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An Open Letter


Dear AOL/MSN/Yahoo/NBC-Universal and News Corp.,

Congratulations on the news of your new company to compete with YouTube.

The announcement of of this new partnership has me very excited. You say you are going to use your vault assets to create a new venue for programming—a “video-rich site… with thousands of hours of full-length programming, movies and clips, representing premium content from at least a dozen networks and two major film studios.”

One of my favorite quotes in your press release is the one from Yahoo’s CEO Terry Semel, who says, “We are excited to be a part of this landmark partnership that connects people to the content they care about…”, promising users “unprecedented access to their favorite shows”.

Allowing us access to the riches in your combined movie/TV libraries will be a great thing for our culture and will add to our collective knowledge of film history. It might even help thwart Internet piracy.

My only concern is that you might overlook the thousands of classic animation titles in your massive holdings. AOL’s parent company, Time Warner, holds the popular Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, the MGM Happy Harmonies, Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery masterpieces and the incredible Max Fleischer/Paramount Popeye cartoon; News Corp owns Crusader Rabbit, the historic first TV cartoon series; NBC-Universal has the wonderful Walter Lantz library of vintage Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy, and Oswald Rabbit. I’m not even mentioning all the TV cartoons and animated features contained therein, everything from Marine Boy to Wizards, all awaiting a chance to find—and entertain—a new audience.

And I’ll let you in on a secret. Your home video divisions have only released a fraction of the material you own.

Making them all available—the entire library, at minimal cost—will certainly connect your content to people who really care about it, namely our readers. There’s tons of money to be made from this proposition. This illegally posted 1940s Tom & Jerry short on YouTube has over 400,000 views. That’s more views than most of the modern animation posted there.

This is a watershed moment, the begining of a new age, with no rules, no ratings, no demographics to tell you people don’t want this or that. One thing we’ve learned from DVD is that people do want complete runs of great material. One thing we’ve learned from YouTube is that people are interested in esoteric material.

So release your old cartoons. Make them available for purchase. Believe it or not, people really want to see them. And I promise to be the first person in line to support the effort.

Best of luck,

Jerry Beck

  • Lee

    I totally agree with you Jerry. It’s a very exciting time for cartoons on the Internet. This IS the dawning of a new era.

  • Donnie

    I hope they will release non corporate animation (like the way itunes sells stuff for indie labels), it could encourage a new wave of “indie” animation

  • Woo. This is a great idea. A one stop shop for all those classic gems… Oh, and a frame by frame option on the player would be gold too…

  • I want to stay positive about this but I have a feeling that they aren’t going to give two s—s about making those cartoons available to viewers. Hopefully I can be proven wrong. Nice work Jerry!

  • Soos

    Thank God we finally have massive corporations stepping in. It was really difficult being entertained through a service not owned by a massive media conglomerate – or does Google count?

    Personally, I think it’s bad enough those relatively few companies own and control every channel on television (and the resulting quality produced by this oligopoly speaks for itself), now they’re trying to use their massive amounts of money to monopolize the internet.

  • Well, now I don’t have to write my letter. Thanks Jerry. And for the love of Pete… sleep in every once in a while.

  • I’m sorry, I was distracted by Mr Zip!

  • Corrado (Anthony)

    I’m very, very excited about this news. I hope this means that shows like SNL will have a lot of the old episodes (in their entirity)available. Not just the current and popular episodes. Heh, maybe that means the SNL Looney Tunes Classics skit will be back. I hope so.

  • I love this, I’m voting via page views! Thanks Jerry there is a reason we read your ideas daily.

  • It could be a good thing, but they will probably edit the original content as they always have for television. Butcher edited cartoons don’t preserve culture.

  • Extremely well said. Let’s hope they heed your advice.

  • Paul

    I’ll be in line right behind Jerry, especially for Woody, Popeye, and some of those classic TV shows (Crusader, Deputy Dawg….)

  • Jerry. I am currently listening to the audio book “the Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. I highly recommend it….considering it covers this topic quite well. It shows that there is a lot more money to be generated from niche markets and content that is no longer in use just sitting somewhere on a shelf. That this is a big part of the business model of the future. Check it out, I know you’ll like it.

  • Lippy

    Jerry – I’m certain your extensive knowledge of “who owns what” greatly surpasses any and all of the decision makers in this merger.

    Thanks for stating so eloquently what I am thinking and hoping for as well.

  • Ron

    Can we get an online petition going to back this effort up? I remember that’s ultimately what got the message across about “Loonatics”.

  • I’m also up for a petition. Though I tend to agree with Corey’s bleak view. As far as the player, is quicktime the only one that allows frame stepping? Only drawback there is lack of a full screen setting. Anyone know of other great video sites like guba or daily motion? (preferably using something like quicktime with frame by frame option?)

  • Here, here! Make these cartoons available – cartoons are meant to be viewed, not stored away!

  • droosan

    IMO, moreso than HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, downloads & streams are the future of home video. Pressing/packaging costs would be nil, and distribution much faster & cheaper. If classic cartoons were made available ‘a la carte’ or as ‘bulk purchases’ by series/director in a sales model similar to iTunes, I would gladly pay for them .. especially if they could be downloaded/played in standard video resolution.

  • Anne

    This is a great idea…not to mention the money saved on manufacturing and distributing DVDs. I’m in line behind Jerry and everyone else! Yay!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I know I might be interested once I see how this works out.

  • GhaleonQ

    I don’t think that this will happen, frankly. While we may see outtakes, rough cuts, or in-development content, I don’t think that the restrictive nature of the aforementioned companies (classic Saturday Night Live skits are not even available in their entireties, since doing so may eliminate many sales of “Best Of…” sets) will allow them to release backlogs of quite lucrative cartoons. I’m a s

    Regardless, I support your effort, if only to eliminate the intellectual abyss that is Youtube.

  • Bahhh! You’re not going to see anything good from these companies! They control theatres, television, and the dvd markets, and yet they don’t offer you everything there — what makes you think that they’ll haul out all of their good stuff on the internet?

    The internet is successful because people can escape the corporate-controlled junk that’s pushed on us otherwise. Even if there wasn’t pirated stuff on YouTube, it would still be successful. Their most popular videos are those of independent producers. These big companies are just trying to crush our freedom.

    TV, radio, newspapers…. do we have to lose control of the internet too? The internet is OURS to control, not theirs to shape and force upon us.

  • It’s the same thing the music industry did when it got fed up with Napster and co. People were showing, discovering and trading great stuff for free. The corporations realized that people may not necessarily want to buy a whole album of a band’s music, but they sure do like a couple songs. Solution? Offer the songs invividually, and for a reasonable price, on something like…Itunes. Result? Lots of money for artist and corporation alike.

    The internet is offering so many opportunities for audiences to communicate directly with the entertainment industry. They can’t hide from us anymore, and they can’t hide their holdings. If they don’t want to release something, someone will find it and post it on Youtube, and the owners can either spend a little money releasing it properly, or spend a lot of money on removal demands and copyright lawsuits.

    The audience is out there…Jon Cooke and I started a blog about random bits of Looney Tunes history not too long ago, and when Jon installed a tracker we have found that we average 200 visits a day. People remember and love these characters.

    The internet is a prime showcase for short films, particularly cartoons….they’re short, so they don’t take forever to load, they provide a quick laugh to people who have a lot of nostalgic longings to see them again and not a lot of time.

    The studios are all so afraid of releasing “old” material…Warner Bros. has tried to hide the age of their classic cartoons for years. The truth is, people don’t care! They’re better than anything that’s being made now, and people want to see them. The timeless ones are just that, the timely ones are a history lesson much more entertaining than anything you could get from a book or a class. If these studios opened the floodgates of their cartoon vaults, there’s no telling what kind of renaissance they could inspire…and what kind of benefits they could reap from it.

    Lead the charge, Mr. Beck. I know you can do it!

  • Hiya Mr. Beck, this is Hector from — I posted about your open letter on my site. I completely agree with you and hope that these companies agree with you also. Keep up the great work, love your site.

  • Can the church say “amen”?

    Excellent, excellent post. Time Warner, NBC-Universal, and News Corp. should all be made aware that people will indeed watch classic cartoons. Every time I discuss animation history with someone, I always hear “why isn’t Woody Woodpecker on DVD” or “do they show the Looney Tunes on TV anymore?” It makes no (financial or common) sense to allow them to sit and rot in film and video vaults when there’s at least some profits to be made.

  • Mike Lacy

    I learned more about WWII from the Warner cartoons (with careful explanitory tid bits from my grand mother) as she, like a good granny should watched the cartoons with me. ALL film should be released as the pioneers of filmdom from the earliest 30 second efforts to the most majestic features believe their work should last forever.