Brian Hull had one goal in mind when he posted his rendition of “Let it Go” on YouTube, March 14: Win a $100 Disney Store gift card so that he could buy two new Disney films, “Frozen” and “Saving Mr. Banks.” Unfortunately, he didn’t win the contest seeking the most creative cover of the hit song. In fact, he didn’t even get his video submitted before the deadline passed.
But he did get a phone call from Disney.
Hull’s video, which featured him singing in the voices of 21 different Disney characters, from Winnie the Pooh to Mickey Mouse, missed the contest deadline, but it quickly swelled in views and shares around the Internet.
A few hundred at first. Then thousands. Then millions. Ten million, then 11 million.
Somewhere in that swell, the video crossed a computer screen at Disney’s headquarters where someone was intrigued enough to pick up the phone to find out about the person behind the voices in the viral video.
The Disney folks were so struck by Hull’s ability to sing remarkably like so many beloved characters that they flew him and his family out for a meet and greet and even gave them park passes to use during their stay. Since then, life at home in Texas has been a whirlwind for Hull, a college senior majoring in vocal performance and a children’s ministry volunteer at Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington where he is a member.
Though he was accustomed to being beckoned from lunch table to lunch table to do impressions in his middle school, high school and college cafeterias, Hull said the broad exposure has been astonishing and surprising.
“The only reason I put it on YouTube in the first place was that those were the rules of the contest,” Hull said. “You must put it on YouTube—it must be public—otherwise you can’t be in the contest. So that was the only reason I did it, or I would have put it as unlisted, because honestly, I didn’t think it was that great. I had fun with it, but there were a couple of characters that just weren’t quite there.”
He only allowed the post to appear on his Facebook so that he could get the honest feedback of a few friends, Hull said. But those friends shared with their friends, who shared with their friends and so on and so forth, and before Hull knew it, millions of people had seen his video. The Internet sensation said he might not have even pursued the contest without the encouragement of his mother who told him she loved his idea for the cover and even made a pan of brownies for his recording major roommate, Seth O’Neal, to help him get it done.
“They’re the reason it went viral, because I did nothing,” Hull said of Facebook friends who began viewing and sharing the video. “I didn’t ask for views, I didn’t ask for subscriptions. That night it reached 5,000 or 6,000. Four days later, it was already at 5 million.”
By June the number of hits topped 13 million.
Hull said he wants the video to be a platform for the gospel and he credits the Lord for giving him his talent and the open doors to use it. When people ask why 11 million hits on the video and overnight fame haven’t made their way to his head and chiseled away at his humility, Hull responds that he simply sees nothing about which to boast. The Lord gave him the talent, and the Lord is letting him use it.
“I didn’t do anything,” Hull said. “I didn’t promote this video. I made it just so I could make a couple extra dollars so I could buy these Disney movies, and God took it and blew it up, so I’m just sitting here going, ‘I have no reason to get a big head. I have no reason to do anything like that, because I’m just riding God’s coattail right now.’”
Hull said that even before the clamor surrounding the video began, he’d been telling the Lord about his desire to be a vehicle to get the gospel to the masses. He had no idea how that might happen or if it even would, but simply recalls his heart yearning in that direction.
“Coincidentally, before all this, I was talking with God one day and was like, ‘You know, I’d love to do something like the Duck Dynasty guys are doing now,’” Hull said. “They have a show where they’re impacting not just a Christian audience, but culture as a whole, and they’re doing it in a positive way, going around speaking at different locations. And people are coming strictly because they’re the Duck Dynasty guys, not necessarily because of what they’re saying. So they’ll come, and then typically when they go speak somewhere, they deliver the gospel. So it reaches a wider audience, and that’s something I’d love to do, is to be able to use this as a platform. If God’s going to give me this opportunity and things keep happening the way they are, and if for some reason I do have a lot of fame, I’d love to be able to use it for that purpose. Because I’ve never wanted fame. It’s just something God has now thrown in my lap. So if I’m going to use it, I might as well give it back [to the Lord].”
Hull said he’s already seeing that happen with invitations to sing at churches and other venues, drawing people who might not normally come to church.
“They’re going to come hear me, and then they get the gospel, and I’m just like, ‘I love that, I love that, I love that!” said Hull, who recalls being a “closet atheist” for about three years before giving his life to Christ at age 16.
Hull’s vocal talents expand beyond Disney impressions into opera and musical theater. He said he hopes his story encourages others, and especially children, to pursue the passions the Lord has given them, even if it means tuning out some naysayers.
“I had so many people tell me, growing up, ‘This is not something that an 18-year-old should be doing. You shouldn’t be watching Disney. You shouldn’t be trying to sound like Winnie the Pooh.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m passionate about it, and that’s what I love, and I feel like God put that in me for a reason. God can use anything, and he will use anything. He used one guy doing 21 different Disney characters, and as far as I know he’s not done using me yet—at least I hope not.”
As for not winning the contest and the gift card, Hull said he’s not too bummed about it.
“Let me give you this example: I wanted a Willy Wonka chocolate bar, but I was invited to go to the factory. I want the second.”
And about the two new movies he was hoping to add to his Disney collection—he got those as well.