ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.5 - AUGUST 1999

Leading the Animated Internet

compiled by Heather Kenyon

Have you really taken the time to surf the Web and see what is out there? Even if you have, there are probably already new ideas and animations posted. If you haven't you'll be surprised as new enterprises are springing up every day bringing unique business plans to the Wild Wild World of the Web.

We asked several leaders in the field, AtomFilms, Humongous Entertainment & Cavedog Entertainment, Headbone Interactive and Cartoon Network Online, to outline what they are currently doing on the Web, what they plan to do in the future and just how they expect to make it all financially viable.

After reading, take a look at their sites and a whole new burgeoning world of animation.

Micro-Gerbil 2001, created by Joe Cartoon, and Living with Ridalyn, created by Ron Noble, are two of the animated films that can be seen on the AtomFilms website. Courtesy of AtomFilms.

Mika Salmi
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
AtomFilms

"We really define ourselves as being the leader in next-generation entertainment with a unique vision for bringing short form entertainment to consumer audiences worldwide via the Internet.

"We're building a popular destination for consumers and content creators to watch, display and experience animations and short form content. Our site offers interactive viewing of content with daily programming, special programming and content channels including animation, action-thriller, comedy, family and romance, and more. Today, AtomFilms (www.atomfilms.com) has secured exclusive rights to over 190 animated short films that can be streamed or downloaded immediately from our web site to the consumer's desktop. Our future plans are primarily around building more interactive ways in which content creators and consumers can interact with each other -- building a unique entertainment community.

"AtomFilms is developing one of the largest and broadest distribution channels for its renowned catalog of cutting-edge short films, animations and digital content across both traditional (cable, TV, airlines, etc.) and online distribution. We are really pushing the boundaries of traditional entertainment distribution by leveraging the Internet as a powerful and effective distribution channel and in doing so, we have become the first entertainment company to develop significant partnerships and syndication's across the Internet's most popular sites."

Two screen shots from Cavedog's CD-Rom game, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms. Courtesy of Cavedog.

Scott Wallin
Vice President of Online Game Development
Humongous Entertainment and Cavedog Entertainment

"We have become very aggressive with our Internet development efforts. As a game company, we have a natural tendency to focus on fun while giving the user a great interactive experience in whatever media we're taking on. Our Humongous Entertainment website (www.humongous.com) is an example of how we take our characters and game experiences to the web. Our Junior Sports Network is both a website and an `inside the game' multiplayer game experience, where kids around the world will be able to get together to play our Backyard Football game online beginning this fall. But this is just the beginning. We have some very exciting projects that we'll be rolling out in the future that really stretch the boundaries of the web.

"Another major area of focus for us is in the area of multiplayer gaming for the real-time strategy game player. As part of our Internet expansion for Cavedog Entertainment (www.cavedog.com), we've developed our own internal online gaming network, called "Boneyards" to make it easy for players to engage in multiplayer gaming for our two RTS games, Total Annihilation and TA: Kingdoms. The Total Annihilation: Galactic Wars is a real breakthrough product that takes online gaming to the next level. We're aggressively pursuing development in this area because people like to play games together. We make great games so why not make games so that people can play them together?

"Obviously advertising, sponsorships, subscriptions, and merchandising have all shown themselves to be effective at generating revenue under the right circumstances. We are positioned with proprietary technologies to take advantage of all of those models, and some new ones that we are generating that we think will be exciting."

Hugo and Zeke, of D-Tour, behind the controls of a shark. Courtesy of Headbone Interactive.

Chuck Gamble
Director of Animation
Headbone Interactive

"The powerful integration of Headbone Interactive's Internet, TV and software programming has set a new standard in engaging kids across all media, with the Headbone Zone web site (www.headbone.com) serving as the major center of activity. Headbone's proprietary digital animation process allows us to create broadcast-quality content for both television and the Internet.

"The Headbone Zone site features our trademark animation style of flat, two-dimensional figures and photographic images. The site's content employs nothing more complicated than Shockwave; allowing us to deliver our games and services (chat, email, online messaging) to the widest possible audience. Future plans, as our average user's computer becomes more sophisticated, include the use of Flash, in everything from games to more dynamically activated navigation.

The girls of Fidgetmore. Courtesy of Headbone Interactive.

"In addition, Headbone's technical capability to deliver content easily for television while also creating interactive versions for the Internet has opened up new opportunities for us in the realm of Web/TV convergence. With similar future arrangements already underway, Headbone recently announced two specific animated series that feature the creation of animated television programming that is complemented by Internet programming.

"Fidgetmore, an original short-form animation series about the trials and tribulations of a group of ninth-grade boarding school students, has been licensed to Fox Family Channel and is scheduled to air this fall. Headbone is also creating a companion Web site to the series at www.fidgetmore.com, which, once the series airs, will be centered around the characters and offer additional content. D-Tour, another short-form series starring Hugo and his ghost cat Zeke, debuted on Discovery Kids television in April. Kids can also interact with the characters online through activities developed for www.discoverykids.com, also being produced by Headbone.

"Headbone Interactive's revenue model is supported by sponsorship and advertising partnerships with companies interested in marketing to kids responsibly online. Headbone delivers marketers a coveted segment of the youth market: our rapidly growing audience of 8 to 14 year-olds. Marketing partners include A&E Television Networks, Fleet Financial Services, Lego and Kellogg's, to name a few. The television animation series add additional revenue possibilities for Headbone, including licensing and international expansion; as well as cross-promotional and cross-marketing opportunities between the online and offline worlds."

Saturday Night Fred, a Web Premiere Toon. Courtesy of CartoonNetwork.com.
Coot Country by Gary Panter, an upcoming Web Premiere Toon. Courtesy of CartoonNetwork.com.

Pola Changnon
Executive Producer
Cartoon Network Online

"CartoonNetwork.com is a destination site for cartoon fans of all ages, featuring original games, archival production assets and network programming information. And in creating the Web Premiere Toons franchise, CartoonNetwork.com has shown its commitment to creating original, interactive cartoons for the internet. The first two Web Premiere Toons, Pink Donkey and the Fly and B.Happy have successfully demonstrated that audience appetite exists for this web-specific kind of entertainment and as a result, CartoonNetwork.com is expanding its WPT production slate through 1999 and 2000.

"In addition to providing our audience a unique form of entertainment, CartoonNetwork.com anticipates that this commitment to Web Premiere Toons is critical to gaining understanding in the evolving TV/Web technology of the not-too-distant future. The learning we are currently doing in this area will inform our continuing development of the site and offers wonderful opportunities for gauging how our audience responds to characters and shows that could potentially be developed for the network.

"In terms of financial viability, our advertising continues to grow and we have enjoyed particular success with sponsorships and special promotions on the site. Web Premiere Toons has also attracted sponsors and we look forward to a major advertiser sponsoring one of our new Web Premiere Toons next month."

Heather Kenyon in Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Magazine.


Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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