An Open Letter To Mr. Tom Lowe

Not that I want to keep coming back to the same topic, but waaaay down in the comments for Amid’s recent post on Cartoon Brew about making money from your short film, are some responses from a Mr. Tom Lowe who would seem to be involved in Bob Gofrey’s official website.

In case you’re curious, here are his comments:

Each video on YouTube had around 4000 hits, and there were around 5 videos up, so around 20,000 hits in total. Not much by YouTube terms.

We are looking in to DVD-to-download options, as the inital cost of DVD mastering would be way too much at the moment.

As for the films initially being free, can I ask where you got that information from, or have you just made it up?

As for free and extra content, we have an interview with Bob talking about Henry 9 ’til 5 which is free before the paywall for the film. More films will include these interviews with Bob, for free.

As for an iPad app, I’m not going with a closed-system run by Apple. As for services like Netflix or LoveFilm, they only deal with distributors, finding one of those isn’t something I have any inclination to do, as we would lose control and certain rights. It may generate more revenue, but it’s simply not an option for us.

As for a better designed site, we’re working on it. We are trying to perfect it and make it as user friendly as possible, so please keep comments coming, we are listening.

In the mean time, if you do want to use the site, we offer weekly subscriptions from £2.99 (around $5) a week.

And here’s his response to a few other comments which pointed out where you could still watch the shorts online.

Here’s his final comment after all of the above:

Amid, I must say it’s a shame that you want to rubish our Pay-per-view site and break copyright law, rather than contact us, talk to us about it and maybe come to some agreement about giving your readers a discount, maybe even giving you a percentage. This would be far more constructive for everyone involved.

With all that fresh in your mind, may I present my open letter to Mr. Tom Lowe:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

The career and legend of Bob Godfrey as an animator will never be forgotten, as long as people such as myself are alive who have fond memories of growing up on some of his greatest works (I have an affinity for Roobarb myself). His many short films and the numerous nominations he received for them solidify his place in animation history without a doubt. What I am concerned about, is that his legacy is at risk in this new, digitally connected age.

The frontier that is the internet has been drastically altering the entertainment landscape for some time now with no end in sight to the revolution we are currently going through. It has been tough on many aspects of the film and TV businesses as they have struggled to try and find their place in the new landscape. You are not alone in your attempts to preserve the legacy of Bob Godfrey for all to enjoy.

You face a considerable challenge in this regard, and I admire you for making the effort necessary to bring Bob’s films to the attention of people who may not be familiar with his works. Naturally it is desirable to do so in a profitable manner that is sustainable, yes? After all, no-one could they be expected to incur the considerable costs of providing streaming content by themselves, I know I sure wouldn’t.

However, your comments as posted to the recent Cartoon Brew posts are somewhat disheartening, especially so when considered in light of your comment on Amid’s post back in 2010 where he revealed that the shorts were online. There is a great air of optimism about it! You seem excited that fans are enjoying the YouTube channel and its videos. The comments above are such a turnaround from then, yes?

Four thousand hits on YouTube is actually pretty decent, considering the videos were only up for a couple of months. Great films such as those are lucky in that they are not constrained by the need to feel ‘new’ or ‘hip’. They are timeless and as a result, could remain on YouTube for many years without ever going stale. Twenty thousand hits overall may not be much by YouTube standards, but there are millions of videos on that site that have maybe hundreds of hits, and there are plenty with none at all!

You also mention providing free content and use the documentary as an example. While this is “extra” of the films themselves, it regrettably does not provide someone who has not seen Bob’s films with a big enough incentive to pay for them. Think about it. If the latest Harry Potter film came out and instead of a trailer, they posted a documentary about the actors instead, would half as many people want to go see the film? I doubt it very much.

People (in the US in particular) have become accustomed to most things available online having no direct cost to them. That is how things have played out over the last 15 years or so and once people know they can get stuff for free, the become extremely reluctant to being paying for it. While your plan to charge £2.99 (or $5) a week is commendable, it absolutely pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of hours of content I can view on Netflix for $8 a month. The problem is not so much how much you charge, but how little substitute services like Netflix charge in comparison. You are not so much competing for my wallet as for a combination of time and choice.

You are in a strong position, Tom. There are plenty of other avenues to pursue besides charging people to watch the films. I’m sure there are many items that could be sold instead. How about limited edition drawings, sketchings, posters, etc? Sure physical objects like these cost more, but they make more per sale too. Besides that people sometimes buy more than one. I’m sure you can figure something out, in the meantime, why not help spread the word about  Bob’s films? Cartoon Brew has already done so and introduced many more people who would otherwise not have known about Bob or his amazing films. Even this letter, which I am posting to my blog, will introduce my readers to a legendary animator who they not have known about.

Lastly, it is important to be acutely aware of the distinction between copyright and theft. If sharing copyrighted materials was theft, it would already be covered by the many laws already in place that cover physical property. Copyrighted materials do not come under such laws and in legal circles they take pains to avoid confusion. Unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials is considered infringement for this very reason.

Surely it would be much better view people who want to see Bob’s films as fans, yes? And if they want to view the films, why not let YouTube take care of the cost of hosting and streaming them? They’re willing to do it for free, why should you take on the burden and cost of doing so? Let YouTube carry take the risk!

I sincerely hope that you find a way to keep Bob’s shorts online in a way that caters to his fan’s needs and helps attracts new people to Bob’s timeless films.


Charles Kenny