Exclusive interview: Oscar’s Hotel creator PJ Ligouri, AKA YouTube’s KickThePj
All eyes are on Jim Henson’s creations at the moment. A couple of months ago, Hollywood’s greatest power couple, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, called it quits on their relationship. Not long after, following a nearly two-decade absence from primetime, a brand new series of The Muppets launched on ABC to a record viewership.
Meanwhile, across the pond, a young YouTuber from Peterborough has been making waves with a creation of his own, starring creatures from Jim Henson’s fantastical universe.
The talent in question is 24-year-old PJ Ligouri. Perhaps best known by his YouTube username KickThePj, this young video creator’s channel has had over 42 million views in its eight years of existence.
Back in January of this year, Ligouri won the backing of New Form Digital – the digital studio formed by Discovery, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard – to launch his own original series, Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures, on Vimeo.
With Hollywood heavyweights Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina making appearances, alongside famous YouTubers, and creatures made by the Jim Henson Company, the series follows the young proprietor of a magical boarding house as he struggles to maintain order amidst mayhem of mythical creatures who take residence within.
We chatted to PJ about his inspirations, on-set experiences, and advice for aspiring YouTubers. Keep reading…
What was PJ’s journey from posting videos on YouTube to creating his own series with The Jim Henson Company? He explained to TVDaily:
“Since I was young, I knew that I always wanted to tell stories, and posting videos on YouTube has been a great platform to accommodate that for the past 8 years. I’ve been persistently creating so many new films, and building an audience, and naturally, every project I undergo gets bigger and bigger.
“When New Form Digital asked if I wanted to be part of their incubator project to create a short film, I couldn’t say no. So we made Oscar’s Hotel the short film, and then after it was released, it didn’t take long for it to be picked up to go to series on Vimeo on Demand. The jump from making Oscar’s Hotel the short film to Oscar’s Hotel the series was a huge leap, but I knew it would be an amazing opportunity, so I went with it – pretty unsure of what to expect – and before I knew it, I was in full swing, creating my first long form series, Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures“.
The project is clearly a long way from PJ’s bedroom. But this wasn’t his first time working in a studio.
“I’ve used a stage before to make sets for other projects of mine, but it was definitely a much larger production than I’ve ever directed before”, he explained.
And a larger production means a larger crew, with a greater capacity for playing on-set pranks.
“One of the days in the studio, a handful of the crew chained a guy’s bike to the 20ft lighting grid… for some reason. I’m pretty sure that poor guy got an Uber home that day”, Ligouri recalled.
Being huge fans of the Jim Henson Co. ourselves, we had to ask; did PJ manage to keep any of the props or costumes as souvenirs?
“Absolutely! We’ve kept a lot of the props and costumes actually. The hotel exterior is currently sitting in our executive producer [Kathleen Grace]’s office”, he explained with joy.
Believe it or not, those two giant fish pictured above are actually Hollywood veterans Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart. What was it like for PJ to have such huge names starring in something he created?
“It was such an amazing experience to work with actors whose work I admire so much. It was so much fun to direct both Alfred and Patrick, as well as Elliott Gould for that matter”, he said.
Oscar’s Hotel also features appearances from fellow YouTube stars such as PewDiePie, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart. What advice does PJ have to offer to aspiring video creators trying to get noticed on YouTube?
“Keep making content that you love making, put yourself into it and have fun; that’s the recipe for making a presence online. The rest is kind of up to luck, but if you’re doing the former, then you don’t need to worry too much about getting noticed, because having fun with making content is what it should all be about”, were his words of wisdom.
Fans of his videos will know that PJ has a unique flair for storytelling. What were some of his favourite stories, films or TV shows growing up?
“Growing up, I was a huge fan of films like Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, Ghostbusters, and all those kinds of films. Now that I’m a bit older, I still love those films, but now my tastes thirst for things like The Mighty Boosh and Adventure Time. I’ve always loved fantastical stories with a slightly unhinged vibe to them”, he said.
And the next show he’s looking forward to comes as no surprise: “I’m anticipating the next season of American Horror Story: Hotel! It’s such a fun series, but I also just love hotel-themed shows”, explained the Oscar’s Hotel creator.
PJ left us with what we can look forward from him next.
“I’m currently developing more stories and ideas, in worlds that exist outside of Oscar’s Hotel, and so I’m figuring out what the best platforms to tell those stories are”, he said.
We can’t wait to see what this young creative mind comes up with in what’s sure to be a long and successful career.
Images by Embry Lopez