When it comes to their entertainment, kids know best.
That’s an idea that was the focus of a new project from a Phily tech and design studio.
JumpButton Studios partnered with the nonprofit Young Storytellers for Night of the Living Tacos, a trilogy of stories written by the Cos Brothers through the Script to Stage program at Melrose Elementary.
JumpButton created an animated trailer for the series. JumpButton cofounder Nicodemus Mahdedou saw the project as an opportunity to help give youth more equity in entertainment, and help them learn more about the animation process.
“The bigger goal and agenda here is to use this a proof of concept and present it to streaming platforms like HBO, and see who bites on the ‘by kids, for kids’ narrative,” he said, adding that he sees the project as “a new form of equity for kids to bring their own stories to life, and feel like they can bring their own work to life.”
After connecting with executive director Bill Thompson of Young Storytellers, Mahdedou went to work immediately in supporting the youth and personnel helping them on the project, which included talent from television shows like Disney+’s WandaVision and Nickelodeon’s The Fairy Oddparents.
“If it doesn’t get received well, we can say we thought of everyone we were trying to reach and did due diligence for the right team,” he said.
“The brothers were very out of the box and not what you would expect when you look at it from a business or organizational level. They were the boss and we were here to bring the vision to life. It’s to show you can be a for-profit company that can make revenue making social impact.”
Check out the trailer for Night of the Living Tacos below:
JumpButton also is making new strides in the gaming world. Its game designer and programmer Michael Berthaud is leading a project with his team that just got picked up by Google. After participating in a Game Jam, his project was chosen as one of three out of ten projects that Google Stadia offered investment.
A native of Boston, Berthaud first began working with Jumpbutton in high school, and is now a junior in college. He was inspired by platform adventure games like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic The Hedgehog to create a game that reexamined why players move within those games the way in which they do.
“It’s a game that focuses on human exploration and in order to convey the ideas I talked about, we took the platformer idea and took it apart,” he said. “The essence is about human trust and synchronization. In order to jump and attack, as opposed to being infinite movements, you have to share [them] with your partner. [Share with] me the jumping or ability to attack, and you start to see the crescendo of the ability to be synchronized and the emotions when you deal with trust.”
Looking ahead, Mahdedou is interested in working more with augmented reality, which he believes is the next big trend for gaming.
“It’s crucial as a Black-owned studio that we’re ahead of that mix,” he said. “In the next 20 years, the next big hit for AR will be trading card games.”
With a goal of raising a seed round of $1 million to hire more creators of color and find new ways of profitability through impact-driven work, JumpButton is only getting warmed up.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.