‘Karo & Abo’ creator Hayk Manukyan opens up about his personal, hit YouTube series

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A popular animated series on YouTube wants to expand, and it’s looking to Kickstarter for its initial push.

Karo & Abo features two Armenian brothers who still live with their very old-school parents. Creator Hayk Manukyan wants to take his characters and create something bigger. He’s hoping his Kickstarter campaign can get him the necessary funds to make a mini-movie.

The Daily Dot reached out to Manukyan to ask him about his inspirations and what he’s hoping to do next.

Can you give a bit of background on yourself?

When I was 8 years old I came to America from Armenia. Not knowing a single word of English made it extremely hard to fit in. Luckily for me, drawing helped me connect with the kids around me. I looked at a list and saw that the Pasadena Art Center was the closest to me so I sent them my portfolio. I was in the ninth grade when they accepted me into their high school arts program called Saturday High. I took my portfolio to a small animation studio called Cornerstone Animation; which was owned by a former Disney/Warner Bros. artist and animator named Larry Whitaker who hired me. I’ve worked on such films as The Incredible Hulk, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and TV shows such as The Ricky Gervais Show. Currently I work at Warner Brothers Animation on Teen Titans Go!

How did you come up with Abo and Karo?

Abo and Karo came about in 2007 when I was working on Alvin and the Chipmunks. We were doing a lot of overtime and working weekends, but I wanted to continue making my own shorts. On my YouTube channel I asked people to send in jokes that I could animate. A guy named Harut Balian sent me a joke and instead of animating the actual joke I decided to add my own twist to it by having one guy trying to tell the joke while another guy continuously interrupts him by laughing at all the wrong parts and then fails to laugh at the punchline. I created two simply designed and easily animated characters to act out the joke, and I named them Abo and Karo. Originally, my idea was that they were just buddies, but over time they evolved into brothers.

How much of them comes from your own life?

Almost every cartoon I’ve ever made comes from my real-life experiences and people around me: my dad, my mom, my sisters, my wife, my in-laws, my cousins, and even me. We all do weird things that make for great entertainment. It also helps that my wife and I live in a house behind my parents. I do not even have to travel far for the material. I just need to look out my window to see my dad fighting with a squirrel, or cops showing up to tell my dad he can’t just capture a pigeon from a park because he wants to breed pigeons. This stuff writes itself.

What is it about your comedy that appeals to everyone, and not just Armenians?

I’ve thought about this one a lot and I think it’s because the stories aren’t focused on a family being Armenian, but a family who happens to be Armenian. Harut, the Dad, fighting with squirrels has nothing to do with him being Armenian.The Armenian part just gives the characters their unique flavor, but the family situations and characters are what people relate to, in my opinion. My stories also deal a lot with the older generation trying to keep up with the new generation in a new world; which again is not a Armenian-specific situation, but one that is going on in every household across the world.

Your Kickstarter is asking for $75,000 for a 12-minute mini-movie. Are you worried that people may think you’re asking for too much?

I do worry about that and understand how some people might think we are asking for too much; but animation is expensive to do, especially if you are trying to do it the right way. To better help people understand, we created a pie chart to explain how the funds will be spent.

All of it (except the taxes and fees) will be going to hiring artists, animators, musicians, etc. We did not include ourselves in the budget. We knew the amount was going to be seen as high so the budget only includes the people we would need to hire to get the movie done. When this mini-movie does get funded and we get a TV series then we will start paying ourselves.

How will the mini-movie be different from other Abo and Karo cartoons?

I try to keep the Abo and Karo cartoons simple with very little animation so I can fit it into my busy schedule. The movie will have fuller animation, more complex camera angles, as well as a larger cast of characters and situations. Our goal with this mini-movie is to impress the right people and get this family their own TV series.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the subject’s surname.

Screengrab via Abo & Karo/YouTube

Imad Khan

Imad Khan

Imad Khan is a gaming and esports reporter. His work has been featured on Digital Trends and ESPN.