1) Shorts provide a continuity of work for employees who might otherwise be laid off and move on to the competition.
2) They are added value for the features to which they’re attached.
3) They provide valuable training for up-and coming board artists, directors, and writers.
4) They help keep well-loved franchises alive and viable between the ninety-minute tent poles.
5) They can be magnets for shiny gold statues that studios covet.
I wholeheartedly agree. Shorts accomplish all of those and more! Here’s a few reasons why shorts will soon reign supreme in terms of volume.
1. Attention spans are ever dwindling
If the rise of the internet has proven anything, it’s that attention spans are getting ever shorter. Sure, people can still sit down for a full feature film, but on a day to day basis, media and entertainment is being delivered in ever smaller doses. The short is ideally positioned to take advantage of this. Taking a break to watch a quick 7-9 minute short is much easier as opposed to a half-hour TV show. Besides, small screens like phones and tablets, give shorter content an advantage when it comes to ability to watch.
2. There are cost efficiencies with shorts that even TV shows can’t match
Shorts (when done right) can quite literally be pumped out; Next Media Animation in Taiwan is proof of that. Sure, the quality is questionable, but they do take things to extremes by getting stories out literally within hours. For better quality stuff, 2-3 weeks was the standard back in the day and there’s little reason why that has changed since then. In any case, South Park has been known to cobble episodes together in under a week but then they focus much more on plot than actual animation.
On top of that, characters, scenes and layouts can be re-used ad naseum. By keeping things simpler, shorts derive most of their cost savings from not having to come up with new locations, characters, props, etc. In addition, what is created is used many more times than for a TV show and so the cost of creating something can be spread out over many more episodes, thus lowering the contribution cost to each short.
3. Bandwidth is growing, but it isn’t there just yet
The inevitability of the internet as a distribution channel means that we’ll all have to get used to loading bars, in the short term. Bandwidth will eventually expand to allow for near-instantaneous streaming/downloading for the majority of consumers, but for now, short content will stand to benefit, as it can be downloaded much quicker. Expect to see this scenario continue for a few more years to come.
4. History likes to repeat itself
When cinema first got started, it seemed fairly obvious how people would make money, but it still took a bit of time before things like the states rights markets disappeared and the studio-distributor-theatre model developed to collect and transport revenue. Where we are right now is a similar situation. Making money from content on the internet is still being worked out, with many various models being tested. It’s much easier to test one with a short than with a TV show or film. Shorts dominated the animated cinema until Snow White in 1937 and it is highly likely that shorts will dominate the internet until someone turns a real profit with a feature film.