We’re a month into 2018, and Kidscreen starts in Miami today. For those of us in animation (and in entertainment in general) that means it’s the real beginning of BUYING SEASON.

It’s time to stop saying ‘Happy New Year’ to clients and time to get back to work! So get off yer butts and get those pitch bibles done and those meetings set. It’s time to get those projects saved out from Powerpoint and off of those sketchbooks and into the hands of buyers.

But before you start cold-calling and spam emailing everyone, here are just a few thoughts from me on the matter.

1. The streamers are starving…in the aftermath

As we all know, 2017 was a reckoning starting with the toppling of Harvey Weinstein. But it hit home for us in animation with the fall of Roy Price (Amazon) and the firing of Chris Savino (creator of Nickelodeon’s The Loud House). In 2018, Amazon and the other streamers (Netflix, Hulu, Apple, et al.) still need to do business and meet revenue goals. So, they’re still buying at a frenzied pace with one major caveat – who’s exactly doing the buying?

Anecdotally, I’m feeling the repercussions of the shake-ups as pitches lay dormant waiting for not only the right person, but the right process for how to approve new productions. Some of the majors in the digital distribution realm are just now settling into their new jobs or adjusting to new corporate structures in the wake of everything aforementioned.

Here’s the catch…they still all desperately need content! There’s literally BILLIONS of dollars to be spent, which is amazing news for animation makers. The downside being, those schedules are going to get tighter and tighter as cash-rich companies need to prove numbers on time – or even before – the launch of even newer services looming on the horizon (Disney, Warner Bros/DC, Viacom).

But since they’ve already got off to an awkward start, executives are dropping phrases like ‘ASAP’ and ‘Q1 2019’ which should make us all collectively GULP or…hope they like sock puppets!

I can already feel the squeeze. Can you? I predict we’re all going to have get extra resourceful to meet the deadlines about to be placed on our projects. But as the adage goes, ‘Cheap, Fast, and Good – you only get two’!

2. The networks, studios, and toy companies are open for business! But, they’ve always kinda sorta been? Right?

On the more traditional side, the tv networks and production companies under them are sure to tell you that they’re continuing business as usual and with the same sincerity as they have been for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20…even 30 years.

My experience is that it’s still a dream-come-true to be able to get a deal with these big players. But, I don’t see any real change in their development processes. This is good and bad.

The good side is that they still have cash to spend and there are certainly smart people working at those places. So, I believe in the power of a good idea and a good package. I say still give them a shot.

If your project can survive the process – the eyeballs are still greater than any single streamer can provide especially in terms of how good the ‘old’ guys are at marketing to kids. The networks still rule at coordinating with toy companies to get product on the shelves in sync with the shows. Vertical integration can be a good thing, folks.

The bad side is that, as far as I can tell, the ‘business as usual’ at these places is the same old glacially slow development-to-pilot-to-testing process that can suck years from your project and your life. Not to mention, the odds are…well, they suck. But people keep buying lotto tickets too, right?

3. Wait. Why are we waiting when we can go at it alone?

It’s worth a gentle nudge to remind that we can still try on our own. Although it may seem played out, I still believe in Kickstarter, Patreon, Indiegogo, new Youtube channels, self-published comics, and the like. Some ideas just need to get DONE to get NOTICED. It’s always worth considering that maybe today is the day to make rather than sell.

Happy selling all. May all of see green lights in 2018!

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Eric Calderon

Eric Calderon

Eric Calderon is an animation writer/producer based in L.A. with 24+ years experience in the kids and prime-time action genres. He most recently served as a showrunner for a Transformers digital series (Combiner Wars/Titans Return) and is currently writing/producing a direct-to-dvd feature for Warner Bros. Animation, in addition to consulting on various developments.

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