A Look at Cartoon Network

Via: Wikipedia (yes, I’m old school)

Today’s the turn of Carton Network, a channel that I used to watch religiously at my friend’s house back it had a lot of Wacky Races on it.

There’s a few hardcore folks out there who feel that calling it “Cartoon Network” is now false advertising considering that it has live-action as well as animation on it. That’s missing the point though, because when compared to the other networks, it still has by far the most and broadest range of animation of the lot.

While there are the channel’s current offerings in Adventure Time, Regular Show and the Amazing World of Gumball, it’s somewhat dismaying that the network seems to banish slightly older shows like Billy and Mandy and Foster’s from the schedule. They then remain in limbo before they’re considered ‘old’ enough to be broadcast on sister channel, Boomerang (which by they way, features the likes of The Secret Saturdays and Johny Test if that didn’t confuse you enough already).

In fairness, there’s nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with the network, it just seems to be all over the place when it comes to the programming. I mean, who are they targeting? Yes, they’re gunning for 6-14 year old boys but how well do they compete with Disney XD, a channel created for and devoted solely to, boys? My guess is they’re coming up short.

They had a massive hit in the original Ben 10, but they’ve been riding that horse for years now with nothing similar appearing to replace it. On top of that, there was/is the bizarre situation where the network is in the same corporate family as Warner Bros. and DC (comics) yet the content of those divisions are more often seen on other channels owned by competitors!

That doesn’t make an awful lot of sense as CN could be leveraging those libraries, and those that it owns; think Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. Yes, there is the new Looney Tunes Show, but that simply updates the characters to the modern era in a manner that keeps the characters alive but in no way endangers the viewing numbers with Baby Boomer content.

Cartoon Network has been lurching from hit show to hit show as of late but in fairness to them they’ve been on the ball for Adventure Time when it comes to merchandise, an area they’ve traditionally been spectacularly weak in.

It would be nice to see some more cohesion between shows as well as a more robust lineup that doesn’t skew so hard towards different tastes.

Overall, Cartoon Network remains the best choice of all the channels for animation, but it has been slipping of late, and it is still uncertain how far that will continue.

This Post Contains A Serious And Important Discussion About Bronies

Via: Total Media Bridge

It’s true, this post does contain a serious and important discussion about bronies. Although they are sometimes vilified by folks, they nonetheless represent a very special kind of fan that a lot of animated TV shows are sadly lacking.

Let’s be honest, there have always been fans who reside outside a show’s intended audience. This is nothing new and should come as no surprise to anyone, fan of animation or not. What is surprising about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is that the show’s producers have not shied away from acknowledging the existence of bronies.

Why would they do this? Why would the choose to break with unofficial tradition, which states that you shouldn’t engage with anyone outside the target demographic lest you alienate the intended audience? The answer is straightforward and simple, such fans are what shows like MLP need in order to grow.

Yeah, you could say that it’s really the little girls that are lapping up the toys, but at the end of the day, that is small potatoes to what fans with real disposable income can do. Now you could say, and I do agree, that such fans are not nearly as common nor as numerous than the targeted one, however, they do tend to:

  • buy more merchandise

  • buy more expensive merchandise

  • tune in regularly

  • participate in online/offline discussion.

All of these things are oxygen for a show like MLP for a number of reasons:

  1. It is broadcast on The Hub, a brand new network with no real audience to being with (it was a replacement for Discovery Kids).

  2. MLP as a TV show was as dated as ever and might as well have been a new show as far as its target audience were concerned

  3. Even though it had the might of Hasbro behind it, The Hub still needed viewers and consumers to watch its shows and buy its merchandise. Marketing and ads will only get you so far.

Arguably the greatest boon to the entire show was the now famous (infamous) post by Amid Amidi on Cartoon Brew. That brought the show a lot of mainstream media attention and focus. Not only did this bring this formerly obscure group of fans into the public consciousness, it also brought MLP and The Hub a lot of free publicity and attention that it never would have received otherwise.

All of this was undoubtedly beneficial to the show and network, however, it is outside of the show that is the most interesting; even though Bronies were tuning and and buying merchandise, they were also forming their own extensive ecosystem both on and off the internet.

Numerous (and I do mean numerous) fan sites have popped up. Yes, they are all the usual kinds you expect to see from a show, but they were all that and much more. They cater exclusively to fans, they help newbies get acquainted with the show, they run competitions, they have downloadable content, they post fan-fiction, they link to merchandise (both official and unofficial), they actively discuss whole aspects of the shows universe, they organise real-life meetups and conventions and yes, they run personality quizzes (that actively embrace new fans):

similar to Applejack.”]

And what is the one truly, unique, magical, fantastic thing about all of this?

The Hub embraced it! All of it!

They didn’t stand there and say: “Hey, there’s a whole bunch of 30-something year old guys watching our show. They’re going to give it a bad name, or worse, make it seem like its for “old people” or something.” No. Instead they said: “Hey, we’ve managed to gain a whole bunch of fans they we never thought we would have. We can’t openly cater to them for fear of skewing the perception of the show, but let’s be nice to them anyway because we’re gaining a benefit!”

Via: Daily Billboard

Via: Daily Billboard

That’s right, while the network was in a bit of a bind in that it was never going to actively cater to Bronies in the mainstream public’s eye, they at least had the wisdom to actively court fans in ways that would be construed as friendly. Examples include the parody ads for season 2, and the exclusive figurine sold at the San Diego Comic Con in 2011.

The very existence of the Brony fanbase has benefited those on all sides of the show. The creators know that they have created a product that is superior to what they were tasked with, the network got a lot of free publicity as well as extra viewers and consumers, and fans got a show that they really enjoy and relate to which gives them a sense of satisfaction.

Every show should have some Brony fans.

For the record, I am not a Brony.

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.

Supermarionation! Thunderbirds!

It isn’t quite animation but it’s not quite live-action either. Some great 60s theme music and who doesn’t like explosions? Thunderbirds the series is one of the classics of British TV that has stood the test of time pretty darned well. Just don’t mention the terrible movie from a few years ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RzCB3VRruE

 

This Video Has 7 Million Views for a Very Good Reason

Fireman Sam is just one of a long, long line of children’s shows featuring respectable members of the community who serve as a role model for kids. I was always more of a Postman Pat kind of kid, but Sam is pretty much the same, except he’s a fireman.

Why does the opening title have over 7,000,000 views? Well, a lot of kids grew up watching Fireman Sam and watching it pretty regularly too. The opening is a connection to the their childhood in more ways than one.

The episodes themselves mean far less than the title for the simple reason that it was consistent across all the episodes. The title signalled that a good time was about to be had and watching it again as an adult brings up all those happy feelings from years ago. With 60 million people living in Britain alone, it’s easy to see how the this video could get to 7 million views just on nostalgia.

Things are no different for today’s shows. In 20 years time there will be plenty of adults out there who go all soft at the theme tune for SpongeBob SquarePants.

Remembering that Cartoons Can Come From Anywhere

Via: Wikipedia

Producer Tristan Homer was kind enough to send over an e-mail to inform me that Almost Naked Animals, the latest show by Noah Z. Jones began broadcasting this week on Cartoon Network (the website is down right now, so here’s a link to their YouTube page instead).

Some of the comments below highlighted the fact that the show is produced in Canada and the tone seemed to imply that such a fact makes it somehow sub-standard. Such beliefs are hollow to the extreme.

Cartoons can come from anywhere, in fact, just last week, Nickelodeon announced they had picked up the entire Winx Club series which is produced in Italy! The same goes for Totally Spies which was produced by Marathon in France.

Growing up in Ireland, it admittedly came as a bit of a shock to learn that cartoons were produced in Dublin (courtesy of the old Sullivan-Bluth studio). Until then, I thought that all cartoons were made in Hollywood (must have been watching too many Looney Tunes and/or Tom & Jerry).

With today’s modern technology, good animation can (and does) come from just about anywhere. Just because a show come from Canada is no basis for judging its quality.

The 7 Things That Made Adventure Time A Success

Adventure Time Promo art

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

http://twitter.com/#!/buenothebear

The Best Way To Tell If A Show Is Well Put Together

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.

The Looney Tunes in: Mixed Nutz

Via: Cartoonatics (Tom Ruegger)

Right now, yes, right now, Tom Ruegger is posting, on his blog, tons of concept and development stuff from a pitch he made to Warner Bros. a few years ago tentatively titled “Mixed Nutz”.

The premise was that the Looney Tune gang would combine with the stars of various Hanna-Barbera cartoons resulting in hilarious and totally improbable situations, such as Yosemite Sam trying to date Wilma Flintstone.

Sadly, it got passed up, but not before Tom did some preliminary show development. He’s currently posting tons of story ideas over on his blog. The posts would be well worth checking out anyway, but even more so in light of the Looney Tunes reboot that Warners went ahead with.

Four Thoughts on Seth MacFarlane Rebooting The Flintstones

Yoinked from Cartoon Brew

I admit I was disappointed when I read the news yesterday. Why someone felt the need to let Seth MacFarlane reboot one of the greatest TV shows of all time is beyond me. Since we haven’t even seen or heard anything yet, I cannot have an opinion on the show either way. What I can have, are some thoughts on the whole idea, which I present to you below.

1. Why bring it back?

The old saying “let a sleeping dog lie” is apt. There is no shortage of original concepts out there just waiting to be made. Instead, in this age of sequels and prequels, we get an existing property that just has to be brought into the modern age.

Don’t get me wrong, The Flintstones aren’t sacrosanct. Remember the kids version from the 80s? Hanna-Barbera themselves weren’t as nice to the characters as they perhaps should have been. The difference is that they knew the jig was up in the early 90s and began making original content.

Why now? The Flintstones is 50 years old and the only new content being created is the Fruity Pebbles commercials. That’s pretty bad, but also appropriate. The show itself is only shown on Boomerang and merchandise has been gradually retracted over the years. The show is losing its audience (as they regrettably die off) and there aren’t enough new ones discovering the show.

My beef with the whole idea? Can you imagine if, back in the 60s, some network decided to bring back some vaudeville act from 50 years before? They’d be laughed out of town. Sadly that is not the case today.

2. Why Seth MacFarlane?

He already has three ‘winners’ on the network that pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year for FOX. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Besides, he did work on some of the H-B cartoons of the 90s like Johnny Bravo, which was very much in the retro style. He is (or should be) familiar with the characters and the style of the show.

3. Will the reboot return animation to the glory of prime time?

No. That era is well and truly dead. The proliferation of the audience among the vast number of cable channels and the internet has meant that the audience necessary to sustain a top quality animated prime time show is gone. The days of the The Simpsons and Family Guy itself are rapidly drawing to a close. Don’t expect any big surprises.

4. Will you and I watch it?

I don’t know, will you? I’ll probably watch  the premiere but to be honest, I haven’t watched FOX on Sunday night in months. The quality of the evening has sunk to the point that I would rather invest my time in a film or TV show on Netflix than get let down by The Simpsons and the MacFarlane shows. It’s sad but it’s the truth.