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Caine’s Arcade is a short documentary film by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Nirvan Mullick about a handmade cardboard arcade run by then nine-year-old boy Caine Monroy. The film focuses on highlighting Caine’s imaginative creations through interviews with the boy and his father, as well a flash mob event that Mullick himself had organized for the arcade in October 2011. Upon its release in April 2012, the documentary gained more than 2.5 million views within the first 72 hours and raised more than $150,000 dollars for Caine’s college fund over the span of a week.
Sometime in 2011, nine-year-old Caine Monroy built an arcade out of cardboard boxes and other assorted everyday objects in his father’s auto parts store in Los Angeles. In August, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick came across Caine’s diligently run arcade while seeking a door handle for his car. He spent half an hour playing the home made games including mini-soccer and mini-basketball and later uploaded a cell phone video of his experience to YouTube.
After learning that he was the arcade’s only customer, Mullick organized a flash mob event via Reddit and Facebook for October 2nd, planning to film the turnout for a mini-documentary. The Reddit post calling for attendees quickly reached the front page, gaining 1296 upvotes and 710 points. Additionally, more than 150 people RSVPed as attending to the Facebook event.
On the day of the flash mob, Caine’s dad George took his son out for pizza while Mullick as the attendees began making signs, preparing to surprise the young boy. When he arrived, he was greeting by dozens of people chanting his name. However, the story did not make headlines until April 9th, 2012, when Mullick posted the 11-minute documentary to Vimeo and YouTube. As of January 2013, the video has a combined 7.4 million views.
News Media Coverage
Within three days, the video was viewed approximately 2.5 million times on YouTube and Vimeo combined. The week the documentary was uploaded, it was featured on a number of news sites including the Huffington Post, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, ABC News and the New York Times. By April 16th, a week after the video’s release, Caine was presented with a $152,262 check to go towards his college education from online donations by people who watched the documentary.
Some YouTubers began uploading tearful response videos (shown below, top left) to Caine’s Arcade as early as April 10th, urging others to watch the video. A few days later, videos of other children’s cardboard creations started appearing. One of the first showed a young boy and a dog playing in a car wash the boy had made (shown below, top right). Mullick collected a handful of these response videos as a playlist on his personal YouTube channel.
Three days after the video was posted, Mullick announced the launch of the Imagination Foundation, dedicated to help find, foster and fund similar entrepreneurial creativity in children. Within days, Mullick received a pledge from the Goldhirsh Foundation, promising to match every dollar donated to Caine’s scholarship fund up to $250,000 to help establish the Imagination Foundation. The foundation launched a school program based on students creating cardboard projects of their own. There is also a dedicated Facebook group for teachers to share ideas with each other on how to bring Caine’s Arcade into their classrooms.
Global Cardboard Challenge
In September, a retrospective video on the experience was posted to the Imagination Foundation channel highlighting some of the creative cardboard project videos inspired by Caine and sent to him via Facebook and Twitter. In the video, his dad noted that Caine had lost his stutter and started doing better in school since the documentary’s launch.
The video invited viewers to participate in a Global Cardboard Challenge to take place on the one year anniversary of the flash mob. Billed as a “Global Day of Play,” the goal was for people of any age to spend a day building something out of cardboard and other recycled materials. More than 270 events were held in 40 countries, not only raising money for the Imagination Foundation, but for local food banks, community gardens, childhood cancer research and gorilla habitats as well. A video contest was held, with four prizes awarded for the documentation of the challenges and many of the submissions were later shared on the Imagination Foundation site.
Reddit – Reddit: I met a 9 year old kid in East LA who created an elaborate DIY Cardboard Arcade using boxes in his dad’s Used Auto Parts store. Unfortunately, no one has come to play it. So this Sunday, I’m inviting the internet to help make Caine’s day (flashmob style).
Huffington Post – Caine’s Arcade: 9-Year-Old Boy Builds His Own Cardboard Arcade
Imagination Foundation – We Came to Play: Caine and Nirvan Speak at TEDxSantaMonica