SYDNEY As YouTube star Fred Figglehorn prepares for his movie debut, his creator Lucas Cruikshank is making sure fame does not corrupt the fast-talking, goofy kid who has won a massive online following.
Fred, a high-pitched six-year-old with an alcoholic mother and anger management issues, was created four years ago by 17-year-old Cruikshank who enjoyed making videos and posting them on YouTube.
Within a year of the first official Fred video appearing in 2008, the channel featuring clips of Fred ranting to the camera about various issues had over one million subscribers, making it the most subscribed channel on YouTube.
The Fred channel now has 1.97 million subscribers, has received over 580 million views, and is listed as the No. 2 all-time most subscribed YouTube channel.
Spotting Fred's rising star, cable TV network Nickelodeon contacted Cruikshank and their collaboration led Fred into television, starring in his own movie "Fred: The Movie" that airs on September 18. A DVD release with extra features is set for October 5.
"I always dreamt of being an actor TV but I never thought it was possible as I live in the Mid-West and there is not much opportunity for the entertainment business out here," Cruikshank told Reuters in a telephone interview from Columbus, Nebraska.
In the movie, Fred, played by Cruikshank, is 15-years-old but still with the mind-set of a six-year-old, the digitally enhanced high voice, and the same unrequited crush on Judy.
The film features iCarly's Jennette McCurdy as Bertha, WWE's John Cena as Fred's imaginary dad and Siobhan Fallon as his mother. Judy is played by British teen Pixie Lott.
There is talk of a second movie but nothing is yet signed although Cruikshank has signed up for a new TV series with Nickelodeon, "Marvin Marvin," about an alien who does not fit in.
Cruikshank said despite Fred's fame, he remains at high school and his parents still insist on homework before he gives time to Fred or acting.
Fred has proved lucrative for Cruikshank. Analytics and advertising company TubeMogul estimated the Fred channel on YouTube earned Cruikshank $146,000 in the past year from revenue raised through banner ads served near content, making him one of the top earning independent YouTube stars.
"I will not abandon Fred. The movie is the biggest thing I have ever done with Fred and after that it should all fall into place," said Cruikshank. "I am hoping my fans will follow me with a bunch of characters but Fred will always be with me."
Cruikshank said the biggest lesson he has learned since Fred hit the limelight was to be more assertive and stay true to the Fred he created.
"When you create something by yourself, in your house, but then it gets big, you have everyone telling you what you should do," he said. "You have to know what you want to do with it.
"When the Fred videos first started getting popular I was 14 and I didn't know how to handle being in a meeting room with 20 adults and the center of attention. But I got over it and I am more comfortable with it now."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)