A selection of the best animation news, opinions, and features from around the world for the week ending January 25th, 2020.Read more
If the thirteen episodes mentioned in the title seems a bit short, just imagine how the Simpsons would be viewed today if the original order was all that was made. Would it still be viewed as a classic, or be relegated to a footnote of television history? Regardless of what would have happened 25 years ago, the future is pointing inexorably towards series runs of a predetermined length and story structure.
Adventure Time; a show famous for it’s awesome lead characters and bros for life, Finn and Jake but also for it’s great supporting cast of diverse female characters. Princess Bubblegum (Peebles), Marceline the Vampire Queen, and countless other princesses from the magical Land of Ooo. Yet McDonalds thinks that only boys deserve the show’s toys in their Happy Meals. What gives?
Over on Indiewire, Eric Kohn has written a very interesting (and comprehensive) piece on Adventure Time and how the show has grown far from its simple roots by expounding in all sorts of weird and nuanced directions. What Kohn touches on, but does not completely explore, is why the logical, complimentary relationship that should exist between creators and fans has gotten somewhat out of step and why that’s a thing that should be a concern.
Another late roundup this week thanks to extenuating circumstances. All I’ll say is that the lack of public transportation options in the US is about to cost me a lot of money and car dealers truly do embody the stereotype of vultures. Anyways, enough of my troubles, here’s what you ought to read this week.
The end of the Hollywood blockbuster
This story has been kicking around for a while now ever since Spielberg and Lucas opined at a talk. This Pando Daily piece doesn’t attempt to explore the financial changes or pressures facing studios. Rather it looks at the generational shifts in terms of viewing habits. Here’s the key paragraph:
But here’s what should keep Hollywood executives up at night. My daughters don’t care much about the so-called quality of the experience. They don’t like to schlepp to movie theaters because the big-screen experience is less appealing than small-screen viewings on our television or iPad. The only time they want to go is when a movie they can’t get on TV or the iPad comes out, like “Despicable Me 2.” As for me, I’m happy to save the money it costs for us to see a movie in a theater – for a family of four it can be $40 or more plus transportation. That pays for four months of Netflix.
For the animation industry, whose core audience today is kids and by extension, their parents, that last sentence ought to serve as a wakeup call. This summer we’ve been lucky, but that may not be true in 2014.
Burka Avenger: Pakistan’s cartoon superhero battling for girls’ education
Coming via a regrettably rather snide piece in the Guardian is the news that the very first animated TV show to be produced in Pakistan will feature a superhero, and a female one to boot!
There’s a dearth of female protagonists in the west, but even more so in heavily masculine countries around the world. Burka Avenger is an attempt to counter the views of groups such as the taliban when it comes to the education of girls and young women.
Rising Animators Spring into Action
This New York Times piece (sorry, the on link I could find leads to a paywall but Cartoon Brew’s might be good) appears to be more fluff than anything else. For one, there’s only one female animator listed and you know there’s more than that in the industry that could be worthy of a place. That isn’t to belittle the guys on there though; everyone is top-notch talent. It would just be nice to see something a bit more representative, that’s all.
Ice Queen By Brianne Drouhard
I wish I could draw like this. I really do, but I can’t. Thankfully people like Brianne exist out there who can, and do, create awesome things like this. Ice Queen is a favourite of mine, and this captures her perfectly.
Tweets of the Week
No one has talked about how amazing the DreamWorks panel was when a fangirl asked if they’d ever collaborate with Disney, “NO.”
— Jessie Velociraptor (@jessiesarah) July 24, 2013
getting a legal letter from Disney punctuated by a smiling Mickey seems like something of a mixed message
— Claire Hummel (@shoomlah) July 24, 2013
Why don’t voice actors have their own union called VAG– Oh I see
— Aaron Long (@aalong64) July 24, 2013
Unusually enough for a blog about animation, you don’t see that many videos posted here. That is let slide today because PBS and their Idea Channel on YouTube have released a rather excellent video:
The topics of animation, gender and the issues surrounding the two are a familiar site on the blog and in Is BMO Expressive of Feminism? host Mike Rugnetta does a great job of analysing both BMO’s character and it’s gender (or lack thereof) and how it relates to the so-called third wave of feminism.
Now this isn’t a feminist blog per se but many of the goals of the movement can be related to and discussed within, the boundaries of socially mandated gender norms and expectations.
BMO, as Rugnetta contends, ignores many of those established norms and, in effect, makes gender a non-issue simply by not having the character defined as one. BMO is both male and female and yet is also neither, being an electronic box of parts that cannot comprehend self-definition of a gender because it simply isn’t possible.
Rugnetta is right that BMO serves to break down the social norms we are used to but not at the expense of the character themselves. BMO is universally loved by all fans of adventure time and serves as one of the few such unifying characters in animation today.
Is BMO representative of third wave feminist ideals and goals? It’s a bit of a stretch to entirely attribute BMO’s character to the notions of biological and social gender identifications. But having said that, the character does illustrate how the concept of gender identification does not need to be something that is forced on individual viewers.
It is ironic that Adventure Time is, overall, heavily geared towards boys and that despite some fantastic, strong female characters, it remains that way. The fact that it includes and is proud of, a character that defies such gender logic is just another aspect to an already super show.
Does BMO represent the future? Rugnetta argues as representative of the third wave of feminism, he/she is. I, on the other hand, would contend that BMO is more of a prototype of sorts as to how such characters could work if and when they become more mainstream and how existing gender norms could be applied in equal measure to a character.
The important lesson to impart from the video and this post is that gender continues to be something that is incredibly dependent on our social upbringing and environment. While it is perfectly fine to self-identify as a particular gender, society continues to impress certain norms and expectations on individuals that are not entirely, well, compatible with the ideal of a free and open society.
While BMO is but one character in an animated TV show, he/she is groundbreaking from the standpoint that such societal pressures are just that and the character’s ignorance of the expectations associated with it, display a positive message for kids that will hopefully take root.
I’m asking this in a deadly serious tone, the pilot episode for the upcoming Cartoon Network series Steven Universe slipped online the other day, but was quickly yanked before anyone really knew what was going on. The episode itself (notto tease you any further) looks extremely promising with some lovely animation in addition to a superb cast of characters.
Why CN Should Know Better
The reason I pose this question is because Cartoon Network (of all networks) should know what wonders can be worked when a short is posted online in advance of the main series. The reason is simple, they’ve been here before with Adventure Time.
Yes, the original Random! Cartoons short was posted online after being broadcast on Nickelodeon. While many felt the short was too weird for a proper series, viewers disagreed and the numbers quickly racked up into the millions. Naturally this gave serious weight to the notion that there was demand for a full series and Cartoon Network dutifully picked it up after Nickelodeon’s exclusivity clause lapsed.
Needless to say, the show is one of the most popular animated TV shows of the past five years and has been the cornerstone of Cartoon Network’s audience growth.
Why Steven Universe is a Case of Deja Vu
So beside the obvious reason why a short would leak online (hint: people like to watch stuff), why would CN pull it ever so quickly? While they naturally want to keep things under wraps as long as possible, that’s pretty much gone to seed now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak.
If anything, Adventure Time proves that keeping a short online only adds to audience anticipation for the full series. Now as a network executive, wouldn’t you rather have a large audience waiting in rapt anticipation than to have to pay for advertising and marketing to accomplish the same result?
Steven Universe ought to be available online, even if it differs from the final product. It never hurt Adventure Time and it is unlike to hurt this show. Quite simply, Cartoon Network have to realise that they are in competition with web series now as well. Bravest Warriors is surely proof of that, and by hiding content away, they are doing themselves no favours at all.
A good while ago, we wrote about how Cartoon Network was letting down its own fans by restricting the online streaming on their site to cable/satellite subscribers only. Unfortunately, that still appears to be the case, and the network, along with its hit show Adventure Time is all the worse for it.
The reason is simple, fans can’t [legally] view the latest episodes when they want to. If you don’t have a DVR or a cable subscription (as I don’t) then you’re basically out of luck. Besides torrents, there are plenty of site that will stream the latest episodes and they are only a Google away.
And This Hurts People How?
Well, David OReilly created an episode of Adventure Time that was broadcast last night and subsequently attempted to melt the internet but was fortunately unsuccessful. That said, plenty of fans in the hours afterwards attempted to view it and were out of luck.
Cartoon Network doesn’t have it on YouTube and their aforementioned full episode streams on their website aren’t open to everyone. The result? Fans willing to dilute their own viewing experience by accessing crappy streams. As OReilly himself notes:
Fans, so pious is their love for Adventure Time that they would rather watch a shitty compressed stream that isn’t even the right colour than wait for Cartoon Network to rerun it. Nobody gains from this.
The Kicker to The Whole David OReilly/Adventure Time Saga
The kicker to all of this is the fact that nothing can be kept offline any more. Heck, the episode was even leaked prior to its airing on the network itself. Sure, Cartoon Network realise they have a winner, but they also fail to realise that with such an explosive show, they need to be on top of handling it when it goes off.
With a big event like this, attention and demand will be concentrated at around the time that it is first made available. You can capitalise on that, but only if you are ready for it.
How does Cartoon Network gain from people watching illegal streams? They don’t! Plain and simple. However, that being said, there is no logical reason for them not to offer legal streams on their own sites or YouTube channel. How many views could they have gotten if the episode was available immediately after it was broadcast? Half a million? One million? More?
Given the recent success of Bravest Warriors, it’s fair to say that the Glitch is a Glitch episode of Adventure Time could easily be at over a million views by now (<24 hours later). Anything that Cartoon Network could have gained from those views is gone; either spread amongst the streaming sites or lost to unauthorised downloads.
How To Counteract It
What really irks this forward thinker though is that they could counter it so, so easily. They could simply put the episode up on YouTube for 24-48 hours for starters. They could harvest views on their site without necessarily damaging the ratings of reruns later on. They would gain the exposure and potentially drive more people to check out the older episodes which, thankfully, are now on Netflix.
They could also have it available to buy. Again, no sign of that less than 24 hours after broadcast.
Where’s the associated value-added merchandise that we discussed just the other day? Why is there quite literally nothing except the episode available except for the tidbits that David OReilly himself has been posting and tweeting about? The man knows a thing or two about nurturing fans and its sad to see his expertise being completely ignored.
The entire saga should be used a lesson so that people can learn how not to react when something this big hits the internet.
Seriously? Why is there no Adventure Time Swatch watch out there? Why can’t I buy them? Why can’t anyone buy them? Why hasn’t anyone thought of doing it yet?
Well, here’s a few reasons for someone to get on it.
Swatch Is Cool
Alright, yes, that statement is coming from a child of the 80s when Swatch was the watch to have. Cheap, cheerful and created solely as a tool to ward off the crushing Japanese digital threat that almost sunk the entire Swiss watchmaking industry, Swatch watches become the epitome of haute couture for those wishing keep up with fashionable 80s taste.
Fast forward to 2013, and Swatch watches are nowhere near as ubiquitous as they used to be, but, they’re still being made in just about every colour/pattern imaginable and they still exhibit they same classic design that made them a worldwide icon.
Adventure Time Is Cool
This is already a given, right? The show has done wonders for Cartoon Network and continually manages to outdo itself. Besides that, we’ve noted here on this blog that the show has not only been superb at embracing its fans, but also embracing novel merchandising ideas such as T-shirt competitions and limited edition wallets.
On top of that, the show has a near-perfect cast of characters. This eclectic bunch appeals to a wide range of fans in all sorts of demographics and ages. Merchandise released so far has done well to either include most of the cast, or utilise them individually to great effect.
Why Bring Adventure Time and Swatch Together Though?
Ah, the real question. Why bring a style icon of the past together with a cultural icon of today? The answer is pretty simple actually; both things complement each other. Don’t believe me?
Adventure Time is known as a fun show with fun characters engaging in all sorts of fun adventures in the Land of Ooo. Swatch staked their brand on being the fun watch, the watch that was cheap and cheerful, the watch that stood out amongst a sea of boring digital timepieces. What’s wrong with bringing two fun things together?
They Suit Each Other
Swatch watches are famous for being brightly coloured, simple watches. Sure there are more sophisticated models, but your basic Swatch watch is about as plain as they come:
This plain style is just crying out to be adorned with Pen Ward’s creations. Tragically, I cannot create the mockups necessary to visually explain what’s in my head (please, any Photoshop wizzes out there who’d like to help out, be my guest), but imagine an orange swatch watch with an elongated Jake along the entire length of the band. His bellybutton could be the centre of the dial!
Also being of benefit is that fact that Swatch watches are practically indestructible thanks to their simplicity and are inexpensive enough to be suitable for kids to have. Not that we’re focusing solely on kids, but being inexpensive means that people are likely to buy more than one.
Yes, they would be desirable. Don’t pay attention to those old bitter folks who claim that Swatch watches were a fad. Ignore the notion that nobody wears watches any more because they can just look at their phones. Gloss over the fact that a Beemo Swatch watch may not be entirely accurate.
Watches have long been surpassed as the primary method by which people tell the time. Yeah we have phones, computers, clocks and so on, but such a mindset completely ignores the reason people still wear watches: their fashionable. Yes, that’s right, I said fashionable. They’re objects of fashion for men and women, young and old. Watches are a mainstay of the fashion accessory industries and that situation is highly unlikely to change any time soon.
If anything, an Adventure Time Swatch watch may help younger kids become interested in watches. After all, they’re cool looking and have their favourite characters on them, right? Even among older fans, ones who do remember Swatch’s earlier heyday, they would be a nostalgic item.
They would also play into the current trend of personalisation. IPhone covers, clothing, jewellery and plenty of other pieces of merchandise play on the idea of making a personal statement. Swatch has been advocating that marketing line for years; a range of Adventure Time watches would only be the latest incarnation of their corporate mission.
Just Make Them Already!
Cartoon Network is missing out on an opportunity to create a range of merchandise that it truly memorable, appeals to fans, and promotes the proliferation of Adventure Time even further into the public realm beyond its fans. Why they haven’t considered this already is beyond me. But hey, if they decide to take it up, and Ice Queen one is all I ask for.
What do you think? Would you wear an Adventure Time Swatch Watch?
Although I generally try to avoid these kind of catch-all posts, I just can’t avoid it today for various reasons. Below is a list of articles I read today that should interest you.
Miyazaki and Feminism
Helen McCarthy has a post where she raises the notion that Hayao Miyazaki may not be the great feminist that many see him as. While it is generally accepted that he creates films with great, strong female characters, McCarthy argues that he created these characters more out of necessity that any real desire to improve the presence of females in anime.
Disney Take A Stand Against The Asylum Of Animation
Via: The Guardian
Bleeding Cool has this article reporting that Disney has finally decided to take on the knock-off films that are produced with an uncanny resemblance to their hits. Numerous titles including Braver, What’s Up and the Little Cars are all in the firing line as the company seeks to end their distribution. My thoughts? There are eejits out there who will considerany animation to be from Disney.
Of Mice and Ego
Coming by way of Michael Sporn is this review of Chuck Jones’ early career and his many cartoons featuring mice by Thad Komorowski. Naturally Sniffles is the main focus of attention, but the post itself is a great analysis of Jones’ style of directing and indeed the kind of stories and characters he used. Well worth a read.
Is Adventure Time the Weirdest Kid’s TV Show Ever?
British newspaper The Guardian takes a look at Adventure Time and doesn’t really come to any solid conclusion (but then we all know there are far weirder kids shows out there). Nonetheless it is a generally fawning piece that praises the show’s ability to place itself within “that sweet spot between pre-teen adoration and countercultural cool”, its awesome visuals and the fact that the characters are gradually aging as the show progresses.
Made by ABVH
This is perhaps one of the cooler tumblelogs devoted to the animated GIF that I’ve come across. Well worth a follow if you’re on Tumblr.
The other day, I decided to get the Adventure Time Season 1 DVD. Yeah, I know what I said, but lacking suitable alternatives meant that I’m left with little choice. In the course of browsing to purchase it, I was struck by Amazon’s misguided pricing policy when it comes to cartoons. See the screenshot below:
See something kinda funny there? Yup, why buy the digital version for more than it cost for the physical discs! That simply can’t make any sense, can it? I mean for one, DVDs have to be made, shipped to Amazon, stored and then shipped to me. The digital copy gets uploaded to their servers once and then gets streamed/downloaded as necessary. The worst part about that? I’m paying half the delivery cost; the bandwidth!
Now someone is apt to say that with the digital copy, I can watch it on multiple devices and in multiple locations but of course DVDs are easy to rip and once they are, they are just as portable, if not more so due to the DRM on Amazon’s digital files.
So I was curious, my interest was decidedly piqued; were other cartoon series’ priced similarly or was this just a naked attempt to cash in on Adventure Times success? Let’s have a look-see.
Here’s a few of the better deals:
And here’s a few of the more egregious ones:
It should be noted that The Hub has no series’ on DVD in their entirety yet and the Disney Channel is sticking firmly with DVD for now. I also left out some shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender and Rocko’s Modern Life because they are available on Netflix and Amazon’s own streaming service for free.
So who’s losing out here? Is it Amazon because they’re selling less digital versions? Hardly, you can be sure those digital sales are almost 100% profit for them. Do studios lose? Again, not likely. They make a profit on the DVDs at those prices so you can be sure they make a profit once they cut out the manufacturing and distribution and whack up the price.
So if they don’t lose, then who does?
Us consumers obviously! And sadly, they way things are going, those DVD sets will start to go away and you can be sure that those digital prices are not going to budge one bit.