These are not your average family videos.
The Johnson family of Oak Creek has published fun and spoofy short films on YouTube that have recently gained attention.
The family movies are featured on Wired.com's Geek Dad as the best home movies ever.
Dad Aaron Johnson, an animator and graphic designer by day and syndicated cartoonist by night, said the annual movie making has become a family hobby.
“We do a lot of silly things but these movies have captured people’s attention,” he said. “We like to keep the kids active and do things as a family.”
It all started with a family video of a cardboard sword fight between Johnson and his then 2-year-old son, Jonas. Johnson turned it into a Star Wars spoof of the epic battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
The short movie was a hit at Jonas’ second birthday party and spawned an annual family hobby.
“That sort of set the stage. We started thinking, ‘Oh, oh. What are we going to do next year?’” Johnson said.
Since then, the family has created a movie every year, spoofs of Indiana Jones, Superman, Sleeping Beauty (featuring an adorable Tinkerbell) and other popular movies. Johnson, his wife Patty, daughter Clare and son Jonas all take part.
Sometimes, local landmarks make it into the movies. The 2011 family movie of Ghostbusters features footage from the Oak Public Library and Deerfield Elementary, where the children go to school.
The library shoot was fun to do, Johnson said. They got a few funny looks because they were in costume but they kept filming.
The movies are funny and pay homage in some way to the originals. And the Johnsons don’t shy away from pretend guns, fight scenes or breaking things, like televisions, which suffer greatly in the Johnson films. This year’s Batman movie includes fake blood and an “over-the-top” fight scene.
Johnson said that doing Batman was interesting because the Batman movies are different throughout the years, from the camp 60’s and then turning darker in the 80’s and now Dark Knight.
Their Batman spoof “kind of pays homage to all the different genres,” Johnson said.
The family hobby has taught the children a lot about television and movies, what’s real and what’s not, and about special effects, Johnson said.
For the fight scene in Batman, they filmed at half-speed and then sped it up for the final version, making it look realistic when in fact it wasn’t.
“Real-life was nothing like it looks in the final edit. That’s a clear indication for the kids that it’s not real,” Johnson said.
Over the years, the family has learned to start planning sooner and filming in the summer, when the weather is nice, working on the movie sporadically over the year.
Jonas, a third grader, and Clare, a first grader, have a lot of fun doing it and Johnson said they plan to continue making the family movies while the kids still young and enjoy it.
Johnson's comic strip is What the Duck. It features a professional photographer who is a duck but also a insightful and funny guy.