Economics major and Senior Copy Editor for The Bottom Line, Kamran Yunus, takes on a different name and identity online as Narmak, the talented animator of “The Spongebob Squarepants Anime,” which gained viral fame and millions of views last summer.
Narmak is Kamran spelled backwards. I spoke to Yunus about his work in animation, how he found his love for the labor-intensive art, and the experience of seeing his work go viral.
While his Spongebob video makes his technical prowess clear, Yunus found his own path to his passion.
“I never went to art school, I never did any of that stuff,” Yunus said in an interview with The Bottom Line. “Literally everything I know is just through doodling on homework. I look back at my notes, and it would just be whatever I was writing about and then drawings. I realized my old notes were mostly weird faces and doodles.”
The weird faces and doodles, however, were an important training ground for Yunus’ style and skill in illustrating.
“I really developed my artistry through that, and it’s a pretty weird origin story but it’s what happened,” Yunus said.
As a sophomore in high school, he started working more on animation by downloading Adobe Flash. “I had a mouse at that point, I didn’t even have a drawing pad,” Yunus said.
But the inspiration was there. The Disney movies and cartoons on Toonami he saw as a child led Yunus to ask, “How exactly do they do that?”
Up to that point, I assumed that animation allowed you to draw a character once and then manipulate it. Yunus told me otherwise, “each drawing is done individually, and you can’t have a simple series, it has to be lifelike — two and a half seconds of a fight scene could be two days worth of work for an animator.”
Eventually, Yunus made a goal that for every project assigned in high school, he would create an animation.
“I made an animation for history, I made an animation for a math class that was eight minutes long…and it was really good, and that was when I realized I really wanted to do this,” Yunus said.
Yunus’ dedication speaks to the quality of his animations and the work he does to include animation in his already full life.
With midterms and a job at The Bottom Line, making time for animation isn’t easy.
“I made that role. I didn’t have to do animation, I’m not trying to go into animation as my main job,” Yunus said. “I wanted to do that thing, and have fun while working on it, and get better at animation.”
Before the Spongebob video came out, he had about 45,000 followers and two videos with over a million views. “I was going to get there,” as Yunus put it.
Nonetheless, the Spongebob anime video accelerated the process.
“I worked for about two months on that project. Someone reuploaded it on Twitter, and I heard it got over half a million views in less than a day. I was like, this is awesome,” Yunus explained. “Then I looked it up, and saw that they had taken off the beginning and end, not giving me credit for what I created. So half a million people saw it, but no one knew I made it. So I made a twitter account and commented ‘hey can you give me credit?’”
Meanwhile, Youtube took his video down for violating user rules due to “troll” comments. Yunus eventually got the Spongebob anime re-uploaded, however due to Youtube’s policies, he wasn’t able to earn money from the video.
Meanwhile, forums like 9gag, Facebook groups, and other content sharing sites continued to use his work without paying or crediting him.
“A lot of these videos have 12 million views, these sites exist just to make profit off of other peoples creations, and they are making money off of it cause Facebook has ads now,” Yunus said. “It was honestly a harrowing experience, my video got taken down, while other people were making money off of it; it was stressful.”
But the upside, Yunus noted, was that he had plenty of dedicated followers from that event, who all look forward to his future work.
“All my projects are random thoughts, so while I had offers for people asking me to animate for them, I had to balance that with school here,” Yunus said. “But what I want to do is what I make at that time; I want to rewatch it and love what I made.”
Yunus commented on his anime style animation and pointed out the style differences between Family Guy and Archer and scenes from Naruto and Dragon Ball-Z.
“Western animation can’t deliver that, so I look to eastern style and see crazy fight scenes, I want that,” Yunus said.
If you’re curious about Yunus’ next project, he hinted, “Get ready for a Super Smash Bros. Melee anime style video!”