ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.10 - JANUARY 2000
Quenching The New Millennium's Thirst For Animated Fare
(Continued from page 1)
Cartoons, Cartoons, Cartoons
© Cartoon Network, Inc.
Cartoon Network Online would seem to be the most straight-forward to explain (a successful cable company debuts some of their stuff on the Internet and "web-a-vizes" it, right?) Hardly. With Sam Register heading the online family as vice president and creative director, TCN's Internet line-up is anything but simple web screening or easy re-purposing of their branded programming. The original Web Premiere Toons is unquestionably one of the forefathers of animated content on the Internet and is now the primo spot inside cartoonnetwork.com. They currently run five original-to-the-web series (Pink Donkey & The Fly, Coot's Country, B. Happy, Germtown and Marshmellow Honey) and beginning this year, Pink Donkey and Coot's Country will increase production to weekly webisodes of shorter length 2-3 minute toons. This should keep Funny Garbage, Register's premiere production studio in New York, extremely busy since they are also in production on a future Web Premiere Toon based on the Banana Splits. The excitement is high on this latter project as Register explains, "It will blend newly shot action segments of the Banana characters who will then turn into cartoon versions of themselves" during the webisode's play. "Really cool stuff," he believes.
The second category of Web Premiere Toons is called Interactive Movies. This showcase does use established, beloved characters from the Time-Warner/Hanna-Barbera libraries; but in their use of existing footage, the creative producers formulate new interactive zaniness with complete re-voicing and new story content. Online movies now up and running are Huckleberry Hound In Sir Huck and a Flintstones-based project called Saturday Nite Fred. Atom Ant is planned for debut sometime soon and Register states, "We have tons of Interactive Movies in development with production slated for one new `movie' each month."
© Cartoon Network, Inc.
Also on the programming front, the company is planning a large order of 2-3 minute animated cartoons from a wide group of creators and animators who will be showcased using a uniquely different type of interactivity. Register has from day one believed interaction, in one form or another, is essential to the full enjoyment of web entertainment. (In looking around at how the majority of new major sites now play up the interactive aspects of their creations, it looks like a lot of others have come round to a better understanding of his early philosophy.) Regarding this new project of one-off shorts, Register needs to be vague until the imminent press release. He could say, however, that the interactivity "isn't necessarily in the cooking inside the narrative but has more to do with audiences interacting by voting responses such as, `What do you think of this? Do you like it? Do you not like it?' Then if it wins, it moves up the ranks for the next voting." Viewer scoreboards are planned to be netcast continuously for online review, giving this a kind of e-tournament-like community involvement. It will eventually culminate in narrowing down the audience's choice of the highest ranked shows -- with a finale vote tallied for "the number one short" by the end of the year. The idea promises to be another highly innovative project to enhance their up-and-running toons while uniquely furthering Register's mantra: "There's a mouse sitting in front of your computer! Let's use it!"
Register confirms he's always on the lookout for outside submissions (which should be directed through his office) and he very much appreciates the new environment where people send him emails and URLs of their own or other people's work. He notes, "I'm constantly looking at animation from all over the place and can instantly see what the projects are all about, then immediately contact the creators regarding possibilities of either development for my own online programming or, if better suited to television, perhaps steer them towards the TV group." Register is also enthusiastic about the myriad of opportunities for converging some of the TV and online programming (while protecting their respective original sources of exposure, of course). He asks we be patient to read about those kinds of new ventures which will be included in a mega press announcement coming within the next few months. Meanwhile, now that net production technology has proven it can handle things nicely `til broad band shows up, Register is delighted when he reiterates that "content is once again king and Cartoon Network is going to be there with a full commitment from all of us."
Let's Get Wild!
© Wild Brain Inc.
Wild Brain, Inc., having just come up on its fifth anniversary as one of the leading animation studios in the U.S., hit the Internet with an astonishing head-on splash last month with the launch of wildbrain.com. Their new web channel initially provides four areas dedicated solely to the art of animation: one is set to showcase the best in animation shorts from around the world; a second features expanded games; a third contains information, interviews and live webcasting from animation festivals circling the globe; and the fourth is a segment entitled "Digital Drive In," designed to program their own newly produced net-original animated works. Jeffrey Ulin, CEO of the company since January of 1998, explains that, "What we're building is a network -- we're not just focusing on producing one, three or four programs. That will certainly be there and be a highlight and be complimentary...but we're trying to do something much bigger." Although their approach could be considered on a par with Cartoon Network Online and the new Entertaindom, Wild Brain's principal players are actually producers and creators themselves, a difference they feel will distinguish their channel from others overtime.
Wild Brain has long been known for its artistic merging of traditional animation methods with state-of-the-art tools and has captured just about every top award out there in the worlds of advertising, CD Roms, traditional media broadcasting and feature productions. They're certainly not dropping the ball on these established relationships as they are currently in production on their first 2D animated, 26 half-hour television series entitled Poochini's Yard with Munich's EM-TV. Ulin mentioned they also pitched four additional series at last October's MIPCOM and he seems proud and amazed, really, to have had offers on all of them. He outlines, however, that within today's unique entertainment choices, the company's internal debates now include the web when deciding how best to proceed with new ideas. "It's becoming a world where you actually need to look into the mirror and say, `Does this development deal make sense or should I just produce it on the net?'" he states. "Because if you're just going into a development deal rather than production, there may be some benefits to going ahead on the net first." He is quick to point out, though, that that conundrum doesn't apply to every show for obvious demographic and/or style considerations.
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