Do ninjas exist in Scotland? Probably not, but Rob Mullin and Beau Obremski bring that eccentric idea to life in the hilarious new YouTube series “Scottish Ninjas.”
The show follows Aidan, Lachlan and Finn as their Drunken Master sends them to America “to find their place in the world.” The Drunken Master, who is possessed by the spirit of an ancient Japanese warrior, adopted the trio when they were babies and trained them in the ways of the ninja.
Along with an appetite for carnage and shedding plenty of blood, the trio show their Scottish flair by wearing nothing but kilts, munching on haggis and getting plastered on whisky. While they’re fighting evil, the trio struggle with some deep underlying issues from the past, an overbearing master and how they adjust to American culture.
NMR followed up with Mullin and Obremski recently about what influenced them to create this hilarious web series and what fans can expect from Aidan, Lachlan, Finn and the Drunken Master in upcoming episodes.
How did you come up with the idea of “Scottish Ninjas”?
Beau Obremski: By the time I met Rob in a college web design class, the concept of a Scottish ninja was already in his head. But in a very different form. I remember our first conversation about it; he described it as “A mockumentary, like “Spinal Tap,” involving Scottish ninjas and how they can’t find work in the ninja community.” I remember thinking, “Everything he just said was crap, except for the Scottish ninja part.” In my mind, I pictured Scottish ninjas as a cartoon. Because a concept that epic and ridiculous needs to be translated in an art form that can handle both the epic and the ridiculous seamlessly. So I went home that evening and sketched out three characters, which turned into Aidan, Lachlan and Finn. The next day I showed it to Rob and explained my vision. He thought it was spot on, and a friendship was forged around a giant perpetual dick joke! Shortly after, we made a goofy fake trailer in flash. It wasn’t until many years later we decided to flush out a deep mythology and produce an animated series.
Rob Mullin: Like Beau said, the concept was already in my head … but more of a schtick I used to do at parties and random medieval festivals I used to attend. I had a healthy dose of the Celtic arts growing up in Canada with a family very proud of their Scottish and Irish ancestry. My mother identified with the Irish side of things and my grandma was more in tune with the Scottish side of things. So my sister and I were repeatedly dragged to a variety of highland games, ceilidhs and other assorted events that involved copious amounts of booze, haggis, caber tossing and pipes, both “bag” and “uillieann.” My gran also had a bit of a violent streak and tried to kill me more than once. So It should be no surprise that she’s where I draw much of the inspiration for drunken master from. When I met Beau back in college, we used to be the back row guys always finishing our work early, then goofing off. I was doing my Scottish ninja schtick, and the idea about out of work ninjas — that I thought was great and Beau apparently thought was worthless. Luckily we were able to merge the idea into something that has kept us laughing all these years.
What’s the appeal of blending Japanese and Scottish culture into this series?
Beau: You’d think it would be a challenge. At first glance, they seem like two very different cultures. But when you look deeper, both are heavily rooted in honor with a rich mythology filled with epic stories of heroes, demons and monsters. I think Drunken Master put it best when he said, “A Scotsman and a ninja are both underdogs. Humble people forced to defend their land from the corrupt.” This is something we wanted to convey early on in the creative process. Ninjas were farmers who had to create a martial art, using tools they already had, so they could survive against the ever violent political turmoil that spawned all sorts of corruption. And on the Scottish side, you of course have the ongoing history of Scotland battling against the oppression of the British empire. When you pair those two together, you have the ultimate rebel and underdog. Add that to our current social climate where the class divide is reaching a historic gap and the average person feels helpless and forgotten … well, you start to see a situation where the honor and rebellious underdog spirit of a Scottish ninja would be needed. That core of social commentary just happens to be coated in a thick layer of chocolate comedy consisting of heavy drinking, family dysfunction and copious amounts of hilarious gore.
Rob: I think that Japanese and Scottish cultures are just so very visually distinctive and identifiable, so it’s easy for the two of them to co-exist as a concept but not overpower each other. Not to mention the very idea of a Scottish ninja is just so funny; you just say it and you can’t help but laugh. When you watch the show, they do pretty much what you expect them to do: drink a bunch, expose their nuts and slay evil ninjas like there’s no tomorrow. They of course do it for a purely noble cause and within the code of “Kilt-Fu,” which is violent and rough around the edges because — let’s face it — it involves cutting the bad guys to shreds. However, it’s done with the best of intentions and clear moral fiber.
What can we expect from future episodes of “Scottish Ninjas”?
Beau: More booze, balls and blood — I like to say we put the “b” in “comedy”. Now that we have established the players, we are going to start opening up the world and the mythology. Expand on the Ancient Warrior and how he ends up being a squatter in Drunken Master’s body. Reveal more about Evil Master’s connection with the Scottish Ninjas. And of course the Scottish Ninjas will make new friends, and more importantly, new enemies! While Evil Master is the main villain of the series, we will also have “villains of the week” so to speak. We want “Scottish Ninjas” to have a rogues gallery along the lines of Batman, with a dash of the Tick.
Rob: The thing to remember is “Scottish Ninjas” is a story-driven action comedy, so we have a massive amount of back story and depth to all these characters. So sure, you can expect to see lots of gratuitous violence and boozing, but you’re also going to get more than the run-of-the-mill online animated short. We’re going to give you a cool multilayer story with an actual arc that you can get into and follow on a regular basis. We’re also trying to make each chapter engaging enough to drop in and explore episodes at any point in the timeline. We’re really committed to trying to put out just a great animated show despite only a handful of people working on it … and most of them in their spare time. But we’ve got a ton of story to tell and no shortage of creative ways to kill evil ninjas, so you can expect a lot of that.