by Kelly Rae Smith
"My resume is all over the place," Kevin Hanley says. "I've bussed tables, washed dishes, dug drainage, delivered pizzas, bartended, worked in stained glass and restoration, run a quasi-record label, directed a nonprofit art organization for a spell, designed instructional software for the Air Force and Boeing, delivered sailboats, and tons of freelance graphic and web work."
Hanley has been a busy guy. Lately, you could probably just narrow him down to a multimedia artist and musician, as well as a current roadie for Shovels and Rope. Fortunately, he has taken a minute or two away from a soundcheck to talk to the City Paper about Pop Tarts and how he's using a down-on-his-luck king to kickstart his latest adventure.
On a whim just over a year ago, Hanley came up with the savvy and viral Self-Pop Tart blog. He used Photoshop to swap out smart phones for Pop Tarts in random people's self-portrait pics, never imagining anyone other than close pals would ever see it. Fans apparently enjoyed the absurdity of people like Bill Murray and Zooey Deschanel reflecting in the mirror holding that famous rectangular pastry, and before long that silly but cleverly imaginative website caught fire. Hanley began filling Self Pop Tart requests from as far away as China. Even celebrities came knocking.
"When Pete Wentz e-mailed me directly with a request to 'pop tart' his girlfriend, while I was watching The Muppets movie, I actually walked out of the theater and just sat in Union Square grinning for a moment," Hanley says. "It was so absurd. It was a fun two or three weeks, and I've been told by prospective clients and employers that having it on my resume prompted their call. So that's pretty good."
Since then, those wheels of his have kept turning and landed him in the present with Sire for Hire, an adorably smart cartoon and accompanying interactive website for children created by Hanley. Sire is a king who learns a lot of life lessons on the road with his best friend, Wizard.
"It's the tale of an unemployed king," Hanley says. "He was exiled from his realm for being a little tyrant. The grand arc of the story is that of redemption. But in each episode, the king will learn something new that will make him a better person overall and allow him to return to his throne and his people. It's also about adventure and fun. And silliness."
Sire for Hire evolved through the collective talents of Hanley and a few friends. "Local musicians Joel Hamilton and Jack Burg are collaborators and the voices so far, and Brad Edwardson has contributed a really beautiful track to the first episode," Hanley says. "I can't remember when the idea formed. But I love wordplay and I'm sure it stemmed from the title alone. It was initially going to be a children's book, but I wanted to go interactive and animated with it. I know that once Jack, Joel, and myself started experimenting with voices, it was clear that this had to happen. And it's probably a little autobiographical — not to say that I'm kingly, just that I have a hard time keeping steady in one role or job."
What Hanley and his crew do have is the skill and the will, and they're now trying to raise the cash to get the dream off the ground. "There are many costs involved in creating a decent animated short," Hanley says. "Up until now, all the work has been done for free whenever those involved had the time. I would like to at least become a break-even operation, and I would like to hire some more hands to get the work done faster."
The idea is to raise enough money via private backers in time for a late spring release. The funds would allow for a huge collaboration between artists, musicians, students, voice actors, app designers, and more, which is their long-term goal. But first, Hanley wants to complete the pilot episode and accompanying interactive games, which will be hosted online.
Stay tuned to sireforhire.com to see the forthcoming adventures of the king and his wizard.
Published here in the Charleston City Paper