The Animation Anomaly Podcast Episode 5

Originally scheduled for last Sunday but thanks to sound problems, only released today!

In this episode:

00:00 – Tintin and the Copyright Sharks [Mickey Mouse Copyright post link]

07:30 – Top 10 Reasons People Use To Justify Pirating Digital Content (And Why They’re Wrong)

13:30 – The LA Times on Stephen Universe

16:20 – Chernin Group Buying Majority Stake in Crunchyroll, the Anime Subscription Site

Audio file link

Interactive Animation: The Bravest Man in The Universe

Animation continues to find its way into new and exciting projects (such as Ryan Woodward’s ‘Bottom of the Ninth‘) but also music videos as well. The latest (by way of Creative Review) is from musician Bobby Womack, whose released an interactive music video for the title track of his new album, ‘The Bravest Man in the Universe‘ by way of an app. It’s basically a regular music video but the viewer gets to determine how it plays out. Quite an intriguing concept that greatly increases a fan’s involvement with the music.

Here’s the official teaser trailer:

 

 

The Ritual Of Renewing TV Shows Is Obsolete

The Animation Guild blog has been reporting over the last few weeks and months as the various McFarlane shows on FOX waited for the venerable “renewal” notice. They finally came this past week with everyone returning in the autumn. The only thing that made me think about all of this is that the process for renewing a show is hopelessly obsolete.

Why do studios and networks wait for a certain date before “announcing” whether a show is coming back or not? Oh yes, they have to decide whether to continue a show or not, but there seems to be this almost perverted ritual where networks come forward to say what the story is. Of course good shows get renewed a the drop of a hat and bad shows get the axe immediately. However, it’s the shows on the bubble that get run through the wringer.

Having said all that, this process will soon disappear. Online viewing has much better metrics than traditional broadcast or cable metrics and once it is firmly established, it will be much easier to gauge audience sizes. Indeed, networks may find that just because a show gets low numbers on first broadcast, it may have substantial numbers viewing it after the fact. Why on earth FOX and the rest aren’t using Hulu to its full advantage for this kind of stuff is beyond me

If viewer numbers hold up fairly well in the off-season, then surely a show should continue, right?

To go a step further, why even have “seasons” at all? Sometime in the foreseeable future, that concept will also disappear. Hopefully then, orders will be continuous with no need to have crews get shuffled around to save costs.

All in the future though, unfortunately.

Character Sundays: Pepper Ann

Via: Brad Goodchild’s Postfolio Site

Today’s character is Pepper Ann, star of her eponymous TV show that aired on Disney/ABC from 1997 to 2001.

Pepper Ann is a 12 year-old who has a bit of a runaway imagination. Akin to a bit of a dreamer, she imagines scenarios developing in seemingly bizarre and fantastical ways. Despite this, the series is very much grounded in reality, with Pepper’s friends Milo and Nicky acting as her rock throughout the series.

Strong characters were the hallmark of a series that was the first to bring in some of the more complex aspects of life into Disney entertainment. Case in point is Pepper’s absent father, whom she hopes will someday come home, but with the realities of divorce, that is unlikely to happen. This article from the New York Times in 1997 provides a good overview of the series.

Such an unfortunate situation could have easily been pawned off by the creators but instead it is made a main tenant of the show and gives kids watching a sense that characters can also have complex lives.

Pepper Ann is generally very easy going, but displays a steely determination to solve problems and dilemmas. In that regard she consults her conscience, who often appears out of nowhere and whose advice is mostly (?) correct.

As a show, Pepper Ann remains somewhat unique in the realm of animated TV. The show features a lead female protagonist but at the same time is surprisingly gender-neutral. Even though Pepper Ann is a girl, we rarely see her engage in all the stereotypes of one, or act as a tween for that matter. While this is certainly welcome, it is also unfortunately surprising, especially in this day and age, when 12 year olds are practically treated as adults.

Although a bit dated by the use of late-90s slang, and most definitely an American show from that period, Pepper Ann remains a great show with a fantastic lead.

Fun fact: A certain Mr. Warburton worked on the show, and random stuff has been known to pop up over on his blog.

The Top 10 Animated Film-Related Posters on Allposters.com

Today, just for fun, I thought I would take a look and see what the top 10 best selling posters are for animated films as told by allposters.com. Unfortunately I can’t get a timeframe on these, so I’m assuming it’s over at least the last 6 months but is probably longer.

In compiling this list, I only included anything over c. 22″ x 34″, in other words, the size you see at the cinema. (Clicking on the image will take you to the relevant allposters.com page).

1. Cars

2. Despicable Me

3. Toy Story 3

4. Tangled

5. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

6. Toy Story 3 (again)

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas

8. The Princess and the Frog

9. Cars (again)

10. Avatar

Why “Cancelling” A Show Is So Outdated In This Day and Age

Word came through the other day that FOX, after what surely must have been a long discussion (/sarcasm), had decided to swing the axe on Jonah Hill’s much vaunted animated show, Gregory Allen.

So this poses an interesting question, and it’s one that will surely have a different answer than if it had been asked the last time we had this kind of situation on FOX:

What does it even mean to “cancel” a TV show any more?

Seriously! So you “cancel” it from being broadcast on TV. Well, as my fiance would say, woop-di-freakin-do! TV (and I’m talking about traditional, OTA, satellite and cable scheduled programming here) is rapidly becoming a smaller and smaller part of the entertainment landscape anyway, why does it even matter?

FOX already hosts its shows in a couple of places online and its fair to say that a sizeable portion of their audience is watching them there rather than “tuning in” during the week.

With that in mind, would it not make more sense to simply release the episodes online instead? Just because you “cancel” the show, does that automatically preclude that you have to suddenly archive the remaining episodes never to be seen again?

No, of course not!

Why not instead just say that Allen Gregory has moved to being exclusively online? My train of thought is that at some point we’ll see a deeper connection between TV and the web. YouTube is currently pioneering the way with original series (shout out to the YouTube Next Lab) whose quality is rapidly approaching that of traditional TV and it’s only a matter of time before we see audience shifts to them. My point? If a show begins life online and become popular, it could easily be “transferred” to TV with a scheduled timeslot while remaining online, thereby capturing both audiences.

Shows could also go the other way. Say they start out on TV but don’t really find their audience, then they could move to the online world and carry on as before.

I will use any excuse to post Mo Willem's charcter designs for this show.

We’ve seen some rudimentary moves in this regard with the likes of Sit Down, Shut Up. Which, after getting canned, eventually returned as FOX burned off the episodes in the middle of the night. However, they also went up on Hulu, where it was possible for fans (such as myself) to finally see them. And apparently they’re now on Comedy Central (somewhere) too!

Just imagine what kind of online numbers they could have gotten if they had put them online straight away!

Animation is slightly trickier than live-action as they shows pretty much have to be produced before the season begins. That means that it really doesn’t make any sense to “cancel” an animated show and then pretend it doesn’t exist.

To be cliched and quote Bob Dylan: the times, they are a changin’.

DreamWorks Really Is Pushing The Envelope

Yes, DreamWorks really is pushing the envelope, the release envelope that is. Here’s what I read this morning over on the Animation Guild Blog that really made me take a minute just to think about it (emphasis mine):

There is a squadron of other features are lined up on the tarmac, but I won’t bother rattling them off, since you can see most of them listed here. (It dawns on me that by 2014, DWA will have thirty animated movies out in the wider world. By contrast, Disney’s fifty-first feature — after 73 years, came out last Spring.)

You could easily argue that DreamWorks isn’t as diversified as Disney, nor has it ever put out even close to the same volume of shorts. However, the fact remains that as far as animated features go, DreamWorks is certainly cranking them out.

Now you can read this any number of ways you like. Be it that the fact that Disney is diversified means they do not need to rely on aniamted films to bring home the bacon, that things were different back in the old days or even that Disney has such a strong brand that they can afford to coast on films for years after release in contrast to DW which must continue the releases to bring in the dough.

I tend to believe that DW does need to continually release films, hence it’s faster production rate. However, the time will come when DreamWorks will have earned a legacy that is strong enough for it to slow down a bit. That day is still a bit far away, but it is drawing ever closer.

Link: Hayao Miyazaki and the future of animation by Alec Nevala-Lee

I just thought I’d share a link to a post by Alec Nevala-Lee who takes a look at Hayao Miyazaki and how his films are fundamentally different from anything put out by a regular studio and why he will be extremely difficult to replace. It’s well worth a read.

The Acceptance of Animation By The General Public

Via: The Horror Geek (and I am grateful to Rob Zombie for making this so I don’t have to choose any of the other images that popped up after a Google search for “adult cartoon”, yeesh.)

Roger Ebert, perhaps the most widely known movie critic in history, has published what he considers to be the best animated films of 2010. Now I am not one to question his judgement, but once again it appears that animation is being considered as a genre rather than an artform.

Nonetheless, Ebert notes as much at the start of the piece, with the following statement:

My list reflects a growing fact: Animation is no longer considered a form for children and families. In some cases it provides a way to tell stories that can scarcely be imagined in live action.

I think this statement is in need of a wee bit of clarification, it’s not so much that animation “is no longer considered” but rather “is being accepted by the general public”.

Animation has been an adult-friendly artform ever since Ralph Bakshi burst onto the scene with Fritz the Cat. So it’s not really fair to say that it is “no longer considered”. It has been considered for quite some time, it just hasn’t been accepted by the public at large. Why this is so cannot be laid squarely at the feet of Walt Disney, he merely exploited a market, not pigeonhole the artform.

As Steve Hulett over at the TAG Blog is fond of pointing out, animation has some serious commercial weight behind it at the moment, with 6 of the top 15 film of the year (ranked by box office gross) being animated. This is good news for animation fans as it is proof that the artform is capable of reeling in the crowds.

The last great hurdle that has to be overcome is to make a mainstream animated film targeted specifically at adults. It’s already been proven in TV shows, now it just needs to be done by a major studio. The audience is certainly beginning to assemble, and the likes of Pixar have certainly proven that adults are capable of watching a well-written story regardless of the target demographic. So at this point, the excuses are becoming scarcer and scarcer.

The worry is, however, that with the theatrical film industry is rapidly approaching a crunch point, from which there is no escape and no return, it may be more difficult to even make an animated fim. The arrival of the internet and the disruption that comes along with it is likely to upend the traditional way of making films, whether the studios like it or not and animation, in its mainstream form, may find it much more difficult to traverse the ravine simply because of the increased costs that come with them.

Content will always be king and I’m confident that we’ll continue to see animated films regardless of what happens. The point is that wider acknowledgement by the public of what animation can offer will only serve to increase the appetite for such content, free or paid, old or new, and that is all that matters.