Amazon’s Misguided Pricing Policy For Cartoons

The other day, I decided to get the Adventure Time Season 1 DVD. Yeah, I know what I said, but lacking suitable alternatives meant that I’m left with little choice. In the course of browsing to purchase it, I was struck by Amazon’s misguided pricing policy when it comes to cartoons. See the screenshot below:

See something kinda funny there? Yup, why buy the digital version for more than it cost for the physical discs! That simply can’t make any sense, can it? I mean for one, DVDs have to be made, shipped to Amazon, stored and then shipped to me. The digital copy gets uploaded to their servers once and then gets streamed/downloaded as necessary. The worst part about that? I’m paying half the delivery cost; the bandwidth!

Now someone is apt to say that with the digital copy, I can watch it on multiple devices and in multiple locations but of course DVDs are easy to rip and once they are, they are just as portable, if not more so due to the DRM on Amazon’s digital files.

So I was curious, my interest was decidedly piqued; were other cartoon series’ priced similarly or was this just a naked attempt to cash in on Adventure Times success? Let’s have a look-see.

Here’s a few of the better deals:

And here’s a few of the more egregious ones:

It should be noted that The Hub has no series’ on DVD in their entirety yet and the Disney Channel is sticking firmly with DVD for now. I also left out some shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender and Rocko’s Modern Life because they are available on Netflix and Amazon’s own streaming service for free.

So who’s losing out here? Is it Amazon because they’re selling less digital versions? Hardly, you can be sure those digital sales are almost 100% profit for them. Do studios lose? Again, not likely. They make a profit on the DVDs at those prices so you can be sure they make a profit once they cut out the manufacturing and distribution and whack up the price.

So if they don’t lose, then who does?

Us consumers obviously! And sadly, they way things are going, those DVD sets will start to go away and you can be sure that those digital prices are not going to budge one bit.

Adventure Time Wallets: FOR THE FANS!

Via: Animated Review

Adventure Time continues to set the bar when it comes to connecting with fans of the show (although Futurama is apparently catching up) and the latest is this rather cool project: Adventure Time wallets!

Yes, coming via Animated Review, is the series of wallets created by Poketo featuring a series of various designs including one by Pen Ward himself! Here’s my favourite:

Via: Animated Review

There’s a number of things that are cool about this kind of merchandise:

  1. They’re cheap! $20 isn’t going to break the bank for most people
  2. Their relatively customised. With 7 different designs to choose from, there’s good chance most people won’t have the same one.
  3. They’ve got the approval from the show’s creator (always a good thing)
  4. They go beyond the simple design of the show itself (and the stuff most marketing departments are comfortable with) and give fans something new.
  5. Fans can feel good about supporting a small company and awesome creative team!

The only downside? Showing off your awesome new wallet to everyone will only prove how much/little money you actually have.

When Cartoon Network Shoots Themselves in The Foot

Although this was posted on r/AdventureTime today, I had to go and check it out for myself just to be sure. Here’s my actual screenshot (click to embiggen):

 

Nice isn’t it? Instead of a full episode of Adventure Time (or any other series), I’m greeted with a nice reminder that I don’t, in fact, have cable or satellite.

While I heartily laugh at the subtle suggestion that I start forking out and arm and/or leg for channels with more commercials than content, this screenshot nonetheless represents Cartoon Network shooting themselves in the foot and taking aim at Adventure Time fans too.

Why? The answer is simple. By restricting online streaming of full episodes, guess what that does? It not only inconveniences fans who want to catch up on the latest episode, it also directly prevents new fans of the series from increasing their enjoyment of the show. Surely the whole point of entertainment is to get as many eyeballs on it as you can, right?

Turner Broadcasting seems to think differently however, and would rather cut off fans both old and new from their favourite show, by extension reducing the audience and the market for any merchandise.

Now that is not to say that the show will disappear, even the post on reddit is called “This is why I torrent” alluding to the fact that the show really is that good. The downside for Turner and Cartoon Network is that any fan who moseys on over the torrents is a lost fan, one whose interest (and potentially money) is directed away from their operations.

If I were studio chief, I would have serious misgivings about seeing fans go elsewhere for the sake of ensuring that only paid-up subscribers see the legitimate stream.

Must Watch: PBS Off Book Documentary On Fan Art

The PBS web channel Off Book has created a superb video that looks at and discusses fan art. Yes, we all know it exists, but this excellent documentary takes a quick 10 minute peek into why people make fan art, and what are the results.

The first surprise? There’s a lot of animation-related fan art out there, but most of all, it uses Adventure Time as one of the lead examples; lest we forget that connecting with fan art community is just one of the ways the show became so successful in the first place.

The 10 minutes of this video are well worth your time, and c’mon, share it around, It needs to be seen by way more than 27,011 people. 🙂

 

 

The Adventure Time Season 1 DVD: Already Past Its Sell-By Date?

Finally, after 652 days (or 1 year, 9 months and 13days), the Adventure Time Season 1 DVD will be released on July 10th, 2012. While this is good news, is the idea of DVD boxset already past its sell-by date?

First though, a clarification; I ‘m not referring to the content. We all know Adventure Time is awesome and has maintained a great level of success since its debut. No, I’m talking about the very notion of a DVD boxset itself, and in this case, the almost egregious delay between the end of the 1st season and this release.

Oh sure, we’ve had the odd DVD featuring a handful of episodes, but we’ve had to wait well over a year for the complete boxset. Why is this so? The answer is as maddingly simple as it is annoying, release windows.

Release windows: wherin studios/networks attempt to extract the maximum revenue from one source before permitting another one to supplant it. Much the same as why DVDs must come out after the theatrical run, DVDs of TV shows are only permitted to be sold well after the network has eeked all the ad revenue it can from the season.

That’s not to say the episodes won’t be broadcast, they will, but they won’t command near as much revenue in the perpetual reruns that they do when they fresh. Hence the lag, which persists despite the fact that two additional seasons have been broadcast since and the 4th began last night.

So that’s left me asking, just why do season boxsets continue to exist, and why, oh why, has the idea of a delay not been beaten to a pulp by now?

Consider the following points:

  • Internet streaming is on the rise (Cartoon Network themselves stream the latest episodes)
  • As a sub-point, the incredibly internet-savvy generation that are precisely whom Cartoon Network are targeting have probably already downloaded the torrents already (as if the fact of Frederator leveraging the internet as a promotional tool isn’t an indication enough of this already)
  • Boxsets are costly to make and distribute. I’d wager the profit margin on DVDs isn’t near as high as it was)
  • TV shows depend on regular viewship. Leaving more casual fans in the cold causes them to move onto other things as they are starved for new episodes.
  • Just think, all this time, Cartoon Network could have been making even more money through boxset sales. Advertising revenue is one thing, but it doesn’t evaporate when boxsets are released.

Now in fairness, a year and some change isn’t too bad. Some series have to wait much longer. Some are never released at all, destined to languish in the archives forever.

Thankully though, the rise of the internet and its associated services like Netflix have meant that TV shows are making it online quicker than ever before (Portlandia comes to mind, as does Futurama). Animated shows deserve similar treatment, not being trotted out over a year after the iron was struck.

The Adventure Time Season 1 DVD boxset is the last of a dying breed. I’m willing to wager that we won’t see a fourth season boxset come 2014.

“The Revolution Is Here. What Are You Waiting For?”

This morning, Fed Seibert has a great post about the ongoing revolution in video we’re seeing thanks to YouTube and he has this choice quote (emphasis mine):

But that’s not where the action is. Remember, Adventure Time first blew up on YouTube; we absolutely never would have sold the show without the explosion of interest from their community.

That’s the money quote right there, and the secret to any piece of entertainment’s success. A community will do more to make you money than any advertising can ever hoper to achieve.

He follows it up with this advice:

There’s ways to make money if you’re popular, and more importantly it’s where the audience is.

The old ways of doing things are falling. You simply cannot expect to make money or reach an audience  the same way they did in the old days.

Thankfully, the tools to do so are so readily accessible and cheap, like Fred says:

Any of you making films should be making more and posting them.

 

Why Frederator Were Right To Pull The Mathematical Video

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes people make mistakes. which is apparently what happened over on the Adventure Time blog the other day. The show is well known for it’s growing and devoted fan-base that stems from the show’s top quality, it’s quirky and loveable characters, and, most importantly of all, the way the creators, network and studio crafted and actively encouraged the creation of a community around the show.

As part of this, Frederator began putting out two recap video of each episode, one solicited responses from fans, the other contained said responses as art, music, voice messages, etc. The long and the short of the latest video, is that it went out as usual and generated a lot of discussion on the internet before being withdrawn.

The result was that a lot of fans were upset for many reasons, but chief among them is that the felt that Frederator/CN/The Man was somehow censoring some aspect of the show.

This is patently false.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s almost a smack in the face, especially as plenty of it has continued even after an official explanation. Understandably though, emotions do seem to be running a bit high, especially given the subject matter.

However, there is an extremely valid reason that Fred touched on but did not go into detail on, and it’s the one and only reason the video was pulled.

Here’s why he was right to do so.

In a handy coincidence, I’m right in the middle of reading a book called Remix by Lawrence Lessig (of Creative Commons fame).

Remix by Lawrence Lessig coverIt’s a rather fascinating book that I’d encourage you all to read, you can even download it for free.

In it, Lessig discusses his theory of RO culture and RW culture. RO refers to Read-Only and RW refers to ReWrite. The difference is that the former allows the creator more control over what they create and how it’s consumed and the latter extends the right to anyone should they wish to ‘remix’ it into something new.

As far as RO culture goes, right now that means anything on TV, film and radio where the creators intend for it to be seen/read/heard exactly as they originally intended it. RW culture is pretty much everything outside of that that is primarily created by fans.

Adventure Time is a show in the RO tradition. It is meant to be watched the way that Pen Ward, the studio and network intended it to be. Fans are free to create whatever they wish, however that is all done outside of the official channels and is clearly labelled as such.

What the recent Mathematical video did was inadvertently insert part of the RW culture into an RO show. In other words, it took the context of the Princess Bubblegum/Marceline relationship and implied something that Pen Ward and his crew never intended to be the case. Their vision for the show was compromised and that puts things at odds with the goals of RO culture.

Therefore the video had to be pulled because otherwise it could have compromised how the characters and the show are meant to be viewed by the audience.

Fans are still free to imply whatever they wish because they are part of the RW side of things. They create many new and wonderful things but it is clear they are independent of the show. Frederator is part of the production team and they are obligated to follow the vision of the creators, whatever it is.

The decision has nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the nature of the relationship. That is completely irrelevant to the discussion and it isn’t fair to insinuate that the decision was made based on that and that alone.

Even if crew members engage in creating their take on the relationship, unless it is officially sanctioned, then they too are acting as part of the RW culture, in other words, they are acting outside of the RO culture of the show and their art can’t be seen as ‘official’.

Fred and the studio acted completely correctly in pulling the video because the longer it was left up, the more and more it would have compromised the original vision of the creator, Pen Ward and how he wanted everyone to see the characters.

Irregardless of the potential future developments in the show or its characters, pulling the video was the best decision given the circumstances and all the criticism that is being thrown about is completely unwarranted.

A Comic About Toyetic Shows

Via: Potato Farm Girl on Tumblr (click through to embiggen)

Could this comic speak the truth???

Perhaps, but the sad state of affairs that was the cancellation of Symbionic Titan probable had a lot more to do with the kind of show that it is rather than whether or not there were toys made to promote it.

While Princess Bubblegum and Princess Llana are two great characters, it’s not really fair to say that one should have succeed because the other did. They inhabit different worlds in different shows and nary the two shall meet.

 

Did The ‘Rule 63’ Episode of Adventure Time Boost Female Viewer Demographics?

Via: Frederator

[Updated below]

So here’s what I’m curious to know: Did this past week’s episode of Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake have an increased number of girl viewers compared to a normal episode and if so were the numbers of male viewers impacted?

I ask this because I’m curious to see whether the gender of the lead character can impact viewer demographics. Considering that the show is a male-leaning one anyway, did the number of girl viewers pick up because of an episode with a female lead character?

Also, how about the number of total viewers? Arguably if more females were watching and all the usual lads had tuned in, we should see an increase, right?

What are your thoughts?

Update: And the numbers are in, but curiously their only broken out for boys, not girls. Overall, 3.3 million viewers tuned in to see Fionna, Cake and Prince Gumball.

The press release only provides numbers compared to last year, so that’s not a lot of info to go on unfortunately. However seeing as it is the highest rated episode of Adventure Time of all time, which would suggest that its performance in each demo is up.

In any case, it would appear that this one-off, gender-swapped episode didn’t scare away male viewers in the slightest, which, if the wags are to believed, was nothing short of impossible to achieve.

The 7 Things That Made Adventure Time A Success

Adventure Time Promo art

Soon to be premiering its third season, Adventure Time has been on a seriously roll since it was first broadcast all the way back in 2010. Is there some kind of secret sauce that Pendleton Ward and co. have been hiding from everyone else? The answer is no, but there are a few things that the team, the studio and the network have done to ensure the shows success.

1. It’s Premise

Two best friends living in a magical land called Ooo? How could that not be special? How about if one of them was a magical dog who could talk? Even more so of course! The setup for Adventure Time is the ideal cartoon setting in that it allows for plenty of room for story. Being magical and all that, there have been no shortage of stories that make full use of such a location.

2. The Diverse Characters

Adventure Time is chock full of quirky characters who fill an episode and make it all the more fun to watch. Besides that, the regular cast are a diverse crowd, with a human, a talking dog, a bubblegum princess, a vampire and a flying ‘rainacorn’. Much like the Land of Ooo, the core characters are suitably different and complex as to permit a wide array of stories to be centered around them.

3. The Original Short

The original short, was part of Frederator’s Random! Cartoons and was broadcast on Nickelodeon back in 2008. Since Nickelodeon declined to pick up the series, it could have sat on the shelf for a year and a half. Instead, someone (somewhere) was clever enough to ensure that the short made it onto YouTube. In no time at all, it had ratcheted up over a million hits and a pseudo-cult following.

Besides that, the short was also extremely effective at introducing the world, the cast of characters and the kind of situations they have to deal with in the land of Ooo. Such a solid base was perfect as the foundation for the show’s fans on which to grow.

4. Getting Picked Up

With a bit of internet popularity, there was already an audience waiting for a series, so it came as no surprise when Cartoon Network announced their acquisition of the series, that there were many fast-paced discussions on forums as to how the show would turn out. As a result, the show’s premiere was one of the highest watched in Cartoon Network history and the show has remained a top ratings winner ever since.

The key here is that thanks to the show being on YouTube, it already had a group of people who wanted to see it. As such, it was easier for the creators and network figure out which direction the show should go in and what made it so popular in the first place.

5. The Tumblelog

The good folks at Frederator have run production blogs for all their shows since My Life as a Teenage Robot so it is no surprise that they have one for Adventure Time too. Stretching all the way back to the original short, there is literally hundreds of bits and bobs from the show like character model sheets, colour studies, sketches, storyboards and promotional art. It’s a veritable treasure trove of Adventure Time paraphernalia.

Why this is so important is because until now, the vast majority of shows normally hide such stuff away and try and keep it out of the public’s eye until at least the show’s premiere (the common fear is ‘piracy’). Posting such a large amount of art on a regular basis only served to whet the appetite of the fans, however, and when the first series was broadcast, many fans were already familiar with the episodes and were anticipating them even more.

6. The Secret Sauce of Awesomeness

[Shhh, don’t tell anyone]

7. Actively Engaging The Fans

I wrote about this last year sometime, but it is still something of a rarity in the cartoon landscape in that the producers actively engage fans and encourage them in many ways. Of note is the original tumblelog but also the many many fansites that have sprung up. The official tumblelog also requests, accepts and posts fanart and pictures of people either cosplaying or wearing Adventure Time clothing. No other show (outside of Frederator) seems to be doing this even though it has immensely helped cement the show’s reputation as being fan-friendly.

Conclusion

So there you have it, seven things that have helped Adventure Time become the success it is today. It should serve as a role model for other shows on how to successfully grow your viewer base into a fan base.

 

http://twitter.com/#!/buenothebear

Do You Know How Many Hoops A Storyboard Has to Jump Through?

I sure didn’t, and the answer surprised me. The snapshot below is taken from the storyboard for the Adventure Time episode “Guardians of Sunshine” which was recently posted over on the Frederator Blogs. Study it for a minute before continuing.

Guardians of Sunshine Approval boxesYup, that’s nine steps in total before the episode goes into actual production. Is it too many or too little, I don’t know. Although being on a mainstream network, I’d say that this is about as complicated as you can get before crossing over into feature films.

Of course, smaller and independent works won’t have near the same number of steps but it certainly struck me that just the storyboard alone would have to go through so many levels of approval just to get into production. It’s certainly another sign of the complexities of animation!