Perennial innovator Frederator Studios is currently firing on all cylinders as they gear up for the big push to launch their latest venture, Cartoon Hangover. In times past the studio has been a prime online outlet for animation through their Channel Frederator series’ and with a close relationship to the former Next New Networks (now the YouTube Next Lab), it was inevitable that the studio would continue to play a role close to the forefront of online video.
Which leads us to Cartoon Hangover, which is described as: “the home for cartoons that are too weird, wild, and crazy for television. It’ll have you saying “What a #$@!?* cartoon!” but in the good way.” In other words, the kind of content you couldonly get away with on the internet; veering near the edge but trying hard not to leap over it.
The channel has been around for a while but it was only earlier this year (April 2012) that it began streaming animated content. In addition to the series discussed below, the studio also actively solicited for ideas and/or completed animation; Elliot Cowan being one who dutifully complied with the request for wild and crazy content.
However, what really makes Cartoon Hangover stand out that we bit higher than other animation channels on YouTube is the fact that they are betting on higher quality content than others. What I mean is that in addition to the short, silly stuff, they are also producing a few original series from established creators with fairly high production values (at least for those with a sole online presence).
Two of the series’ in question are Bravest Warriors and Superf*ckers. The latter (based on the comic by James Kochalka) has yet to premiere, the former premiered yesterday with the episode ‘Time Slime’:
Bravest Warriors is created by Pendelton Ward, erstwhile genius behind smash TV show Adventure Time and is traditionally animated (believe it or not). The first episode is fairly funny and shares similar themes and styles to Adventure Time, but what’s interesting is that outside of it’s short length, it is hard to differentiate it from a traditional TV show. The production values are there, the plots are there and the vocal talent is there for all to hear.
This is undoubtedly deliberate; although the upfront cost is higher, the payoff is in the longevity of the series. Cartoons from the 90s are still paying dividends almost 20 years later; there is little reason to assume that being streamed via the internet will change that in any substantial way. Heck, the presence of so much old content on YouTube itself should evidence enough of that.
How will the series pan out? At this very early stage, it is hard to say (as of writing, the episode has been up mere hours but has garnered thousands of views; no stats are available yet) but Frederator are normally quite good at getting the word out through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. In this regard, they are putting their experience with the Adventure Time tumblelog to good use.
Frederator have also been busy ramping up the ancillary revenue generators with T-shirts and comics. Both are designed to engage the fans and the strategy has proven to be very successful with Adventure Time.
What will be interesting to watch is not so much how successful the show is or indeed how many views it attracts but rather how the viewers behave and indeed, what demographics they fall under. This is the silent draw of online streaming, the ability to know much more about your audience. So much, in fact, that it would make a traditional broadcaster weep. No doubt the folks at YouTube and Frederator will be paying close attention to all those views in the weeks and months ahead to see exactly what viewers are watching and how they are reacting to the show (for example, writing blog posts about it).
What will make those months even more interesting is the premiere of Superf*ckers. Although there’s no date set (yet), the theme song and heck, even the title should point out that this series has a distinctly more mature tone. With Bravest Warriors aiming for a crowd slightly older than Adventure Time, Superf*ckers aims even older, possibly starting at the mid to late-teens. The strategy employed by Frederator and Cartoon Hangover is a bold one. They are muscling in on [adult swim] territory but lack the traditional TV presence.
How Cartoon Hangover plays out is still relatively unknown, however if successful, it will provide the blueprint for all other original web series for some years to come. Here’s hoping that’s the case.