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short of the latest video, is that it went out as usual and generated a lot of discussion on the internet before being withdrawn.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.

People I Respect: Fred Seibert

This is the fifth and last in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

 Via: Flickr

Four years ago, if you asked me who Fred Seibert was, I would have given you the blankest look in the world. Of course, that was before I moved to the States and had the time/energy to actually indulge my passion for animation.

If you were to look back at the animated TV landscape of the last thirty years, a few names are apt to stand out: John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening and Klasky-Csupo are just a few. These, however, are the exception and even then, only one could legitimately claim to not owe his success in any way to Fred.

How so, well, Fred is often cited as the first employee hired by MTV. His experiences from that time make for good reading as he was right smack in the middle of a developing cable media revolution in America. After his stint there, he partnered with Alan Goodman to form Fred/Alan and in so doing, was promptly hired to lead the re-branding for Nickelodeon. The results of said assignment was the beloved “splat” logo that lived for 25 years before being replaced.

After that he headed west and took charge of the venerable Hanna-Barbera studio in Hollywood. There, Fred began steering the studio more towards creator-driven shows and the use of the cartoon short as a medium for discovering and developing popular series. Such instincts served him so well that they were repeated in the Oh Yeah! and Random! cartoon series that Fred produced as part of his independent studio, Frederator and resulted in at least 5 shows getting picked up. The latest being the gobsmackingly good Adventure Time.

On top of this, Fred has been at the forefront of the current media revolution, partnering with Tim Shey and others to create Next New Networks. An organisation that has spearheaded the creation of original content specifically for the web. With more than a few solid hits under their belt, the outfit was acquired by YouTube as part of that company’s drive into the original content business.

With more careers than I can ever hope to have, for being someone who is consistently looking forward, for loving cartoons and for being an avowed fan of jazz, Fred Seibert is someone I respect.

How The Online Video Revolution Could Signal A New Era for Animation

Yesterday, it was announced that YouTube/Google had acquired Next New Networks. While this may not be of huge interest to those of you who tend to skip the business pages, it is nonetheless significant and will likely have some bearing on entertainment for years to come.

The reason is outlined in Fred Seibert (the co-founder of NNN) in his blog post announcing the sale. In it, he draws a lot of similarities between the current state of internet broadcasting and the fledgling cable networks back in the early 80s.

The similarities are, in fact, eerily similar. Back then, no-one really know how to make money, the established players were (extremely) wary of the new medium and the content that’s being offered wasn’t all that great (at least back then it wasn’t).

What does all of this have to do with animation? The answer is plain to see. Without cable, it is highly unlikely (impossible even) that we would have seen the explosion in animation that we saw with the three original Nicktoons, followed by the proliferation of creator-driven shows with (I suppose) a bump in animation at the movies too.

The originial Nicktoons didn’t come around for about 10 years after MTV. The reason for this was basically the lack of cable customers, which has a direct effect on the revenue of a network and as we all know, animation ain’t cheap.

Fast forward to today, and there exists a similar situation. People are embracing the internet but overall penetration is still way below cable, content will be king even more so than in cable and last but not least, even more money will be made by those who get it right.

Next New Networks may not be focused solely on animation (although it does broadcast Channel Frederator) but I think it is extremely likely that within 10 years, we will see a channel devoted solely to animation. Joe Murray is off to a great, early start with KaboingTV, which launches next month.

As the optimistic type, I think animation will continue to be a part of the entertainment landscape long after Comcast has been de-throned.