What’s Even Better Than a Dick Figures Episode? A Dick Figures Movie!
DS: From a more philosophical standpoint, do you think that the web has really fulfilled the early economic promise with regards to individuals distributing independently produced content?
ES: I want to say yes and no. I think it’s really close. I think if you’re an individual or a very, very small team, a couple of people, then absolutely. We’ve met and are friends with plenty of animators and folks on YouTube that have done their own thing and they put it out there and created a tremendous fan base and make a great living off of it. They love what they do. The problem is that scale comes in. When Dick Figures, which is done at a studio, tried to make that work [financially], I think we were close. I think it needs a little more time to grow. I’m sure, from what Zack and I have heard, in the next couple of years we’re going to get there. I think the studio right now is breaking even. No one is complaining. But I think as a viable economic force, I think the Internet needs just a couple more years to find its feet.
ZK: One of the things we found out in the Kickstarter campaign is that we have a lot of fans who don’t own credit cards. That sounds bad, but a lot of them are kids and so when we went to fund this movie a lot of them didn’t have access to a PayPal account or credit card. That’s what’s been really great about YouTube. It was a platform for us to release something small, cheap, that did well. We started getting views and started getting money from those views and it just snowballed ever since. As I mentioned earlier, now we have soundtracks that are selling, t-shirts and other merchandise. So this has been an amazing platform to launch this type of project. It’s been great for a lot of other filmmakers, creators and artist out there, not only with Kickstarter, but YouTube and Etsy and other online video sites and stores as well. It’s still growing in a great direction.
DS: How do you arbitrate decisions about whether or not you’ve taken something a little too far. Do you ever get a point where say, “Yeah, maybe this is a bit too over the top?”
ES: That’s a great question by the way, very relevant for us. We deal with that a lot actually. We’ll be having a lot of fun with an episode or an idea. We’ll always take a joke maybe five steps too far. We both have pretty good judgment and know when things get too crazy. We definitely talk about it sometimes. “Oh, should we push this a little further?” There was one episode where Red just straight up poops in people’s mouths, which we did with the intention of let’s see how far we can push this. But we’ve never really had an argument about this. We will definitely self-censor ourselves if we think things are getting a little too out of hand.
ZK: Definitely. It’s one of the benefits of having two of us. Two sets of eyes. It’s about checks and balances. Usually, one of us is coming up with jokes and is pushing the other one and when one starts laughing, you know it’s working. But then we’ll stop laughing because we’ve gone too far sometimes.
DS: Sure. Ultimately I imagine you always defer to if it’s funny or not?
DS: Last question, I promise. Do you ever get criticized for the show’s violence and if so, how do you respond?
ZK: I don’t know if anyone has ever brought that up before. The language, if anything, has been the one thing that people have had the most trouble with. It’s not like the series is for kids by any means language-wise, but it’s never been too bad, and it’s never been very hateful. I think people make that distinction. They may be swearing, but it’s not coming from a hateful place.
ES: Violence has never really been brought up. It’s not a terribly violent show. It also might be because they’re stick figures, and there is so much stick figure content out there. We’ve really never had to deal with many complaints before.
ZK: Because they don’t look like real people, we can say and do a lot more things than we’d be allowed to do if it was almost any other show. Even just the way the characters move. There’s blood and guts all, but it’s so simple, sometimes almost child-like. That’s part of the charm of the show.
DS: Animated shows seem to get away with a lot more than live action. And stick figures, I can see how that is even more distinctive. It’s not like a photo-realistic first person shooter game.
ZK: It’s one thing for a videogame where you can kill and blow someone’s head off. They’re humans, it’s a slaughter with blood everywhere. Instant M rating.
ES: The violence is one thing we considered for the movie because we did realize how many more people were going to watch it. After seeing how many fans were so young, and especially after recent gun violence problems, we really try to not show a whole lot of handguns. In the movie, a lot of the violence is more martial arts-based. It’s definitely not a non-violent movie by any means. But, we definitely tried to cut out people shooting each other.
ZK: Actually, I think one of the biggest issues we contend with is that the show is called Dick Figures. We get fan mail from kids who refer to it as Stick Figures because their parents won’t allow them to call it Dick Figures. Even though they’re watching a show called Dick Figures. I think maybe we should change the title.
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.