By Kristin Hackler
It began in early 2004. Kiawah Island resident Patti Romano was going about her day when her brother, Dan, handed her a stack of napkins. “We came up with these guys and now we don’t know what to do with them,” he grinned. Patti looked at the flimsy paper and recalled seeing a series of unusual cartoon characters in the shape of bones. “They’re the Boneheads,” said her brother. Patti smiled, but already the wheels were turning and it wouldn’t be long before the little bar napkin caricatures would become a significant part of her life.
“When I moved here I left everything behind,” said Patti. “I fell back on my passions: wildlife, writing, photography and children.” Her combination of passions led her to become a volunteer with the South Carolina Aquarium, giving lectures to children about the various creatures living in the Lowcountry’s streams, rivers and oceans. Often, her talks would include educational videos, but Patti quickly became dissatisfied with the films’ content.
They were mostly doom and gloom,” said Patti. “There weren’t any good stories about the earth and what we can do to protect it.”
It was then that her brother’s calciferous cartoon characters came rushing back to her. The idea formed in an instant. The Boneheads could teach children about the environment while making it enjoyable at the same time. Create an entertaining, intriguing plot, throw in some slapstick and weave it together with educational facts and interesting real-life pictures. Planet Bonehead was born
For the past five years, Patti and her partner Bob Donahue, a graphics design wizard and founder of the e-commerce blog Fuel Blue, have been perfecting the world of Planet Bonehead. With Patti in charge of photography, video, research and writing, and Bob in charge of graphic art, layout, web work and design, the two person team has created an amazing series of animations geared toward the 7 to 11-year-old audience.
“We thought we would aim for the seven to eleven year olds because they’re more impressionable and we want to make a difference with them,” said Patti. “We want them to understand that it’s their planet, too.” And it’s this philosophy that has driven the storyline of every Planet Bonehead adventure.
Each program begins with an adventure. In “A Future for Frog”, J. P. Rothbone, the arch nemesis of the Boneheads, devises a way to get rid of all the tree frogs because they’re sticking to the windows of his Colossal Condo Complex in the Chilean rain forest and keeping his guests awake at night. When the Boneheads find out about it, it’s up to their intrepid team to tackle these tadpole terminators and keep the tree frogs safe from extinction.
“Each program follows the same basic outline,” Patti described. “The first half is the adventure, followed by a ‘newsflash’ which highlights a real life hero for the Bonehead’s cause. Then there’s a three to four minute song and an eight to ten minute documentary about the species on the video.”
Each video comes with a complete teachers resource guide written by an author with a Masters in Education from Duke, and it’s Patti and Bob’s hope that they will be able to gather sponsorship so that they can distribute as many of the Planet Bonehead programs as possible for free to schools across the United States.
“Kids should use their imagination as much as possible,” said Patti. “The world’s greatest scientists and inventors used their imagination and we need to encourage it.”
And Planet Bonehead certainly encourages the imagination. Full of interesting facts, engaging situations, useful tidbits and hilarious characters, Patti Romano and Bob Donahue have hit the nail on the head in terms of educating today’s youth.
For more information, sponsorship opportunities or to view segments of the Planet Bonehead videos, visit www.PlanetBonehead.com.