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“Little Witch Academia” Hit Its Kickstarter Goal in Under 6 Hours

Crowdfunding has yet to prove itself as a reliable source of funding for new animation concepts, but filmmakers who have a well established style or who want to fund an existing property are continuing to find success. The latest major beneficiary of a Kickstarter campaign is the young Japanese animation studio Trigger, which is using Kickstarter to fund the next installment of its animated property Little Witch Academia, created and directed by Yoh Yoshinari. This spring, they released the first Little Witch Academia short with English subtitles on YouTube, where it has gathered nearly 800,000 views:

Their second Little Witch Academia short was to have been 20 minutes long, but they started a Kickstarter asking for $150,000 to expand the episode by 15 minutes. They achieved that goal in under six hours. After three days, the total raised is $348,789 from 4,487 backers, and there are still 27 days left in the campaign. If they hit their new stretch goal of $500,000, they will release an audio commentary, a ‘making of’ documentary, soundtrack and art book.

  • the Gee

    I recently read about how one successful campaign raised more than they requested and is at least 8 months behind in delivering their product. The speculation in the piece was that the additional money led to them adding to their goals (which isn’t surprising) but now they are seemingly in the feature bloat area of the project where they are missing deadlines.

    Is there no way to stop a campaign from requesting too much beyond the initial goal? Sure, that seems stupid to not get as much as possible. But, if your logistics get thrown out of whack, and say, one member of your team discovers a love for crack and the production crew would rather play video games than deliver then it could be said too much money is not desirable if it needs to be spent on that particular project.

    (i know “too much money” is a ridiculous notion and is probably never a bad thing. But, with crowdsourcing, there is an obligation to contributors and an increased need for smart management. You’d think. )

    • AmidAmidi

      The current crowdfunding model brings out the worst of the consumer herd mentality and turns it into a lottery system where a lucky few reap the majority of the benefits. A sensible solution might be to end campaigns after they’ve reached 110% in funding. It would encourage creators to more responsibly budget and manage their resources and ask for the specific amount they need to complete a specific project. Unfortunately, Kickstarter has no incentive to do this because they profit too when a project is overfunded.

      • Uli Meyer

        What if they didn’t promise more footage? They are selling a film and just happen to find a bigger audience than expected. It is not like they are cheating anyone, the rewards are the same, just more of them are ‘sold’. There was a guy looking for a few thousand dollars to develop his idea of new shoe laces. People were so intrigued that they backed him by the thousands and he went 700 or 800 % beyond his goal. He didn’t make the laces any longer because of that, he just ‘sold’ more of them.

        • AmidAmidi

          Uli – In the example that you provide, the shoelace is the PRODUCT. In the case of animation campaigns, the film is the PRODUCT. The ancillary rewards in film campaigns are designed to encourage people to donate money for the film production. Once the animator has achieved their set goal and can produce the film, making extra rewards for the sake of rewards is a pointless exercise that distracts from the primary purpose of the campaign. The basic concept of crowdfunding is to raise a specific dollar amount that allows you to achieve a specific goal, but the concept has been distorted by greed into open-ended campaigns to make as much money as possible.

          • Uli Meyer

            That is what I said Amid, you have misunderstood my point. Making extra rewards is pointless. They are offering a product. And if more people than they need to facilitate that product decide to back them in exchange for that product, there is nothing wrong with that. There is no need to cap that, it is just good for them. What is not a good idea are additional promises to drive up the goal, and then not be able to deliver.

          • the Gee

            I began to reply to Amid about an hour ago and didn’t finish up the comment until about ten minutes ago and posted it.

            Think of what crowdsourcing and in particular what Kickstarter is…it is a jumpstart. If you were to get a loan to start a business or fund a project, you’d have a set amount you can get. Then it is up to you to make the biz work so well that you can both pay the loan back (reward contributors with the incentives) and you can earn money based on sales/rentals/licensing/whatever.
            This is seed money at the least. At the most it should fund the project. Anything more raised than the stated goal and the whole situation becomes squishy. Perhaps someone who has had an overfunded project can educate us on how More was Better.

          • doomrider7

            A Hat in Time was funded close to 1000%. All of the extra money went into the stretch goals of adding more elements to the game such as levels, enemies, hats, badges, music, voice options, etc. Most kickstarter projects have these in case they get funded more than what their initial goal was. From the looks of things, they didn’t expect to make anywhere near this much so fast and so were at a loss.

      • the Gee

        Your suggestion on capping it is one with which I agree. Below this comment, Nissi mentions the extra money could pay salaries and that could be a great use of funds but then, in a weird way, you have a runaway production.*

        If the production quality is super high and the project is well received beyond the funders, fantastic! But, man, it does seem like those tossing in extra coin just might be doing what you said, buying into the herd mentality. The late adopters could….could…be said to get hosed. Granted someone ks’ing (cs’ing) a feature film may feel like they need every penny they can get but not every project can or should be funded in the millions of dollars.

        Amid, on your point about Kickstarter (and I believe Amazon) getting more money if a project is overfunded. I guess that’s true and it never occurred to me.

        *Maybe it is just me but this kind of funding should have exact accounting for investors (we spent this much on these things.). Maybe it isn’t needed or required but if they seek additional projects funded, it would be nice to see how they spent their previous money haul.

    • Nissl

      I think Trigger took more or less the right approach. After initially getting caught off guard, they did an assessment and then made it very clear that they couldn’t extend LWA2 beyond 40 minutes of animation without getting in over their heads. A lot of the fans found their stretch goals a bit disappointing, but their fund is still up $25k in the half a day since the latest announcement. Hopefully the extra cash will be put towards animator salaries and/or the nucleus of the next LWA.

      I also think there are more likely to be problems with video games specifically; software just has a ton of unknown unknowns and the urge to add more mechanics, characters, and levels can easily spiral out of control as each system adds complexity to the others. Not to mention when the creator has a previous bad track record of delivering on time and on budget (in the specific case of Double Fine, which I assume you’re referring to.)

      Anyway, in general I hope this leads to lots of companies around the world putting up subbed versions of their works on Youtube for people to demo, as well as people taking risks on producing shorts of new ideas.

  • Nik

    So it’s Harry Potter with “sexy witches”?

    • TheGreatWormSpirit

      Uh, no.

    • mawnck

      Actually it looks like Magic User’s Club with … uh … I dunno … a slightly updated art style?

    • m(_ _)m

      it’s more like a less stylistic Tweeny Witches

    • Riu Tinubu

      I dunno… no? If you’ve watched it, then I’m not sumer how you came with that conclusion. If you haven’t, magic and magic schools were being done before Harry Potter.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Someone already mentioned “Magic Users Club” which started out as a series of OVA’s back in the mid 90’s then later a 13 episode series.. That was about a group of high school kids in a magic club who go up against an alien invasion.

    • jmahon

      for Gainax, I was very happily surprised that their short isn’t sexualized whatsoever. It’s very much family friendly and I’d show it to a 10 year old in a heartbeat, which I think was one of the biggest selling points for it was. Everyone can enjoy this.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It’s more of what I want anime to be, but I suppose the word “wholesome” doesn’t always spell big bucks for some studios.

        • jmahon

          just so you know, the “short” film is about a regular half-hour episode in length, but there is only one as of right now. We just kickstarted a 2nd episode. Studio Trigger is unique in that it’s half school, half studio- most of the people working on these shots are animation students, and their “thesis” of sorts is creating a film like this one, working together, as a functional studio creating actual quality features. It’s really great, and it’s a sort of progression from the student films Goeblins is famous for, where a team of students works together using their best talents to make something amazing.

          The next 22-minute short they have out was announced as a much gritter, blood soaked and probably way “sexier” short film called “Killa Kill” about a schoolgirl assassin of some kind. I hope Trigger realizes the appeal of creating animation that isn’t all bouncing boobs, though, and makes more of it, because Little Witch Academia was fantastic and cartoony— please give it a glance if you can, they have it subtitled in English on their official youtube channel for free.

          • m(_ _)m

            wait, I think you’re confusing the details of the Anime Mirai program with Studio Trigger in general.

            Kill la Kill is Imaishi’s next TV series (it’s, afaik, not a 22 minute ova, but rather a full blown television show–like TTGL or Panty & Stocking, Imaishi’s other two big titles)

            The Anime Mirai program is a government initiative which funds these half-hour anime OVAs as a way to train animation students/up-comers and keep animation techniques alive in Japan (opposed to outsourcing everything to Korea). Admittedly I don’t know much about Studio Trigger other than that it was basically Gainax’s core which broke off to do their own thing. But I think you must’ve read about Anime Mirai and just assumed it was a Studio Trigger thing to house/teach animation students. (they did this for anime mirai, but so did the dozen other studios that have participated in the program. And I’m not sure the training animators actually stay inhouse afterwards or if it’s just a temp thing)

            Additionally, since this is potentially outside of the Anime Mirai program, I don’t know if students are going to be working on it. I suppose it’s possible that they’ll retain the animators from the first episode, but otherwise it might just be an inhouse project with regular Trigger staff.

            Lastly, in regards to your first comment, Studio Trigger is ex-Gainax, so it’s not entirely correct to say it’s a Gainax project.

          • Chris Sobieniak

            Thanks for all the corrections. I can now see how this came about, and I hope the second episode can retain what the first set out to do.

  • Ant G

    I’m more concerned with the issue of crowd funding campaigns becoming more about rewards for a patron’s “donation”. “If you donate this amount you’ll get this!” …then it no longer becomes a charitable support, but an overpriced product they’re buying. It’s ridiculous that campaigns now have to do this gimmick in order to attract attention. It makes crowd funding a whole other full time job than the job they already have of developing their product. But yes, overfunding is bad if the one who asked it is greedy; I’ve seen situations where they are no longer humble but think they earned that amount and they’ve “made it” already. Why push themselves on a product if just advertising it on a crowd funding site already entices people to trow money at it? It’s already done.

    • Uli Meyer

      I think anyone trying to create something via Kickstarter would resent the notion that they are looking for charity. They are offering a product directly to an audience who can decide to back this product in exchange for rewards that are attractive to them.

  • Uli Meyer

    When somebody is using Kickstarter to fund a film and sets a certain goal, that person offers the film and something extra as a reward for backing. When that goal is reached, why should they turn down more people wanting to back it? You accept that the film maker will want to sell the film after it is finished anyway. On Kickstarter people buying that film usually get a better deal and extras in exchange for the wait. If more people than needed want to sign up for that deal, that is a great result for the film maker. Why begrudge him the success and extra earnings? It is no crime making a success of your project.

    I find it odd that some people decide to back a 30 min film with $12 in exchange for a copy of that film and other bonus bits. But as soon as the Kickstarter goal is surpassed, those same people now think they are entitled to get more for the $12. Why? When you go to the cinema and watch a film that moves on to become a big blockbuster hit, do you go back and demand 15 minutes of extra footage?

    In regards to the cost of making a film, I am tempted to post a budget one day, based on current industry wages. I am often surprised how little people know about costs and time involved in making a high quality animated film. I am talking about a professional production, not a personal art project.

    A quick way to figure it out for yourself: Lets say a crew of 20 artists make a 30 minute super quality film in 52 weeks. Average salary per artist $1000 per week times 20 equals $20000 per week. 52 x 20000 = $1,040,000.00

    And you haven’t even paid any rent or other overheads yet.

    Most people trying to raise money on Kickstarter are working on a shoestring budget and often the amount they are looking for barely covers the costs. If they manage to create something that inspires many more people than expected, don’t penalise them by putting a stop to it.

    If you really think that in this instance the people raising the money are crooks and exploit their workers, nobody should back them in the first place. I don’t know how you can presume all this fowl play? Have you had dealings with that particular studio?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I haven’t seen the series myself, but it sounds like it doesn’t quite go there so I may actually enjoy it if I get around to seeing it.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thank God, I was getting Magic Users Club vibe thinking about that 90’s OVA with the archetypal characters I’ve seen plenty times over. Not sure if I want to revisit that one again, but it’s there if people dare step into it’s door!

  • Sam Logan

    The reality of most kickstarter campaigns is that the moment they fund, they shift from being start-up raisers to pre-order campaigns. That is the model. It isn’t JUST about realizing a project, it is about sharing that realized project with as many people as are interested. (Especially for creators who don’t have a popular high traffic online retail portal to sell their stuff through once the campaign is over.)

    The folks who pledged this feature to the initial funding goal are the ones who got it made, no question. Everyone after that was just someone who likes it and wants to buy blurays and artbooks. Is that bad? I think it is that exact dual-functionality that has made the service as popular with creators as it is.

  • Javier

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  • FiddlyOakwood

    That would be irresponsible. Who would decide who recieved the additional funding? Who decides who is “in need”, and what qualifications are there?

    It is quite reasonable why this happens; project creators with a portfolio of work, a solid proof of concept and already-existing grounding in an industry are understandably going to generate more confidence then other unknowns.

    It’s unfortunate that a number of fully capable, creative individuals will get overlooked, but that’s the price that’s payed I suppose. Eaten up in the system.