Fox Launches Inkubator Shorts Program

This Variety article explains how 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Broadcasting Co. are launching Fox Inkubator, a new inititative designed to find and develop animated projects. The program will give animators the opportunity to make two-to-three minute shorts, and the successful ones will later be developed into pilots and series. Inkubator, headed by Jennifer Howell, a former supervising producer on South Park, could eventually turn out up to 25 shorts a year. Most notable, unlike development programs at other networks, the Inkubator shorts will be distributed online and available to the public.

In addition to Inkubator, 20th Century Fox has established an in-house animation department for the first time in its history. It is also headed by Howell. The Variety article makes it sound as if Fox is dedicating its future to animation in a big way. Various Fox execs are quoted in the piece saying that animated series “have done so much for us financially and building the brand of this studio. We felt we needed to shine a bigger and brighter light on the future of animation production at this studio,” and “Animation is the perfect product for the world we live in, where DVD sales are so critical, appealing to young men is so critical, and there’s growing digital distribution of shortform content.”

Read between the lines though and things look less rosy. For example, take this quote from one of the suits about the production costs of the Inkubator shorts: “It will be cost effective given the way technology has developed…This isn’t about paying big premiums or big fees to writers. It’s intended to be done on a less-expensive scale.” In other words, they’re likely planning to hire a bunch of young artists and have them produce a crapload of cheapo Flash cartoons with the hope that audiences latch onto one of them. That’s too bad. I’ve long felt that development programs today are shortsighted by focusing on the creation of one-hit wonders and trendy properties, instead of pouring their resources into the long-term development and nurturing of talented artists, who in turn could develop many successful properties. Perhaps if any good comes out of the Inkubator, Fox will finally realize that there are plenty of talented animation creators out there whose names don’t begin with “Seth” and end with “MacFarlane.” I’m not holding my breath though.


  • http://www.octop.com Aleksandar Vujovic

    Seth who?

  • http://outoftheinkwell.blogspot.com Mike Dobbs

    Where will these shorts be seen? Just on the web?

  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    The lines I was reading between are these:

    Various Fox execs are quoted in the piece saying that animated series “have done so much for us financially and building the brand of this studio”

    and

    “appealing to young men is so critical”

    Fox wants more animation, but maybe what they want more specifically is more of what they already have. Oh well, maybe they’ll get another King of the Hill, maybe not…

  • http://constipanimated.blogspot.com greg

    Hells yeah! The perfect place to pitch my languishingRove Babies idea!

  • http://www.awprunes.blogspot.com/ Larry Levine

    I give Fox’s Sunday night programing great credit, it’s is a whole lot more dedicated to animation than Cartoon Network.

  • John Wilkes Oswald

    If Fox is serious about nurturing and greenlighting more animated programming, it would be the first network built by successful animated product to NOT throw cartoons under the bus for live action. Sounds like the Fox suits have their fingers on their own profit participation in evergreen programming as much as on honoring the art form. And, yes, they will probably hire a bunch of kids to do it dirt cheap, toss it onto You Tube and pray lightning strikes. Corporate micromanagers don’t want to know that cultural megatrends can’t really be induced. They just evolve when no one’s looking. Neither “The Simpsons” nor “Spongebob Squarepants” were the fruits of executive-driven overdevelopment or relentless focus testing. Those programs didn’t fit any known profile before they existed and became massive successes. And no later animated shows have been as successful, despite years of trying to retrofit suit-spawned crap to their models.

  • jon

    i had a feeling the studios might be doing something like this. there was a website owed by sony pictures that had an animation contest where the winner got to meet with sony pictures people to talk about projects.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    Animation has “done so much for [them] financially”? More like Seth MacFarlane and his crappy characters has done much for them financially.

    That aside, Inkubator isn’t too surprising of a move… they want cartoons they can market and license for merchandise, that doesn’t take much creativity or hard work to bank on. A problem I see coming ahead might be that FOX is inadvertently developing content for the wrong platform — will they be creating programs for TV, online or mobile? Is the distribution of one program, exclusive to that platform? Doubtful, but animators may end up thinking that way, which could give us a toilet-humor series on television that was meant for people obsessed with mobile phone entertainment.

    Who knows… maybe some brilliant guy or gal will cut their teeth working for FOX, only to depart much later for their own, independent venture with some other network.

  • Mike Milo

    Well whatever the deal… I know I’ll be pitching to them… it can’t hurt that’s for sure! I don’t know about you but I too would like to someday get a hundred million dollar deal for something I make regardless of if you all think it’s crap! LOL!

    I think it won’t be that bad honestly, yes they’ll make them cheaper than they do for the series they have but come on.. those series are hugely expensive so define cheap on that comparison and you end up with 100k for each short. That’s not so bad. Granted it’ll be Flash but that’s okay, everything they do right now could be done in Flash and it’s really about the ‘funny’ and not the ‘animation’ or the ‘style’ for them.
    I’m definitely pitching to them!

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    100 K seems high, I remember one of my first anim gigs at a small studio in hollywood where they were also developing the pilot episode of Drawn Together. I think the budget they were at was under 10,000. Ofcourse, who know what the lead/supervising animator and the two writers took home… I know the studio had interns working for about 10 bucks an hour though…

  • Paul Wellstone

    You’re too old, Mike Milo. They want people who are 22 and who aren’t so hip to Hollywood’s many ways to rip ‘em off.

  • http://myotherdrawingblog.blogspot.com/ sasha m

    Arrgh. Well, at least we don’t have to eat crow and thank Family Guy for this deal. We would have if it turned out to be a serious chance to let some new talent flourish (and maybe even usurp the aforementioned series whose creator seems to be a big financial pain in Fox’s ass). Maybe Aaron Springer can get the rights to put Korgoth on there or something or some kid in his basement can make a pencil test that will save the world.

  • http://www.milowerx.com Mike Milo

    Paul Wellstone-
    Maybe I am Paul! But thanks for the vote of confidence… LOL!
    I’m going to try anyway because I’m not going to just lie there and play dead that’s for sure. I got 50 good years left in me.
    Besides I don’t know crap about Hollywood. I’m just a cog in the machine brother. Just a cog in the machine. Maybe I can win them over with my stupidity!

    Spit and Spite…
    You may be right but I was going by what WB paid per episode to do their Cartoon Monsoon episodes which were strictly for the web and at the time they were the cheapest studio out there.
    Maybe I’m wrong tho… anyone else want to speculate?

  • Bill

    I am with you, Mike Milo, and I will be pitching too!

    Whatever else all of you “artistes” think of the content of Fox’s animated series, they are giving a lot of work to a bunch of animation workers who would be working at Starbucks otherwise. Not too shabby in today’s marketplace.

  • akira

    well good thing they got someone who knows all about animation to run the thing!
    it only takes a week to make a half hour animated show at south park, after all!
    i wonder what kind of deals they’ll be offering to these new young talents? i bet they’re trying to cheaply secure rights to the creations of the next mcfarlane or groening before they can afford a good agent or lawyer.

  • http://www.milowerx.com Mike Milo

    What’s that sonny? Bill is that you?

    I can’t see the screen… my eyes are goin’…
    I’m gettinnn’ oooold!
    Just teasing Paul…
    LOL!

    05/14/08 12:48pm

    Bill says:
    I am with you, Mike Milo, and I will be pitching too!

    Whatever else all of you “artistes” think of the content of Fox’s animated series, they are giving a lot of work to a bunch of animation workers who would be working at Starbucks otherwise. Not too shabby in today’s marketplace.

  • http://johnpannozzi.blogspot.com John Pannozzi

    Let’s not forget that Cartoon Network is also doing this thing called “The Cartoonstitute”, which is basically the same thing as Inkubator, except it’s being helmed by Craig (PowerPuff Girls, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) McCracken and Rob (Dexter’s Lab, My Life as a Teenage Robot, etc.) Renzetti.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Well I have no hope for this. Fox wants cartoon shows with 80′s pop culture references and celeberity cameos.

  • Death

    What if the Toonbusters (Amid and Jerry) sponged out a few banks and started THEIR own in house studio that offered real opprotunities to any age/kind of animator…be it a 116 year old 2D guru or a 6 year old who’s blind who does mo-cap (I know there are other ways for the blind to animate I just wanted to put the extremes out there so one could assume for everything else in the middle)?

  • Robiscus

    From what i understand(and i know a few people developing stuff with Fox), this effort is in response to the stagnation of the standard studio development process – which is script based. All fledgeling development deals are centered around scripts, but its an ineffective system when animators are involved.
    Consider for a moment that you reached an accord with Fox to develop a tv show with them, starting with a pilot. The first step would be the pitch concept, then a rough outline, then a script – all being submitted for approval to the executives at the network. They aren’t seeing your vision, they are just pushing a pile of pages with the written word around. That doesn’t bode well for the artist who works in a visual medium like animation, but even if it does work weel, the script that they considered brilliant can be completely inverted into a catastrophe once it is put into production at an animation studio. It leaves the network wondering how their treasured show could pull such a 180 through animation.

    So… this new framework is one where the executives give the creator a chance to demonstrate their ideas in the format they are used to. I think its an idea with a significant upside – but only if the executives in charge have a very scrutinizing eye for quality. Otherwise they’ll end up with 45 shorts that are ugly, unfunny and consummately forgettable. We already have one Frederator, so we don’t need another.

  • ridgecity

    “Fox will finally realize that there are plenty of talented animation creators out there whose names don’t begin with “Seth” and end with “MacFarlane.”” Ouch.

    That almost sounds as if Seth macFarlane actually was talented. he is not. His show is almost a standup comedy show of 5-sec jokes with about 40% are just offensive and bad taste…

    Making people laugh is very difficult, but doing it by making fun of others is very inmature and shows what kind of pro skills you actually have…

  • http://www.milowerx.com Mike Milo

    I agree John! I’m also looking forward to seeing what Cartoonstitute comes up with too! I’m pitching there too old as I am!
    I just hope it doesn’t end up like the Random Cartoons and never get seen anywhere. Both me AND Jerry know how THAT is!

  • fishmorg

    This is in no way inspiring news; Fox has been shoveling lousy cartoons over the tube for decades.

  • Mr. Semaj

    This is more than likely related to MacFarlane’s recent long-term contract, and the news of several other toon pilots being co-produced by former Simpsons producers. One that was recently retitled “Class Dismissed” was given a greenlight.

    We’ll just have to see where this goes. While FOX is still the only broadcast network (between ABC, CBS, NBC, and CW) seriously committed to primetime animation, these networks pick up and drop things at the drop of a hat.

  • http://pediatristsplayground.blogspot.com “Kenny” Martinez

    “Fox will finally realize that there are plenty of talented animation creators out there whose names don’t begin with “Seth” and end with “MacFarlane.”

    Wait a minute, aren’t we supposed to be gleeful when a cartoonist moves from student films to the big time?

  • Robiscus

    This process was put through before McFarlane struck that deal. Though i wish it had been implemented even earlier as the last show to shoot into full production based on scripts is Mike Scully’s new animated series “The Pitts”.

    Wait, did i say “new”? I misspoke, because that show is old. Old and tired and it already aired as a live action show and was cancelled immediately it stunk so bad. Maybe Mike Scully is the kind of guy that believes he can polish a turd if there is a studio of artists helping him.

  • anony

    Anyway,
    Anyone knows where/how we can apply/pitch??????
    ‘foxcareer.com’ seems not have that position..

  • http://ebay-movie.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    I was involved with the Disney “Shorty McShort Shorts” development program (our short never got made). Aside from that, it was a tremendous learning experience, we were treated with respect, paid promptly for our work – and I’d highly recommend that experience to anyone who is serious about working in animation and/or television.

  • http://zekeyspaceylizard.blogspot.com Zekey

    I miss when Fred Seibert was in charge of these sorts of things

  • http://www.midnightmailman.com robert

    does anyone have an e-mail address or any contact info for this project?

  • Robiscus

    “I miss when Fred Seibert was in charge of these sorts of things”

    LOL!