Justin Gilman

Could Vine Yield the New Sunday Comic Strip? Paul Scheer Thinks So [The Wall Street Journal]

Justin Gilman
Could Vine Yield the New Sunday Comic Strip? Paul Scheer Thinks So [The Wall Street Journal]

Paul Scheer misses the thrill of a Sunday comic.

“I loved getting the paper,” the 39-year-old actor/comedian says about growing up on “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side.” “You’d go right to the comic section, they were four panels and you were done.”

Scheer, known for his roles in FX’s “The League,” ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and his popular film podcast “How Did This Get Made?” is venturing into new territory as the voice of White Ninja, a cult web comic that ran online from 2002 to 2012. Now, it’s being turned into an animated series for the social video platform Vine. The comic follows a ninja decked out in white who isn’t fighting bad guys, but instead, just wanders through life, interacting with mundane people like the rest of us. At times, he’s a jerk, but mostly tries to be a good human being.

Resurrecting this old web comic for a new medium became a passion project for 27-year-old Canadian filmmaker Tyler Funk. He secured the rights from creators Scott Bevan and Kent Earle in January 2015 and soon after, met with Scheer to see if he would be the voice of the titular character.

“He just seemed like a guy that would be down to be a part of a project like this,” Funk says.

But to turn a defunct web comic into a full-fledged animated production, they needed funding to pay Scheer as well as for animation, sound design, writers and directors. Funk and his executive producing team of David Kaye and Jamerson Parker applied for and eventually received an Independent Production Fund grant, which is a Canadian organization that funds independent filmmakers working on web series. A $150,000 grant allowed for them to account for the above mentioned costs and develop a writers room, where they spent this past summer coming up with 60 cartoons. Funk considers himself the showrunner of “White Ninja.”

Since Vine launched in June 2012, “Vine stars” have risen, where users create content, stories and characters around their often crudely shot six second videos. Examples of popular vine stars and channels include KingbachRegal Joe  and the animated channelTom Thinks. For White Ninja, Vine was the ideal medium for the comic’s next phase because of the limitations of the platform – the longest a Vine can run is six seconds.

For Scheer, the appeal of utilizing Vine to create comedy and tell stories stems from the platform’s ability to loop videos over and over, until a user hits pause or moves onto the next Vine in their feed. This process is called “looping.”

“What I thought was interesting about this is that it wasn’t about creating a new thing from Vine,” Scheer says. “It was taking a property that could only work and executing it through Vine. That to me was really engaging. When they animated this show, it becomes the perfect home for it. It loops. It’s funny. It’s quick. You get it.”

Funk and Parker are debuting White Ninja at the Whistler Film Festival this Saturday, Dec. 5 and at the White Ninja Vine channel. New episodes will roll out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through April, when the first batch of 60 will runout. Vine, too, is helping spread the word by promoting White Ninja through their social channels and in the app.

“If this could be the new version of the daily strip, that’s fun to me,” Scheer says. “And I think we’re all just hoping for a reboot of Beetle Bailey. If we could get Beetle Bailey on Vine, then I think we’ve done our job.”