NatGeo’s Killing Jesus Website Might Be the Greatest Story Ever Scrolled

Mullen's latest epic digital project

Mullen has created a digital experience of Biblical proportions to support National Geographic Channel's Killing Jesus, a three-hour docudrama premiering March 29, which is Palm Sunday. The show is based on the best-selling book of the same name.

An immensely detailed, immersive website tells the story from three different perspectives: Son of God (the view of Christ and his disciples); Son of Man (the view of the Jewish priests of the time); and Threat to Rome (taking in political/economic implications). Each perspective is represented by a different crown: thorns, religious headdress and Roman laurels. This technique provides users with a panoramic perspective of Jesus's life, allowing them to explore events from every conceivable angle.

"We were looking to tell the story in a way that allowed people to see it from several different vantage points," says Mullen associate creative director Allison Rude. "Our war room on this project resembled the wall from 'A Beautiful Mind' as we pieced together historical fact, religious scripture and custom illustrations."

French artist Bastien Lecouffe Deharme created the impressive artwork, and his hand-drawn contributions grace the site's eight self-contained chapters, which span Christ's story from his birth in a Bethlehem stable through the crucifixion at Calvary. The amount of interactive information and analysis is pretty staggering. Users could lose hours (days?) investigating the various timelines (from three perspectives, no less).

That said, the navigation is intuitive, and all aspects of the presentation (based on my 30-minute spin through the site) seem compelling.

The technical specs are suitable impressive. The site's scrollable panoramas contain more than 3,000 individual images, animated with 14,000 keyframes, along with 185 sound, music and voiceover tracks. All of this was made using 290,000 lines of code, which Mullen says is four times the size of its two previous NGC sites combined. Those sites supported the cable net's Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy programs.

But wait, there's more. Supplemental material includes a Killing Jesus microsite with articles, video clips, photo galleries, deleted scenes and cast Q&As, as well as an NGC blog campaign called "Killing With Kindness," inspired, we're told, by Christ's teachings on love and charity, and promoted on social media with the #KillingWithKindness hashtag.

Like Mullen's earlier NGC outings—and The Martin Agency's similar digital work for the JFK Library—this initiative's vast scale can seem overwhelming at times, especially for a story whose elements are so familiar. Still, the bold, multiview style—respectful, yet rigorously researched and probing—is fairly innovative, and might give users fresh insight.

Given the weighty nature of the subject matter, Killing Jesus's all-in approach feels appropriate, not like overkill.


Brand: National Geographic Channel

Client: Matt Zymet, Executive Director, Digital Media

Client: Ashley Kalena, Digital Media Producer

Agency: Mullen

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker

Executive Creative Directors: Tim Vaccarino, Dave Weist

Associate Creative Directors: Allison Rude, Brian Leech, Scott Slagsvol

Copywriter: Eugene Torres

Vice President, Executive Producer: Tiffany Stevens

Senior Digital Producers: Alyssa Hartigan, Kim Bennett

Group Account Director: Rebekah Pagis

Account Director: Jessica Zdenek

Assistant Account Executive: Stephanie Costa

Director of Development Operations: Steve Laham

Senior Quality Assurance Engineer: Ryan Nelsen

Senior Vice President, Creative Director, Technologist: Christian Madden

Senior Vice President, Director of Interactive: Mathey Ray

Associate Creative Director, Technologist: Joe Palasek

Senior Creative Technologist: Justin Bogan

Creative Technologists: Adam Riggs, Stefan Harris

Associate Quality Assurance Engineer: Amber Archambeault