Little Witch Academia Sequel Funded in Just Three Hours!

Via: Random Curiosity
Via: Random Curiosity

We’ve discussed the Trigger short Little Witch Academia on the blog here before, and it’s nice to see the studio do so many things right with it. So much so, that when a Kickstarter project was released, it was fully funded to the tune of $150,000 in just about three hours! So what has been done to get things so right? Unsurprisingly, its all down to common sense and a bit of luck.

The Original Little Witch Academia Had Risk-Free Funding

Yes, as discussed before, the original was funded by a grant from the Japanese government. That meant that Trigger was free to indulge in a bit of remarkable creativity and inevitably create something that has garnered a lot of critical praise in addition to being commercially viable.

It Was The Epitome Of Superb Content

There’s no doubt about it; Little Witch Academia is what is meant by the descriptor ‘top-notch’. It oozes high quality and craftsmanship the likes of which even Disney has been unable to replicate in the last decade or so. The story is enchanting, the characters are delightful and the animation is nothing short of downright gobsmacking.

Yup, Little Witch Academia illustrates all to clearly how a devotion to quality can work real and lasting wonders.

Trigger Engaged With Fans

Being based in Japan, Trigger could all too easily have ignored fans outside of the country altogether. Instead though, they did everything right with an eye to boosting their presence. Right off the bat, they didn’t pull down the unofficial YouTube leaks; rather, they released an official version replete with corrected English subtitles!

They also listened to fans and continually communicated with a positive attitude about wanting to make more animated Little Witch Academia content.

They Did Things One Step At A Time

Just recently, it was announced that a Blu-Ray home media release of Little Witch Academia is slated for later in 2013. Could this have been done earlier in the year? Sure, but rather than risking a lot of money by making something that potentially wouldn’t sell, Trigger instead waited. When the short’s popularity soared through the roof, they cut a deal. Tying in again with the quality of the content as mentioned above, there should be no problem shifting those discs come August.

The Lessons This Success Story Should Teach

It’s unfortunate that the simple, basic steps that Trigger has taken with Little Witch Academia are so roundly ignored on a daily basis by animation studios around the world. While it’s understandable that they have to work within the confines of TV networks for some of their work, it’s hard to believe that they take the same approach to their own stuff, and seek to impose to everyone the kinds of restrictions they are bound to.

This case highlights the fact that true and meaningful success is totally and easily achievable with the two simple things of great content and a willingness to listen and communicate with those who watch it.

Bravo Trigger!

Week Links 24-2013

Multiple engaging week links today!

Homer Simpson isn’t a positive role model for kids? Eat my shorts…

David Mitchell over at the Guardian has this thoughtful piece about whether or not one of the greatest character ever to grace the TV screen is a bad role model for kids. Well worth a read for the infractions from certain quarters.

The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead: Q&A with Elliot Cowan

boxheads1-520

Elliot Cowan is in the process of making a feature film almost single-handedly. He discusses the much-anticipated project over on Zippy Frames in a very insightful interview.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls trailer – on the hoof? More like on the hooch

"And so the ponies get on with living life to its fullest, by getting hammered on generic-brand alcohol and inhaling strange gasses from balloons."
“And so the ponies get on with living life to its fullest, by getting hammered on generic-brand alcohol and inhaling strange gasses from balloons.”

Another one from the Guardian (this time by Stuart Heritage) but which occupies a much higher position on the sarcasm scale.

Equestria Girls has been covered on the blog here before, but this is an actual review that is more brutally honest than they tend to be:

Next, in a scene that definitely wasn’t added because Hasbro knows that a lot of the My Little Ponies: Equestria Girls revenue will come from adult male brony fetishists, Twilight Sparkle gets down on her hands and knees and lets her dog mount her. Silly Twilight Sparkle! On this planet we put string around our dogs’ necks and … no, wait, that’s playing into the bronies’ hands too. Disregard.

You should definitely read the whole thing, which does a great job of illustrating the marketing/executive farce that is Equestria Girls.

Mike Boon Animation Alphabets

Via Animated Review are a series of alphabets featuring animated characters. Here’s the Simpsons one, but there are many more.

Via: Animated Review
Via: Animated Review
Via: Random Curiosity
Via: Random Curiosity

This announcement may be the one that finally gets me around to buying a Blu-Ray player; something I’ve resisted so far for no particular reason.

However, there’s more to this than a simple home media release:

The anime will come in a collector’s edition on Blu-ray Disc with an original soundtrack disc and a 112-page art book with storyboards, sketches, character art, and illustrations. Video extras include a 66-minute making-of video that chronicles fledgling studio Trigger‘s journey to create Little Witch Academia for the Anime Mirai 2013 program. The disc will have the Japanese soundtrack with English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese subtitles.

Is anyone in any doubt about the ability to sell this given a.) the quality of the film itself and b.) the sheer breadth of material thrown in for the fans and nothing more?

This is what we talk about when we mean catering to fans. The price is currently unknown, but even at $50 it will be worth it.

Coming Soon On Tumblr

Zodiac Starforce

Nope, I don’t know either. But I am intrigued from a business model standpoint as well as a story one.

UPDATE: Thanks Ryan!

Tweets of the Week

 

A Theory on Government Subsidies For Animation

It’s currently a hot topic among animation circles, and especially their cousins in the VFX industry. Yes, government subsidies are contentious no matter what side of the debate you’re on. Those for, argue that they retain jobs and industries in countries (or regions) that would otherwise lose them to cheaper competition. Those against, argue that they entice companies to slide from country to country and region to region as subsidies are created and retracted. Subsidies are a form of support from government, but today, I’m proposing support of a particular kind.

Little Witch Academia

Via: Random Curiosity
Via: Random Curiosity

This past weekend, I watched the short film Little Witch Academia, which I enjoyed immensely. (It’s stunning to think that it packs more action and character into the same amount of time as an episode of any TV show.) What piqued my interest in the short in addition to the animation was how it was funded.

Yes, Little Witch Academia was created by a studio called Trigger and although a group of ex-Gainax animators were involved, the short itself was the product of many young animators who were the recipients of a grant from the Japanese government.

The grant itself is entitled ‘Young Animator Training Project‘ [link]. Essentially, the Japanese government endows a certain amount; in this case 214.5 million yen (about US$2.27 million), which is distributed among four studios. These studios in turn create projects such as Little Witch Academia with a staff of young animators who essentially learn on the job. The goal of the project is that training as Japan has seen an increase in animation being sent overseas.

Why Not Direct Government Subsidies?

Many people see direct government subsidies in the form of tax relief as a great tool for creating demand. While that is certainly true (one need only look at Ireland to see an industry grown from scratch thanks to a healthy subsidy), subsidies themselves can only go so far. They can lower production costs, but they do not address the causes for them to be so high in the first place (that’s usually a macroeconomic concern.)

Moreover, direct subsidies are inherently risky because they are susceptible to undermining. Don’t believe it? Look at British Columbia, a state that had generous government subsidies for VFX and animation but is now seeing such work leave thanks to a larger subsidy being offered in Ontario and other jurisdictions.

Direct subsidies also do not, on their own, either increase work or skills. The rise in work they bring in certainly do, but tax relief itself does not spur creativity or the desire to create new content.

Why Indirect Government Subsidies Are Better

Indirect subsidies are essentially efforts like the Young Animator Training Project. They are governments putting money into animation, but rather than attempting to ‘pull’ demand, they ‘push’ it. Consider the following points:

They Can Focus On the Problem

Indirect subsidies can be meted out in a specific manner. They can be targeted at specific areas or problems that direct subsidies are only so good at accomplishing. They can focus on specific skills, ages, genders and regions. Once a problem is identified, an indirect subsidy can be created and applied quickly. In Japan’s case, work was going abroad and young animators were getting neither the training or employment they needed.

For many in animation, cost is a considerably concern. However, costs are only relative insofar that they are related to supply. It’s a complicated issue, but generally, clients will pay for skills they can’t find anywhere else. Indirect subsides can improve skills and mitigate this concern.

They Can Fund Things That Otherwise Would Never Be Made

Unfortunately, commercial studios are notoriously risk averse; hence the reason we had so many Shrek movies long past the series’ use-by date. With studios unwilling (or unable) to take risks with creating content, governments can step in to fill the void. Practically every country in the world has some sort of commission or council that funds film projects. While many of their projects live up to the stereotype of permitting artsy fartsy content to come to fruition, they can also give more mainstream content the extra helping hand it needs.

The Secret of Kells was one such project that, while not overtly art house in nature, it did receive assistance from both Bord Scannán na hÉireann (the Irish Film Board) and the state broadcaster, RTÉ. Both entities receive their funding through public sources but they utilise it in order to create the best content possible. No-one, of course, would argue that the world (and animation in general) is worse-off because the Secret of Kells was released.

They Don’t Bet On Horses

In line with the point above is that indirect subsidies do not bet on horses so to speak. Direct subsidies anticipate a certain level of investment but they also cannot control who undertakes such activities. In that respect, they tend to be bets placed with public money. Just look at what happened in Florida with Digital Domain. It was a successful company that whittled funds from the State of Florida to build a studio with the promise of jobs. Said facility was built and jobs were created, but when everything went south, the results were catastrophic.

Indirect subsidies mitigate such risks by simply ignoring them. Instead of backing ventures that potentially turn a profit, indirect subsidies instead anticipate no profit being made; in other words, they eliminate the risks associated with the production costs. The difference is significant because production costs are the risk that studios undertake when producing animation. The reason is simple, they must carry their burden before earning them back through box office sales and so on. If grants can reduce or eliminate production costs, then studios have no reason not to produce!

This reduction in risk permits studios who receive them to be a bit more daring in their offerings; another reason why films from the National Film Board of Canada are so widely regarded.

Their Films Act As A Calling Card

To come back to Kells for a second, that film was utterly and unashamedly Irish in all aspects. It was rightfully recognised as being the ideal siren film for Irish animation which was only amplified by its Academy Award nomination. Films sponsored through indirect subsidies can accomplish this on a successful scale. As you might expect, such films generally tend to champion the source of their funding; Kells with Ireland, Little Witch Academia with Japanese animation.

They Can Incite Creativity

Direct government subsidies for animation bring in a lot of work, but do they necessarily incite creativity among the artists who work on them? Sure, American shows are popular abroad as well as at home, but The Simpsons has been animated in South Korea for over 20 years, and I have yet to see anything emanate from that country resembling Springfield’s first family.

Yes, cultural differences can be a sticking point for direct subsidies. What good does it do to local talent if the work all day on something they may not necessarily relate to? Would it not perhaps be better to have them work on something they identify with culturally and socially? Perhaps even something that could improve their cultural identity?

Working on something you identify with is much more likely to spur you to create something yourself. If you work on a film that permits you to put a bit of yourself into it and learn from it, you’re more likely to perhaps take on an independent film, right?

Conclusion

All the above isn’t to say the direct subsidies do not have their benefits, they certainly do. In Ireland’s case, an industry has been built up from near nothing! However, indirect subsidies can accomplish much more, in both the financial and creative sense. They are better for the industry on a range of levels and should be utilised more.

Let’s hear your thoughts on government support for animation! Do you favour one form over another? Should they be abolished entirely? Leave a comment below!