A scene from "Moon Animated" by Megan Jo Nairn. A scene from "Moon Animated" by Megan Jo Nairn.

Interview: How To Organize 250 Animators For A Crowdsourced ‘Sailor Moon’ Remake

A scene from
A scene from “Moon Animated” by Megan Jo Nairn.

Since debuting last month, the fan-made episode of Sailor Moon, entitled Moon Animate Make-Up!, has garnered over 1.2 million views:

The project is an ambitious example of grassroots crowdsourcing. It was organized and produced entirely by individuals without any corporate or studio involvement. Between October 2013 and July 2014, over 250 animators contributed at least one shot to assemble a shot-by-shot remake of the episode “Fractious Friends” from the vintage Japanese series. Cartoon Brew interviewed the organizer of the project, Kate Sullivan, a 2012 graduate of School of Visual Arts, to learn more about how the project was produced.

CARTOON BREW: Moon Animate Make-Up! seems to fall between nostalgia and a labor of love. What motivated you to create the project?

Kate Sullivan.
Kate Sullivan.

KATE SULLIVAN: Last year I participated in the Bartkira project as an artist and while I had a great time working on it, I really wanted to run a group collaboration like that. I’m the weird art student who knew pretty much all through college that I wanted to work on the production side of animation. Sailor Moon had seen a resurgence in popularity over the last year or so, and the reboot of the animated series was coming up this summer [Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal]. I thought Moon Animate would probably finish around the time of the series’ premiere. It seemed like the perfect time to show off my love of production work and Sailor Moon.

Moon Animate Make-Up!
A scene from “Moon Animate Make-Up!” by Mike Daley.

CARTOON BREW: So everyone received a shot, and they had complete creative freedom to reproduce it in any way they wanted?

KATE SULLIVAN: As long as they had it in the aspect ratio and frame rate, and turned it in by the deadline, which I was pretty flexible with if you kept in touch with me, everyone had complete creative freedom. It’s your chance to show off what you want to do and so many people pushed it as far as they could. I was totally blown away by how inventive people got with their shots.

CARTOON BREW: Was there any shot that really stood out as being way beyond expectation?

KATE SULLIVAN: I think any shot where the animation or style was pushed to something different. I feel like a parent; I can’t pick just one favorite! Especially since everyone was really professional and hardworking and eager to do whatever they could. The animators who picked up extra shots were all kinds of wonderful. I’m honestly just amazed by anyone who took the time in their schedule to create something for this. I should give a special shout-out to Nyann Smith who created all the visual effects for the scene transitions because I had no idea how to do that and she saved my butt.

CARTOON BREW: How were the shots assigned to animators, and what kind of schedule were they given to produce their shot?

KATE SULLIVAN: Shots were assigned first come, first serve. Everyone who signed up submitted their reel, and shots were distributed based on their reel and the artist’s personal requests, for example, whether they only had time for something short or preferred a shot with more character animation. I gave everyone about a month-and-a-half to turn in their work. Some people need a little more time, some got theirs in early, and some even asked for seconds or thirds.

Max Litvinov
A scene from “Moon Animate Make-Up!” by Max Litvinov

CARTOON BREW: Can you talk about your thoughts on the process of crowdsourcing the project, both positive and negative?

KATE SULLIVAN: When I started Moon Animate Make-Up!, all I really had to promote with was word of mouth through Sailor Moon fandom on social media. It makes me really happy we’re now in an age where we can so closely connect with people around the world to collaborate on a project like this. I don’t think this would have been possible ten or fifteen years ago because of how so much of the technology was only available in-house.

CARTOON BREW: How have audiences responded?

KATE SULLIVAN: The response to Moon Animate has been overwhelmingly positive and I am still shocked it’s gone so well. It was hard to gauge how audiences would react when you’re working every waking hour between job and sleep, until you release it into the wild. Next thing you know, my friends are texting me to say I’m in the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly. I really wanted Moon Animate to be accessible to people who haven’t seen Sailor Moon. I’m so happy when I meet people who have not only heard of the project, but tell me they’ve never watched Sailor Moon and they really enjoyed it.

CARTOON BREW: The only examples I’ve seen of animation crowdsourced projects are remakes of dearly loved material. Having experienced the process, does creating original content in the same manner sound like a possibility?

KATE SULLIVAN: I think creating original content through crowdsourcing is not only possible, but I think it’s where the future of animation could go. With all the developments in how we create and communicate through technology, we’re at a point where we can make more out of our own homes. The big issue is funding, but it’s finally getting easier to give your money directly to the artist you want to support, and audiences have greater autonomy in where they want to invest their money. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are great, but I’m curious to see what else can be done.