The blog will be taking the rest of 2012 off in order to focus on regrouping for the big year that will hopefully be 2013. Now let us all enjoy some fine cognac and have a Merry Christmas 🙂
Too often it seems that when cartoon characters make the leap into animated commercials, the quality isn’t quite up to par with the original material. Thankfully, sometimes one gets out that really shines and this Weetabix ad from 1992 is no exception.
Emulating the classic Looney Tunes shorts of the late 40s and early 50s, it condenses an entire plot from the usual 7-8 minutes down into under 45 seconds. It’s all accomplished, quite amazingly without much loss to either the characters or the plot (although naturally Weetabix plays a starring role) and it manages to maintain the high level of screwball comedy that the shorts were famous for. Enjoy!
I published this list last year too so was curious to see if there was any dramatic shifts in animated tastes in the previous 12 months. (Personally, I think we’ve seen a sizable overall improvement.) Like last year, the ranking is based on Amazon.com and is only for 2012 releases (or films receiving their first releases in 2012). See if you can spot any surprise!
And the no. 1 animated film DVD of 2012 is….Brave
Although character animation occupies a prime spot in my people’s minds when they think of animation, the technique is capable of far more than that. Witness the many educational films that are made with animation; including this one; part of the TEDed series.
And for a very retro explanation, check out this educational video by the Jam Handy organization from 1938.
The latest incarnation of My Little Pony has been worthy of plenty of discussion since its debut. The quality is excellent, the artists behind it are superb and its fans are devoted at a level most marketers can only fantasize about. Thankfully, the network that broadcasts the show, The Hub, has been smart enough to realise this and have allowed the fan community to grow freely, sometimes offering a little fertiliser of their own to give it a helping hand. I’ve discussed the whole phenomenon numerous times too, praising the progressive approach shown by the network to the entire affair.
However, a dark cloud has begun to cast its shadow over Equestria. I was expecting to discuss just one example, but this morning a second, and much more vicious example of a My Little Pony trademark dispute came to light. Both concern fans and both concern, not the Hub, but its parent company, Hasbro.
Via: Equestria Gaming
The first example to come to light (via Techdirt) is the fan-made online game MLP: Online. It was an entirely independent exercise and the developers apparently spent over a year and a half creating it before releasing the first episode just there in October.
Unfortunately, all the effort appears to have been in vain as Hasbro’s lawyers pounced on the unofficial game, going after it for both copyright and trademark infringement:
Shortly after that–exactly 4 weeks prior to now–we received a complaint about copyright and trademark infringement. We initially dismissed this it was most likely submitted by some trolls, as they could be submitted anonymously by anyone through our CDN. However, we continued to look into it, and by the following Monday, found it to be very real.
The developers admit that they weren’t exactly in the clear:
Hasbro is not to be blamed here. As per U.S. Trademark law, as soon as an infringement comes to light, they are obligated to defend the trademark, or they will lose it. They had no choice in the matter, regardless of what they thought of the project or how it benefited them.
However it appears that Hasbro was having none of it, even though there was a willingness on the developer’s side to work with them:
The matter was quite strict: there was little that we could do to work around it. We removed the download link and development was suspended. Discussions continued through the month, but it came down to one fact: MLP:Online had come to an end.
Now there are plenty of official MLP games out there, but the real issue here is whether or not they cater to the fans. A cursory glance of the Hasbro website raises questions about whether it caters to the brony crowd (hint: not if you’re over 10 or a boy). So it would seem natural that someone somewhere would create a game that does cater to the older crowd. MLP: Online appeared to fit that bill. Sadly, Hasbro, while legally right to defend their trademarks, chose the ‘nuclear’ option that will do nothing to foster the fan community.
The Plush Artist
The other, and far more intriguing story, popped up today and concerns Sherry Bourlan. Sherry is a MLP fan as well as an expert at creating plush toys (check out this very thorough post featuring her recent appearance at the Silly Filly Con in Kansas City). Her’s are not the cheapo kind though, they are expertly crafted and sold for a hefty price (this one sold for over $1,300 and has surely risen in value since). Ms. Bourlan was served with a notice of trademark infringement for selling her replica ponies through eBay with which she promptly complied (her store is empty at the time of writing)
What makes this case fascinating is that it is purely a trademark case (no copyright is involved) and because it centers around the concept of trademark known as ‘dilution‘, where an unofficial product may threaten an official product or cause confusion in the mind of the consumer.
In this instance, although Bourlan operated independently, there doesn’t appear to be any real dilution of a competing Hasbro product or even the My Little Pony trademark. Her products were of stunningly high quality and in any case, Hasbro doesn’t even make a competing plush toy!
So are they right to send a cease and desist? Legally, yes, but on the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot scale, this scores s blunderbuss. The company could so easily have come to an agreement with Bourlan for either a small or negligible -cost license and allow her to continue making her fantastic plushes. The My Little Pony brand is hardly being harmed by these stunning creations although they do show up Hasbro’s shortcomings as a brand; they could never hope to charge that much for a plush.
The moral of both stories is that large corporations can be incredibly short-sighted when it comes to the little people who actually support them. As noted at the top, the actual studio and network (The Hub) has nothing to do with both cases, a not entirely surprising state of affairs given their known stance on the show’s fans.
The parent corporation, Hasbro, on the other hand, sees things in a different light; towing the line of many similar behemoths by simply assuming that any unofficial activity is bad activity that needs to be put down. Little do they know that they are only hurting themselves. Especially so with the plushes. Hasbro doesn’t target adults but Ms. Bourlan clearly does. It’s a market they have actively neglected and are highly unlikely to get into anytime soon, so there’s no skin off their nose at the end of the day. The game is a similar matter and by actively stating that they are ignoring older fans (who have money!), the company is only fooling themselves.
Personally, if I were head of Hasbro, I would be taking a close look at the activity of my legal affairs department and whether or not they are justifying their activities. Defending trademarks is one thing, but you do not need to annihilate to win. Heck, even Disney back in the day found it much more agreeable to get a license out of infringers than to shut them down. They won by coming into the legal fold and Disney won because he sold more products that paid royalties!
The original is a genuine perennial classic; one that is guaranteed a valuable slot on the broadcast schedule without question. International equivalents include Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer for Americans and the Father Ted Christmas Special for all the Irish among us (not animated but impossible to beat).
So it’s quite a surprise to see that Channel 4 has commissioned a sequel to the original (not strictlya remake, as this Guardian post claims it is.) Here’s a few hopes I have for it that you should have too.
1. It Helps Put British Animation Back on the Map
While domestic animation in Britain is certain to get a boost from the tax credits that are coming soon, as a whole, the animation industry in the country has suffered over the last few decades. Many reasons can and have been given, but chief among them is that original British animation has suffered severely because networks are not commissioning near the volume that they used to. Today, many shows are imported (especially on the satellite clones of the American networks) and although domestic broadcasters continue to solicit content, more and more production has moved abroad in addition to more and more creators being abroad too.The Snowman is an instant British classic that has cast a long shadow over the British animation landscape for the last 30 years. While a sequel may not be ideal, here’s hoping it adds a bit o a halo to the industry as a whole.
2. It Reawakens Channel 4’s Love For Animation
Channel 4 brought was famous for commissioning a relatively substantial amount of animation in its early years. Such efforts gave rise to The Snowman and gave many previously unknown animators the opportunity to be seen. In an era when instant YouTube fame is starting to be taken for granted, the fact that you could create a film and get is broadcast on a national broadcaster (not matter the time of day or night) was and remains a big deal.Channel 4 (although faithful to animation as a whole; broadcasting South Park, The Simpsons and others) hasn’t had a serious interest in independent animation for quite some time. Partly to blame was the devastation wrought to original programming by Big Brother amongst others as well as a proliferation of offshoot digital channels. A web-only platform, 4mations was launched but whose last heartbeat was over two years ago is surely a sign that animation has taken a back seat in the 21st century.Here’s hoping that a sequel to a classic will give executives a reason to pause and examine how important animation was to the network’s early years and how beneficial it could be to its future.
3. It Prompts A Look At Traditional Styles if Not Technology
Traditional, hand-drawn animation is obsolescent in the real sense but not necessarily in the stylistic sense. CGI has been all-conquering over the last 10 to 15 years but also ushered in many new animation styles; from 3-D CGI to the flat shapes of Flash. Somewhat lost in all of this were the styles that traditional animation could deliver. Anything that looked inherently ‘drawn’ was off limits to computers for a long time until technology improved. Now, it is possible to do almost everything on a computer that you could do on a piece of paper. Although the new Snowman short was more old school than most, they did leverage technology to help speed up production. Hopefully, the inherently ‘drawn’ look of the Snowman will inspire animators to create works that look as if made with pencils even if the computer plays a role behind the scenes.
I spotted these in a supermarket this morning. I’ve never seen or heard of it before, but apparently Donald Duck Orange Juice been around for a long time.
Surely a throwback to a simpler time in licensed marketing seeing as Disney’s current faces include the princesses, major characters from whichever film is the latest release and the child actors in their kidcoms.
All the same, it’s good to see that Donald Duck still has some kind of resonance with today’s kids.
Since I’m on my honeymoon this week, enjoy some of the finer stuff I’ve collected on my tumblelog over the last 4 years or so.
As a member of ASIFA-East, I met the fantastically charming Mr. Warburton, which was a thrill in and of itself seeing as he is the genius behind Codename: Kids Next Door. However after following his blog, a few posts appeared that gave a bit more backstory to him that meant I was actually far more familiar with his work than I thought I was.
Readers of a certain age will instantly recognise the character below. Irish readers of a certain age will also associate him with the old 2FM ‘Beat on the Street’ concerts that never once came to a town close to me.
That’s not all though, he also worked on this character:
Yup, I remember watching that show when I was young too.
So there you go. All those years growing up in the remote north-west of Ireland, I never, ever thought I would meet the people behind such characters. However opportunities arise, and I’m pleased to say that’s put me in a position to meet such wonderful people.
Since I’m on my honeymoon this week, enjoy some of the finer stuff I’ve collected on my tumblelog over the last 4 years or so.
OK, so strictly speaking, it isn’t animation. (It is, in fact, supermarionation). Thunderbirds is, however, a TV show that has yet to beaten in terms of its awesomeness (entire buildings getting lowered into the ground? Heck, only Neon Genesis Evangelion comes close) and it’s theme song is a real classic. Despite its appearance, the show is, in fact, British and continues to enjoy a TV presence there to the best of my knowledge.
Moore proof that I love animated idents. 😀
Back in the mid-90s, Ireland had all of two (yes, two) TV stations: RTÉ 1 and Network 2. The former was the more conservative station, broadcasting the news and current affairs programmes, whereas the latter was more geared towards light entertainment and the younger crowd.
For years, they had this ident that beggars belief.
Then again, it was from the late 80s when Ireland was even more broke than it is now.
In 1995, a new station identity was created (info on the creators can be found here) that was refreshingly simple in its execution. Taking the elementary colours from the previous identity and transforming them into the four elements of water, earth, fire and air (see, I got the cycle right), the idents were a substantial improvement over what went before. To top off the animation, there is also very distinctive sounds that (in my humble opinion) are comparable to the famous THX Deep Note.
Unfortunately, these only lasted for two years (1995-1997) but despite being 18 years old, they manage to hold up extremely well. They would not look very out of place if they were broadcast today.