Eric Calderon 2020 Eric Calderon 2020

Eric Calderon is that rare thing: an experienced animation executive who regularly and accessibly passes on his knowledge to the public. We’ve previously written about his Youtube channel Surviving Animation, which doles out information and advice on the business side of animation in particular. Today, we’re looking at his end-of-year wrap-up.

In his latest video, Calderon gives a month-by-month breakdown of what he sees as the most important developments in animation in 2020. His timeline is detailed (and refreshingly light on Covid news). He concludes with seven takeaways on the future of the industry, which we have summarized below:

1. “Diversity is here to stay.”

Calderon notes that he was glad to see people of color take up more roles across the industry this year. He played his own small part in the change: amid the renewed Black Lives Matter movement, he temporarily waived his consultation fee for black and African American clients and for anyone else who made a donation to an NPO aligned with the movement.

2. “The industry is always moving.”

This is true of all years, of course. But the panoply of executive hires and restructuring announcements in Calderon’s timeline, not least at major players like Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon, bring home just how busy U.S. animation was in 2020 — a year in which so many industries ground to a halt.

3. “The two most important, not-talked-about-enough companies in the animation space right now are Webtoon and Moonbug.”

Calderon sees these companies’ models as “tectonic shifts” in how content is made and distributed. Webtoon, the world’s largest digital comic publisher, recently launched a production arm to develop its IP, and has formed partnerships with the likes of The Jim Henson Company and Crunchyroll. Moonbug acquires and develops preschool IPs, many of them from Youtube; its shows end up on major platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

4. “Apple is [starting to define] itself as something very specific.”

Namely: it is showing interest in “what is good for kids, what is healthy for audience, what is a positive takeaway.” In his timeline, Calderon mentions Stillwater and Doug Unplugged, two Apple TV+ series based on kids’ book series. So far, the young streamer has shown no interest in the kind of “shocking” or “controversial” shows that Adult Swim or Netflix might produce.

5. “Warner Bros. and Warnermedia are really consolidating.”

Calderon’s timeline (and Cartoon Brew’s coverage) is testament to this: new announcements were coming out of the company all year, as debt-laden parent company AT&T absorbed Warnermedia and new streamer HBO Max was launched. “In 2021,” says Calderon, Warnermedia “could be a much more signature aligned brand, with a [set] of executives who aren’t from different parts of the company working against each other.”

6. “Netflix is spending, spending, spending, spending.”

In contrast to Apple’s approach, the top SVOD platform is trying a bit of everything. In animation, they are aiming for six features a year. “I think we will see a lot of hits and a few misses from that fast and expensive approach,” says Calderon.

7. “Never ever underestimate anime.”

This is the year in which Sony agreed to buy Crunchyroll, completing the U.S. anime market’s transition to a major corporate battleground, and the Demon Slayer movie became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history. Whether we’re talking “true anime” produced in Japan or anime-like shows from elsewhere (such as Netflix’s Castlevania), anime “is never going away.”

Calderon talks from experience — 26 years’ experience in the field. He was most recently senior vice president of development at Octopie in L.A., which is working on an animated adaptation of the card game Magic: The Gathering for Netflix. Previously, he worked as a producer at Warner Bros. Animation and 20th Century Fox Film, and served in executive capacities at MTV Animation and Nerd Corps, among other companies. He has also written for Cartoon Brew about selling a show.

Watch the full video below:

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