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.