If you go to a lot of fan conventions in Southern California, you've probably seen Steve Sievers. Usually, he's dressed as a turtle, Daniel the Turtle, to be specific. That's the character he created and voices for the web-based cartoon series, Supa Pirate Booty Hunt.
Supa Pirate Booty Hunt is about a pirate who fancies himself a ladies man and the down-to-earth turtle that accompanies him. The story first took shape on Sievers' college radio show at American University in Washington D.C. After he moved to L.A. and joined forces with Dahveed Kolodny-Nagy, the string of hysterical misadventures morphed into a series of very short animated episodes. These days, Supa Pirate Booty Hunt is doing pretty well, thanks, in part to some offline promotion for the online show. The show was an official selection of last weekend's ITV Fest/PopConLA and was nominated for an award at the television festival. Last year, they picked up a few awards at Burbank Film Festival.
They're also working with Music Saves Lives, an organization that encourages young people to donate blood, on a series of Supa Pirate Booty Hunt PSAs. The latest of these episodes, which features Megadeth's Dave Mustaine and Full Metal Jackie, premieres at their San Diego Comic-Con party this weekend and will be featured on television sets inside Denny's restaurants across the country. We were able to check out a sneak preview at PopCon LA's “Indie Animation” panel, which Sievers hosted.
Ask Sievers if the turtle suit helped spread the word about the tiny, independently made show and he'll answer yes. “It's probably the best promo thing I've done so far,” he says.
Sievers made the costume with some help from his mother-in-law. They took the head of an old Barney costume and used foam to reshape it. The suit was originally a costume they bought from the CBS lot — “some old squid thing,” he says — and redesigned.
He's been wearing it out since 2008, at conventions like Long Beach Comic Con — where we first met for an L.A. Weekly story back in 2009 — plus concerts, nightclubs and other events. Strange things happen when Sievers becomes Daniel the Turtle.
Once, he turned up at the Hustler Store while a porn star was signing and ended up on Deadline!, an HDNet show. Another time, he was at a Free Comic Book Day event in Rancho Cucamonga and ended up in the middle of a wrestling ring. “Someone jumped in there and started beating me up,” he recalls.
“I get dragged into mosh pits,” he says. “I've been whipped. I've been tied up in the costume. It's all good promotion.”
Perhaps the best promotion, though, was when Sievers played Daniel the Turtle at Warped Tour in Carson one year. “It was 100 degrees and it must have been 200 in the costume,” he says.
That's where he met someone from Music Saves Lives, who hired Sievers and Kolodny-Nagy for their PSA campaign. Their first project was with the band 3OH!3 and a portion of that also ran on television screens inside of Denny's restaurants. They began work on the Dave Mustaine episode last December, after running a successful Kickstarter campaign, and completed the four-and-a-half minute episode last month. Next up is a PSA with Jackass star Steve-O.
As for the non-PSA episodes, Sievers indicates that they've had to hold on to those ideas while they're working on the Music Saves Lives project. The demand is certainly there, though. He mentions that they caught wind of a fan who had Daniel the Turtle tattooed on her leg. “We must be doing something right,” says Sievers. Turns out a little in-person promotion can go long way.
If you want to check out Supa Pirate Booty Hunt at San Diego Comic-Con, head over to their after-party at at Wet Willie's on Saturday, July 14 at 9 p.m. Sievers and Kolodny-Nagy will premiere the new episode “Metal in My Shell” and sign comic books at the event. For details, check out the Supa Pirate Booty Hunt website or Facebook page.