cyanideandhappiness cyanideandhappiness

What is the Biggest Animation Project on Kickstarter Right Now?

What is the most funded animation campaign currently running on Kickstarter? Is it:

The answer is none of the above.

The most successful live animation campaign at the moment is Cyanide and Happiness, a long-running webcomic that aims to branch out into a series of long-form animated episodes. In the eleven days since the campaign was launched, over 7,300 backers have contributed $362,000, easily surpassing the project’s original goal of $250,000. It is already the third-highest funded animation campaign in Kickstarter’s history, and could break more records before it’s all over.

The four twenty-something creators of Cyanide and Happiness—Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin, Dave McElfatrick—are no strangers to animation. Before coming together to make the comic in 2004, they met each other as teenagers doing animation on Newgrounds. In 2009, they began creating brief animated segments based on their comic. Their YouTube channel has amassed neary 200 million pageviews with short-form bits and pieces of animation.

Now, they aim to do something more ambitious: a series of 10-12 minute episodes. Initially, they attempted to negotiate a TV series deal with cable networks. They wrote about the fruitless effort on their blog:

We walked away from the first two [networks] due to rights and creative control issues. We thought that we could settle those issues in the third deal, but things didn’t quite work out as we hoped. We’re starting to realize that TV as an industry just isn’t compatible with what we want to do with our animation: deliver it conveniently to a global audience, something we’ve been doing all along with our comics these past eight years. That’s just the nature of television versus the Internet, I suppose.

Now they’ve turned to Kickstarter to appeal directly to their fanbase:

We firmly believe the entertainment industry is changing, and the Internet will eventually become the only way people watch shows. Especially the people that make up our awesome fanbase. The Internet is already the largest network, available when you think about it. Why go anywhere else? By reading our comics over the years, you folks have given us the careers we dreamed of having as kids, and turned our silly cartoons into something much, much bigger than ourselves. The prospect of doing an uncensored, unaltered Cyanide & Happiness Show and giving it directly to the fans is an incredible opportunity. We’re really excited to see how far we can take things.

Besides the amount of money raised so far, there’s another noteworthy aspect, and that’s that the C&H artists developed their careers entirely online. This is different from many other high-profile animation projects on Kickstarter launched by mainstream artists whose reputations were established in entertainment mediums outside of the Internet.

It still means something to be Ralph Bakshi, John Kricfalusi or Bill Plympton—that is, being the director of numerous theatrical features, the creator of a groundbreaking TV series, or the king of American indie animation has an incalculable advantage over being an upstart. But as the Cyanide & Happiness campaign has shown, lofty reputations from other mediums can’t match the support of a well-established online following.

The C&H Kickstarter already has more backers than the combined totals of the three aforementioned animation legends, and will also achieve a higher pledge dollar amount than the combined total of those other high-profile campaigns. With this success, as well as the success of webcomic campaigns like MS Paint Adventures and Penny Arcade, the once-maligned webcomic is re-emerging as the unlikely foundation of mini-entertainment empires.

  • markstickley

    Let’s not forget Dresden Codak who launched a Kickstarter ( about 12 hours ago and is about to break $100K… webcomics are definitely a mainstay of entertainment.

  • This is good. Personally, I think corporate Hollywood should crash & burn. They come along and steal the rights to our own creations, then act like we shouldn’t be offended by the prospect.

    • Jason

      You know, to be fair, I wouldn’t say they steal anything most of the time. It’s more just getting what we would see as a sweet bargain on something that they should have paid much more for. At the end of the day nobody is forcing anyone to do business with Hollywood, a lot of it is actually on our part with the mindset “X channel is interested in what I’ve made? Wow, I must be this chosen one who’s going to become successful, I don’t even want to get paid, my work being on X channel is good enough.” and it’s that God forsaken mindset that makes the harmony between buyers and artists this chaotic hunger games-esc battlefield. Artists are artists and business people are business people. Compromise is sometimes necessary for the greater achievement of both, but compromise is not a one way street either. So many out there are just willing to let these execs walk all over them, underpay them for the value of their work, and change their work to something they think is “cool” and it ruins things for everyone else.

  • We animators should be doing EVERYTHING ourselves. If you can make short films, do it. It’s time we weaned ourselves off the Hollywood system for good. Affordable animation software has enabled all of us to do whatever we want. I for one like the idea of making the studios come to US. We have all the negotiating power, but we never use it. We bent over and let Hollywood RAPE us again and again. They meddle and sanitize art for the sake of a profit. I think animators should band together into “collectives” for lack of a better term and assist each other on projects. Whatever, as long as we take back OUR industry from the suit-wearing weasels.

    • jmahon

      Affordable animation software? You mean the $1000 Toon Boom package, for $400 for one license of Flash? Forgive me, I might be missing something, but I feel like the biggest challenge stopping animators from doing this is time and money, the latter of which can go way beyond a “side project” budget.

      But I agree though, the internet/youtube has opened up a good amount of opportunities for animation groups to create amazing, unique and often hilarious and original series that gain a following quickly. The traditionally animated fan favourite Baman and Piderman has a ton of views, and it’s popularity earned it’s creators Alex and Lindsay Small-Butera a sort of mild celebrity for their quirky approach to nonsensical but funny cartoons. If you haven’t seen the Baman and Piderman cartoons, they’re on youtube and they’re wonderfully benign and simplistic, yet effecting- something you just don’t see everyday. I hope the success of these webtoons really turns heads, more and more cartoonists are getting into it, but only time will tell, I guess.

      I’ll be sure to spread the word if there ever is an animation software package that is cheap or open source, that’s for sure.

      • $1000 today is microscopic compared to the cost of entry in the film and plastic cel pipeline days.

        Consider that the average cellphone contract today is almost $1000/year.

        • Hell I know people who spend $1000 a year on gourmet coffee.

        • I actually support paying for what I think is quality software. ToonBoom might cost a little more, but it’s my favorite animation software and the company treats me very well. ( great support )

        • jmahon

          that’s a lot of money for an amateur to drop on a piece of software all in one go.

          • There are many less expensive options out there with powers animators only imagined 30 years ago. If someone who can already afford a computer wants to create animation, software cost is not standing in their way.

      • Marie

        I’m an amateur animator who decided to invest in the Pro versions of Toon Boom’s storyboard and animation programs. It was an excellent decision and as someone else said, Toon Boom’s customer support is exceptionally helpful and responsive. I don’t think $1000-2000 for software is a lot for an amateur to invest in their passion especially since the software contains time-saving features.

  • The C&H guys have done their homework. They know their fans and created the Kickstarter accordingly. Success was practically assured.

  • C&H is great and the guys are all very classy. There is a massive audience already for them on Explosm (their website), so with hot IP and that aforementioned audience, there were in a unique position to make their show happen sans network. This is why in general, webcomics-related Kickstarter campaigns like this one, Zach Weiner, Ryan North, etc, consistently blow their goals out of the water. It also helps the content itself rocks, too!

  • Max C.

    Ever heard of The Romantic, an original animated feature film that was produced without any money involved whatsoever?

    • Mac

      Googled it. No one wants to be subjected to that kind of formless amateur technique for 90 minutes. You can only get away with it if you’re entertaining, funny, engaging, something. It’s not enough to say theres 90 minutes of this footage I made its an art film. Anyone with a machine is capable of now worthless generation of endless footage, and with the industry to support scale falling away, talent, voice, and discipline are more important than ever.

  • atc483

    In the meantime I think I have a record for amount of failed animation kickstarters.

    Lol, hoping to get an audience as big someday though.

  • jonhanson

    not actually surprising, internet people know how to get internet people to give them money. Also, more people probably read Cyanide & Happiness than all the people who’ve know who Ralph Bakshi combined.

  • 200 million views on Youtube? That does produce income. What do they need a Kickstarter for?

  • Robert Schaad

    Kickstarter is great and cool, as are Bill Plympton, John K, and Ralph Bakshi. As long as shows are on TV, I’ll watch them on tv.

  • Fantastic! This is precisely what I’ve been talking about. These guys are doing their own projects the way they see them, instead of handing them over to a network. Good success, guys!

  • trn

    so since visuals are so important for you, do you not read books?

    • Trevour

      C’mon now. Did you miss the part where I was talking about COMICS? Maybe I should just bypass a film and go read its script instead. And while we’re at it, perhaps I should skip going to the museum altogether, and just read written reviews of its paintings from now on. Just as effective, right?

  • RandomGuy

    Michel Gagne is doing an animated version of “The Saga of Rex”.