Is the Animation Iceberg Melting?

It’s a rather quaint title borrowed from a book that happens to be required reading this semester: link link

Long story short, it is a fable of instigating change within an organisation filled with bodies that are quite resistant to change, until they are convinced otherwise. The lesson at the end is that the penguins, having been convinced to leave their established, unsafe iceberg, must now adapt to the annual moves necessary to sustain their colony. The key lesson is that it is hard to instigate the change and it takes effort to establish it in the routines of normal people (or in this case, penguins.)

And this has what to do with animation?

Well, it actually has a lot to do with animation. Studios are organisations and often they must adapt to change or instigate it themselves in order to survive into the future.

Walt Disney faced this challenge when he moved his facilities from Hyperion Avenue over the hill to Burbank. The top down nature of the move resulted in some grumbling and, in a way, led ultimately to the strike of 1941.

Such dramatic moves are rare within the industry, but change occurs frequently on a smaller scale. Leading the change within organisations often falls to managers and executives, but how many of them are effective in their leadership?

Consider the recent controversy surrounding Merida and her ill-advised transformation for her ‘coronation’. Such change seemingly emanated from the Disney organisation and when it was not well received, there was nary a leader in sight to apologise or announce the change back to the CGI model. What does it say about Disney that not a single person too charge of the brouhaha?

Could you easily say that studios today lack effective leadership when it comes to change? Are they managing the (undoubtedly) negative perceptions that recent layoffs have had? How could they turn such negative vibes into positive ones? It’s not impossible. There are examples of companies instigating layoffs that resulted in workers that were actually happy to leave and go on to bigger and better things.

So who is the animated leader in the United States today? Who is the one man/woman who is instigating and leading change within the industry? Who sees the need for the necessary changes that the industry and studios within it will have to undertake in the coming months and years?

Can you name them?

Why Was The Steven Universe Pilot Not Left Online?

Via: Cartoon Brew
Via: Cartoon Brew

I’m asking this in a deadly serious tone, the pilot episode for the upcoming Cartoon Network series Steven Universe slipped online the other day, but was quickly yanked before anyone really knew what was going on. The episode itself (notto tease you any further) looks extremely promising with some lovely animation in addition to a superb cast of characters.

Why CN Should Know Better

The reason I pose this question is because Cartoon Network (of all networks) should know what wonders can be worked when a short is posted online in advance of the main series. The reason is simple, they’ve been here before with Adventure Time.

Yes, the original Random! Cartoons short was posted online after being broadcast on Nickelodeon. While many felt the short was too weird for a proper series, viewers disagreed and the numbers quickly racked up into the millions. Naturally this gave serious weight to the notion that there was demand for a full series and Cartoon Network dutifully picked it up after Nickelodeon’s exclusivity clause lapsed.

Needless to say, the show is one of the most popular animated TV shows of the past five years and has been the cornerstone of Cartoon Network’s audience growth.

Why Steven Universe is a Case of Deja Vu

So beside the obvious reason why a short would leak online (hint: people like to watch stuff), why would CN pull it ever so quickly? While they naturally want to keep things under wraps as long as possible, that’s pretty much gone to seed now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak.

If anything, Adventure Time proves that keeping a short online only adds to audience anticipation for the full series. Now as a network executive, wouldn’t you rather have a large audience waiting in rapt anticipation than to have to pay for advertising and marketing to accomplish the same result?

Steven Universe ought to be available online, even if it differs from the final product. It never hurt Adventure Time and it is unlike to hurt this show. Quite simply, Cartoon Network have to realise that they are in competition with web series now as well. Bravest Warriors is surely proof of that, and by hiding content away, they are doing themselves no favours at all.

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

25 Animation Questions That Need Answering

The Animation Anomaly is a forward-thinking blog if anything, but of all the animation questions that it attempts to answer, there are plenty more that will never be discussed. Here’s a sampling. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Could Futurama even be allowed to continue as a web series?

Are features only the pinnacle of animated entertainment because of how long they take to make?

Why isn’t their more collaborations between animators and musicians? I mean, Skrillex in Wreck-It-Ralph is a prototype, but why doesn’t every show and short film have a proper soundtrack as a co-pro?

How long ago would Walt have canned his 2-D animators?

Could you make a realistic model for finding potential animated content simply by prospecting at comic conventions?

Will Monsters University stumble in foreign markets where they don’t know what a Greek society is?

It’s interesting how few animated films need a remake isn’t it?

Further exploration on the idea of apprenticeships in animation as opposed to contemporary academic models of education

How many references and in-jokes can you squeeze into an 9 minute short?

Could you theoretically create an animated feature film from animated GIF?

Will I see you at CTN-X in November?

What will come after Adobe Flash finally bites the dust?

Will animated series’ (especially pre-school) require a mobile app before they’re even considered for pickup?

Relatedly, how will studios make dough across borders once licensing fees are obliterated from the media landscape? Will MICPOM even continue to exist?

How long until cinemas are the final destination for new animated films?

What’s the mathematical model for measuring fan excitement?

The next great animation studio doesn’t even exist yet. Why not?

Will independents find ways of competing without requiring subsidies?

With the return of shorts, will Avery-esque comedic slapstick be ripe for a comeback?

On-demand animation merchandise: where’s the comprehensive OEM we need?

Just how will Pixar handle their inevitable fall from grace?

Why won’t there be a ‘next’ Walt Disney?

What will happen to animation funded by state broadcasters in the future?

When will we see a successful animation series originate in Africa?

Is animation on FOX doomed?


Will Web Series’ Never Die; Just Fade Away Instead?

animated web series

It’s fascinating to think that just 7 short years ago, YouTube barely existed. If you wanted online video, you either had to download it over [snicker] dial-up or your new-fangled DSL line. Nowadays, online video is ubiquitous in the US and is rapidly growing elsewhere as site like YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Hulu continually push the notion that content is always on-demand and always available. The scenario is, non-web original content plays by a different set of rules to original web content. The former is cancelled after poor ratings, but what about original web series? Do they linger forever until someone forgets to pay the hosting bill, or are they left to fade away into the internet’s ether?

The Difference With The Old Way

In times gone past, shows were cancelled if they failed to garner enough viewers. It was a simple situation and once vanished from the airwaves, they were left to gather dust in studio archives or until cable arrived and reruns were born. The fact that shows simply vanished from the airwaves was important; it didn’t matter if it was your absolute favourite or the worst thing in the world. Once it was cancelled (or ended), it was generally gone for good.

Those were simple times though. Today, the internet and its vast array of choices (and data-generating systems) means that viewing numbers alone cannot indicate whether a web series gets canned or not and when it does, their futures are not as clear cut either.

The New Way

So with the likes of YouTube being the dominant player in the arena, what kind of rules/procedures will be in place for web series that don’t hit the mark? Animation as we all know and love, is a time-consuming process and even shorts like Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover take many months to develop. The inherent risk is that no matter the performance of the series, it will be made and uploaded regardless.

What happens then though? If a web series ‘gets the axe’ so to speak, will it remain on YouTube? Will it be pulled entirely? The former is much more likely as anyone whose stumbled across a long-dead channel will tell you. With that in mind, is it fair to say that web series’ will never really die, they’ll just be allowed to sort of fade away into the background?

No-one has a set policy in this area and plenty of great content has already disappeared from the internet already thanks to the basis of hosting and its associated costs. The aforementioned Geocities is reminiscent of contemporary sites like Blogger, and Tumblr; superb, ‘permanent’ services while active, but unable continue perpetually.

Another Plausible Web Series Possibility

What if an ancient web series is rediscovered and become a hit; what happens then? Will the original creators be around to benefit from it? It might be years, even decades later and if the show wasn’t produced with the correct credits, it might be impossible for the proper owners to take credit for their work. Orphan works are already a problem with physical media covered by copyright; what will the online version be like? All indications point to a potential creative time bomb.

Given that the web can act as a sort of virtual time capsule (the original Space Jam website from 1996 is still online), web series should probably be created in such a way as to anticipate rediscovery many years later and should follow the following criteria:

  • Have a designated ‘maintainer’ who can react to changes in the series’ state/popularity
  • Be readily accessible to the public i.e. no paywalls, etc.
  • Have proper credits that are noted in physical media as opposed to on a computer somewhere (remember, Yahoo, Google and others still delete your email accounts with them if you don’t access them)

With these steps in mind, even a web series that bites the bullet can benefit from a belated boost in popularity.

How do you perceive web series surviving after they end? How would you prepare for such a scenario? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

Are Realistic Characters Endangered in Animation?

King of the Kill case
For all the inherent silliness that went on in King of the Hill, the characters wer very much grounded in reality and could exist in any neighbourhood.

The impetus for this post comes from (of all places) The Onion, who’s recent piece entitled ‘TV Viewer Relates To Totally Unbelievable Character That Could Never Exist In Reality‘ highlights the fact that some characters in entertainment have become quite far removed from reality and yet are presented as being supposedly realistic characters.

Characters are meant to be somewhat unrealistic; we’ve been accustomed to that for years thanks to many an anvil being dropped on a Looney Tunes character. And before that, Davy Crockett, a completely unrealistic character and yet a hero for millions of kids despite the fact that his fictional depictions took huge liberties with the true American hero.

What the Onion piece should contemplate is how characters, by their vary nature, evoke reactions and emotions among the audience; that’s their purpose. You know how there’s that one person you know who’s really boring? Well they’re realistic but could never be portrayed on screen because they would not elicit anything from the audience.

Cartoons feature many wild and zany characters for the simple reason that kids respond better to visual and aural stimulae than adults do. If you’ve ever watched the Simpsons with kids, you’ll know that while kids and adults will laugh at a visual gag, only the adults will get the innuendo or pun. The same goes for Pixar films and their dual-appeal.

The problem of the unbelievable character occurs when they are made to seem completely believable. Shows like Dexter, Mad Men and anything on MTV, all purport to portray realistic, believable characters even though many such characters could not exist as-is in reality.

This blogger’s concern is when will we begin to see such characters infiltrating into animated circles? OK so animated drama is a bit scarce, but it is increasing. Fortunately, the comedic slant of many animated shows give them enough leeway to create unrealistic characters because they can. The problem is when an animated TV show stops being comedic and instead attempts a serious tone.

Arguably, the Simpsons was the pioneer in the regard with its veil of comedy masking a complex family drama. Such a situation persisted because of the unspoken rule that the Simpsons couldn’t do anything that a normal family couldn’t do. Once that rule went out the window (and when that was depends on who you ask), we started to see Homer become more overtly unrealistic and his character suffered as a result.

The point to all of this is that as animation develops in popularity, we are going to see a broader range of characters, and it is preferable to see ones that could exist in real life as opposed to those that are portrayed as being real when they could never be.

What do you think? Will animated characters go to far? Have they gone too far? Let us know with a comment!

What Do You Know About Programming?

Via: Cartoon Brew
Via: Cartoon Brew

Coming by way of Fred Seibert’s twitter feed is this article by Ben Elowitz on an important topic that I’d never really considered before. It’s basically about programming and how important it will be in the digital age. As Ben explains:

Programming is the skill of matching content to audience. Programming is what built the global TV and film industry from $200 billion to $300 billion in the last decade. If you want to succeed in digital media going forward, programming is EVERYTHING.

This post isn’t so much an analysis but a hearty recommendation to go and read Ben’s entire post. It commands a lot of thought because given the long production times for animation, extra planning will be required to ensure that the intended audience does not evaporate before the show is produced. The article also lays out a few secrets to success that are well worth familiarising yourself with.

Although the article is based at a much higher level than what most readers of this blog would need, you should note them nonetheless because the day will come when the content you create will have to abide by these rules if you want it to be seen by large audiences.

Cartoon Network Still Letting Down Adventure Time Fans

glitch is a glitch 1

glitch is a glitch 2

glitch is a glitch 3

A good while ago, we wrote about how Cartoon Network was letting down its own fans by restricting the online streaming on their site to cable/satellite subscribers only. Unfortunately, that still appears to be the case, and the network, along with its hit show Adventure Time is all the worse for it.


The reason is simple, fans can’t [legally] view the latest episodes when they want to. If you don’t have a DVR or a cable subscription (as I don’t) then you’re basically out of luck. Besides torrents, there are plenty of site that will stream the latest episodes and they are only a Google away.

And This Hurts People How?

Well, David OReilly created an episode of Adventure Time that was broadcast last night and subsequently attempted to melt the internet but was fortunately unsuccessful. That said, plenty of fans in the hours afterwards attempted to view it and were out of luck.

Cartoon Network doesn’t have it on YouTube and their aforementioned full episode streams on their website aren’t open to everyone. The result? Fans willing to dilute their own viewing experience by accessing crappy streams. As OReilly himself notes:

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Fans, so pious is their love for Adventure Time that they would rather watch a shitty compressed stream that isn’t even the right colour than wait for Cartoon Network to rerun it. Nobody gains from this.

The Kicker to The Whole David OReilly/Adventure Time Saga

The kicker to all of this is the fact that nothing can be kept offline any more. Heck, the episode was even leaked prior to its airing on the network itself. Sure, Cartoon Network realise they have a winner, but they also fail to realise that with such an explosive show, they need to be on top of handling it when it goes off.

With a big event like this, attention and demand will be concentrated at around the time that it is first made available. You can capitalise on that, but only if you are ready for it.

How does Cartoon Network gain from people watching illegal streams? They don’t! Plain and simple. However, that being said, there is no logical reason for them not to offer legal streams on their own sites or YouTube channel. How many views could they have gotten if the episode was available immediately after it was broadcast? Half a million? One million? More?

Given the recent success of Bravest Warriors, it’s fair to say that the Glitch is a Glitch episode of Adventure Time could easily be at over a million views by now (<24 hours later). Anything that Cartoon Network could have gained from those views is gone; either spread amongst the streaming sites or lost to unauthorised downloads.

How To Counteract It

What really irks this forward thinker though is that they could counter it so, so easily. They could simply put the episode up on YouTube for 24-48 hours for starters. They could harvest views on their site without necessarily damaging the ratings of reruns later on. They would gain the exposure and potentially drive more people to check out the older episodes which, thankfully, are now on Netflix.

They could also have it available to buy. Again, no sign of that less than 24 hours after broadcast.

Where’s the associated value-added merchandise that we discussed just the other day? Why is there quite literally nothing except the episode available except for the tidbits that David OReilly himself has been posting and tweeting about? The man knows a thing or two about nurturing fans and its sad to see his expertise being completely ignored.

The entire saga should be used a lesson so that people can learn how not to react when something this big hits the internet.

Do We Even Deserve A Danger Mouse Reboot?

AAA-Danger MouseStuart Heritage recently wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian on the topic of a Danger Mouse reboot for the 21st century. Although slightly tongue in-cheek, Heritage manages to nail down the finer points of such an effort and why it just might work if done right:

And then there’s the question of the reboot itself. The word conjures up catastrophic images of a humourless, jerky CGI rodent, possibly in a baseball cap, possibly called Dangamouz, battling the forces of evil with the power of industrial dubstep. Sometimes this tactic can work – both He-Man and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been the recipients of darker updates, and they were arguably better than the originals – but it almost definitely won’t with Danger Mouse.

The notion of rebooting an old kids cartoon from the 1980s is nothing new and past successes would surely embolden anyone looking to take it on. The question is though, do we even deserve a Danger Mouse reboot?

We Do

First of all, what do I mean by ‘deserve’. Surely that question was answered in the Simpsons episode “The Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie Show” when Bart confronted Comic Book Guy about being “owed” entertainment, right? Weeeeeell, no. As consumers, we do deserve to be entertained. That’s our demand, and plenty of times, producers do a great job of satisfying it. However, plenty of other times, they do not.

The risk involved in creating a new animated property (TV show, web series or otherwise) is immense. There is plenty of success to be had if you pull it off, sure. But what if it’s not?

Bad entertainment can leave a sour taste in your mouth for years, decades even, in the same way that great entertainment can bring back a flood of nostalgia many years after the last viewing.

Danger Mouse would play off of this. The original series is steeped in nostalgia for many many people who grew up with it but when viewed today, the show is rather crude compared to modern standards. A reboot would keep the characters and premise intact but would update them to appeal more to today’s tastes and hopefully bring a whole new generation into the fold of a great animated property.

We Don’t

Why don’t we deserve a Danger Mouse reboot? Well as much as consumers deserve to be entertained, they also deserve to be entertained in an innovative manner. Hollywood has been rehashing the same formulas for decades but every iteration is done so in such a way as to appear new. Think of Danger Mouse’s inspiration, James Bond. Practically every film is the same and yet they keep making more because they keep finding ways to innovate just enough to make it appear fresh.

In the context of Danger Mouse, it would be tantamount to admitting that the concept of a British mouse who’s a secret spy must depend on a property that is nigh-on 30 years old and that has had no significant activity since it ended production in 1992.

Are we, as consumers, deserving of such a situation? No! We should be deserving of new ideas or twists on the concept of a British spy. Throwing an old idea in new wrapping is insulting on many levels but it’s a situation that keeps on happening. Now yes, you could argue that many consumers are all too happy to lap reboots up but that misses the point. Plenty of the consumers that enjoy the reformulated content are the very same consumers who will drool at the thought of a new episode of Mad Men or become slaven devotees to whichever new show is on HBO.

Yes, Danger Mouse would be aimed at kids, but kids are voracious consumers of anything that’s sold to them as being ‘new’. Why should we, as adults, force our nostalgic memories on them? Why shouldn’t we create something that bestows its own nostalgia on them? I believe we should, and be all the better as an industry for it.

Would a Danger Mouse reboot ruin your childhood? Let us know with a comment!

Are Indian Animation Studios an Overblown Threat?

Hey Krishna
Screenshot from Indian feature film Hey Krishna

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the rise of India and China as potential global animation superpowers. Many believe that this will be accomplished by quote/unquote ‘stealing’ jobs from other, more expensive countries such as the United States. Other believe that the rise of Indian cinema means that those same Western countries face a deluge of cheap, Indian features coming their way at the expense of local output. Both view are hogwash, but it is undeniable that India is looking to grow its animation industry. They are, however, doing so in a normal way, so much so, that Indian animation studios are really an overblown threat. Here’s a few reasons why.

The Culture Is Too Different

India has a vast, varied culture stretching back thousands of years. Its modern moviemaking industry is very much rooted in this culture and is reflected in pretty much ever film that’s released. Yes, the country shares a colonial history with Britain just like many other countries, but so dose America, Australia and South Africa. Yet the influence of the British is much stronger in those countries than in India, despite the latter gaining independence much, much later.

Film (and animation) is dependent on culture and cultural norms. India’s culture is extremely strong within the country itself as well as within ex-pat and emigrant communities. It is not strong in areas outside of these. Indian films are quite distinct from Western tastes (generally running much longer and dealing with different themes).

The country’s animated output either mimics local cultural norms or attempts to mimic Western ones. It succeeds with the former but falters with the latter. The simple reason is that it is extremely difficult to make a film that completely satisfies all the criteria for being culturally relevant. No, Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t count; it was a Western film with Indian themes but nothing more.

Disney has famously avoided such obstacles for decades by making films that are culturally obtuse; hence all the fairytales. DreamWorks unfortunately learned the hard way with Monsters Vs. Aliens; a film with plenty of gung-ho Americana that didn’t resonate well with foreign audiences.

Indian films will be similar. They will accurately reflect their origin and its culture, but until said culture and its filmmaking norms establish a large following among foreign audience, don’t expect films such as Kiara the Brave to be much of a threat.

It’s Not All About Cost

A ton of focus on India and its competitive abilities have centred on cost, particularly labour cost. The first thing to get out of the way is that it isn’t all about costs. Yes, they play a large role, but ultimately, any studio that decamps to India on the basis of a lower wage rate is playing a mugs game.

The reasons are simple. Wages and salaries are only one cost that must be controlled when making a film or series. Sure, lower wages generally do reflect lower overall cost by virtue of their significant piece of the total cost pie. But they are not the be all and end all and it is unwise to use them as the sole reason to move abroad.

Sure, Indian animators may be cheaper, but there are many differences that must be overcome; cultural, administrative (taxes, permits, etc.), geographical (yes, this still matters in the internet age), and economical (GDP, purchasing power) all play a role in the decision to off-shore work. (These are handily summed up in the CAGE framework.)

Studios looking to move operations to India must look at all of these categories to consider whether it is beneficial to move. At the moment, even though cost is a major factor, the rest combine to make keeping animation US-based attractive for many companies. DreamWorks is moving ahead with its Indian and Chinese studios, but although these will handle some US work, my guess is that the ultimate aim is to get them producing their own content and that American productions are a simple way to get their skills up to speed quickly.

Work ethic also plays a role and even with all the abuses in the US VFX industry, it may stand to reason that Indian animators really are more productive. Maybe their isolated from the internet at work or they just don’t engage in office gossip, I don’t know. But if they can knock out more animation in a week, shouldn’t we be looking to them to discover their secret? I would as it would mean I could keep more people employed in the US.

Think Big as Well As Small

Much of all this ballyhoo has focused on the big players (Disney, DreamWorks, etc.) but not much has been mentioned about the smaller players. There are hundreds if not thousands of them and they certainly face similar pressures to the larger studios in terms of labour costs. What’s different though, is that smaller studios can survive even in areas where larger studios aren’t really viable anymore.

Take for example New York City. Large-scale studios have been absent from the city for quite some time, and yet the industry adapted and remains the hub the animated commercials. It also has a thriving independent scene as evidence by the one-man feature film production team that is Elliot Cowan.

The point is that even though large studios may be the ones who are making the most noise, smaller studios must put up with the same pressures, and they are the ones who will most likely be able to adapt.

Being Close To Home Still Has Its Advantages

For all the talk about the internet and the elimination of borders and distance, the truth is that both obstacles and more (time zones, etc.) continue to have a massive bearing on businesses. Studios are no different and when it comes to the client-studio relationship, sometimes it really is beneficial to have a close on rather than one that spans almost an entire hemisphere.

Email may be quick, but if its the middle of the night where the recipient is, that induces wasted time into the process. That may be tolerable for short projects, but for longer ones, it has the potential to add weeks to the schedule; an intolerable probability for many studios, even with all the cost savings taken into account.

Since the vast majority of animation projects are time-sensitive, for that and other reasons, studios large and small will continue to demand that work be carried out close to home. India may be cheaper, but when time is of the essence, being within arms reach is priceless.

The Crunch: Will Indian Animation Kill Off The American and European Animator

The short answer is no, it won’t.

The long answer is much more dependent on how American and European animators choose to react. If Indian animators constantly up their game and become more productive and proficient in Western culture, then yes, there is a real threat. If not, then Western animators can rest a bit easier. That said, technology is constantly improving to the point where it will be quicker and cheaper to send films to India for the monotonous or automated tasks (rendering, et.c.) Western animators will have to adapt to plying their advantages in their animating skills and abilities. If you can recognise that then you haven’t much to fear.

Are Animation Soundtracks An Untapped Goldmine?

Via: teews666 on deviantArt
Via: teews666 on deviantArt

Originally soundtracks and the music associated with them were considered cast-offs in the animation landscape. Before Snow White, the copyrights and publishing rights were sold off for a cheap sale. Disney’s folly changed all that with its numerous hit songs, and suddenly, the music in animated films became a major cog in the film machine. That trend continues up to today, where every major animated film has a soundtrack available even before the film hits cinema screens. The thing is though, animation is much more than feature films, and it’s in this regard that suggests that animation soundtracks are a bit of an untapped goldmine here in the west.

For Web Series

Web series’ actually lead the way. Many series are created by people who are familiar with the overarching sharing nature of the internet and the fact that influence can come from anywhere and everywhere. Hence the advantage to sharing the music with others. Cartoon Hangover has a Soundcloud page where they post tracks (mostly voices and FX, but theme music too). Given the fact that their series don’t have a lot of music, it’s fair to say that Frederator are probably best to simply give it away.

That’s not to say that others shouldn’t try to make something from their music. Plenty of independent musicians earn a living by using the music as a catalyst to sell other things. Fans are willing to support artists given the right conditions and there is no reason to suggest that music from an animated web series can’t play an integral or standalone role in that respect.

For Shorts

Shorts are a tad trickier than series; the result of sometimes being built around a single song. That does not preclude them from gaining something from the music too. Some shorts use off the shelf music while others use a bespoke song. Still others utilise an actual soundtrack.

In the case of a single song, that could still be sold separately from the film. Selling a whole CD for one song is probably a bit far fetched, but plenty of animators create more than one short, so a compilation is something that could work.

To call out David Oreilly’s The External World, the entire soundtrack of which is available for download starting at just $1. It costs OReilly little to put it up there, but the mutual benefit to himself and fans is enormous. People also aren’t nearly as stingy with their online dollars as you might think:

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 For TV Series

This is the obvious one and something of a sore spot for fans of many shows. The Nickelodeon series’ Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra being the most visible examples.

Granted, a large majority of TV shows did not have soundtracks per se; relying instead on interstitial music outside of the main theme. That said, in recent years we’ve seen a dramatic upswing in the quality of animated shows music, often to the point (as in the two series’ above) where they rival traditional live-action shows in terms of quality. Other current examples include Adventure Time with its chiptune music and Gravity Falls with it’s similarly retro score.

Soundtracks and scores for animated TV shows are seen today the same way that they were for animated films before Snow White. They’re leftovers, but with the control-all attitude of many studios, they would rather lock them up than spend the money to make a proper release. A shame really, as I discuss in this post, because the tools available today mean that you can get a soundtrack or score out there for relatively little effort. If you do it right, it’s entirely possible to make some money while you’re at it too.

Note that I am purposely neglecting things like pre-school shows that have long been sold as singalong tapes and books. That’s different; entertainment on a whole different level than pure aural pleasure.

I’m also purposely neglecting anything to do with anime. Japanese studios and networks have known of the value locked up in a show’s music and have endeavored to collaborate with mainstream artists and make sure it gets out there. The simple reason is that in Japan, a hit score can drive people to view the show. Things are not so simple here in the west, but there’s no harm in trying, is there?

Let’s Get Those Animation Soundtracks Out There!

Everyone listens to music, and keeping some of the music that accompanies animated films away from fans only serves to hurt the films themselves. The Avatar scores alone could draw fans into the series, especially since music tends to be more freely available than video.

So consider this post a wish that more music from animated films and shows make it out into the wild for all to enjoy.

Do you agree? What are your favourite shows who’s music isn’t available as an official release? Let us know with a comment!