Animation has long played a prominent role in idents; you know, those little jingles that remind you which TV channel your watching, who produced the show/film you’ve watched or even what a block of programming is. There’s too many to list out there, but they form an incredibly important part of the animation jigsaw puzzle.
Ident Exhibit A:
You could probably tell exactly what was going to happen before you even clicked the play button, couldn’t you?
Yes, the Hanna-Barbera logo is ingrained on the minds of literally millions of people around the world even though the studio (as a practical production facility) hasn’t existed in over 10 years.
Why bring that point up? Well it’s to illustrate that a brand, and especially an animated one, doesn’t just vanish overnight. Additionally, it is also a studios strongest asset, and something they have to work hard at to bring to fruition.
Ident Exhibit B:
That’s the old one, but the sound remains in use. Frederator have built a particularly strong brand especially in light of two things: firstly, a lot of their productions are under the umbrella of a major network, and secondly, their online efforts have done much to increase awareness of the studio’s existence outside of industry circles.
Both idents provide an indication of who created what, and both are certainly memorable. They establish so in a clear and concise manner too. So why do some studios insist on doing things like this?
What does that do beyond signify the creator? Shouldn’t idents also be a creative exercise, one that challeneges studio’s to come up with something truly unique? I believe so, and I wish all studios felt the same way.
Another set of week links you should consumer and muse upon.
How we know female led superhero movies are doomed.
Eric Burns-Whiteponders the declining market for female superheroes and why that is. Here’s the thrilling conclusion:
The Superhero equivalent of Heaven’s Gate failed so utterly that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a superhero movie with a female lead, regardless of any other factors or any other movie experiences, is entirely nonviable in today’s market.
Which movie is he talking about? You’ll just have to read it to find out.
‘Monsters,’ ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Turbo’: Summer’s Brutal Animation War
I’m sure you may have read this somewhere else but I’ll just add two things:
It perpetuate the notion that animation is a genre of film. You don’t read any stories about the a brutal ‘war’ between superhero films, so you?
Squeezing so many films into just one part of the year further implies that we’re in a bubble.
Legend of Korra Soundtrack: Music as Storyteller
Efforts to get an official release for the The Last Airbender series and its successor have apparently paid off with this announcement. While we continue to call for a release for the former, the latter will see the light of day on July 16th.
I’ve written about soundtracks multiple times (like here and here) and even wrote a detailed post on how to petition for the official Last Airbender release. While it’s a bit confusing as to why Nickelodeon is releasing one for Korra while a complete Airbender on exists is beyond me, but this is almost certainly being done as a test of demand. With hope, the full OST for The Last Airbender will come out soon.
Perhaps the first lady of animated television, Wilma Flintstone has been putting up with Fred for more than half a century at this point. Together with Betty, they were the yin to Fred and Barney’s yang and kept them honest too!
So what makes Wilma great character? Is it her steely resolve? Her never-ending patience? Or the fact that she was perhaps the first real strong animated female character on TV?
OK, the gist of it is, I have class four nights a week from now until the middle of July. regular posts unfortunately take time to plan/write/edit/post and while it may seem easy to shoehorn it into a regular day, given my upcoming schedule, it won’t be possible to continue a daily posting regime.
So, instead of letting the blog gather dust on the off days, instead, we’re going to have some debate. Three times a week I’ll post a character and you (the reader) must describe exactly what it is that makes her commendable.
It doesn’t matter if you know exactly why, or whether you like them or not. Nobody is a mind reader and a comment is the one and only way to share your knowledge and opinion with the world.
The Powerpuff Girls continues to exude an influence over American animation and beyond. Such a success was the original show, Cartoon Network brought it back for a one-off 10th anniversary special. Not being able to leave well enough alone, they’re dipping into the pot again with another, CGI special coming out in 2014. Undoubtedly popular and influential, the show also made pariahs out of certain fans.
I suppose we were the Bronies of our generation. After a few minutes you either got it or you didn’t – that alternately beneath or above the surface of innocuous kids’ fare there was something a lot more clever, sharp and self-aware going on. Little tells such as the passive-aggressive asides the show’s narrator (Tom Kenny) would make, or the blink-and-miss-them double entendres and obscene sleight-of-hand sight gags all cultivated a general sense that the folks behind what you were watching were up to something not nearly as innocent as the squeaky voices and bright colours would have you initially believe.
All these are qualities that the show has become famous for. However, fans of the show (when it was being broadcast) were expected to follow certain, well, expectations:
Such was the lament of all Powerpuff Girls fans who didn’t happen to be preadolescent and female. The world just didn’t understand, nor could they without giving it the hours of semi-drunken attention I’d had by that point.
Which in essence is the very issue the show has had to struggle with since it first began. Yes, it featured three female protagonists and was overly sugary, but it wasn’t overly girly. Not to use that term as a perjorative, rather I mean it didn’t conform to the usual notion that shows with girls and heavy dose of pink needed to be aimed at, or exclusively enjoyed by, girls.
The show garnered a large fanbase spread among all sectors of society, but ran into the problem that shows before (and since) have had to come to terms with: the show appears to be better suited to girls, therefore it is only suited to girls.
Fans of the show know the truth, but impressing that on others is a tough sell. Is ignorance to blame? Certainly in a partial capacity it is. Plenty of people form opinions on things they haven’t seen and form subconscious policies on them as a result. That means that if they think or believe that the Powerpuff Girls is a girly show, then they are much less likely to conclude that it isn’t, even if they’ve watched it. It’s not impossible, but the odds are high that they won’t.
The issue extends to fans themselves as well. Become known as a male fan of a supposedly female-oriented show, and opinions and biases are immediately applied to you.
It’s an unfortunate human nature, and it’s one that is hopefully starting to change in terms of animated content. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the subsequent Brony phenomenon (coincidentally another show that Lauren Faust worked on) has shown that there is the potential for fans to be more open about which shows they enjoy without having to justify it to a higher standard than previously.
Can you name any other examples of shows where fans could be unfairly stigmatised?
The comic book page below is one that I stumbled across on Tumblr (now brought to you by Yahoo!). Pepper Ann is sadly a bit of a forgotten TV show. Not because it was terrible, or the animation wasn’t up to scratch, but mostly because it’s been somewhat erased from any TV schedule and has never had a home media release.
The show was often not afraid to undertake social or personal themes and in that regard it remains a bit of a trailblazer. It also had a very unique lead protagonist (being not only female, but also an almost- teenager replete with all the usual almost-teenage problems). Although I’m not as familiar with the comic as with the show, the page below highlights not only some of the scenarios that Pepper Ann faced, but also how the show decided to tackle many serious social issues. In this instance, the relative insularity of a comic book shop.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Next in the series of papers I’m writing concerns the future of animation. It’s a topic that’s wide open at its extreme, but can still be boiled down into a few precise concepts based on developments in other areas of the media landscape. If you don’t mind, I’m going to pick your brain with a few notions about where the paper might dive into.
The Two Sides of Animation
Animation can be divided on the simplest level into two areas: production and consumption. The paper will look at both sides and the various forces that will affect animation as it inhabits them. Essentially, they are both sides of the same coin, but they will not experience the same changes. What will cause shifts in one, will case opposite shifts in the other. Here’s the outline as it is currently.
Smaller studios putting content out on a more frequent basis
Greater emphasis on speed, new episodes every two weeks at most
Overseas operations will become more important
Greater input from the audience
streamlined studio operations
The following questions are posed:
Competition will increase but how can studios ensure they remain at the top for sustained periods?
In the Golden Age, studios put out one short every two weeks, what kind of cost pressures can studios (and animators) expect to face?
Speed will become paramount and production is likely to shift overseas in at least some capacity. What exactly will that capacity be?
How can a studio codify audience input? Even more important, how can they measure, interact and learn from it?
Larger studios will undoubtedly downsize even further, what positions can expect to get the axe?
Short form content; <10 minutes with the half-hour show obsolete
Animation everywhere; no distinction between online and airwaves
Features remain but on much tighter budgets
Emphasis on timelessness
Platform “exclusive” content
The social dimension
These pose the following questions:
Just what will the internet’s preferred content length be?
Will small outfits on YouTube be able to compete with cable networks?
How will features adapt to a rapidly different revenue market?
CGI dates notoriously quickly, how will the style of animated content change to imply a timeless quality?
Should animated content aim for platform “exclusivity”?
Will social viewing help or hinder new animated content?
Please feel free to answer any of the above questions or even pose your own. Animation is changing and it’s only right to plan ahead.
Fans are known for being a bit, well, fanatical about their chosen shows but what happens when the show in question doesn’t even exist? Well, they make it up as they go along instead! A short commercial released by Kyoto Animation managed to inadvertently spark some reactions among tumblr members that could only be considered explosive:
The fandom that popped-up in a matter of hours consequently went to town fleshing out the characters and the story. As the Daily Dot reports:
What has prevented the entire saga from being swept under the carpet has been the decision by the studio to announce an official series based on the short to be called Free.
Is This Good Or Bad?
Ultimately, there is nothing necessarily good or bad about something like this. Sure Tumblr has a reputation for juvenile stunts such as this, but its harmless for the most part and at least spurs some creativity on the part of the users rather than keeping them in the passive state.
The case of swimming anime is fairly benign although one has to wonder why people would even devote such effort to something that doesn’t even exist?
Short Term Effects and Pitfalls
Swimming anime/Free highlights a number of issues with its rapid rise to public consciousness. Firstly is the fact that it became so widespread so quickly; 48 hours after its release and the internet had proliferated with creativity. Secondly is the fact that such a rapid rise could harm it in the long term.
Starting with its rise, social media, YouTube, frictionless sharing and so forth all contributed to getting the show as much coverage as possible. Long gone are the days when you maybe had to search out something on the internet after the fact. Tumblr’s dashboard means that you are likely to see the same thing pop up over a prolonged period of time as people you follow gradually reblog it. (The service also encourages, and has, a high percentage of daily users.)
The second issue is much more troubling. A rapid rise is great, sure, but we all know that animation is not a race. Shows take time to develop, create and distribute. Six months for a decent half hour is the norm so even if the show was begun today, we wouldn’t see any completed episodes until the leaves have fallen from the trees (see below). That in and of itself is not what’s problematic though, that lies with the very fans that made it a success in the first place.
You see, as rapidly as fans attached themselves to this show they will also attach themselves to the next one that comes along. The initial explosion of interest will naturally fade as those on the periphery fall away, but even the core will shrink until new content is available when it will increase again. The issue, and question, is how big will it expand again?
Shows with large following such as The Legend of Korra have relatively stable fandoms but still see rises and falls in their activity between seasons. Those shows though, have devoted followings that have built up over time. Swimming anime/Free is starting from scratch, and the possibility that fans who came for the fun of creating something won’t stick around forever (see below) and may never return once they leave. That’s a major pitfall and is something that studios need to anticipate and mitigate.
Shifting Development Efforts to the Fandom?
Another question this raises is whether or not studios will consider the benefits of essentially having fans develop the show for them. The benefits would certainly be there:
vastly reduced costs to the studio
content that is proven to resonate with fans
may be much faster than undertaking it in-house given larger numbers contributing
Promotes greater interaction and communication between the studio and fans
The disadvantages though, are equally obvious:
Copyright issues and the legal thicket large-scale creativity can create
Compensation-related issues (who did what) and how much they should receive
Rebellion of fanbase to studio-issued ideas, even if they are best
Loss of structure that in-house development provides
While many studios would love to shift the costs of development away from themselves, the reality is that the current business model prohibits it due to the many legal constraints surrounding creativity and artistic creations. Identifying and compensating every creator would be a nightmare and once you factor the cross-border nature of the internet, you’re in for an impossible task.
That means that as much as the fandom would like to see their ideas incorporated into Free, the reality will preclude it.
A Model To Follow?
While its certainly likely that Kyoto Animation considered the possibility that viewers would overreact, it’s interesting to note that they made an official announcement quite soon after the initial release. Five characters now have names and traits that have been disseminated throughout the fandom and the official launch date is in July; an indication that the studio has had this in the works for a while and completely negating the notion that fan efforts caused an official pickup. Given such circumstances this model isn’t really one to be followed.
Current internet rumblings consider Little Witch Academia as a prime target for similar moves given that it is already a fully-fledged 23 minute short with fully developed characters.
As desirable as it is to see that short receive a more substantial treatment, Kyoto Animation clearly sees a profitable opportunity in what it has, whether Trigger sees the same in their property is something that only the studio can decide. Simple outpouring from fans is not match for the numbers that studios will run, and you can be sure they all do, not matter what fans think of their efforts.