Less than a year after its launch, Kaboing TV has come to a virtual standstill. Billed as “an alternative channel for quality animation that serves both the cartoon fan and the animation community of artists and writers,” the idea was conceived by Joe Murray, the veteran creator of old-media shows like Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. Murray raised over $20,000 from a Kickstarter campaign in June, 2010 to launch the concept.
Kaboing failed to gain traction with viewers. In the past year, Murray unveiled three original animated shorts based on his Frog in a Suit concept, and also presented six indie animated shorts. The combined viewership of those nine films was just 57,000 views.
In an essay posted on his blog last week he described Kaboing as being “at a crossroads.” In an earlier blog post last month, he alluded to Kaboing as if it had already died, writing that it was like “watching the fuse to what promises to be a wonderful firework display, fizzle out at the moment of truth.” The Kaboing website, which hosted its videos on YouTube, hasn’t unveilved a new cartoon since September, 2011, and the last original Frog in a Suit short premiered last March.
Murray blames virtually everything as a factor in the site’s lack of success, from a failed mainstream project that he had undertaken to no marketing budget to advertisers who wanted ownership of the shorts to the Internet’s desire for crude material.
The simplest solution though is often the right one, and in this case, it would appear that Murray didn’t offer a compelling product that audiences wanted to see. The Internet is very good at identifying what it likes, and it doesn’t like the kind of traditional material produced by mainstream TV studios. Frog in a Suit felt too much like a standard-issue TV cartoon with all the timeworn elements that Internet audiences are trying to escape.
It’s commendable that Murray is being upfront about the struggles of his start-up Kaboing TV, but his assignment of blame for the site’s failure seems misplaced to me. Reading between the lines of his January 18 post, he appears to believe that his work was of a higher quality than the kind of animation that becomes successful on-line. He expresses frustration that a “unicorn shitting rainbows” is more popular than his own work. But while some material is certainly more crude and raw, there are also breakout Internet hits like Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat which feature more elegant animation than anything you’ll find produced by a TV animation studio. The nineteen Simon’s Cat shorts, all animated by Tofield, have garnered over 215 million views on YouTube and spawned book and merchandising deals.
In the past artists created properties to pitch and sell to TV networks or newspaper syndicates in the hope of making their characters famous. Tofield has succeeded where Murray couldn’t by showing its possible to create characters on one’s own terms, turn them into a success online without giving up ownership rights, and then wait for companies to approach you with licensing deals.
YouTube, in fact, has spawned a new generation of animation creators who have become successful individual brands without the help of any middleman. An even more successful example is Dane Boedigheimer, whose Annoying Orange videos have accumulated nearly 600 million views on YouTube. His work has become so popular that Cartoon Network recently greenlit a series based on his characters.
Here’s a list of individual filmmakers besides Tofield and Boedigheimer whose YouTube channels have garnered huge fanbases and (we may assume) some financial reward:
27.3 million video views
35.1 million video views
62.7 million video views
66.3 million video views
84.6 million video views
FilmCow (aka Charlie the Unicorn)
218.3 million video views
Most tellingly, none of these artists became successful by soliciting money from a Kickstarter campaign and none of them had marketing campaigns. They created their animation because they believed in it, and audiences responded to the work. As the mechanism of distribution matures on the Internet, more and more animators will discover that this kind of success is possible.
I stumbled upon this scan tonight and had to share. It’s a photo taken in 1936 by Ed Benedict at Walter Lantz Productions. It’s pure class, and at the height of the Depression no less. From left to right are Jack Dunham, who sadly ended up homeless in Montreal a few years back; Fritz Willis, who went on to become a famous pin-up artist; and Leo Salkin, who enjoyed a long animation career as a writer and storyboard artist. Fast forward 75 years, and the fashion evolution of the animator is not a pretty sight.
FoxRetro X-Mas Spot by Váscolo (Argentina)
Thor facial rig test in Softimage by Stephen McNally (Ireland)
Strip Tease by Natalianne Boucher, Camille Chabert, Marine Feuillade and Naïmé Perrette (France): “The technique consists of ‘cut-out’ animation (cutted paper, here added to tissues) then back projected on a wall and shot frame by frame.”
African plains, manes and stolen meals by Chris O’Hara (Ireland): “Featuring audio from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.“
Power Salad, a comedy duo comprised of Chris Mezzolesta and Craig Marks, created this awesomely geeky musical plea demanding that vintage cartoon animals not suffer the ignoble fate of CG remakes:
Charles Kenny at the Animation Anomaly spotted these Mickey and Minnie Mouse plates at his local Target. They appear cool in that, “Look, Disney is celebrating its heritage” kind of way, but a closer look reveals a clumsily conceived idea.
The most glaring defect is that the construction lines are drawn OVER the final artwork. In actuality, the artist draws the construction lines first, a rough version to work out the pose and scale of a character. Not only are the construction lines here printed on top of the finished drawing, but the lines appear to have been inserted haphazardly after the fact and bear no connection to the drawing of Mickey. The construction circle over Mickey’s head doesn’t even follow the tilt of his head in the finished drawing. Construction lines are fascinating because they reveal an artist’s thought process and how he or she arrived at a finished drawing; these lines look like the random scribbles of a toddler struggling to copy a drawing. There’s no reason to insert these construction lines into a piece of merchandise unless the purpose is to draw attention to the heritage of drawing at the Disney company. So why not get it right? As it stands, it looks like a cynical attempt by the Disney company to exploit the fondness that people have for classic animation.
Will the general public who buys these plates notice anything amiss? Probably not. But when a company cares, it sweats every detail, even the ones that aren’t always noticed. That’s what Pixar does, that’s what Apple does, and it’s what Walt used to do.
Oh Willy… is a short film about a porky guy who goes to care for his sick mother who lives in a nudist colony. It’s directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels, and debuts later this month at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. I enjoyed the cozy-looking knitted animation of Emma’s earlier film, Soft Plants, and I’m really looking forward to checking this one out, too.
An elegant sense of symmetry and order forms the world of Boris Labbé‘s Kyrielle. The repeating rhythms and cycles have a hypnotic quality, and encourage the viewer’s eye to wander playfully and explore different figures. Labbé accomplished all this with just 285 watercolor drawings which he later composited digitally and projected as a video installation. Kyrielle was made at the French animation school EMCA (Ecole des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation).
Unexpectedly thought-provoking and beautiful in its own way, In the Pig, Everything is Good (Dans le cochon, tout est bon) takes advantage of the unconventional narrative possibilities available to the animated filmmaker. Made by Iris Alexandre as a graduation film at the Belgian school La Cambre: Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts visuels.
I think we have a winner – “Makin’ with the Magilla”:
No song could possibly live up to the cover, but if you must:
If you have a more perfect cartoon-themed album cover, share it in the comments.
(via John K Stuff)
The Chuck Jones Experience opens Thursday at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Just in time, too, considering that one out of three Americans don’t know who Bugs Bunny is, and nearly half (44%) don’t recognize Daffy Duck. If you’ve ever watched this or this or this, you’d understand why the American public is trying to forget these once-great characters.
Last week at an animation screening in New York, the MC of the event, Bill Plympton, invited a member of the audience to take the stage and introduced him as a New York animation legend. The suspender-wearing pot-bellied gentleman looked about the farthest thing from a legend. I’d seen him at screenings before and never knew who he was, but I was certainly familiar with his famous work-in-progress animated film. It was none other than Michael Sullivan, who’s been working for over a decade on a stop-motion robot porno epic The Sex Life of Robots.
Michael has had a long career in animation, working on sets and puppets for projects like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Joe’s Apartment, and Bear in the Big Blue House,, but it’s the exquisitely crafted robot porn that he’s been making in his apartment that has captured the most attention. Now he’s about to become a lot more famous thanks to a short documentary–Meaning of Robots–that will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week. The trailer is above, and it’s directed by Matt Lenski who describes it as such:
In the Spring of 2011, after years of hiring him to build miniature sets for my films I asked Mike Sullivan for his help on an art project — A doll-sized protest kit. During the process I got a peek into his world and discovered that it was anything but miniature.
What I found was a man dedicated, overwhelmed, slightly lost and happy to share it with honesty and a little humor. I also found thousands of Robots with wieners. This is a character exploration, a documentary, a Henry Darger-esque allegory set in one studio apartment on 27th street in New York City.
Sullivan has been profiled on multiple occasions in the past. Click after the jump for more videos about his animation work, with plenty of NSFW clips from his work-in-progress film.
This video offers a look at the memorial celebration for New York animation legend Vincent Cafarelli that took place on Friday, January 6. There are glimpses of Vinny from old home movies interspersed between the memorial clips. The lovely event was attended by a who’s who of the New York animation community. See if you can spot Vinny Bell, Candy Kugel, Howard Beckerman, Don Poynter, Tony Eastman, J. J. Sedelmaier, Jimmy Picker, David Levy, John Canemaker, Doug Crane, Michael Sporn, Larry Ruppel, Richard O’Connor, George Griffin, Debra Solomon and John Dilworth, among many others.
Michael Bay, Jon Favreau, Ray Liotta, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel all participate in this Funny or Die video about the latest developments in motion capture. I don’t want to ruin it so just click on the link and watch the two-minute short.
Satori is another recent Sheridan thesis film that has popped up online. Along with yesterday’s A Good Wife, the film offers a glimpse of the new crop of animators emerging out of the Canadian school. The filmmaker Abhilasha Dewan was “inspired by the misty mountains of Nainital, India. She’s posted artwork from the film on her website.