Fan Effort To Revive Young Justice Over Before it Began

Yoinked from The Mary Sue
Yoinked from The Mary Sue

Bringing shows back from the dead has been discussed here on the blog in the past. It’s a common scenario that often brings great expectations to legions of fans only for them to be inevitably dashed when they fail. Although shows have been brought back (most famously after fans mailed nuts to producers), the vast majority are not receiving of a Lazarus-like new lease of life and are left for history to claim. This time around, it is the DC shows, Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series that are attempting a comeback. Unfortunately, it’s over before it even really began.

The Background

Both shows ran on Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings. Young Justice beginning in 2010 and Green Lantern following in 2012. Early in 2013, both shows were absent from the Cartoon Network upfront presentation leading to rampant speculation that the shows have been cancelled.

Although the network remained silent, various animators who’d worked on the show or were familiar with the crew tweeted the obvious (sorry, I can’t find them now); the crews had already disbanded and had been for almost a year. While this fact did not get the attention it needed, Cartoon Network eventually responded and confirmed that both shows were indeed finished.

Young Justice & Green Lantern Since Cancellation

Since this announcement, there has been various efforts to get the network to change their mind, including the inevitable internet petition (with not even a please in it). None of them have had any success but that hasn’t stopped a new kid on the block from trying their hand.

The SMGO Effort

Such empty results hasn’t dissuaded internet upstart SMGO.tv (or my Show Must Go On) from attempting to collate fan support for a new series into a single effort aimed straight at Cartoon Network and Warner Bros.

Unfortunately for SMGO, Warners has already slammed the door on the attempt without saying much specifically beyond that they aren’t holding out hope for success. Even that hasn’t deterred SMGO and they’re having another crack at the whip with a ‘let’s prove them wrong’ attitude.

That, in and of itself, isn’t that big of a deal, what should be a concern is that they’re asking for funding, and they’re asking for all of $10 million for the trouble. Now I’m not sure about yourself, but even the largest Kickstarter campaign barely scraped $10 million and that was for a piece of technology that could be used by millions of people. YJ/Green Lantern pulled in just under 2 and 1.2 million viewers respectively in their highest rated episodes. If you ask me, someone has a lot of work cut out for themselves.

The Reality

So SMGO is noble in their effort, but completely oblivious to reality. Their plan is to garner support, talk to the studio/network, sign a contract (yes, really), fund the production, actually produce the show and then offer rewards a la Kickstarter.

While I’m not one to rain on a parade, this model is regrettably flawed. While Hollywood does indeed like to see the money, they generally like it to be their money, i.e. for them to keep. SMGO also doesn’t exactly specify how the funds are handled beyond ‘funding production’.

This is what the Veronica Mars Kickstarter has produced and it’s ugly. Major studios absolutely do not want to be involved with fan efforts for lots of reasons (mostly legal), hence their often tone deaf and arms reach approach to the fan communities. The PR disasters that could happen are another reason. Say an SMGO-funded show did make it to production, and the results were dire. Who’s to blame then? Fan’s won’t want to hear the truth and it could destroy their loyalty. If you were Warners and you had to choose between letting your shows die a death or attempt a potentially disastrous comeback, the former is always much more appealing.

We haven’t even gotten as far as the real money issue: profit. Hollywood doesn’t like to make small profits (they’re too mundane.) They like to make BIG profits, especially on films, but also on TV shows. The latter aren’t publicised near as much, but a show has to make money otherwise it get’s canned.

Young Justice and Green Lantern apparently didn’t bring in as much dough as the network and studio would have liked, so they were sidelined in favour of some proven money spinners; Batman and Teen Titans.

The Truth To Saving A Beloved Show

So what’s to be done? SMGO is right in highlighting the need to factor in money into the fan revival equation, but it’s a half-effort. As I highlighted in this post, reviving a show is as much an art as it as a science. Networks need to know that:

  1. Their shows (and therefore advertisements) are being watched
  2. Any and all merchandise is selling (regardless of how good it actually is)
  3. People will continue to do both of the above in the future.

Doing all three is hard enough, but proving to the network that they are being done is the impossible task. I wrote about this a long time ago, and surprisingly enough, letter-writing still works, if done correctly.

While online petitions and services like SMGO are very efficient at gathering support, they fall down in the personal department. Individual letters still work wonders, but unfortunately they still require a herculean effort to pull off successfully.

Conclusion

The depressing aspect to the entire saga is that it is no different than all the campaigns that have gone before. Yes, it’s nice to appease fans, but any show that gets cancelled is bound to upset someone. It’s reasonable to attempt to save a show, but at some point you have to call it quits, and implying that you can (and should) never give up is a false illusion.

Watch An Attempt To Bring A Show Back in Real Time

Discovered today (Tuesday) on the animation subbreddit, this is an attempt to bring back the mid-90s cartoon SWAT Kats. It was apparently fairly popular (if the claims in this video are credible) and was produced by Hanna-Barbera/Turner with animation being done by Tremblay Bros.

So, have the instigators of this campaign read this post, or are they falling prey to the classic mistakes of campaigns past?

Perhaps this video will help you decide. You can leave your comments below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhoN9IMkJNo

For the decidedly curious, here’s a link to the revival blog.

Mark Mayerson Is Right!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEPGpHADiKk

Due to my abysmal levels of energy this morning, Amid Amidi beat me to it, but Mark’s post is nonethless right on the money.

It’s a 2005 Tom and Jerry, co-directed by Joe Barbera. In some ways, it does a remarkably good job of duplicating the look and feel of the Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. However, in other ways, it doesn’t…..

Mark does an excellent job of running down the issues with the short, starting with the opening credits that would give any designer nightmares and going on to talk about the animation styles. There are some great comments so don’t forget to read those too.

So just what is the point of so attempting to recreate the old timey feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Oh sure, it wears its loyalty to the source material on its sleeve but what does that prove? That it’s the ‘rightful successor/continuation’ to the originals? That it somehow legitimises the cartoon as a real “Tom & Jerry” short? Or is it that the creators are acknowledging the value to be had in the old shorts?

The answer is more likely that it doesn’t feel “right” to see Tom & Jerry in any other setting than the ones we’re used to. The problem is that the original shorts were a product of their time, the 1940s and 50s. Everything was different then, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera played on that. Just think of how many jokes they got out of that ironing board. Regardless of how many times the rehashed the same joke, they were at least using contemporary society for inspiration. Who has an ironing board like that now? No-one! As Mark says (emphasis mine):

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?

And rightfully so. That’s partially why The Simpsons of today is so radically different from the early years. The show has changed but society changed even more. The first few series’ simply reflect the culture of the time (the early 90s); today’s episodes are much more post-September 11th/global recession in tone.

So the real question is, why are studios/producers reluctant to move older cartoon properties beyond their established norms? Are they afraid of the risk? I mean, Lunatics Unleashed can’t be that scary an example of what can happen, right?

Iif you’re going to go to the effort of updating properties, why not just do something new? It might be a bit more expensive, but risks can be mitigated, and you’re far more likely to have a stronger product that isn’t constrained by the pre-conceived notions of ” the old version”.

At the end of the day though, David OReilly says it best:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/davidoreilly/status/131477972023656448″]

How Not to Get Your Favourite Show Un-Cancelled

 Via: Fred Seibert on Flickr

While there are a few cartoons could be said to have re-ingnited my passion for animation, one had a bit more of a profound effect than others. And while My Life as a Teenage Robot may have lacked the smarmy humour of SpongeBob Squarepants, it is nonetheless a great show. I mean, who doesn’t like seeing a robot girl kick ass within a universe where Art Deco is the prominent architectural style?

The series lasted just about three seasons on Nickelodeon before the network decided that it would not be ordering additional episodes. Officially the reason given was the low ratings however I would argue quite strenuously that having the show’s timeslot bounced all over the schedule couldn’t have helped matters either.

As is (almost) inevitable when a show gets canned, the fans (not I) reacted in the manner that is most common for TV shows; they created a petition:

To:  Nickelodeon

Petition to Save “My Life as a Teeanage Robot” from Cancellation. Note: My American-English is not good because I’m Italian…

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” is one of the most underrated Tvshows on Nickeloden. This TvShow is about a robot, Xj9 (a.k.a. Jenny), who wants to be a normal Teenage girl, hang out with friends etc. Brad Carbunkle is Jenny’s best friend. He’s your average high-school student; Brad’s younger brother, Tuck Carbunkle is often scared by robots, but he likes Jenny as a friend. Jenny’s “mother”, Nora Wakeman, is one of the best characters in the show: plus, she’s voiced by Candi Milo, she’s great.
Since Jenny was built to protect the Planet Earth, there’s an evil-alien empire, the Cluster, who wants to take over our world. The Cluster Queen, Vexus, is Jenny’s arch enemy.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” won a few Annie-Awards too.

OK. I’m just saying this, WE MUST SAVE “MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT”. It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation. We want a 4th Season. Alternatively, since the 3rd Season will be (maybe) the “Final Season”, I think we all need a “Series Finale” (Jenny & Brad ending up together, for example…).

If you are a fan of the show, sign this petition. If you don’t like Jenny and you don’t care about her, please sign this petition equally, because we need your help too. Alternatively, you can try to help the show with other petitions or sending E-mails to Nickelodeon.

Note: There are other awesome Nick-Toons who are going to be cancelled: “Danny Phantom” and “The Fairly OddParents”. Nick will just never learn.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Now in fairness to the guy (or girl) English isn’t their first language so let’s cut them some slack for that. However, this petition still makes all the rudimentary errors that most fans make when crafting petitions so we’ll judge it on those.

Firstly, it completely and totally neglects to speak directly to the network. It reads as more of a plea than an attempt to persuade the network to change its mind. Anyone can call a show “underrated” but in the network’s mind, if it has hopes and dreams for viewership numbers and the show doesn’t make them, the show is considered “underperforming” and might be costing the company money as a result.

Secondly, giving a description of the show’s characters is superfluous at best. The network knows which show you are talking about and the only time such descriptions would ever be called for is when the letter discusses a show on another network.

Only in the third paragraph do we see the first hints that the show is worth saving in that it won a few Annie awards. A prestigious accolade in their own right, but the letter fails to tie those awards to anything meaningful. such as say, having an Annie-award winning show in your portfolio will draw more astute/affluent animation fans to your network thus increasing revenues on it and other shows alike.

Then there’s this line:

OK. I’m just saying this….

Well of course you are, that’s the whole purpose of the letter! It also alludes to the belief that the network doesn’t know what the letter is about, when in fact, if it were an actual letter, would probably be in the bin by now.

It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation.

While this statement may be true, it does nothing to further the cause. Upset fans of a cancelled show mean nothing to a network unless they can prove conclusively that their upsetness will affect the networks other properties. For example, if, when the show was cancelled, the fans also stopped watching other Nickelodeon shows and buying related merchandise, then the network would have a concrete reason to bring the show back. Saying your merely ‘upset’ will have no bearing on the network’s quarterly results and thus will be deemed irrelevant to the discussion.

However then we get to this line:

We want a 4th Season.

A flat-out demand! Well heck, I want a million dollars but it sadly isn’t going to happen any time soon. This line also comes off as being brash and unsympathetic to the networks position; something that you should be trying to achieve as much as possible.

The second to last paragraph pleads for anyone and everyone to sign the petition whether they like the show or not. Now this is problematic for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it seriously blurs the lines between who really wants the show back and who’s just singing it for shits and giggles. Secondly, such practices make it extremely difficult to trust the numbers. For a show with as devoted a fanbase as MLaaTR, it’s likely that they aren’t too far off the truth. However, the fact remains that if there is any uncertainty in the data, more often than not they are presumed to be faulty and will be excluded from any formal analysis.

The last paragraph is more of a side note that states that other shows on Nickolodeon are being cancelled as well but it is the last line that’s the killer:

Nick will just never learn.

That one line single-handedly destroys the entire argument for the letter because it states that the network is doomed to repeating its ‘mistakes’. Why is this a problem? Well the whole purpose of a petition letter for a soon-to-be-cancelled show is to enlighten and persuade the network to change it’s ways in the hope that it will be more careful about cancelling shows in the future.

Bluntly stating that it “will just never learn” implies that the network is too stupid, dumb or ignorant to listen to advice. Which begs the question of why then, should it listen to this petition? If you already think I’m dumb, do you really think I’m going to value your opinion and judgement on matters? Of course not, you called me dumb!

Overall this is a pretty typical fan response to a hard business decision that plays on emotions rather than corporate common sense. A truly efficient letter would see the signatories sympathise with the networks need for viewers in order to keep ad revenue up and would emphasise the many ancillary benefits that the show brings to the network in terms of viewers for additional programs, merchandise sales, etc. Such a letter would do much to encourage the network to retain the show based on its actual merits, not the perceived ones.

This letter, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that bad, I mean, it did garner a few thousand signatures, many with individual responses to the show and how much it was loved. However, when it comes to influencing some executive in some far corner of Viacom’s vast headquarters in New York, it has zero potential and that’s why it’s not going to bring My Life as a Teenage Robot back from the dead.