Robert Leon Benfer, Jr. (born on December 18, 1987), better known by his pseudonym Knox, is an internet-based claymator, animator, musician, director, producer, writer, editor, and actor.
Benfer was born on December 18, 1987, in Hinesville, Georgia. His father, Robert Benfer Sr., was a detective, author, and soldier, perhaps most famously known as the author of the book Silently We Defend, and was based at Fort Stewart during this period. In 1988, Benfer and his wife, Janeese Schoelzel, moved to Germany, where his sister Nikki was born. At age 2, Benfer's parents got divorced and he moved alongside his mother and sister to Kerrville, Texas. In 1994, Benfer's mother became engaged to Curtis Schoelzel, and moved to Schertz, Texas, where Robert spent the remainder of his childhood and Benfer and Schoelzel gave birth to Jakki Schoelzel and Jill Schoelzel. Robert was also diagnosed with a condition that has the potential to cause him cancer and as a result has been hospitalized multiple times over the course of his early life and teenage years while he was in the beginning stages of his career.
In 1995, Benfer began to attend Schertz Elementary School. While attending the institute, Benfer met Sammie Penrod, who would become his close friend and costar in many of his films. At age 6, Benfer acquired an interest in filmmaking and from age 7 to 12, used his parents' video camera to film short films alongside his sister, Nikki. At age 15, Benfer would develop an interest in stop motion by watching Celebrity Deathmatch, which would later inspire him to make tributes to the show known as "NG Deathmatch", and he began to post claymation short films on animation outlet Newgrounds, going under the pseudonym "Knox". His pseudonym was largely influenced by childhood friend Sammie Penrod, who originally suggested in high school that the two would form a band entitled "Stigma". However, Benfer pointed out that they "never made any music", prompting Penrod to suggest changing the band name to "Knox"; however, the concept was quickly dropped by the two.
Several of Benfer's early films were notable for starring clay characters resembling a blue humanoid blobs. Although these designs were initially used for practice, their popularity among the Newgrounds community prompted him to make it his trademark. Another notable style of Benfer was his tendency to replace the letter c with a k (for example; his claymations were billed as "klaymations").
These small animations were the first of many Knox clay animations. At this time, there were very few clay animations on Newgrounds.com, as Newgrounds was accommodating to animations rendered entirely within Flash software, the software the website singularly supported. Because of this, Robert was able to open a whole new door for future stop motion creators all over the internet, and hundreds of people followed in his footsteps, many becoming popular, though Knox maintained his reputation as the leader of the movement.
He posted 45 short films on the Internet in 2003, and won 35 awards for them on Newgrounds. In 2004, Benfer created some of his most successful clay animations, including Glass of Water, Sniper Time!, and Rubber Ducky of Death. His first attempt at turning his internet success into a career was releasing a DVD of his short films entitled Knox in a Box.
At the end of 2004, after the success of his first DVD, Benfer decided to adapt his series into a feature length movie entitled Klay World: Off the Table. The film was released in 2005, and earned him over $80,000.00, marking the beginning of his professional film career.
The KlayWorld shorts degraded in quality and would eventually be regarded as bland and repetitive by his original fan base. Although the formulae remained the same the overall mood has drastically shifted from being based around slapstick to almost strictly dialogue. Another detail that could have resulted in the series' shift was the fact that in all his shorts prior to KlayWorld: Off The Table, were never scripted but rather animated and given improvised voice acting during post production.
Between 2005 and 2008, Robert would announce several other feature length movies, whilst the releases of his online animations became rarer and rarer. The first of these movies was Villain, a more professional clay animation movie. Robert initially began work on this movie, producing two minutes of footage, but was then offered a larger crew and funding for the movie. This transaction failed and Robert would suffer massive financial losses as a result of not filing the income tax's of KlayWorld: Off The Table's profit to the I.R.S. and as a result had lost a large fraction of his money, although the exact amount was never confirmed, it's been rumored to be $50,000. The loss forced him to put the project on a long term hiatus. Robert also announced plans for a sequel to Klay World: Off The Table, entitled Klay World 2. He intended this film to be the end of the Klayworld series and stated the release date as late 2008. Productions ended with the creation of the YouTube partnership Program which allowed him to be paid directly for his shorts. Now having an excuss to continue the series, he cancelled movie.
In 2008, Robert announced his first live action movie, Lakeside has no Lake. This was to be about a group of friends who set up a website claiming that their hometown, Lakeside, was haunted. Robert tweaked the plot and it became Joe Cam. Though his fans initially had doubts about Joe Cam, after the stream of unsuccessful movie plots, Robert released a trailer for the movie in June, showing over two minutes of footage proving that the movie was indeed in the works. However, because actor Sammie Penrod, the movie's antagonist, moving to a new location the films production was brought to an abrupt halt due to issues of distance conflicting with shooting schedules. As a result, Robert would be forced to put another film on hiatus.
Robert then resorted ro making another film he'd prepeaired, requiring even less to create than Joe Cam, The Fracktaplots. This was a sock puppet science fiction film that was released in 2010. The film was heavily criticized by fans for it's premise, but the film was somewhat redeemed when it became apparent to that the likes of a band called Econoline Crush would supply the movie's leading theme song; Surefire.
Shortly after, Robert would later make the mistake of changing his website design and company name from "KnoxsKorner.com" to "BadIdeaPictures.com" resulting in many of what was left of his old fan base to revolt and cease to continue following his film making career entirely. Robert later returned to the old company name and website design.
On November 12th, 2012 Robert announced the final episode of Klayworld, to which the internet community responded in outrage. Three days later he followed the news with an in-depth explanation for his decision to end the series.
In addition to producing claymation films, Benfer has also pursued a musical career. He has completed three albums:
- Foot Ball! (2008)
- Expensive Suit (2009)
- Tiny Instruments (2009)
Before releasing high quality songs to buy on iTunes, Knox would often release the songs for free on his website. The first song that he released that was released with a music video was the song "Yellow Book".
- Klay World: Off the Table (2005)
- Outside the Knox (2006) (V) - Released as a special feature on the Klay World Series DVD.
- The Fracktaplots (2010)
- Nick: The Feature Film (2011)
Robert as a Character
Its not uncommon for Robert to portray himself as a character in his shorts. He is usually a directionless individual who acts on the slighest impulse with tactless fervor. At times he can be selfish and oblivious to other's feelings (Living with Benfer).
He has claimed that every night a 2 a.m. he transforms into a creature resembling a Red deer and roams the city. While in this form he searches for his girlfriend who never answers her phone. This has never been brought up again and its validity is unknown (Drawing With Robert).
Robert owned and ran Roberts Dollar Store, a business that sells money. It has presumably failed.
The fictionalized Robert is also friends with a fictionalized Sammie Penrod. The relationship is often strained by their idiocy (A Tattoo, Robert's Car).