There’s a ton of blogs and guides out there to creating the perfect animated series. However, most of them focus on the actual animation itself; they neglect all the periphery stuff that is also needed to make a series work. If you’d like to read something professional, I highly recommend any of David B. Levy’s books as a great starting point to what the industry is like from an animator’s perspective. I, of course, am not an animator, so will instead offer the alternative viewpoint.
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.
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.
Does it seem like the creators had fun doing it? If so, then they probably did. If a show looks like it was a torture to put together then it probably was.
It’s funny how you can pick up on that kind of thing just by watching a show. There are tons of great examples (Freakazoid!, Ren & Stimpy, early Fairly OddParents) but perhaps none greater than the Simpsons. Episodes from the Golden Age flow along as if the writers were bouncing off the walls. Current episodes make it seem like their almost chained to their desks trying to think of funny stuff.
It’s something to keep in mind in the course of your work. Even though you may not purposely or conscientiously insert it into your creation, it still shines through and can greatly improve its reception with the audience.
Via: Savage Chickens
We’ve all been there, one of our favourite shows on TV gets canned. It may have been on the air for a long time or more likely, not a long time at all. We all know that TV shows get cancelled for a reason, normally it’s low ratings, failure to find its target demographic (e.g. Futurama on FOX) or just general crapiness of the show.
In any case, devoted fans continue to hold the candle for many years after the shows passing. For the rest of us, we go through a series of stages as we slowly realise that our favourite escape from this cruel, cruel world will no longer be a part of our lives, well, new episodes anyway.
So, for your personal benefit, below are the stages. Know them, prepare for them, because at any moment you may find yourself having to go through them. It could be anything, your favourite drama or the Cruft’s Dog Show, you just never can tell. For your gratuitous pleasure, I have added some enlightenment for each of the stages in the form of the potential inner monologue you may have as you go through the stages.
Stage 1: Disbelief
I can’t believe it, they did it, they really did it. How could they, I mean, it was a good show. At least I liked it, doesn’t that count for anything any more?
Stage 2: Denial
They didn’t cancel it, it must have been a mistake. Networks make them all the time, like paying huge bucks to evening news anchors even though no-one watches the evening news any more. Ha ha, I bet it’s all a big joke and that press conference they’re having tomorrow will say so.
Stage 3: Fear
What if it’s true though, maybe they really did cancel it. What will I do now? What can I possibly fill the half hour/hour of my life with now? I might have to read a book, or worse yet, talk to the wife! AHHHHH!
Stage 4: Anger
Wait a minute, how DARE they put me through this. it’s not my fault the show got binned, it must be some stupid writer somewhere in Hollywood. All those network types are eejits anyway, they wouldn’t know a good show if it bit them in the ass. I ougha write them a letter an tell them a thing or two. I’ll sho ’em who’s boss, that’s right me!
Stage 5: Bargaining
Perhaps I can reason with them, y’know strike a deal. You put my favourite show back on, and I’ll agree to continue watching your network. Otherwise, I will be forced to watch my DVDs for comfort and not, I repeat NOT, be seduced by what you’ve put in my favourite show’s place.
Stage 6: Shame
Oh man, what if people find out I watched that show? I’d better not let them find that out. I’ll just stick to the forums on the internet. No-one knows who I really am there. I mean, it’s OK for a middle-aged, single guy to like Dirty Little Liars, right?
Stage 7: Depression
[sigh] Maybe it’s just not going to come back. My life has lost all meaning now. I mean, that show was the one thing that kept my life together, gave it meaning and truly spoke to me. Where can I find a source of psychological nourishment now? I may as well pack up and move back in with my parents. I’m sure my wife will understand, even though she doesn’t watch TV and thinks it’s the spawn of Satan.
Stage 8: Self-pity
I’m so pathetic, I don’t even know why I like stupid shows like that.
Stage 9: Out-of-body Experience
Man I really need a haircut and some new jeans, just look at that hole just above the knee.
Stage 10: Empty Feeling
Stage 11: Looking Ahead
Well, I suppose it isn’t all that bad at all, I mean, I had a favourite show before this one, and it was cancelled, then I found this one. So I’m sure a new one will come along and be better than ever, with better writing, hotter actors/actresses and plenty of American optimism that just doesn’t seem to exist in foreign programming.
Stage 12: Secret Hope
I think they’ll bring it back, I mean you just can’t keep a good show down. Family Guy did it, Futurama did it (and who the hell watches that, only the geeks and the nerds, that’s who) so there is surely a chance for Midwest/California Angsty Teen Drama With 20-Something Actors/Actress.
For fun, why don’t you list your favourite, cancelled TV shows below 🙂
EDIT: You may notice that the steps above are identical to another series of steps as outlined in a certain comic artist whose surname rhymes with complaining. I intended this as an in-joke 🙂