Adventure Time Season 2 Starts This Monday?

Apparently so, according to Eric Homan over on the Adventure Time Blog. It seems like we were discussing the premiere of season 1 just yesterday, although April does seem so far away when you think about it.

The show has proven to be immensely popular and successful. For starters, just look at the viewing figures, every single demographic is up for the Cartoon Network. Of course, they were so low to begin with, there wasn’t many other ways it could go, but that is not the point. The point is that Adventure Time is proof that content is king when it comes to consumers.

Besides the outstanding quality, there has been the enormous number of fans that have flocked to the show. Besides commenting on the show’s main blog, there has been what seems to be thousands of submittals to the Adventure Time Tumblelog as well.

How do we know that these aren’t just random pieces of fan-art? Take a look at some of the album covers fans recreated using characters from the show. Some are absolutely fantastic and are a sign of true dedication from fans.

Which leads us to this coming Monday, when season two will premiere. Why it is happening so soon I don’t know (heck, if Eric doesn’t know, there’s no way I can either). I doubt it is a case of striking while the iron is hot. Adventure Time seems to be holding up quite well in re-runs. I’d say the reason is that with the recent premiere of J. G. Quintel’s Regular Show, the network simply wants to keep the momentum up.

Nonetheless, I think we can safely look forward to even more wacky adventures with Finn and Jake. 🙂

How Come Chowder Never Spawned a Line of Cookbooks?

Chowder, the loveable little scamp of an apprentice who someday wants to be the best chef in all of Marzipan City had an altogether awesome show, which has been one of the most popular shows on Cartoon Network in recent years and sadly ended last month. It has always bothered me that we never got a cookbook from the little fellow. I bet we would have seen a few really amazing dishes that we could actually make as opposed to just salivating at the thought.

I am not one to say why we never got one because I, as of today, don’t call that shots on such things. Since Chowder launched way back when Ratatouille was still being talked about, and that mouse did get his own book.

With many more shows (and indeed, recipes) to his name, you would think that it would be a forgone conclusion that a lightbulb would have gone off in someone’s head. Unfortunately if one did, we never saw the final product.

Such a piece of merchandise would have sold well, good children’s books always do and one based on a show as unique and popular as Chowder could certainly have been successful. Besides, the show was also pretty popular with older kids, you know, the ones that actually could cook for themselves without needing adult help.

A Chowder cookbook was an opportunity that was sorely missed. Indeed, a series of cookbooks on different themes was sorely missed as they would have extended the show’s lifespan far beyond its time on the air, which is of course, the holy grail of successful marketing campaigns, look at all the Flinstones stuff still floating about, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Simpsons merchandising until the end of time.

Perhaps in a few more years we’ll see another show along similar lines that will brighten up the presence of cartoons in the kitchen.

Adventure Time’s Connections With Its Fans

Adventure Time Promo art

By now you should be familiar with Adventure Time, heck, I’ve mentioned it more than a few times here and even write a post about it. If you don’t know what Adventure Time is (and what rock were you living under by the way), it’s the brainchild of Pendelton Ward that was in limbo, well, YouTube actually, for a couple of years after appearing on Random! Cartoons on Nickelodeon before getting picked up by the Cartoon Network.

The show already has an extremely devoted fanbase which was in place even before the show premiered. Was this an accident? Absolutely not! Despite the fact the the original pilot ran up views on YouTube well into the millions, the show itself is a masterpiece onto itself. Pen’s whimsical designs, very strong characters (yeah, I like Princess Bubblegum, so what?) and absurd plots are quite unique among TV shows today, even cartoons!

The shows creators have excelled in a few areas that I would not consider traditional marketing techniques, indeed, they have managed to create a dedicated community around the show, starting with ye olde blog. The good folks over at Frederator have been running their blogs for what seems like forever and have built up a solid reputation for being some of the best in the animation business when it comes to blogging. The show has a dedicated blog that during the production process featured countless backgrounds, character models, colour models, storyboards, scripts, animatics, you name it! This was (and still is) a fantastic insight into the production of an animated show that has been unmatched by any other, save for Fanboy & ChumChum (another Frederator production, naturally). The blog has been a tremendous source for info on the show and has been the source of many answers to questions that fans have had. It is a fantastic interactive portal between the studio and its customers.

On a related note to the blog has been the Tumblelog, hosted on Tumblr (where I also have a tumblelog). In the beginning it was merely a repository for the artwork posted on the main blog, but since the shows debut, it has become a steady (and prolific) stream of fanart. The quality does vary quite a bit, but that is unimportant. What is important is that the number of fans who’ve made artwork is phenomenal. In fact, even the fanart has taken on a lofe of its own. The latest craze is to take album covers and remodel them using Adventure Time characters. So far I’ve got a great kick out of seeing some fantastic takes on both great albums and the shows characters.

Perhaps the most striking development of the shows popularity has been the Finn Hats. These are indeed the hat worn by Finn the Human in the show. Things kicked off when a few promotional hats were made by Cartoon Network. Not long after, instructions were posted on how to make your own Finn hat. Since then the internet has exploded with self-portraits of fans in their very own hats. A few have even gone the whole hog and dressed up for the conventions.

Last but not least has been the usual social networking stalwarts such as facebook and twitter. Pen has his own twitter feed where he tweets just about everything, from late nights in the studio to how things are going at Comic-Con. He gives fans a direct link to the creator of their favourite show and has wll over 4,000 followers at present.

Of course, all of this may not have come to pass if the original post hadn’t appeared on YouTube, where it went viral in the first place and racked up so many views.

Adventure Time could have stood on its merits as a cartoon even without all the above effort, but with all the above effort, the show is even more popular than it could have been. The important thing to note is that the efforts were mostly by the fans, with a little help from the production team. There is nothing I hate more than some marketing department trying to hype up a show by creating an artificial “community” that is so sterile it almost turns me off the show in question. With Adventure Time, it was a case of planting the seeds and watching the community grow naturally as word of mouth and anticipation took hold.

Any show should be similar, after all, it is the fans that support it and make it a worthwhile endevour for the studio and network. At the same time, if all shows were as good as Adventure Time, this wouldn’t require too much effort. Here’s to a bright future in the land of Oooo. 🙂

The New Thundercats: Preliminary Thoughts

Word came through today with details about the new Thundercats series that will be produced by Warner Bros. Animation and will air on the Cartoon Network next year. But first off, an apology. Clearly this is supposed to be a daily blog and cleary this is the first post for a couple of days. In my defence, 14 hour workdays can really screw around with your scheduly and sadly, that’s what I had to deal with this week. Fun times, but you gotta do what you gotta do and I still have my career chip so I guess I can’t complain.

Without further ado, onto today’s post!

When I first read this, I immediately thought of a quote from an excellent why-haven’t-you-read-it-yet interview with Fred Seibert conducted by Joe Strike on AWN, where Fred talks about his first days at Hanna-Barbera:

…The kid comes in and his first question is ‘Why don’t they make cartoons the way they used to?’ I do have a rap for that and I talked about The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Huckleberry Hound, bababa… He looks at me finally and says ‘I mean the stuff they made in the ’80s — why don’t they make good stuff like that any more.’ I realized the issue of cartoon quality is really all in the eye of the beholder. In general, especially for a 25-year old kid, whatever you grew up with was the best stuff.

Which is pretty telling really isn’t it? Here, Fred considers the early H-B stuff to be the best, but the young guy thinks the 80s stuff is the best. The connection? Both favour the shows from their respective younger years. This won’t impact the current topic of discussion, but it is interesting to note nonetheless.

So we’re getting a new anime-influenced series. You already know my thoughts on anime so let’s not rehash that. What is relevent is, of course, Loonatics Unleashed. In case you forgot (and I mentioned it, like, last week or thereabouts), Loonatics Unleashed was a show that probably could have been done better and was perhaps unfairly bashed around the head by Looney Tunes fans as perhaps the grossest bastardization of the characters in living memory.

Why mention it? Because it took an established property, plastered it in “anime”, which for some executives, means extreme plots, little dialogue, poor direction and character design that any 14 year old could do. Again, not to disparage the folks who worked on the show but there were clearly too many cooks in the kitchen and fingers in the pie on that show.

That is unlikely to happen to Thundercats, there’s too many eyes on this one, what with it being a classic 1980s show that any kid worth their salt has fond memories of. As the picture above barely shows, it is hard to decipher what the show will actually be like. Suffice to say it will probably have a darker tone and more brooding charcters than the original.

There’s no point commenting on the show itself as that picture and the press release is all we have to go on. What I’d like to see though is a show with strong charcters, clean, artistic, creative design that is clearly evolved from the original and plots that would not be beyond the scope of the original series.

If they pull all them off, they’ll have a lucrative merchandising empire on their hands.

Looney Tunes: Why Are They Falling in Popularity and What Can Be Done to Stop It?

Word come through from Cartoon Brew about a feature in the New York Times about the new, upcoming Looney Tunes TV to be broadcast on Cartoon Network leter this year. There was plenty of consternation a while back after the upfront where the show was unveiled. The comments on the Brew then as well as now were pretty much about as big a backlash as you could expect from the animation community regarding classic characters such as Bugs and Daffy. (By the way, I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but this is more of a commentary/opinion post and not nearly as sarcastic as the last one).

The NYT piece made light of the fact that kids these days don’t seem to know much if anything about the Looney Tunes. Quote from the article:

Ask a first grader to identify Bugs Bunny and the response more likely than not will be a blank stare. Dora, sure. Mickey, alive and kicking. But Porky who?

Anyone over the age of 15 will give you a wry smile as all the memories come flooding back. the same can’t be said for youger folks, they may even look at you as if you had two head, or began speaking Japanese!

The distinction was made between the Looney Tunes and Winnie the Pooh in that the latter still pulls in close to $5 billion in contrast to the $1 billion for Bugs & Co. Such a comparison isn’t really fair though. Winnie the Pooh isn’t exactly aimed at the same market, skewing much younger. Additionally, Winnie the Pooh has been longer established and has a seperate set of books to his name, all of which continue to bring in merchandise dollars.

Another aspect that is important to mention, Disney continually markets Winnie the Pooh. In contrast, Warner Bros. (or Time-Warner for that matter) has done little over the last 10 years. Let’s examine it together. Long ago, the Looney Tunes/Merrie Medodie shorts reigned supreme. Not only were the extremely popular, they were broadcast almost continuously, either as shorts themselves or as part of a TV show, e.g. The Bugs Bunny Show.

That time seems like the land of milk and honey compared to now. Would you be able to tell me where I could see a Looney Tunes short on TV today, or even this month? There’s no very many places is there? Sure we’ve had the odd marathon on Cartoon Network, usually on holidays when most people are distracted by turkey or what Santa Claus brought them.

Which brings us back to the age-old problem of “if it’s not readily available, no-one’s going to watch”. A fate which has befallen many fine cartoons and TV shows. Only a fool would try to convince you that an entertainment product can maintain its popoularity without advertising. Now when I say advertising, I don’t mean actual commercials, I mean the shows themselves! If a Looney Tunes short is on TV, that acts like a seven minute commercial that can entice people to watch another short.

The usual plan is to create a “new” TV show, or “update” the characters to the contemporary era, which in itself is a waste of time because within 5 years, the show is outdated. Remeber Lunatics Unleashed? Yeah, yeah I know, it still sucked when it was dubbed into Irish. Well, do you see any shows out there being “anime-fied”, doesn’t that seem so early-2000s? Well that’s basically what happens when you “update” classic cartoon characters, they go stale and end up getting locked in the Warner Vault.

So hear me out. Why not broadcast some of the classic shorts? Instead of, say, starting a TV show on the hour, why not show a short first? Your audience is already there, why not give them something new, or rather not really seen before? They’re still going to stick around for the show they got comfy for, right? The proof is in the pudding, Looney Tunes receipts are higher abroad then in the US. I know myself that RTÉ 2 in Ireland still broadcasts shorts during prime-time children’s programming. Guess how many Irish kids a re growing up with Bugs Bunny in their lives?

In addition, according to the NYT piece, there may be some new theatrical shorts on the way, not unlike “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”, released in 2007. Well, that’s one thing, but why not plant the seed with some old favourites? Once you’ve guilt up a wee bit of an audience, you can then start throwing on some fertilizer in the form of new stuff. People are likely to be much more receptive to something fresh if they are more familiar with the old classics. Look at Tiny Toons, there was a TV show that gained a following all of it’s own. The classic crowd were mixed with newcomers, who eventually became popular in their own right, giving you a whole new property to exploit.

Personally, I think shorts should be filmed before every major feature film, not only does it increase my theatrical experience, I feel like I’m getting better value for money. That’s never a bad thing, eh?

While a new show is undoubtedly necessary to bring Bugs and Daffy in from the cold, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. Disney is the gold standard in this regard, Mickey Mouse is still as popular and well known as he has ever been, having said that, he as never exactly been out of the public’s attention either. Warner Bros. needs to do the same, starting with creeping the gang back onto screens slowly building their way up to the big stuff, i.e. films.

C’mon guys, Warner Brothers Animation is so much more than Detective Comics direct to DVD movies you still have plenty of fans out here.

Reviving Old Cartoons


Word comes through via ToonZone and others about the new Looney Tunes show announced today at the Cartoon Network upfront, the antiquated annual hooplah by a network where advertisers are coerced into buying space during shows that barely even exist yet. Fun times.

So once again, we see the Looney Tunes gang getting pulled out of the closet for new adventures. The last time they did this, we ended up Loonatics Unleashed. A show that many Warner fans would rather forget, but in the end, all it needed was some extra love and attention that would never be forthcoming.

The press summary describes it as follows:

The Looney Tunes Show: A new half-hour animated comedy series starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. No longer confined to 7-minute shorts, Bugs and Daffy are out of the woods and living in the suburbs among such colorful neighbors as Yosemite Sam, Granny, Tweety and Sylvester. In addition to each episode’s main story, The Looney Tunes Show also features “cartoons within a cartoon.” The Tasmanian Devil, Speedy Gonzales, Marvin the Martian and other classic characters sing original songs in two-minute music videos called Merrie Melodies and the Road Runner and Coyote are featured in 2-1/2 minute CG shorts. This all new series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Sam Register (Teen Titans, Ben 10, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is the executive producer. Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone (both Duck Dodgers, Back at the Barnyard, Space Jam) are the supervising producers.

Oh…goody.

If the fact that the characters live in the suburbs isn’t enough, the new show apparently helps the characters break out of the classic 7-minute acts that made them who they are today.

Since I have not seen the show, I will reserve judgement on it for now. Suffice to say I’m not immediately impressed and don’t have high hopes either. This despite the fact that Sam Register is running the whole thing.

Reveiving old cartoons characters is fairly old. Sure Disney has been at it for years, Mickey Mouse continues to pop up in new adventures from time to time. Tom & Jerry have had more lives than I care to remember, from Chuck Jones shorts to Saturday morning cartoons to Tom & Jerry Kids!

What have all these things taught us? For one, nothing is rarely, if ever as good as the original. Even Family Guy isn’t the same since it came back, which in turn has me worried about the new series of Futurama.

Granted the FOX shows had a much shorter hiatus than the Looney Tunes. Still though, they won’t be the same. I think the closest we have gotten to the classic WB shorts in recent (!) years has been either Ren & Stimpy or Cow & Chicken. Today’s cartoons really do lack the hard edge and sly humour that have made old cartoons stand the test of time.

I will of course see the new show when it launches, but people rarely get ahead by digging in the past.

Adventure Time: Woohoo!

Adventure Time Promo art

First things first: an apology. Saying I was going to begin blogging daily should clearly not have been said they day before I was going to leave for a weekation (weekend vacation), but we all live and learn so I don’t plan on doing the same thing again.

Anyway, onto today’s post. I happen to love animation so it is no surprise that I am verrrry excited to see that Adventure Time will be premièring on Cartoon Network tonight at 8pm EST (?).

This is a rare event, seeing as Cartoon Network has decided to shift their market focus to live-action in a vain attempt to “compete” with Nickelodeon and Disney. Pen Ward deserves a heck of a lot of credit for his very unique concept of a show and judging by the artwork that’s been filtering out of the studio over the last year or so, this should be a fantastic show with some truly great stories.

If anything it is vindication that the Oh Yeah! and Random! Cartoons shorts programmes are hit-producers. It is regrettable that Cartoon Network had to go to a competitor’s product to try and find a hit show, but we should be thankful that they even did so at all.

Some have said it is a show of Spongebob proportions, but history has told us that Cartoon Network is atrocious when it comes to marketing their shows, so I don’t expect anything to change.

All I can hope for is that it gets a longer run than the last show that showed as much promise: Chowder.