Critical Thinking About Kids And Online Marketing

Via: The Washington Post - When is a kids’ online game actually an ad?
Via: The Washington Post – When is a kids’ online game actually an ad?

Today’s post is more of a recommendation than anything else. It’s to direct you to a recent piece by Peter Gutiérrez over on The Digitial Shift and it’s about how seamless marketing and content are on the web, especially when it comes to kids.

Although we all wish there was more of a balance between kids and adults when it comes to animation, the fact of the matter is that in the US and many other western nations, animation aimed at young kids is vastly predominant. What’s interesting though, and what Peter’s article discusses, is just how easy it is to fool kids on the internet when it comes to content and marketing.

I highly encourage you to read the entire thing, but what you should dwell on is not so much whether it is right or wrong (marketing to kids is not, inherently, evil) but why it has to be so subtle and psychological in nature. Why do networks, etc, feel the need to deceive kids when it comes to either advertising or promotions?

Furthermore, can such underhand tactics actually hurt animated content in the long term? My hunch is that since networks and studios overly target kids. They in a way, contribute to the stigma attached to the technique by teenagers and young adults.

What are your thoughts? What do you suggest be done to right the situation?

GIFs and Vine – Animation Promotional Tool or Nuisance?

gif-club animation

GIFs pretty much inhabit the internet these days. You can’t click a link without stumbling across one, and God help you if you think you’re going to get very far down your Tumblr dashboard without seeing at least a dozen. Yes indeedy, GIFs are a great piece of the larger internet puzzle which has been discussed on this blog before. That said, are they becoming more a nuisance?

Peanuts and Vine: Together At Last

Today’s post comes courtesy of the announcement that the Peanuts gang are set to star in 12 videos to be launched on Twitter’s Vine service. iKids describes the new content as being:

Commissioned by Peanuts Worldwide, [Khoa] Phan will develop a dozen original, six-second videos using the app. Videos will be based on 12 Peanut themes, including the kite-eating tree, Schroeder’s music, Linus’s blanket, Lucy’s psychiatry booth, Snoopy’s dog house, Snoopy himself, the Red Baron, Woodstock, baseball games, football games, the Great Pumpkin and the Little Red-Haired Girl.

So far so, well, brand synergy-ey. Vine has proven to be quite popular (animator Marlo Meekins has become even more infamous famous thanks to her creations) and has found its way into sharing ideas that one would never thought worthy.

The coming together of Peanuts and Vine sort of makes sense given the latter’s comic strip origins and the requisite focus on a single gag. Vine would essentially replicate this on a motion picture scale. That said, there are concerns that have been raised.

Does It Reduce The Stature of Animation?

OK, this one’s a wee bit out there, but it’s still valid. Plenty of TV shows and films (animated or otherwise) are being reduced to GIFs by fans. Sure, they’re sharing the content they love and using GIFs as a discussion tool, but there is an inherent danger that the larger meaning or story behind a GIF could be lost by its brevity.

So is there a danger that animated content is being reduced to an extremely short-form of content or is this another opportunity for the technique?

The case for the latter is certainly strong. We’ve already seen animated GIFs used for unique creations; an encouraging sign.

The Nuisance Risk

As with anything on the internet, there is a habit of taking things about as far as they can be tolerated. Animated GIFs are just the latest in a long line of things to mollify the internet (glossy buttons anyone?). With such prevelance comes the risk of over-exposure. Memes have already reached a level of notoriety that has seen them banned from various discussion boards and subreddits. Animated GIFs could be next.

Using GIFs for promotional purposes is where the line may well be drawn. Tumblr has come in for some flack over the use of GIFs in promoted ads on the site. Ditto for corporate GIFs whose sole purpose is to either sell stuff or incite a consumer response. The concern is that all are perceived as being advertisements and therefore to be avoided.

Are GIFs the latest internet fad or are they really the new old way of distributing content? Share your thoughts with a comment!

Dennys GIF

When Animation Software Hinders The Technique

Via: Rob Kohr's blog
Via: Rob Kohr’s blog

Technological developments in animation have allowed the technique to prosper considerably since the early days of Mickey Mouse. If it wasn’t applicable to film in general (colour, stereo sound, etc.) then it was specific to animation in ways such as the multi-plane camera and acetate cels. While all these improvements helped animation, software can also handicap it, which is what we’re discussing today.

Computers Are To Blame

There’s no doubt that computers and IT in general have done wonders for animation, and not just in the strictest production sense either. The internet has enabled the co-ordination and production of a single film in multiple locations around the globe and has resulted in many fine films being produced that otherwise would not have.

Where computers fail though, is in their longevity. No-one uses a computer from 15 years ago and certainly nobody is using the same software that ran on such a machine.

The issue is that the animation produced on such machines may not be able to be read on a modern machine. Sure, Pixar is still in business, but what of other studios? Plenty have either gone out of business or been shut down. The animation they produced resides somewhere but may not be accessible. There’s a big difference between the two.

Rapid changes in IT and computing technology mean that nothing that relies on them can stand still. Hardware and software must be constantly updated to remain competitive and there is always the risk that something will either get corrupted or worse, deleted.

Animation Software is Even Worse

For all the faults that hardware has, it is not the worse culprit. That title belongs to software. The impetus for this post is the recent announcement from Adobe that customers will no longer be able to purchase Creative Suite software. Instead, they will subscribe to ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’ for a monthly fee. Essentially customers will not even be renting the software but access to it.

The change caused a bit of a ruckus but rather than dwell on the merits and demerits of the move itself, let’s focus on the problems it highlights and what can be done about it.

What the Adobe Announcement Highlights

First and foremost, any proprietary software firm will be quite adamant that as a customer, you never ‘buy’ software. Rather, you buy a license for it. In most cases this is a perpetual license, but it is still a license. You cannot do what you like with the software no matter how much you paid for it (legally).

For animators and studios, what the move highlights more than anything else is that the technology that they rely upon for their continued operation is fleeting at best. Adobe, like Microsoft and Apple, does not maintain their software forever and especially in the latter’s case, has shown a willingness to cut off users of older software; essentially forcing them to upgrade or find another provider.

Finding an alternative is all grand and good, but what if there is no alternative? That is to say, what if no-one else makes the piece of software that you need to open/read files?

The Ticking Timebomb

Consider Adobe Flash. It won’t be around forever and at some point in time, Adobe will stop supporting it. That’s grand and good you say, you’ll just keep and old copy on an old dumb terminal just like Disney did with their CAPS system.

A fine theory, but completely improbable if you rent the software instead.

If Adobe decides at some point in the future (willingly or not) to suspend access to Flash or another creative program, you are quite literally very far up the creek without a paddle.

How many studios out there use Flash or a similar program? A lot. What could happen if those programs disappear? Mayhem.

That isn’t to scaremonger either. Old files are much more than just animation data; they’re content! If that isn’t cause for concern, consider the many 35mm films in Hollywood archives that literally represent history rotting away. We’re talking about the digital equivalent of that. Goodness knows Pixar got a shock when they discovered that the original Toy Story files had been corrupted while being digitally archived

What Can Be Done

First and foremost, its important to identify what is causing the problem; namely technology that is no longer profitable to produce/maintain but whose customers require access to.

Proprietary technology is notorious for causing these headaches and while they have been tolerated for the most part, we re getting to the point where there are no more excuses.

As I wrote in this post, open source software offers an alternative that may lack slightly in the features department, but more than makes up for that with its open nature that promises at least the ability to always be able to create a way to read/edit files. Proprietary systems lock this ability up and are under no obligation to release it.

Animation studios (and independent animators too!) need to consider things such as this because they have the potential to cause very expensive mistakes at some point in the future and surely it’s better to actively avoid them than to try and deal with them, right?

Existing programs such as Blender and Synfig are steps in the right direction; we just need a major studio to step up and promote the idea that if we are to rely on technology for creativity, then we should at least be able to build some permanence into the system. It works for pencils and paper after all.

Do upgrade prices give you high blood pressure? What about Adobe’s Creative Cloud? Is it a bad idea and if so, why? Let us know with a comment!

Week Links 18-2013

Another round of week links that is quite diverse and a day late thanks to a forgotten suitcase.

David OReilly on Timing

Via: David OReilly
Via: David OReilly

Already  a legend in his own lifetime, David OReilly shares with us a series of GIFs from a lecture he did many years ago dealing with the subject of timing in animation. The full series illustrates how timing has changed from the rubberhose animation of the 30s through to the 90s. A must read post.

Animation: Disney’s Artist Tryout Book

Via: Animation Resources
Via: Animation Resources

The Animation Resources site has, as far as I’m concerned, a mandatory read. It’s the handbook given to new employees at the Disney studio from 1938 and although I’ve only given it a brief skim, it will certainly receive much more of my attention at some point in the near future. Just comprehend the following quote:

The value of an animator is dependent upon his ability to dramatize and caricature life, and to time and stage his characters’ actions in an unusual and interesting way. An animator must be a showman- he must know how to entertain an audience, to present a gag, to picture dramatically an ordinary incident. Above all, he must be a sure and skillful draftsman.

I dare you to find a studio that talks about its animators in such terms these days.

The Fleischer Studio’s ‘Setback’ Camera vs. Disney realism

The Society for Animation Studies blog has this rather excellent post discussing the similarities and the differences between two competing technologies that aimed to give animation a 3-D look.

Niko’s T-Shirts

Niko_Redbubble_robot

Friend of the blog and independent animator Niko Anesti is putting one option for making money that’s available to him to work; he’s selling T-shirts. Check them out (no pun intended)!

Bob Clampett: Black Cats in Technicolor

clampett100

Oswald Iten’s truly superb Colourful Animation Expressions blog is having a bit of a celebration…for Mr. Bob Clampett, who would be 100 years young thins year. This is the first of three posts so stay tuned for more.

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/TheJohnDiMaggio/status/331881259762589696″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Studio_Kinate/status/332603802479915008″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jslipchi/status/332643548266647552″]

YouTube Shoots Self In Foot!

YouTube_logo

Although rumours emerged just last week, it appears that YouTube has wasted no time whatsoever announcing that they are creating paid subscription channels for the site. For the low low price of 99¢ per month (or higher) you can subscribe and presumably be the first to see new content by the requisite creators.

How Do They Shoot Themselves In The Foot Then?

Well, that should be an obvious one, shouldn’t it? YouTube’s bread and butter has been videos that are free. Imprisoning them behind a paywall essentially makes them no different to plenty of other services out there such as cable or Netflix. Why would you give money to YouTube when you can give it to those instead? This is especially so when you are either a) already paying for them and b) they offer all your favourites rather than just ‘new stuff’.

The Fallacy of ‘New Content’ on YouTube

Naturally, the argument goes that you’re paying for the latest and greatest content. A fine point of view except that said content is also competing with everyone else that’s giving it away for free, on the same bloody site no less!

The sad truth that many people have yet to accept is that given the choice between paying for new content and searching for older content that’s free; the latter will win out 90% of the time. Netflix has built their customer base through offering older content, not through the likes of original content like House of Cards. The only reason they did begin producing new stuff is because they reached the natural limit with existing content, leaving the only way to expand though original material.

YouTube has no such limit, users already upload hours of new content every second and show no sign of slowing down. The site has also been massively profitable for YouTube for many years (although exact figures are hard to come by). Besides, how much revenue can Google even hope to reap from offering these paid channels? Even with a million subscribers, you’re talking a few million dollars a year; a pittance compared to the billions that ads bring in.

So What Is The Point

Well, that’s a hard one to nail down. Google clearly doesn’t really need the money, and it’s already failed twice in the past in getting consumers to pay for videos, so what does that leave? Why legacy players of course!

Yes, existing media companies are the ones who are apparently excited about this development (if judging by this list is anything to go by). There’s the Jim Henson company in there as well as, disappointingly, Sesame Workshop. In an ironic twist, animation seems to be over represented on the list of creators looking for the lazy way to make money. Long story short, many established creators have indicated to Google that they would engage more with the site only if there was some sort of paid subscription model.

All in all, the gist is to get people to cough up for something they can get for free somewhere else; a decision that has been, and still is, an unwise choice.

The Alternative for Animation

Do alternatives even exist? Sure they do! Beside the many different ways that creators can make money from their content, David OReilly suggests another one, Vimeo’s tip jar.

He raises a good point. Viewers are not averse to paying for content, just being forced to do so. Plenty of animators have found new and innovative ways to make money, be it from selling T-shirts, selling commissions, making personal appearances and what not.

For independents and small studios, it’s important to remember that subscription models only work well when the audience is extremely large. Otherwise, they act as a barrier to spreading your brand and audience.

Will FOX Succeed In the Online Arena With Animation?

Via: Wikipedia
Via: Wikipedia

It’s no secret that FOX has long been the dominant player of all the mainstream networks when it comes to animation but with audiences slipping away to the internet, what are they to do? Well, the apparent answer is to open up a new studio and attempt to compete with the likes of Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover.

The Gist of It

The Animation Guild is reporting that the new studio is currently in full swing and has about a hundred people working there at the moment. As part of the previously-announced extension of the Animation Domination block of shows into Saturday nights, the network also took the extra step of setting up a dedicated production house. (Non-union of course, hence TAG’s gripe.)

The studio is producing not only the content for the programming block (as in, Axe Cop and High School USA!) but is also busy cranking out animated GIFs such as the wonderful specimen you see below.

Via ADHD
Via ADHD

Where Things Get Interesting

Although this could be just another run-of-the-mill story about a new development in animation, where it takes an interesting turn is not where you would expect. Namely, FOX purposely kept production close to home:

Fast reaction time is another key to the ADHD approach. Instead of farming out animation work to Asian firms, with a lag time of at least six weeks, the team in Hollywood can shoot out topical spoofs to stay in the social conversation.

Fox’s toons prepare episodes well over a year in advance, said Reilly. “With ADHD, I can say something today and we can have something tomorrow.”

It’s nice in a way to see FOX accepting the need for speed in the online youth media market, and addressing it by employing talent close to home. It marks a potential bright spot in the otherwise gloomy animation industry that has had too many stories of layoffs over the past few months. Although pay is obviously not the highest, there is still potential for that to change if demand heats up thanks to a success or two.

That said, in contrast, Cartoon Hangover, instead of maintaining a studio for quick stuff, instead hires freelancers. Granted it isn’t as steady as regular employment, but if FOX did the same, they could pay animators more since the overhead of a studio wouldn’t exist.

The other interesting thing is how FOX sees the money streams:

Reilly declined to discuss specifically what kind of coin Fox is pumping into ADHD, saying that it’s not insignificant. The project will run at a “very mild deficit” for about three years before it gains ad traction, he said.

What I would like to know is why it will run a deficit for all those years. Online content has proven to be profitable already; surely it shouldn’t take an established player like FOX three whole years to make money. Of course, I’m also curious why ads are being given such weight; again, there are plenty of other revenue sources available that could suffice.

Lastly…

Before we reach the thrilling conclusion to this post; it really says something about animation as a form of entertainment that FOX sees it as the least risky way to get a foot in the door of online streaming. Can it really be that the ease of creating [quality] animation combined with its popularity among the key 18-34 demographic? It would certainly appear that way:

That noted, Reilly is convinced the model is an efficient way to develop quality content, and he’s eyeing other genres Fox might choose to replicate ADHD. “The cost structure of this stuff by its nature is different from TV,” he said. “The digital world continues to explode. It’s fun. And it has promise.”

Let’s see how this pans out. If it works, expect others to follow.

PS. Notice how FOX is about a year behind online-native efforts? Yeah, me too.

 

Fan Effort To Revive Young Justice Over Before it Began

Yoinked from The Mary Sue
Yoinked from The Mary Sue

Bringing shows back from the dead has been discussed here on the blog in the past. It’s a common scenario that often brings great expectations to legions of fans only for them to be inevitably dashed when they fail. Although shows have been brought back (most famously after fans mailed nuts to producers), the vast majority are not receiving of a Lazarus-like new lease of life and are left for history to claim. This time around, it is the DC shows, Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series that are attempting a comeback. Unfortunately, it’s over before it even really began.

The Background

Both shows ran on Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings. Young Justice beginning in 2010 and Green Lantern following in 2012. Early in 2013, both shows were absent from the Cartoon Network upfront presentation leading to rampant speculation that the shows have been cancelled.

Although the network remained silent, various animators who’d worked on the show or were familiar with the crew tweeted the obvious (sorry, I can’t find them now); the crews had already disbanded and had been for almost a year. While this fact did not get the attention it needed, Cartoon Network eventually responded and confirmed that both shows were indeed finished.

Young Justice & Green Lantern Since Cancellation

Since this announcement, there has been various efforts to get the network to change their mind, including the inevitable internet petition (with not even a please in it). None of them have had any success but that hasn’t stopped a new kid on the block from trying their hand.

The SMGO Effort

Such empty results hasn’t dissuaded internet upstart SMGO.tv (or my Show Must Go On) from attempting to collate fan support for a new series into a single effort aimed straight at Cartoon Network and Warner Bros.

Unfortunately for SMGO, Warners has already slammed the door on the attempt without saying much specifically beyond that they aren’t holding out hope for success. Even that hasn’t deterred SMGO and they’re having another crack at the whip with a ‘let’s prove them wrong’ attitude.

That, in and of itself, isn’t that big of a deal, what should be a concern is that they’re asking for funding, and they’re asking for all of $10 million for the trouble. Now I’m not sure about yourself, but even the largest Kickstarter campaign barely scraped $10 million and that was for a piece of technology that could be used by millions of people. YJ/Green Lantern pulled in just under 2 and 1.2 million viewers respectively in their highest rated episodes. If you ask me, someone has a lot of work cut out for themselves.

The Reality

So SMGO is noble in their effort, but completely oblivious to reality. Their plan is to garner support, talk to the studio/network, sign a contract (yes, really), fund the production, actually produce the show and then offer rewards a la Kickstarter.

While I’m not one to rain on a parade, this model is regrettably flawed. While Hollywood does indeed like to see the money, they generally like it to be their money, i.e. for them to keep. SMGO also doesn’t exactly specify how the funds are handled beyond ‘funding production’.

This is what the Veronica Mars Kickstarter has produced and it’s ugly. Major studios absolutely do not want to be involved with fan efforts for lots of reasons (mostly legal), hence their often tone deaf and arms reach approach to the fan communities. The PR disasters that could happen are another reason. Say an SMGO-funded show did make it to production, and the results were dire. Who’s to blame then? Fan’s won’t want to hear the truth and it could destroy their loyalty. If you were Warners and you had to choose between letting your shows die a death or attempt a potentially disastrous comeback, the former is always much more appealing.

We haven’t even gotten as far as the real money issue: profit. Hollywood doesn’t like to make small profits (they’re too mundane.) They like to make BIG profits, especially on films, but also on TV shows. The latter aren’t publicised near as much, but a show has to make money otherwise it get’s canned.

Young Justice and Green Lantern apparently didn’t bring in as much dough as the network and studio would have liked, so they were sidelined in favour of some proven money spinners; Batman and Teen Titans.

The Truth To Saving A Beloved Show

So what’s to be done? SMGO is right in highlighting the need to factor in money into the fan revival equation, but it’s a half-effort. As I highlighted in this post, reviving a show is as much an art as it as a science. Networks need to know that:

  1. Their shows (and therefore advertisements) are being watched
  2. Any and all merchandise is selling (regardless of how good it actually is)
  3. People will continue to do both of the above in the future.

Doing all three is hard enough, but proving to the network that they are being done is the impossible task. I wrote about this a long time ago, and surprisingly enough, letter-writing still works, if done correctly.

While online petitions and services like SMGO are very efficient at gathering support, they fall down in the personal department. Individual letters still work wonders, but unfortunately they still require a herculean effort to pull off successfully.

Conclusion

The depressing aspect to the entire saga is that it is no different than all the campaigns that have gone before. Yes, it’s nice to appease fans, but any show that gets cancelled is bound to upset someone. It’s reasonable to attempt to save a show, but at some point you have to call it quits, and implying that you can (and should) never give up is a false illusion.

Merida’s Makeover and Character Continuity

Via: Gagging on Sexism
Via: Gagging on Sexism

You’ve undoubtedly read the stories by now. You know, the ones proclaiming Merida’s coronation as the latest entrant in the ‘Disney Princess’ brand and (on the other side), the ones decrying her redesign into one with more than an air of sexuality about it. The point of this post isn’t to belabor either side (although this blogger leans heavily towards the latter), rather its to discuss how Merida proves how unwieldy characters can become within large corporations such as Disney and why they need to keep tighter grip of the reins.

Why It’s a Problem

So why would such a change be of issue in the first place? We all know that multitudes of artists work on these characters and the very nature of merchandise (with all its differing surfaces and sizes) necessitates changes to permit an acceptable level of familiarity across the range.

Well, normally it isn’t a problem because the characters remain relatively consistent. In Merida’s case, however, the change is near radical. In fact, all the Disney Princess have undergone some sort of noticeable change from their original appearance on film.

Another reason Merida’s case stands out is that she’s undergone not so much a redesign but a transformation. Even by comparing her looks (and her measurements) one can deduce that she isn’t likely to exhibit the same character traits as her CGI original. Such a transformation runs the risk of confusing consumers.

The Confusion Caused By Merida’s Transformation

In times gone past, the change wouldn’t have been given that much thought. After all, merchandise always lagged behind the films and the medium through which the largest audience would see it (home video) was released many months afterwards, when memories had faded somewhat.

Fast forward to today, and the omnipresence and semi-permanence of the internet has meant that fact-checking and comparison can be done instantaneously. If a corporation makes an overtly obvious change to a character, you can be sure that someone somewhere can confirm the change and indeed, analyse it to astonishingly high degrees of accuracy.

Changes in character can be easy for adults to gloss over, but kids can find it hard to reconcile the apparently unnecessary alterations. Kids place a lot of value in characters and they readily identify with them; changing the character can  cause not only confusion, but also trauma. That’s not to say that Merida’s change will cause the latter, but it will not go unnoticed by kids (mainly girls) who’ve identified with a character who’s most significant trait is not fitting in with a crowd.

Even mature adults (and particularly parents and those of us in the field) are having trouble reconciling the change in any kind of rational light. Peggy Orenstein gets pretty close to the truth:

I’ve always said that it’s not about the movies. It’s about the bait-and-switch that happens in the merchandise, and the way the characters have evolved and proliferated off-screen.

This is true, and certainly part of the cause. The Disney Princess brand relies upon a broad range of characters to appeal to all types, but who still reside inside a statistically maximising percentage of the population. In other words, the characters can be different, but not too different lest they be marginalised and hence, unprofitable.

How To Fix It

Since the confusion and frustrations that are caused seem to be emanating from the changes made, wouldn’t the simplest thing be to just keep them the same as they were in the film (or concepts in the case of CGI)? We’re long, long past the time when merchandise had to look different on account of manufacturing technology and the like. Today, it’s possible to maintain a high degree of quality across the board. There really is no reason why a Merida doll has a different structure to her animated counterpart, or for that matter for a stock image of her on a T-shirt requires a redesign.

Heck, even the Disney Princesses themselves do not need such a standardised sense of design. What it amounts to is the merchandising or marketing division of the corporation attempting to stamp their impression on characters created somewhere else (by animators). It amounts to overstepping their boundaries insofar as they may adapt characters to their work, but outright changing them is unconscionable.

Public Broadcasters and the Looming Crunch

Via: Howzey on Flickr
Via: Howzey on Flickr

The topic of today’s post will seem a bit foreign to a lot of this blog’s readers for the simple reason that the United States doesn’t have a state broadcaster in the traditional sense. Yes, PBS (and NPR) are public broadcasters, but their funding model is a complicated one. Funds come from a variety of sources including corporate and private donations, sponsorships and indirect government funding. In stark contrast, many public broadcasters around the world are subsidised by direct taxation; often in the form of a TV license.

The Crunch

What has been noted in recent times is the fact that TV licenses generally only cover televisions (with some exceptions). You and I know, however, that a lot of content is also watched on computers and mobile devices; notably exempt from TV licensing requirements. That places broadcasters in a crunch; people are not buying TVs like they used to and license revenues (and by extension, their funding) are falling as a result.

The reason this blog is discussing the entire saga is that state broadcasters, particularly in Europe, not only create, but also purchase and commission large amounts of animated content.

The Pessimistic View

Consider if TV license (or similar) revenues continued to fall. State broadcasters would trim back their spending on new content, given that they have less money with which to play with. Such a reduction would not only hurt those studios that make content explicitly for such entities, but also those studios that create content independently and sell it to public broadcasters through the open market.

Even the US would not be immune to the effect. While there is naturally a greater choice of content on this side of the pond, there remains a large contingent of content that is purchased from overseas. Kinks in this supply chain could have negative (and positive) impacts on animation broadcasting there. Likewise, many European broadcasters purchase US-made content for local broadcast and fewer resources would endanger those actions.

Undoubtedly, the notion that animation production in Europe an elsewhere could be in trouble runs contrary to how it should be. The problem is that countries such as the UK are attempting to make animation more appealing to outside sources at the very time they should be refocusing on internal sources. The UK could make itself a very cheap place to make animation, but if the majority of the sources of the production budgets run into difficulty, being cheap won’t matter; no-one will do it for free.

The Optimistic View

Some states (such as Ireland, regrettably) have considered placing a non-descriptive ‘broadcast tax’ on either every residence in the state or on device sales within their borders. The outcome of this is intended to shore up public broadcasters’ revenue sources. The problem is that this is out of place with the shift to digital platforms. Revenue levels may be maintained, but they do so at the expense of the free market.

A TV license is one thing because it burdens those who are most likely to reap the benefits of state-sponsored content. A flat tax on the general populace however, acts as an incentive to no-one and does not promote production of better content.

The role model to follow in all of this is the BBC, an institution that has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last 10 years. While still funded by a TV license, the corporation has done remarkably well to market and sell its content in markets around the world, bringing in much additional revenue.

State and public broadcaster therefore need to redouble their efforts to make content that can be sold across borders. Some do so already and the vast majority of independents cannot comprehend doing anything else; their margins are too thin. With marketable content, state broadcasters can be sure that their content and the content they commission is self-supporting and possibly even revenue-generating. By doing so, they mitigate the crunch that comes from falling TV license issues and maintain production at the current levels.

The Long-Term View

If one is to look at the situation from a long-term perspective, public broadcasters are rapidly approaching the point where they will be forced to play on a level playing field with private producers. The internet doesn’t discriminate between content sources and just because public money funded one show, doesn’t mean that anyone will actually watch it. Yes, state broadcasters are tasked with producing content that would not otherwise be profitable, but the internet will take up some of the slack as independent producers proliferate. State broadcasters may create niche or acute-interest programming, but if they get too far from the mainstream, they run the risk of being accused of wasting public money.

Thankfully, animation rarely if ever is seen as a waste of public money, and it would be real shame if that ever came to pass. That said, state broadcasters must consider the changes we are currently seeing. Animation studios and those who run them would be wise to consider them as well, and plan accordingly.

Teenagerobotlove: Serving the MLaaTR Fans

MLaaTR_Approved_Press_Art_by_Frederator_Studios

While many current and upcoming shows have devoted fans, just because a show has ended does not mean the end for the fan community. Far from it. Fans have been instrumental in keeping shows such as Star Trek alive for decades after the show wrapped up and it far from alone in that respect.

Fans currently have a remarkable set of tools at their disposal to help keep memories and interests alive. In years gone past, there were fanzines, clubs and conventions. Today many of these tools continue to connect fans and have been joined by new tools, such as message boards, blogs and social networks like Facebook.

 Teenagerobotlove-1

Maintaining the interest is imperative if fan communities are to continue to exist, and that relies upon continued upkeep of any sites and also moving beyond just the show itself; hence the reason many message boards have off-topic threads or ones in areas of similar interest to members.

Today we’re focusing on one fan blog for My Life as a Teenage Robot. Long ago, there was a traditional, official blog that was created and run during the series’ production. (If memory serves, it was one of, if not the first ever production blogs for an animated show). While it continued to run after the show ended, it has been dormant for a number of years.

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The rise of Tumblr as a fan-friendly platform has not gone unnoticed thanks to its emphasis on particular post types and easy sharing amongst the site’s many members. The proliferation of fan creations on Tumblr have been nailed down to the ease with which people can create, post and share content in addition to the ease with which Tumblelogs can be maintained. Combined with a submission feature, it becomes easy to see why so many fans and fandoms use Tumblr as a tool to serve their interests. (In a coincidental twist, Tumblr emerged from the same office as Frederator; the creative studio responsible for My Life as a Teenage Robot.)

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Hence blogs like Teenagerobotlove that serve to perpetuate fans love for the show as well as providing a focal point for things like fanart. I’m glad that such blogs exist and that people are willing to create and maintain them. They provide enjoyment for those of us who simply do not have the time to undertake one themselves and serve as a reminder that fans still exist for the show.

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Week Links 17-2013

Fewer week links than normal today; it’s been a busy week.

Elliot Cowan on Film Making

The New York-based animator continues production on his feature film and comments on the process thus:

Making a film is like deciding to adopt an orphan from some war torn, strife ridden corner of the world. At first it seems like a great idea. There’s a lot of energy and excitement of what’s to come. Then after a while it starts waking you up screaming in the night, and freaking out in company.
Shitting all over your regular plans and costing you more than you expected.
Eventually you want to avoid it but you can’t, because if you do it’ll wither away and die and by now you feel some responsibility for it.
And people keep asking “How’s the film? Is it doing well?”.
So you stick with it, through the exhaustion and late nights and drama.
One day it grows up and it heads out on it’s own and you’ve either grown to love it or you never want to see it again.

Hopefully Elliot loves it, as will everyone else 🙂

Warner Brothers sued for unauthorized use of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat

Ars Technica (amongst others) reports on the lawsuit being brought by the creators of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat against major Hollywood studio Warner Bros. The issue concerns the use of said cats in a video game published by them and created by 5th Cell.

It’s still at an early stage and some aspects of the complaint are slightly dubious but expect Warners to settle this one fairly quickly. The central issue of copyright infringement should serve as a reminder that the onus is on creators to defend their work.

‘Rise of the Guardians’ Rebounds for DreamWorks Animation

I’m putting this down as yet another reason to not believe most of what you read from mainstream sources. As it turns out. Rise of the Guardians has done better on home media than expected and raising profits at the independent studio.

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/BoxnRoundhead/status/329653507122679808″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/LouiedelCarmen/status/329866181542543360″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jasontammemagi/status/330037949733416960″]

Lastly, Disney Princesses as Sailor Senshi

Via: Buzzfeed
Via: Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed has the entire collection of this fan-made mashup that’s oddly appropriate. Hat tip to Sarah Marino for the link 🙂

Via: Buzzfeed
Via: Buzzfeed