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Local artist's nutty creations make their undead debut on ‘The Walking Dead' season premiere

Peanuts, pull toys featured in AMC commercial
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Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-09 12:00:07-05

FORT THOMAS, Kentucky — While most of the talk about the premier episode of “The Walking Dead” was about the eye-popping deaths of not one but two main characters, a local artist was going nuts over the commercials.

Two pieces of art created by Fort Thomas resident Steve Casino were prominently featured in the new Life Imitates AMC commercial spot, which uses fan-generated art and creations to illustrate the impact AMC has on its viewers. The montage of AMC-inspired art, which aired for the first time during the Oct. 23 premier, included Casino’s wooden pull toy depicting The Walking Dead’s Rick battling a zombie and the three leads of “Better Call Saul” created from peanuts.

That’s right. Peanuts.

The Life Imitates AMC spots typically promote unconventional artists. Some of those selected for the campaign, which began last year, are a pancake artist who “draws” AMC characters using pancake batter, classical musicians who play AMC theme songs, and a designer who creates pint-sized dioramas depicting classic AMC show scenes.

The lead characters of AMC’s ‘Better Call Saul’ were created from peanuts. (Photo provided)

“I saw the campaign last year, and I thought they did so many cool things. I thought, ‘I wish I could be part of that.’ Well, I must have spoken the magic words, because they contacted me,” said Casino, who wasn’t allowed to share specific details of his involvement in the campaign until after it had premiered.

To promote his inclusion without revealing the artwork selected for the spot, Casino shared a video of the creation of a peanut version of Norman Reedus as The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon days before the show’s season seven return. Reedus was apparently impressed and shared a link to the video on his Twitter page.

According to the Nielson Co., “The Walking Dead” was the biggest thing on TV in the week of Oct. 17-23.

The pull toy concept is one Casino only recently began perfecting, but his peanut art has been the bread and (peanut) butter of his personal artwork for the last three years. Casino, 50, has created hundreds of tiny celebrity statues using unboiled peanut shells and a variety of craft supplies including wire armature and polymer clay.

His work has resulted in an actual peanut gallery of shells with an uncanny resemblance to a multitude of celebrities and people he admires. And a few strangers.

Casino, who works as a toy designer for Bang Zoom Design in Cincinnati, has always been creative. A cartoonist in the past, Casino was looking for a unique art project. He found it while eating peanuts at work and coming across one he thought looked like him. He made a quick drawing, adding glasses and a smile, then shared it with his co-workers. They were amused, and a new hobby was born.

“We are so excited for Steve’s success and this campaign because we’ve seen his art grow from a single-color pen drawing on a peanut that he did as a goof at work to being in this national ad campaign,” Bang Zoom Design co-owner Steven Fink said. “It’s incredible how much it’s caught on and the attention he’s received."

While the peanut painting has taken on a large role in Casino’s life, Fink said it has improved Casino’s day job as well by building on his artistic talents.

“His skill for painting on small projects has greatly improved. He can now take projects to a level we weren’t able to achieve before,” he said.

Casino already has plans for new art including more pull toys, more peanuts and even some Russian nesting eggs in the likeness of The Addams Family. And in his spare time, he hopes to get up to date on the show that broadcast his art to millions of viewers.

“I’m a big fan of the show, but I’m behind. That leaves me in a bit of a quandary because I can’t watch the show in real time and see the commercial,” Casino said. “I’m playing catch up.”