Dad's special effects turn toddler son into superhero


Legions of kids run around the house dressed up as superheroes, shooting pretend lasers and imagining they are blowing stuff up. But one 3-year-old boy gets to see what it would look like if only he possessed those super powers in real life.

Daniel Hashimoto, an after-effects artist at DreamWorks, is the force behind about a dozen smile-inducing viral videos starring his superhero-loving son, James.

Through the magic of special effects, the short clips show the little boy disappearing into a puddle, blasting off in a McDonald’s playhouse and igniting shelves at a toy store with his light saber.

“It shows a child’s imagination at playtime coming to life,” said Hashimoto, 31, of Los Angeles. “It’s making make-believe real.”

Make-believe is very important to Hashimoto and his wife, Mandy Richardville, a chocolate maker. “We’re very engaged in his imaginative time,” he says. “He lives in a very fantasy-based house.”

James doesn’t spend much time in front of the television, Hashimoto says, but he does watch a movie every week, like classic a Disney film or the current hit “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”

“That fuels his imagination for a full week or longer,” Hashimoto says. “His mom does a lot of imaginative, superhero play, running around house. Usually, when I get home, he has a fun, creative burst of whatever he’s playing during the day.”

James likes to pretend to be a character from those movies, or one of his favorite superheroes like Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman. The ideas for the short scenes that Hashimoto films with his camera phone come right from James’ play.

“I figured whenever he was in the zone playing something, if it lent itself well to it, I would film it and add some special effects on top of it,” Hashimoto says.

“Playing at the Breakfast Table,” was Hashimoto’s first video with James, and the idea came from that everyday part of life.

“He was sitting waiting for me to get his cereal ready saying to me, ‘I’m Iron Man. Boom!’ and blasting his arm around the room,” he said.

Hashimoto posted that video on Facebook and it ended up as a GIF on Reddit, where a co-worker saw it and directed fans to Hashimoto’s YouTube channel, Action Movie Kid, where the videos have become hits.

Once the effects have been added to James’ fun, he isn’t always sure of what to make of himself zipping up to the ceiling as he appears to in “Grappling Gun” or starting a fire.

“He takes video as truth,” Hashimoto says, adding that his son is sometimes a little confused by what he sees. “But it’s very adorably confusing.”

“He doesn’t quite understand special effects yet, so he’ll ask, ‘Why did I do that for real?’” Hashimoto says. “Sometimes after he’s seen one of his videos he wants to go do whatever we did in it.”

James has a few favorites, including the clips showing him blasting off at McDonald’s and shooting repulsor rays like “Iron Man” at breakfast.

For Hashimoto, the project is a fun combination of his professional skills and love of fatherhood. “It gives me great playtime with my son and I get to flex some creative muscles outside of work, and that feels really great to do.”

Hashimoto hopes his hobby will inspire others to imagine.

“I want more people to take make-believe seriously,” Hashimoto says. “Hopefully people will see the videos and remember how fun it was to be a kid, pretending to do those kinds of things, and seeing them in this fresh way may inspire them to play more with their kids or hope their kids are having as much fun as ours.”