Cartoon Brew, in partnership with our exclusive online event partner INBTWN Animation, recently caught up with indie animation superstar Vivienne Medrano, aka Viziepop, whose new show Hazbin Hotel premiered January 18 on Prime Video.
When we first spoke with Medrano about how to build a Youtube channel, she was already a popular presence on the platform with 1.3 million subscribers and 163 million views. Those numbers are dwarfed however by her following today, which totals over 9 million subscribers and 1.2 billion views.
Numbers alone hardly tell the full story. Medrano is part of a new generation of online creators who have bypassed the traditional studio route and built their own independent brand online. Without any corporate backing, she proved that an artist can develop and produce their own series, build a virtual studio to create that work, and both self-distribute and merchandise a show to a wide audience. Now, after years of independent production, the major studios and streamers have taken notice and want in on the Vivziepop business, too.
To get her projects made, Medrano has had to juggle numerous roles, some of which she has been surprised to discover she enjoys. “I kind of came [to Hazbin Hotel] right from school. I wasn’t really taught how to work with a team or run a team or anything like that past the thesis film that I had made,” she says in her INBTWN chat. “I discovered I really love directing. Directing is something that, when I was starting out as a creator, I never thought that it would be one of the hats I really enjoyed because I was an animator.”
Between Hazbin Hotel on Prime Video and its viral hit spinoff Helluva Boss on Youtube, directing has become Medrano’s full-time job, and she’s happy to let other artists bring their own flair to the shows:
Over the course of making my other series, Helluva Boss, I’ve kind of stopped animating. I’m no longer an animator on the shows; I’m doing much more of the oversight kind of roles like directing approvals, redlining, and things like that. I actually find a lot of fulfillment in that because I feel like, personally, the team of people that I have is so much more talented than me in the animation world. My attitude is that I like seeing what other people bring to my projects because I feel like that’s what makes them special.
Medrano recognizes the role that Youtube played in getting her to where she is today and says that other artists should be bold in taking advantage of the myriad of distribution opportunities available to creators:
I’m a big advocate for just getting your ideas out there and sharing things with the world. And we’re in this really nice golden age of indie animation, where more and more projects are succeeding and finding an audience.
To any artist thinking about creating their own independent project, Medrano says there is no better way to spend your time than perfecting your craft and learning to work as part of a team:
There’s no perfect pipeline; there’s no perfect jumping-off point. So, you really do just need to grow those skills. You need to grow the skill of working with people. You have to grow the skill of making yourself.
While Hazbin Hotel is a musical comedy at its core, there is a darker side to the series that comes to the fore during one particular episode (no spoilers, but anyone who has seen the show will know which one). Medrano says that it, and the show more broadly, allow her to show off multiple aspects of her own personality:
The themes and the things present in that episode were incredibly personal. And it was something where I really wanted to be as honest with how dark things can get and how hopeless things can feel, but then obviously the uplifting at the end.
Hazbin’s personal nature was one of the main factors that has created a dedicated audience willing to wait four years between pilot and series. Now, having finally been rewarded for their patience, fans are showing off fanart, cosplays, and reaction videos across social media. According to Medrano, the die-hard fans and the viewers who empathize with the show’s characters have always been her target audience:
I’m so honored that, like, I’ve heard and seen how it really resonated with people, especially people who’ve gone through things like it. And I was like, that’s why it was made, you know, it’s not an experience everyone has had. But the people who have, it means a lot [to see it].