ARIEL’S GOT bigger fish to fry than losing her voice or man. Pocahontas’s favorite color for wind-painting is suddenly red-hot Euro-revenge. And the title of Belle’s sequel might well be “Beauty and the Bestiality.”
The Disney princesses, in other words, are taking a turn for the darker verse.
In the newly viral video “After Ever After,” these characters, plus “Aladdin’s” Jasmine, harmonize as they satirize the lie of “they lived happily ever after.”
The sharp-tongued, sweet-voiced parody song is the latest comedic offering from Jon “Paint” Cozart, a 20-year-old film student at the University of Texas in Austin who’s already a seven-year veteran of crafting YouTube videos.
“I grew up on Disney movies. I absolutely love the music,” says Cozart, noting that he performed, recorded and edited the new video all by himself.
Comic Riffs caught up with Cozart early Friday to talk about his singing goals, his dream roles and the art of making a living on YouTube:
MICHAEL CAVNA: As good as your [previous] videos have been, “After Ever After” seems to take the humor and execution up even another notch or two. Can you tell us ... what was it like to create this one?
JON COZART: I got the idea for the video around November last year. It took me about two weeks to write the lyrics, and another two months to record the audio. It was really tough with Disney music, because it’s so iconic that if you hit one wrong note you’ll ruin the entire song. I recorded the video two weeks ago. I had a ton of major assignments due for college, so I had to record each part around 1:00 a.m. for four nights in a row in front of my wall. I edited it together, sent it to my sister, and she said to re-record it with colored posters in the background and vertical videos. So I re-recorded it all on Sunday, edited it on Monday, and released it on Tuesday.
MC: Wait — you re-recorded this entire video in a day?
JC: I already had the parts memorized from previously recording it. I wrote out the actions of each take on a notepad in front of me and worked from there. It took about four hours.
MC: What was the toughest thing about creating this incredibly syncopated video? And did anyone help you write it and/or create it?
JC: The toughest part was recording Belle’s audio. It’s such a tricky song! There’s actually about 10 separate audio tracks in the final version, and Belle was a nightmare. I wrote, recorded, and edited the entire video myself. I don’t have any professional microphones or recording equipment, and I just use my video editor to mix the music because I don’t know how to record a song.
MC: Are you yourself a fan of Disney’s animated characters — and have you ever played any, in any sort of production?
JC: I grew up on Disney movies. I absolutely love the music! Alan Menken is a personal idol of mine and I’ve sung his music all my life. I’ve never played any Disney characters on stage, though, just in the shower.
MC: The only lyric that [uses a pejorative] is “Chinamen” -- was that a conscious choice to stick with that?
JC: While I was writing it, I asked my parents if “Chinamen” was a derogatory term and they honestly answered no. We thought it was like saying Frenchmen or Englishmen, but now I’m fully aware it is not the same. I definitely would have changed it had I known. None of the humor comes from a malicious, racial place.
MC: What do you mostly do as a performer these days? Do the YouTube/iTunes checks mostly pay the bills?
JC: I’m studying Film at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m originally from Arkansas but I moved to Texas at age 6. ... YouTube videos are my only performance outlet. I was really into high school theater, and I found a lot of success there. But I think there’s more success to be found in film for me. I support myself mostly through iTunes sales. I’m so grateful for the people who buy my music. I never dreamed I would earn a living this way.
MC: You’ve surely had your share of auditions — can you speak to having YouTube as a direct outlet to fans as opposed to trying to land roles and be seen?
JC: YouTube is incredible because anyone can do it. If you’ve got talent and enough drive, you can make it happen. I’ve been making YouTube videos for seven years, and the first five years were hugely unsuccessful. But the more I failed, the more I wanted it. I don’t have an agent or a manager or a YouTube network, so I don’t audition for people too often. With YouTube, I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to answer to casting directors or try to fit into a “type.” I love YouTube because I can speak directly to the people who invest in my work. And it’s great because they like exactly what I like: Disney movies, Harry Potter, movie villains, “Glee.” We celebrate our love for something together, and you can’t get that anywhere else.
MC: So if you were to play Broadway, say, what would be the dream role for you?
JC: That’s such a hard question. I think the Leading Player in “Pippin” would be amazing! Or anyone in “Book of Mormon” or “Sweeney Todd.” Or Gabe from “Next to Normal” or an extra in “Light in the Piazza” — like I could sing any of those songs. It’s just an impossible question.
MC: Are there any performers who especially inspire you and whose work you’ve studied? And whose career would you want to have, if anyone’s?
JC: I’m hugely inspired by Broadway musicals, specifically Stephen Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Schwartz. Bo Burnham’s also a big inspiration to me. I eventually want to direct films, so ideally I’d like to follow in the footsteps of directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and David Fincher. They seem to have complete creative control over their films. It’s the dream!