The Green Ninja is a climate-action superhero who aims to improve how humans treat the world, said Eugene Cordero, one of the creators of the Green Ninja.
“(The Green Ninja) wants to inspire young people to get involved in the environment,” said Cordero, an associate professor in meteorology.
How it all started
The Green Ninja was created about two years ago and is on YouTube as well as in some films, Cordero said.
The goal of the project is to make the Green Ninja the new Smokey the Bear, he said.
The idea for the project came about because he wanted to educate the public and the younger generation about the climate and that he might not be the best person to communicate the story since he is a scientist, Cordero said.
He said he went to the art department and to the television, radio, film and theatre department to help him reach a broader audience.
Babak Sarrafan was one of those people that Cordero reached out to.
Sarrafan, a television, radio, film and theatre professor, came up with the character Green Ninja, he stated in an email.
“(The Green Ninja was created) to target younger audiences … and educate through our first live-action film,” Sarrafan stated.
Sarrafan stated he got involved with the project because he likes the premise of being environmentally friendly.
Barnaby Dallas, a coordinator of production in the television, radio, film and theatre department, said he has been with the project since the beginning.
“Babak’s genius of the character is that it could be used in several forms,” he said.
Dallas said the project is a great opportunity for the students to work in an on-going process and to work for a client.
Erica Schwehr, who is working on the live-action film this summer, said she is taking advantage of that opportunity.
Schwehr, a senior theater arts major, said the project is an opportunity to get her foot in the door when it comes to the film industry.
“It is a great opportunity to work on the next generation's Smokey the Bear,” she said.
The grants grow for Green Ninja
"The project has received a $390,000 grant from NASA to support professional development for teachers and $20,000 from PG&E to pilot an energy reduction contest for Santa Clara County middle schoolers," according to a university press release.
Cordero said the grants are a validation that the project is on the right track.
Some of the money will go to help teachers create lesson plans, so the Green Ninja can be used in sixth-grade science classes, he said.
Branching out to campus
David Chai, an assistant professor in animation and illustration, has been with Green Ninja project from the beginning as well, according to Cordero.
Chai said animation and illustration students draw the Green Ninja and create different versions of the superhero.
“Our goal is to create an internationally recognizable character,” he said.
The Green Ninja is not alone in his world, Cordero said.
There is a carbon ninja — the Green Ninja’s archenemy —, plastic man, coal man and junky corporate man, Dallas said.
The Green Ninja defeats these people by educating kids, he said.
“(We want kids) to step off the sidelines and do something for the climate to make the future better,” Cordero said.
He said the Green Ninja was given enemies so the premise can be transferable to a comic book or a movie and children could relate more to the issue.
“Eugene (Cordero) makes it all about the students,” Dallas said.
The Green Ninja’s target audience is sixth- to ninth-graders and the character was created as a way to get these students involved in the environment and to make it fun for them, Cordero said.
“I think the future is bright and we don’t have to go in this direction,” he said.
To learn more about the Green Ninja check out the website here.