Artist: Aaron Benitez
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and noticed a video one of my family members shared. Home Alone featured an adorable Russian Blue cat named Prince Michael who is accidentally left home alone when he is supposed to be on vacation with his human, Aaron, thanks to some trickery from his rival, the moustached kitty, Phil. The video is a hilarious kitty take on the famous film with Prince Michael foiling a home invasion using cat litter and laser light traps and more. I couldn’t stop laughing and had to watch more.
Every Prince Michael video I watched was hilarious, not just because of the storyline and the antics cat owners like myself often imagine our own cats getting into if they could, but because of the special effects. Prince Michael is already a gorgeous cat, but the special effect eyes added in make him just sooo cute! And that evil pencil moustache Phil wears – hilarious. As I looked back into the various videos Aaron’s Animals has produced, I realized I was late to the ballgame. The latest videos on the Prince Michael show are generally about four minutes apiece, but Aaron’s Animals features a ton of videos averaging about 30 seconds to a minute apiece featuring Michael and many other kittens and animals.
But just where did Aaron’s Animals come from? From the mind of Aaron Benitez and his story is enough to make anyone dreaming of a career in film become a believer. Aaron was already into visual effects when he graduated high school and it was a music video that he created, complete with visual effects, that got him into Biola University in California. Unfortunately, after his sophomore year at the university in 2010, his parents could no longer afford to pay for his college tuition. Instead of giving up on his dreams, Aaron did something remarkable – he bought a used Suburban purchased from Craig’s List.
Having gone to Biola for two years qualified Aaron as an alumnus, thus giving him use of the facilities at a low cost. To support himself, he started VFX Bro, a visual effects training website and YouTube channel, and a wedding videography business. Parking the SUV near the school, Aaron would spend his day at Biola, using the gym and the showers and then heading off to the cafeteria, where he would work on video edits and his two businesses until the cafeteria closed. Then, he would head off to his Suburban to try to catch some sleep, an oft-elusive task thanks to the busy neighborhood and street.
After two years, Aaron had saved enough for a down payment on a condo, but chose to rent it out instead of living in it in an effort to earn more income. By 2015, Aaron had created Aaron’s Animals, using visual effects and real animals to create hilarious videos. Yes, Prince Michael is a real cat, adopted by Aaron when he was living in Brooklyn. He accompanied Aaron everywhere he went, even walking on a leash and generally assimilating well wherever he went, thus making Prince Michael the best and most willing model for Aaron’s videos. Co-stars in Aaron’s Animals videos include neighbor’s cats and their various offspring from around the neighborhood.
I’m amazed by Aaron Benitez’ story – what a terrific tale of what an individual can accomplish with a little ingenuity and a great deal of drive. Aaron wanted a career in filmmaking and he worked hard to attain it while living in a car – incredible. His visual effects, combined with his fun sense of humor make his videos incredibly fun and sharable. I can’t stop watching them and sharing them with others…and I can’t stop laughing! I’ve watched them all and I can’t wait to see more from Aaron’s Animals and Prince Michael in the future!