By now you should be familiar with Adventure Time, heck, I’ve mentioned it more than a few times here and even write a post about it. If you don’t know what Adventure Time is (and what rock were you living under by the way), it’s the brainchild of Pendelton Ward that was in limbo, well, YouTube actually, for a couple of years after appearing on Random! Cartoons on Nickelodeon before getting picked up by the Cartoon Network.
The show already has an extremely devoted fanbase which was in place even before the show premiered. Was this an accident? Absolutely not! Despite the fact the the original pilot ran up views on YouTube well into the millions, the show itself is a masterpiece onto itself. Pen’s whimsical designs, very strong characters (yeah, I like Princess Bubblegum, so what?) and absurd plots are quite unique among TV shows today, even cartoons!
The shows creators have excelled in a few areas that I would not consider traditional marketing techniques, indeed, they have managed to create a dedicated community around the show, starting with ye olde blog. The good folks over at Frederator have been running their blogs for what seems like forever and have built up a solid reputation for being some of the best in the animation business when it comes to blogging. The show has a dedicated blog that during the production process featured countless backgrounds, character models, colour models, storyboards, scripts, animatics, you name it! This was (and still is) a fantastic insight into the production of an animated show that has been unmatched by any other, save for Fanboy & ChumChum (another Frederator production, naturally). The blog has been a tremendous source for info on the show and has been the source of many answers to questions that fans have had. It is a fantastic interactive portal between the studio and its customers.
On a related note to the blog has been the Tumblelog, hosted on Tumblr (where I also have a tumblelog). In the beginning it was merely a repository for the artwork posted on the main blog, but since the shows debut, it has become a steady (and prolific) stream of fanart. The quality does vary quite a bit, but that is unimportant. What is important is that the number of fans who’ve made artwork is phenomenal. In fact, even the fanart has taken on a lofe of its own. The latest craze is to take album covers and remodel them using Adventure Time characters. So far I’ve got a great kick out of seeing some fantastic takes on both great albums and the shows characters.
Perhaps the most striking development of the shows popularity has been the Finn Hats. These are indeed the hat worn by Finn the Human in the show. Things kicked off when a few promotional hats were made by Cartoon Network. Not long after, instructions were posted on how to make your own Finn hat. Since then the internet has exploded with self-portraits of fans in their very own hats. A few have even gone the whole hog and dressed up for the conventions.
Last but not least has been the usual social networking stalwarts such as facebook and twitter. Pen has his own twitter feed where he tweets just about everything, from late nights in the studio to how things are going at Comic-Con. He gives fans a direct link to the creator of their favourite show and has wll over 4,000 followers at present.
Of course, all of this may not have come to pass if the original post hadn’t appeared on YouTube, where it went viral in the first place and racked up so many views.
Adventure Time could have stood on its merits as a cartoon even without all the above effort, but with all the above effort, the show is even more popular than it could have been. The important thing to note is that the efforts were mostly by the fans, with a little help from the production team. There is nothing I hate more than some marketing department trying to hype up a show by creating an artificial “community” that is so sterile it almost turns me off the show in question. With Adventure Time, it was a case of planting the seeds and watching the community grow naturally as word of mouth and anticipation took hold.
Any show should be similar, after all, it is the fans that support it and make it a worthwhile endevour for the studio and network. At the same time, if all shows were as good as Adventure Time, this wouldn’t require too much effort. Here’s to a bright future in the land of Oooo. 🙂