Inside the Cobra Kai Viral Stunt That Created a Bully’s Worst Nightmare

'The first few takes were a shit show'

Viral agency Thinkmodo staged a bullying scenario that quickly appeared to turn extreme. Thinkmodo
Headshot of David Griner

Thinkmodo’s newest viral stunt, this time for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai, is certainly kicking butt, with more than 11 million views on Facebook and a trending spot on YouTube. But making it happen was no easy feat.

“The first few takes were a shit show,” says Michael Krivicka, co-founder of the video-centric creative shop, known for freaking out bystanders in the name of promoting movies and other client projects. Most famously, they tore apart a coffee shop for the Carrie remake and sparked hundreds of millions of views with a horror stunt for last year’s Rings.

But each project brings its own challenges, and the “Karate Prank NYC” for Cobra Kai—a reboot and sequel of sorts for the original Karate Kid—got off to a rough start.

First let’s watch the clip so you can see how things all worked out in the end:

When the crew first arrived at the SoHo shoot location a month ago, the initial obstacle was snow.

“We had to first clear the scene from all of the snow that we got the night before,” Krivicka says. “It was cold and we were worried about the cold weather affecting the type of reactions we would get (people covering their faces with scarfs etc). However, it cleared up fast and that wasn’t an issue.”

But weather wasn’t the only thing that needed to cooperate. The remote-activated props, whose destruction was key to the entire stunt,

“We had three different mechanical props that all had to work flawlessly back-to-back, and in the first few takes they didn’t,” Krivicka says. “The talent and the effects crew had to work out a series of signals to get the timing of the prank right.”

Such technical difficulties are par for the course with Thinkmodo projects, which have included turning a drone into The Human Torch.

That’s how things often go. There is a learning curve for everyone involved and it takes a while to get everyone in sync. Once we did it enough times and everyone understood the dynamics of the scene, magic happened.

Here’s another fun fact Krivicka shared from the shoot: “Not too many people noticed this, but the guy at the 1 minute mark saying ‘Da fuck is wrong with these dudes over here?’ is Zach Kerr from the Denver Broncos. He happened to walk by with his wife and witnessed the stunt. He loved the prank and happily signed our release form so we can leave him in the video.”


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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."