By now, you should know the name Adi Shankar, but how you’ve heard about him might vary: If you’re a fan of excellent video game adaptations / Netflix anime series, you likely know him as the Castlevania showrunner. If you’ve enjoyed fan-favorite films like The Grey, Dredd, A Walk among the Tombstones, or the upcoming, award-winning film Bodied, you’re familiar with his work. Or if you’ve delved into the skewed take on popular properties that is Shankar’s Bootleg Universe, a sort of ongoing series of “video street art”, then you know exactly what sort of story you’re in for. And it’s to that universe we turn today for its latest installment.
Tonight at midnight, Adi Shankar’s Bootleg Universe released its latest entry: Mr. Rogers: A War Hero. If Fred Rogers were alive today, the host of the beloved TV Show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood would be celebrating his 90th birthday, a fact that Twitch is also celebrating tomorrow by way of a marathon. Shankar’s tribute to Mr. Rogers is based on the persistent urban legend that Mr. Rogers served in the military as a sniper and decorated war hero prior to hosting his popular children’s TV show.
The key words in that phrase were “urban” and “legend”, but that’s what makes Mr. Rogers: A War Hero such an interesting idea. While chatting with Shankar in advance of the short’s release tonight, he basically summed up the approach like this: A significant portion of Hollywood biopics are dramatized in order to play up the icon’s strongest character traits. Shankar’s Mr. Rogers: A War Hero takes that idea and runs with it–through explosions and gunfire–in this 10-minute short that entertains while also educating viewers about Rogers’ own outlook, one that parallels the pairing of entertainment and education. It’s quite clever!
Mr. Rogers: A War Hero is produced by Adi Shankar and written and directed by Kenlon Clark. The short film is the latest addition to the Bootleg Universe anthology series which includes unauthorized subversive takes on pop culture franchises The Punisher with The Punisher: Dirty Laundry (over 9 million views on YouTube), Venom with Venom: Truth in Journalism (over 1 million views on YouTube), James Bond with James Bond: In Service of Nothing, and Power/Rangers with over 21 million views on YouTube.
Inspired by the works of street artist Banksy, Adi Shankar’s Bootleg Universe is a subversive anthology series. The films reimagine popular cultural icons and the YouTube channel has been the subject of press coverage, legal orders from studios, and debate about US Copyright law and First Amendment constitutional law. His films have been taken down at the request of intellectual property rights holders of both Power Rangers and James Bond, only to have the videos reinstated by YouTube. In other words, be sure to check out Mr. Rogers: A War Hero before The Man takes it down (temporarily, of course)!