Poll: Which is the Greatest Treehouse of Horror?

Via: Simpsons.wikia.com

Almost everyone who’s a fan of the Simpsons appreciates the annual Treehouse of Horror episodes that are broadcast around Halloween. They’re a delightfully welcome intrusion of silly nonsense into the otherwise (or rather, formerly) realistic universe that the Simpsons live in.

While some are better than others, these four represent the truly best episodes. Which do you think is the best?

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Character Sundays: Witch Hazel

I simply couldn’t let Halloween pass without mentioning a character with at least some connection to the holiday and I think a witch will suit just fine.

There’s not a lot to say about Witch Hazel except that she is constantly scheming but is ultimately thwarted by her own mistakes. She’s a quirky mix of you loveable old grandmother and a wicked witch. By far the funniest aspect to her character is her giggle. It’s as if she’s a schoolgirl and not an ancient old crone!

By far the best way to appreciate her is to watch her. Here she is in the absolute classic short, Broomstick Bunny. The whole short is a setup to the never-in-doubt ending but is hilarious nonetheless.


Describe Your Personality in 3 Cartoon Characters

Spotted over on Reddit this morning, I thought it was a pretty blasé kind of thing that you find on the internet until I actually tried to think of the three characters that would describe my personality. All I can say is that it wasn’t quite as easy as I had anticipated, but nonetheless, the results are accurate.

Yup, It’s

There’s also the alternates.

How would you describe your personality in three cartoon characters? Leave a comment below! 🙂

A Fishing Fish and a Pythagasaurus

Two videos for you this week. First up is Aaron Long’s Fester Fish, a delightfully inane homage to 1930s cartoons. This is the second in the Fester Fish series, with the first one revolving around Fester watching his nephew. That one’s well worth checking out too. Shout out to my good friend Sean Clarke for referring them to me.

Secondly, via Broadhseet.ie (again? These guys must like animation or something) Pythagasaurus centres on two cavemen and their quest to find the fabled Pythagasaurus. If you’re a civil engineer like me, you’ll appreciate the subtle math jokes, but if you’re not a civil engineer like me, you’ll appreciate that Bill Bailey’s in it and it’s produced by Aardman. Enjoy!

Shea Fontana On Death in Cartoons

 Via: Grimadventures.wikia.com

Yesterday, Shea Fontana (talented animation writer) posted over on Tumblr about how she’s finally getting around to reading the final Harry Potter book. She mentions that having gotten this far, she’s noticed that a fair amount of characters are either killed off or die throughout the series, and that got her thinking about how things are quite different in cartoons.

 One S&P [standards & practices] note that has become so common that seasoned kid’s writers usually know to avoid it is that no one can die.  Okay, maybe at the end of the series, the main super bad guy can die.  But everyone else needs to give a good <MOAN> after they fall off a cliff to their (un)certain death so our young, impressionable viewers won’t be too sad.

This is a great observation. Death is a completely natural occurrence, we’ll all go through it without exception. Why then, do networks feel it is necessary to seclude this aspect of life from younger viewers?

Oh sure, it’s scary in some ways, and the oftentimes violent end that awaits a character is perhaps a bit too influential for younger viewers. Disney famously avoided an on-screen death for decades until The Lion King but never shied away from giving the audience a heavy hint about the character’s demise. The kids still knew what happened, they just didn’t get to see the gory details.

Why can’t we see more death in cartoons? Heck, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy managed to feature the grim reaper himself, and he still didn’t kill anyone! Would it really have made a difference to have Grim do his job on-screen instead of off? I don’t think so, and I thought it would have made the show even funnier than it already is.

Kids are spectacularly observant in many ways. They can tell the difference between characters and how and why they die. There’s no reason to hide it from them so blatantly.

Shea is spot on in her assessment:

It’s sad and tragic!  There’s real emotion because real people really die and real kids get that.

Lastly, Shea makes the excellent point that this kind of censorship only exists within the realm of the large corporation. Independent productions and novels are generally free from these kinds of restrictions, and with the advent of the internet, there’s an even greater ability for kids to see content that perhaps doesn’t attempt to hide the realities of life.

Go read the entire post, it’s well worth thinking about and there’s a cool drawing of Harry by the awesome Mike Maihack.

Mattel Hopes For A HIT

 Via: Wikipedia

It was announced yesterday that Mattel, the all-conquering toy manufacturer licensing company has acquired what’s left of HIT Entertainment, the intellectual property holder for many established children’s characters and shows such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Bob the Builder anf Fireman Sam.

It’s kinda funny how, as an adult, all these characters you loved as a kid suddenly become “properties” rather than actual characters. They can be bought, sold or licensed to anyone and everyone who’s willing to pay. They have to make profits and should the company go bust, they can be scooped up in the resulting fire sale.

In some ways it’s disheartening but in reality its not a surprise. Pretty much any show you see on TV these days is either owned by a large company or whose rights are held by one. As much a we’d like to believe that Thomas is really just a story invented for grandchildren, that is all in the past.

It will be interesting to see how well this deal plays out in the coming years though and whether or not the synergy to be gained from having your properties in-house will pay off for Mattel.

The 6 Best Ways to Merchandise An Animated Creation

Animation’s been around for a long time, and its related merchandise has been around for almost the same amount of time (Windsor McCay wasn’t very market-savvy). Arguably Walt Disney was the finest marketer that animation could have hoped for in that he didn’t just market anything and everything (except at the start), he knew his target audience but also who held the purse-strings for them.

Animation is a funny kind of a medium when it comes to merchandising because, unlike live-action, there’s only so much you can do. Oh sure, you have the usual things, which we’ll get to in a minute, but unfortunately, any physical replica can never match the animated version directly. Yes, even CGI falls into this trap, but they do have a leg up on traditional animation in that regard.

So, unlike a live-action TV show where you simply duplicate a prop or costume from the show and flog them to one and all, what are the best ways to create a merchandising empire built on an animated offering? Here’s a few of the best ones (that work for just about anything from a TV show to an independent film to an animated feature).

1. Toys

As much as I hate to be painfully obvious, toys are incredibly important for the simple reason that any animated TV show or film aimed at kids is slap bang-in-the-middle suitable for this. Why? Because toys are tried and tested and the reason for that is that they build upon the rampant imaginations of the little ones.

Toys are enormously lucrative but they do carry a lot of risks in that they’re costly to produce and can induce horrendous losses if they don’t sell. Perhaps best left to the big boys, toys can nonetheless be for adults too, (think novelties and high-quality figurines).

2. Clothing

It’s funny to think that these days its perfectly acceptable for grown adults to wear clothes with cartoon characters on them. Hot Topic seems to be doing quite well catering to the slightly older crowd with T-shirts and other items with recent shows such as Adventure Time but also older ones like Doug and Rugrats.

Clothing (for adults more so than kids) is a way for the wearer to publicly state that they identify with a character and who that character is.

Again, this is probably more suited to the big boys, but with the likes of Cafe Press, its possible for anyone to create something and plaster it on a T-shirt (or any other kind of merchandise for that matter). Personally, I’d like to see more clothing with animated characters on them (I’d wear more too but the office has a dress code). PS see my post with some of the T-shirts I found in Ireland featuring animated characters.

3. Books

Books! Who doesn’t like a book? Animation-related books are everywhere these days, from Art of, to storybooks to colouring books to you name it! Books do fall a lot closer to toys and animation in terms of cost and risk, but the great news is that you don’t even need to print books anymore, just make a PDF and put it online as an ebook!

You can, of course, still go the traditional route, but a lot of folks these days are taking the hybrid option, that is, offer an electronic version for download and a hard copy version to sell at shows or to those out there with more shelf space than myself.

Books are an important element in helping the audience connect with a project. “Art of” books are all the rage because they offer the consumer a glimpse into the processes that went into making their favourite film (or TV show). Storybooks, comics and the like allow the consumer to engage in additional stoytelling beyond the animated story, and who doesn’t like that?

All in all, books are an important element in selling your film or TV show that have been tried and tested for decades.

4. Signed Stuff

Why do people value singed stuff? Well, if they’re anything like me, they just like the feeling they get from knowing they have something unique (or close to it). Signed stuff is relatively rare in the grand scheme of things, and while they generally cost more than a non-signed item, they can provide the owner with a great sense of self-satisfaction.

Sadly, animators tend to hide behind the cel, but thankfully those that are known can create a valuable source of income and add a little extra to every sale by personalising things for their fans.

 5. Drawings

For years (back in the early days) it was assumed that the reams of paper produced at an animated studio were next to worthless. Heck, even Disney sold the cels from their classics at Disneyland in the 1950s.

That all changed pretty quick as studios and consumers realised that what could be better than owning a copy of something than owning a piece of it.

Bill Plympton utilizes this procedure very well. He’s a drawing kind of guy and relies heavily on merchandise to fund his animated adventures. So its only natural that he should sell the various drawings that he’s used to create is films (cels too). Why? Well for one, it costs money to store things, and secondly, why not? They help him engage with his fans and make him money doing it!

This can work for anyone, large or small. Even CGI films still produce tons of paper drawings (and concept art, etc) that one could sell.

Don’t think of it as selling a piece of yourself (it’s not), think of it as selling a piece of your creation to someone who will value it a lot. That’s the kind of person you want because they’re willing to pay for the privilege.

6. Access

Lastly, access can be an avenue to merchandising success because what’re rarer than an actual piece of the film? Why some time with the animator(s) themselves! Now of course, this will depend heavily on how well you are known and how willing you are to travel.

Nina Paley engages in this a lot. She travels all over the world giving talks and classes and so forth, but she was never busier than when she was promoting her feature film, Sita Sings the Blues. Why? Because a screening of a film is more lucrative when the person responsible shows up for a meet and greet.

Obviously this isn’t just as simple as showing up and signing a few pieces of paper. Oh no. You have to engage with the audience so that they form a connection with you and your film. That kind of thing helps build relationships and help someone become more amenable to buying something if they fell they know you personally.


Need some examples? Check out these sites below!

Character Sundays: Raven from Teen Titans

What’s the matter? Afraid of the dark?

Perhaps the ultimate mysterious character in a kids TV show is Raven from Teen Titans. She’s the resident quote/unquote “goth” of the group, but there is much more to her character than simply liking the dark side of life.

Why? Well, for one, she’s partly inhabited by her demon father (and you thought living at home was bad enough), which effectively curses her with terrible purpose. This makes her a very private character that sometimes leaves others questioning her demeanour. Of course, the truth comes out eventually, but for the most part, it remains hidden throughout the series.

Raven exhibits a high level of intelligence as she is continually reading and researching spells, potions and other things. In other words, she understands her powers and attempts to use them to their full potential. That’s not to say she’s smarter than other members of the group, but she does display the most discipline in relation to her powers.

She is ultimately a good character and has a deep connection to the rest of her team members. Her strong individuality does not preclude her team spirit in the slightest and she readily and willingly fights alongside the others.

That is not to say she is above the usual, human frailties. She can be jealous, scared, annoyed (especially by Beast Boy) and she can be especially angered by the actions of others that she judges to be insincere or stupid.

Raven has a brutal sense of anger, that is partially unleashed by her demon father. In such instances, no enemy is spared as she delights in terrorising them into insanity.

All the same, Raven in a way represents common sense within the Titans. She is always looking at problems objectively. She doens’t fly off the handle like the boys, or is she overly sensitive like Starfire. Nope, she sees things exactly the way then need to be seen and is not above raising her objections to what she sees is a flawed plan.

Raven is an incredibly deep and complex character that adds much to an erstwhile team of misfits. Despite being in a group with the word “teen” in the title, Raven is immensely more mature in both words and actions. That being said, she is not above the odd bit of mischief or fun, especially if it is at Beast Boy’s expense.

Overall, Raven is by far my favourite member of the Titans. She’s incredibly smart, unfathomably complex, suspiciously dark but unnendingly well-meaning. Such a mix of things are incredibly rare in a character, especially a superhero like Raven.

Because I was Galavanting Around New York Yesterday

And because I can’t write about what I wanted to write about for various reasons, here’s a picture of the 2008 Ottawa International Animation Festival poster.

Deadpan humour at its best.