When Cartoon Network Shoots Themselves in The Foot

Although this was posted on r/AdventureTime today, I had to go and check it out for myself just to be sure. Here’s my actual screenshot (click to embiggen):

 

Nice isn’t it? Instead of a full episode of Adventure Time (or any other series), I’m greeted with a nice reminder that I don’t, in fact, have cable or satellite.

While I heartily laugh at the subtle suggestion that I start forking out and arm and/or leg for channels with more commercials than content, this screenshot nonetheless represents Cartoon Network shooting themselves in the foot and taking aim at Adventure Time fans too.

Why? The answer is simple. By restricting online streaming of full episodes, guess what that does? It not only inconveniences fans who want to catch up on the latest episode, it also directly prevents new fans of the series from increasing their enjoyment of the show. Surely the whole point of entertainment is to get as many eyeballs on it as you can, right?

Turner Broadcasting seems to think differently however, and would rather cut off fans both old and new from their favourite show, by extension reducing the audience and the market for any merchandise.

Now that is not to say that the show will disappear, even the post on reddit is called “This is why I torrent” alluding to the fact that the show really is that good. The downside for Turner and Cartoon Network is that any fan who moseys on over the torrents is a lost fan, one whose interest (and potentially money) is directed away from their operations.

If I were studio chief, I would have serious misgivings about seeing fans go elsewhere for the sake of ensuring that only paid-up subscribers see the legitimate stream.

Know Your Animation Tax Incentives!

Coming by way of a tweet from Cathal Gaffney is an overview of production incentives from around the world put together by Entertainment Partners. Since it focuses on every credit in most major jurisdictions and sub-jurisdictions, I thought it would be easier to tease out the ones pertaining specifcally to animation and comment on those instead,

Starting off in the US, there is Connecticut, whose credit was successful in attracting Blue Sky Studios to the state from its cormer home just next door in New York. While the credit has undoubtedly helped the studio establish a home and serve as a production base for some very successful studios, it has nonetheless served to sap some of the talent from nearby New York City. Nonetheless, it has so far allowed a major studio to remain in the north-east US, for now.

Australia has both federal and territorial credits with the former requiring an “Australianess Test”, something that is common in many countries offering credits (although not all apply to all productions). At the lower level, New South Wales and Queensland offer credits as well. Australia was the first destination for overseas animation production all the way back in the day when Hanna-Barbera among others started the practice in order to save costs. Today, Australia is still quite the contender in the animation scene with Happy Feet being the latest film touted on the Australian government’s quite comprehensive animation site. (No mention of Fern Gully though).

Moving on to the credits that American’s will be most familiar with, British Columbia offers, and has offered extensive credits for quite a while, and have been successful in establishing a “Hollywood North” in the state with the likes of Pixar among others being attracted to set up satellite operations there. Otherwise, home-grown outfits like Nerd Corps take advantage of the talent pool. British Columbia/Vancouver is often cited as the local industry that could stand to lose most should the credits dry up as it is relatively close to the epicenter of Los Angeles.

In contrast both Ontario and Quebec offer credits but appear to have a larger indigenous industry that can support production. Even then it isn’t immune to business failures (sorry, can’t find a link to the exact story) but successes have included the likes of Cake Animation and Atomic Cartoons.

Interestingly enough, France also offers an animation tax credit (up to EUR 4million) that will surely have been used by the likes of Illumination Entertainment as well as Bibo Films for their production, A Monster in Paris.

New Zealand also offers a credit but seems to limit it to shorts only. I suppose there is an obligatory shoutout to Mukpuddy who seem to have a lot of fun making animation down there 🙂

Then there is Taiwan, which has yet to stretch its animation muscles to the extent that Korea and Japan have in recent decades. The credit does seem to be quite generous, so it should not be surprising if we see more content coming from the island in the coming years.

Lastly, there is Ireland, which although is not explicitly outlined as having an animation credit, has nonetheless made the technique its own over the last 15 years. Plenty of studios have reaped its benefit (most obviously Cartoon Saloon with The Secret of Kells) but they have also been active producers of their own content as well; an absolutely essential aspect to tax credits if they are to be successful.

So there you go. There are plenty of places around the world where animation is being subsidised.

 

 

 

How Much Do You Know About Roy O. Disney?

Via: The LA Times

Everyone and their dog is familiar with Walt Disney. Those with a passion for animation will be intimately familiar with the man known as The Old Maestro and how he almost single-handedly made animation into something much more than a short, gag-based form of entertainment. Of course, most of those folks will also be familiar that Walt was not alone in his efforts because guiding him all the way was his older brother, Roy.

However, Roy was very much the quieter brother, silently working behind the scenes running Walt Disney Productions and managing the cash that allowed Walt to fulfill his dreams. But how much do you really know about him? To be honest, I was fairly shocked about how little I knew.

Via: Good Reads

Thanksfully, Bob Thomas (who wrote the biography on Walt) wrote a book back in the 1990s (through the Disney-owned Hyperion publishing house) that looks at everything from Roy’s perspective. Entitled ‘Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire‘, it catalouges how the Disney company was founded and grew under his guidance and steely determination.

Although it focuses primarily on the history of the company, the book does contain more details about Roy than it does Walt, with much revealed about Roy’s habits and mannerisms. It would appear that as conservative and restrained as Roy was at work, he was just as jovial and fun-loving as his brother.

Furthermore, the book goes into quite a bit of detail when it comes to the company’s finances and the pressures that Roy faced during the war years and 1950s when Walt embarked on Disneyland. Nothing gets too technical (thankfully) but the gist of the struggles the company faced over the years is evident, and the book doesn’t shy away from the abrasive relationship the two brothers could have at times.

The only weak point in the book is the infamous strike, which is dispensed within two pages and glosses over the root causes and the subtle changes that occurred thereafter. Seeing as this is an official publication, that is not entirely surprising, but you would think that at this point in time, it would be irrelevant.

Coming away from ‘Building A Company’, my appreciation for Roy is much higher than it was beforehand. He was much more than just the ‘numbers man’, he was an essential part of the company and very much the yin to Walt’s yang. Without him, it is highly unlikely that the Disney Company would even exist today as a separate operation. Indeed it’s just as likely that it wouldn’t have made it past Snow White!

I would highly recommend picking up a copy if even just for a casual read.

When Nickelodeon Made A Netbook

I’m in the market for a netbook at the moment and while perusing the local eBay, I stumbled across something quite peculiar, this:

Via: Dell.com

Yup, that’s a Nickelodeon-branded Dell netbook, which you could only tell if you were familiar with the green slime that the network does its best to remind you of at every opportunity.

What I thought was interesting though, besides the slime, was that it’s just an ordinary netbook!

So what did consumers get for their extra $50? They got a customized GUI and a year’s subscription to McAfee parental controls. A good deal? Hardly.

Never mind that such netbooks are now being sold as ‘rare’ and so forth. Did they sell well for Dell and Nickelodeon? It’s hard to say. Branding computers to kids has always been a risky business. Disney have been at it for years and have been known for products like this:

Via: PCMag

Yuck!

Amusingly enough, Apple managed to inadvertently appeal to kids with their iPad, and that’s when everyone realised that it all came down to software not hardware. All of which makes sense as computer games and the like have been a marketing tool for decades.

So why do studios and networks continue to push hardware? Higher profit margins perhaps? Or is it just the lure of having a perpetual impact on the consumer, one that remains no matter what software is running on the machine.

It’s a tough call, but I know that games tend to foster nostalgia whereas hardware is often relegated to the rubbish pile.

Are Fans Too Demanding in the New Media Age?

The impetus for this post comes from a query levelled at Legend of Korra director Colin Heck over on tumblr, where an anonymous person wanted to know why the story was developing a certain way and why it couldn’t be changed fo accommodate one of the characters.

Colin’s response is well worth the read but it does highlight a potential problem with the new media age that we are currently at the dawn of.

If the barriers between animator and consumer are broken, will that actually result in negative connotations for the content itself? If fans’ demands (and I use demands because they are almost never suggestions) are met, will that push a show further into the niche audience?

Surely this is something that studios could choose to ignore, but that could result in a backlash among the very people that funds the series.

What do you think?

Animation Innovation: Bottom of the Ninth

By way of Mike Lynch and his excellent blog comes this very intriguing project from Ryan Woodward called Bottom of the Ninth which aims to create a true melding of comics and animation through the wonders of the tablet computer. Behold the trailer:

Impressive, yes? Even better is the official website which is full of little GIFs that give an even clearer idea of what the aim of the project is.

The best part about it are the possibilities. It’s always great to see innovation in the animation realm and this project is certainly moving the technique in new and exciting directions.

What do you think? Could Bottom of the Ninth bring animation to a whole new legion of fans?

 

A Depressing Quoute From Lauren Faust

Lauren's group of self-made dolls that would make a killer TV show, and yes, I own a T-shirt!

Lauren Faust is widely admired for not only her work on the PowerPuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, but also for her work on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and lately, the Superfriends series of shorts for Warner Bros. Well a long long time ago, there was a post on Cartoon Brew (not this one) where Lauren’s husband Craig McCracken was quick to defend her work on MLP because it was the best girl-oriented show going and it was only after facing many defeats pitching her own show to the networks.

At the time, Laruen didn’t really comment on the pitching aspect, but in a recent interview with LA Weekly, we get a bit of an answer as to why she was never able to successfully sell her own show, and not through lack of talents on her part:

On pitching animated shows for girls:

If you talk to the people in charge — the people looking to invest in these things and, unfortunately, the people who usually tell you no — they’ll tell you that girl things just don’t get the numbers. It’s a business and you need to make money. The girl books don’t get the ratings, the girl books don’t get the sales. Unfortunately, a lot of people will tell you that this is because girls aren’t interested in cartoons or girls aren’t interested in comic books.

I don’t think that’s true. I think the reason that might be is because most of the stuff for girls isn’t hitting them in the right place. All too often, “for girls” means “for little girls.” They won’t target an 8-year-old or a 10-year-old. An 8-year-old isn’t going to be interested in something that’s aimed for a 5-year-old. And, when they do gear stuff for 8-year-olds, it’s all about combing your hair and clothes. I don’t think girls are interested in that kind of stuff. I think they’re interested, but I don’t think that they’re interested in stories about it or characters whose lives revolve around it. I just don’t think that enough people have made stuff that was good enough or compelling enough to bring the girls in.

Girls’ stuff doesn’t get the same kind of budget that the boys’ stuff gets. It’s usually lower quality and kids can tell that stuff. Instead of blaming it on the quality, they’ll blame it on the gender. They’ll say the stories are for girls. That’s what’s making it not work, where I feel that it’s the quality and the content that’s making it not work. I’m hoping for people to put a little more faith in girls. Too much stuff for girls is about tea parties and holding hands and skipping down the lane.

Someone please give this woman a TV show!

7 Key Takeaways From Katzenberg’s “Thoughts On Our Business” Letter

You may already be familiar with the topic of this post; an internal memo written by Jeffrey Katzenberg back in1991 while he was still at Disney. In it, he analyses the movie business as it was then with particular emphasis on how it relates to Disney and their way of doing things. Have things changed much in the past 20 years? Nope, not one bit. Here are 7 key takeaways from that letter and why they are more relevant than ever.

1. The Blockbuster Mentality – The idea that you want a film to get a big bang right out of the gate. Katzenberg ins’t in favour of it, yet every studio continues to do it.

2. People will continue to go to the cinema provided they are given the right incentives to do so – This is too often lost on the owners and studios who think people go to the cinema just to see the latest releases.

3. “The Floor” – A concept that he discusses in regards to blockbuster films that are calculated to make a certain gross based on the content and whose in it. No doubt John Carter had a floor that was used to justify its expense, but as that very film proves, floors are a concept and nothing more.

4. Being big today means little if anything – Katzenberg talks a lot about the film Dick Tracey. Apparently it was big at the time and made a decent amount of money, but have you ever seen it? I haven’t, I doubt most people today remember it very well. It goes to show that a film that makes a quick buck will be just that, whereas a film that stutters out of the gate, like Alice in Wonderland (the 1950s Disney version) can last a long time and bring in almost 100% profit for decades to come.

5. Kids movies aren’t just for kids – Sadly there are still too many people, both inside and outside the industry who believe this.

6. Marketing & Testing – I’ll let the direct quote speak for itself:

There is an unfortunate tendency to think that when a film does great, it’s because it’s a great film. But when it does poorly, it’s because of poor marketing. While this logic is convenient, it can be empirically disproven.

7. Rules – Discipline is all important to maintaining your success.

In Appreciation Of Scooby Doo Backgrounds

Kirk Demarais’ Secret Fun Blog is an eclectic place where you can come across all sorts of fun and interesting stuff, including the inspiration for today’s post. Popping up on Reddit recently was one of Kirk’s posts from 2007 that contained 50 (!) backgrounds from the epitome of Hanna-Barbera TV shows, Scooby Doo.

Here’s a few of the more intriguing ones, but check out the full set on Kirk’s blog too.

Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play

Sometimes life offers up pleasant little surprises, as was the case yesterday evening as I checked the postbox wherein I found the above postcard. And in fairness to the Wooly Mammoth Theater, they actually realised that after almost 4 years of not buying tickets, I might actually be interested in something Simpsons related.

You see back in 2008, I attennded a performance of the extremely funny one-man tragi-comedy that is MacHomer; a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth through characters from the Simpsons. For the interested, I posted a review at the time; the tl;dr version is that it was very funny and you should see it if given the chance.

So what is this new play about? Well it certainly isn’t MacHomer, instead:

Armageddon has struck and the grid is down: no TV, no radio, no internet—how will life go on? For one group of tenacious survivors, sitting around a fire and reminiscing about The Simpsons proves to be the greatest escape from despair. Miraculously, from their collective memories, a new industry struggles to be born: a crude theatrical re-creation of the digital culture we can’t possibly live without.

From The Simpsons to the pop hits of the last ten years, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play is a rocking, rollicking, scary good time that leaves you questioning how you’d make sense of the world if all your gizmos were gone.

It looks interesting if only in that English major kind of way, but I was pleasantly surprised by MacHomer so I’ll reserve anby judgement for now. Performances run from May 28th through to July 1st and you can be sure I’ll be attending one somewhere along the way.