Bojack Horesman is Netflix’s attempt to break into the lucrative world of animation that caters to that holy grail known as the male, 18-35 demographic. The innovation of course, is that this is from Netflix, the pretender to the HBO crown of critically acclaimed programming. For all the success of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Bojack fails to hit the same mark and provides the latest scrap of evidence that making animation for anyone older than 16 is a conundrum the continues to bedevil anyone willing to take a crack at it. Why is that the case though?
Writing for Forbes.com at the end of June (and escaping my attention until know), Merrill Barr postulates that Nickelodeon were wrong to alter their marketing plan for Book 3 of Legend of Korra after the Mexican arm of the network inadvertently let a few episodes from the season get loose on the internet, and are beholden to internet ‘pirates’ as a result. I say that’s poppycock.
Some post-Independence Day and food poisoning week links for you today.
Don’t Go To Art School
Noah Bradley points out the fallacy of an art degree with this post:
Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.
He’s right. In class this week our group had to present on the topic of higher education and I was tasked with the rather difficult job of pointing out that institutions rarely co-ordinate with industry in regards to job supply or demand. The end result is that a degree is no guarantee of a job let alone a good one.
Unfortunately many companies and studios are demanding degrees for entry level positions and are exacerbating the situation. Noah puts it best:
Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.
Bryan Konitezko Discusses Ethnicity and Colour Theory in the Avatar Universe
Co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, Bryan Konietzko has a long but comprehensive analysis of ehtnicity, colour theory and character genetics in this post over on his tumblelog.
He highlights two important things:
- It’s all to easy to jump to conclusions if you’re not involved in a production
- Colour plays an incredibly important role
The post is a great read, especially if you are curious about the Avatar universe and family lines within it. On one hand, it’s nice to see this level of detail being put into a show, but on the other, it’s kind of disheartening that Bryan had to clarify things.
That plays into the first point above. Fans sometimes do unnecessarily jump to conclusions and can unintentionally cause a ruckus or make a mountain out of a molehill. There’s little one can do about it save being open and honest about things; just like Bryan was.
Secondly, the saga highlights just how much of an influence colour can have on a show (or film). This makes now as good a time as any to plug Oswald Iten’s superb blog Colorful Animated Expressions which features just about all you ever wanted to know about the role that colour plays in filmmaking.
This Could Have Been Frozen
Coincidentally there was another article about ethnicity in animation this week. Coming from the Daily Mail (with my sincere apologies) is the news that a few fans, unhappy about the supposed ethnic homogeny of the upcoming Disney film, Frozen, have taken matters into their own hands and have come up with a few ideas of what a more diverse alternative could have looked like.
There is of course the obligatory tumblelog where people can submit their own ideas.
All I can say about this is that Disney has a long history of augmenting traditional tales in order to make them more convenient or marketable; complete historical accuracy has never been one of their strong points (remember, the original Aladdin story was set in China.)
Tweets of the Week
Surprise everyone, we’re going to use all that Kickstarter money to buy out Futurama
— Dave McElfatrick (@daveexplosm) July 1, 2013
Um. I, like, LOVE Amazing World of Gumball. That is all.
— Lauren Faust (@Fyre_flye) July 4, 2013
Another set of week links you should consumer and muse upon.
How we know female led superhero movies are doomed.
Eric Burns-White ponders the declining market for female superheroes and why that is. Here’s the thrilling conclusion:
The Superhero equivalent of Heaven’s Gate failed so utterly that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a superhero movie with a female lead, regardless of any other factors or any other movie experiences, is entirely nonviable in today’s market.
Which movie is he talking about? You’ll just have to read it to find out.
‘Monsters,’ ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Turbo’: Summer’s Brutal Animation War
I’m sure you may have read this somewhere else but I’ll just add two things:
- It perpetuate the notion that animation is a genre of film. You don’t read any stories about the a brutal ‘war’ between superhero films, so you?
- Squeezing so many films into just one part of the year further implies that we’re in a bubble.
Legend of Korra Soundtrack: Music as Storyteller
Efforts to get an official release for the The Last Airbender series and its successor have apparently paid off with this announcement. While we continue to call for a release for the former, the latter will see the light of day on July 16th.
I’ve written about soundtracks multiple times (like here and here) and even wrote a detailed post on how to petition for the official Last Airbender release. While it’s a bit confusing as to why Nickelodeon is releasing one for Korra while a complete Airbender on exists is beyond me, but this is almost certainly being done as a test of demand. With hope, the full OST for The Last Airbender will come out soon.
Tweets of the Week
As far as animation has come in the last 10-15 years, you still get the odd reminder that it remains on the fringes of the entertainment landscape, especially its view among adults. If got one of these reminders the other day, when the boss happened to spot the wallpaper on my computer. Said wallpaper was, of course, The Legend of Korra.
This initiated a discussion that went as follows:
The Boss: The Legend of Korra?
Me: Yeah. It’s on Nickelodeon. It’s a great show.
The Boss: Oh yeah, it’s that Avatar thing. My 12 year old watches that.
Me: Have you ever watched it?
The Boss: Well, no….
So I basically called his bluff on this one. I said it was a good show, he insinuated that I watched a kids show, I countered that if he hadn’t watched it, how could he know why I was watching it.
This encounter was a reminder that a prejudice continues to exist among adults with regard to animation. The notion is that anything on the three kid’s networks is automatically only for kids. It’s sometimes tough to put thing into perspective for those who believe this and it’s an uphill struggle to make them understand that just because something is aimed at kids, doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by those who are not.
That was the conclusion I came to a number of years ago. If it’s an adult making something, surely an adult can enjoy it, right?
In what seems to be a regular occurrence over on The Last Airbender subreddit (yes, I am a subscriber), someone has released yet another internet petition for an official soundtrack release for Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Now this one has gained a bit more traction that previous ones in that the actual production house, The Track Team, has linked to it. So it has a bit more pedigree than previous attempts, so why does it still fail to stack up? Well, it once again makes the familiar mistakes of such campaigns.
Tumblr use Isaia posted a few comics that look at the humourous side of a show growing in popularity in demographics far beyond the one it was created for. They poke fun at the whole idea of a “target demographic” by pointing out that any show that’s good will attract the right audience.
Faith Erin Hicks is an über-talented cartoonist whose Superhero Girl comic is one of my regular reads. So it was rather nice to hear that she’d drawn a comic strip concerning the new Nickelodeon show, The Legend of Korra.
Faith does the usual great job in breaking down the background to the show in Avatar: The Last Airbender and detailing what makes both shows so great (Hint: it’s the characters). She also finds time to subtly dig at the notions that have kept animated shows like Korra off the air for such a long time.
So enjoy Faith’s comic (via Tor. com) and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below 🙂 (click to enlarge)
Updated at the bottom.
The Wall Street Journal is the straight man of American journalism. It’s supposedly “above the fray” of other news organizations that would rather concern themselves with celebrity gossip than real news. Of course all that is less true now that the Journal is owned by the same person whose made a killing muckracking others, but that’s beside the point.
What IS the point is that they currently have a very nice write-up of the new Nickelodeon series Legend of Korra. (The direct link to the WSJ is here, but for the proles among us, I recommend going to Google News and searching for “The Next ‘Airbender’ Gets Older, Wiser and Adds a Feminine Touch” in order to get the full text).
While the article provides a good overview of the new series and its origins in Avatar: The Last Airbender, what makes it stand out is the deceleration that while this series is more girl-friendly than the original, male viewer numbers won’t be affected:
According to Nickelodeon, the median age of “Avatar” viewers is 12.8 years old, and the audience is roughly 65% male and 35% female. Mr. Konietzko said Nickelodeon tested the new series and young boys readily accepted the show’s female hero. “You can’t say it’s gonna fail when there aren’t that many things to point to in animation like this,” Mr. Konietzko said. “Luckily, Nick was brave enough to let us do it.”
Now in fairness to Nickelodeon, they’ve been a bit more progressive than others when it comes to the whole matter of female-led shows with the likes of My Life as a Teenage Robot being a great example. The paragraph above flies in the face of
conventional traditional “wisdom” which states that boys won’t watch a show with a female lead. While I think that is pure bunk, it nonetheless was on Disney’s mind when they altered their film from Rapunzel to Tangled.
Perhaps the best indicator of things to come though, is in this quote, which sums up very nicely the current trend in movies:
“Korra” has been in the works for years, but Mr. DiMartino said that with the success of “The Hunger Games” movie and the coming Pixar film “Brave,” which both feature strong female leads, “The time is right in the cultural zeitgeist for all these female heroes to come out.”
I can’t wait to see them when they do 🙂
Update: Megan over at Forever Young Adult has written a very enthusiastic post about the series that did a good job of confirming that I should catch this show. On top of that, she had this to say about Korra herself.
Guys, Korra is a kick-ass heroine to be reckoned with. She’s strong, brash, and stubborn. But she’s also kind-hearted, fun and brave. You will love her almost instantly. Plus, when was the last time you saw a show that had a non-white 17 year old girl (albeit, animated girl) as its lead? And when was the last time you had a YA girl as a lead in something that wasn’t (at least originally) exclusively marketed toward YA girls?? It sounds so pathetic, but THIS IS THE SHOW I’VE BEEN DREAMING OF. This is the kind of show you should watch with your daughters AND sons because it’s important for them to have an awesome young woman to look up to and emulate and/or admire. And it’s great for us olds, because I know I always want to read about/watch cool ladies, 24/7/365! Also, look at those guns! You should watch the show for her guns alone.
While it comes close to going over the top, it is nonetheless a great description of the main protagonist and why there is so much to like about her. I certainly hope we see more series like this one promises to be.