kind enough to participate in an email interview so that I could learn more about him and the project.
Q. From the colorful opening image of Diamond Head, it's clear the story is inspired by Hawaii. What's your connection to the islands?
A. I grew up in Hawaii... I went to Our Redeemer Lutheran School, and got to go back during summers (working at Restaurant Row!) while my family was still stationed there. I went to college on the mainland, and stayed here to work in the tech industry.
Q. Where did the story idea come from?
A. The idea was actually part of a larger idea that I pitched about three years ago, but the development team at Nickelodeon really responded to the idea of the Hawaiian folklore of the Menehunes, so we ditched the initial pitch to focus on that. Early on, I asked my friend Anderson Le over at the Hawaii International Film Festival if he would come on board to help out with the project. It is very important to me that we are respectful of Hawaii and its culture, and Anderson really helped on that front. Plus, he’s a super creative guy with tons of awesome ideas.
Q. Did you have to pitch the idea, and build out the storyboard?
A. The pitch process was very thorough with Nickelodeon to make sure we were creating a three dimensional universe filled with fully realized characters. Once we had that, we moved on to the script and character design. Then storyboards and animatics and finally the finished short.
Q. How long have you been working on 'Menehunes'?
A. The script was done in the summer of 2013. The voice over was done in the fall of 2013, and then it was just released the other day.
Q. How long did it take to create the video, and how many people were involved?
A. Nickelodeon is a big company, and they have this whole process down pat. I worked directly with about three or four people at Nick, but they managed a host of other teams from the artists to casting to the directing. It was amazing to see how many people it takes to put together even just a short animated project.
Q. Will there be more adventures of the 'Menehunes'?
A. The short is a digital pilot right now. If enough people watch it, more of the series can be created. Even if it doesn’t, I sincerely hope it introduces people to the (animated) magic of Hawaii that I love so much.
Q. Where you are now, and what are you doing?
I live in the Seattle area now. I am still in the tech world, though in a more straightforward role of marketing communications for a startup called Onehub.
You can watch (and share) the "Menehunes" animated short here. To keep up with Chris, you can follow him on Twitter at @AlbrechtChris, check out his online portfolio at HeroicContent.com, or read about his marketing work at the Onehub product blog.