I know we’ve threatened this before, but there’s going to be a little instability in all of our breathtaking cartoon news over the next week or so while we transition Frederator Blogs over to the tumblr platform. We’ll fill you in on the details (and problems) when the process is done, but for now, forgive us.
Update, May 2011: We’ve completed our changes. For a little more explanation, just click here.
It’s hard to believe, but it was 10 years ago tonight at 8:30ET (which was a Friday in 2001) that I told my oldest son he could stay up late to watch a new Frederator production (”But I don’t like anything on Nickelodeon!” I got my wish and he soon changed his tune. Thanks to the Oddparents he completely switch off his CN loyalties.).
Creator extraordinaire Butch Hartman and I started working together a few years before. He was already a veteran of the Hanna-Barbera art department, contributing to a lot of the studio’s comedies; the first one in my office pitching a short for our What A Cartoon! incubator of big ideas. Four shorts later, we almost had to pry him off his writing/directing gig on Johnny Bravo to be the last creator in the first Oh Yeah! Cartoons season, starting up FOP towards the end of 1997.
There really isn’t anyone else like Butch in the cartoon business, as evidenced by his three hit series over the past decade, which, if I’m not mistaken, is an unparalleled track record of success in our industry. Talented, dedicated, and motivated, he’s the animated hardest working man in show business.
Most importantly, he’s accomplished all this while being part of an amazing family. Butch, his wife Julieann, and their two teenage daughters have set Hartman House, a non profit organization dedicated to helping people the world over, to improve the lives of children and families throughout the world who suffer from poverty and hopelessness by building homes and providing food, education, and spiritual growth. They’ve built two homes for families in Guatemala, fed nearly 7200 families with Thanksgiving meals in the U.S., and are in the midst of funding a school in Africa. (Now that I think of it, if you’re a fan of any of Butch’s hits, why don’t you show him directly, and donate a little something to Hartman House.)
I’m really honored to have had such a long history with someone like Butch Hartman. And, at the rate we’re going, it’ll be going on for decades to come.
Congratulations on the anniversary bud, you’re one of a kind. My sincere best to your family.
Today –incredibly, coincidentally– four years to the day it was originally announced, the company I founded (my co-founders were Emil Rensing, Herb Scannell, Tim Shey, and Jed Simmons), Next New Networks, has been acquired by long time partner Google’s YouTube unit, under the umbrella YouTube Next. I’ve been the part time CEO for the past six months (the only actual job I ever had there), but I won’t working there any longer. However… I expect to extend my long and fruitful relationship with YouTube, making it safe (and safer) for animation and cartoon creators of all stripes.
We started Next New Networks as the chaos of online video was exploding, figuring if we could bring a wee bit of order we’d actually create online television. Well, it seemed to work as we ended the year as probably the most successful platform for original web video, with 2010’s #2 YouTube channel and the #1 and #2 videos in the world. Most importantly, over the last four years the company’s been able to work with hundreds of the most talented new filmmakers in the world.
Channel Frederator started it all, but I’m incredibly proud of everything the company’s accomplished over the years, from launching dozens of networks, programming that’s been viewed over 2 billion times, and winning 10 Webby Awards.
A huge engine of our growth in the past year has been the Next New Creators program, where NNN partnered with over 60 independent producers, including popular YouTube partners such as The Gregory Brothers, Hot for Words, and Nalts, to help them hone their craft and grow their audiences. And we continued to grow our own successful networks such as online comedy network Barely Political (home of Obama Girl and “The Key of Awesome”), filmmaking network Indy Mogul, and style network ThreadBanger, in many cases reinvigorating them with creator-owned content.
Everyone at Next New Networks deserves a huge thank you for the incredible work that’s been done; they’ve all been a dedicated group of pioneers inventing and reinventing the way the media world is working. And this intrepid trailblazing group would have to include our investors — Spark Capital, Goldman Sachs group, Fuse Capital, Saban Capital, Balderton Capital, The Pilot Group, Herb Scannell, [the rest here]– and our board members –Dennis Miller, Joel Andryc, Brett Bullington, Jon Miller, Pete Perrone, Craig Cooper, Ross Levinsohn, Roland Van der Meer, Richard Yen and Bijan Sabet– and everyone at their companies. Without their support and vision we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as much as we have.
For me, it’s been an incredible journey at Next New working with hundreds of people who’ve worked so hard to help define the next evolution of media. I’ve been at this for almost 40 years, constantly looking forward, and I’ve been honored to have the experience.
My great friend, our original CEO and co-founder Herb Scannell recently said it well in an email: “Next New Networks was built with the idea that next generation video was worth championing; the problem was they needed someone to love them. It figured out how to get ‘YouTube power’ with big sub bases for it’s content, made content that was hooked into ‘now pop culture’ to optimize interest and, with good blocking and tackling, cultivated community development to grow loyalty.”
At the end of 2005, Emil Rensing and I thought it might be fun to organize our video passions online. With the visionary help of tumblr founder-to-be David Karp and my colleagues Eric Homan, Mike Glenn, Melissa Wolfe, and Carrie Miller, these took shape as the pioneering podcasts Channel Frederator and VOD Cars.
Looking back they don’t look like that big a deal, but the first month’s downloads (over 1 million) convinced us there might be something to explore. The video world on the Internet was starting to explode with a chaotic frenzy of activity, and my experience with a similar boom around cable television thirty years before foretold an opportunity. If only someone (us?) could begin to form a small island of order in this topsy-turvy world, it would be a great boon to viewers looking to satisfy their enthusiasms. And, as the first MTV boss, Jack Schneider Array, told me on my first day at work in 1980, “New mediums demand new brands.” Next New Networks could provide those new brands to the Internet TV world.
Soon enough Emil and I were looking around for fellow travelers. My first MTV mentor and friend Bob Pittman told me we weren’t crazy, and offered to come in with our first outside angel investment. My former Hanna-Barbera partner, Jed Simmons, started setting up strategy sessions and introducing us to potential investors. Dennis Miller had been our colleague at Turner Broadcasting, and as a principal at Spark Capital, became our lead investor.
Meanwhile, we were spouting our hopes and dreams to anyone who would listen, especially in the creative and technology circles where we traveled. Creators and producers were flowing in and out of my small New York office trying to get a bead on our visions, and soon enough we’d started to amass a group of motivated, talented creative people who wanted in.
Tim Shey was a college friend of Emil’s and an Internet entrepreneur who’d sold his Washington, D.C., company and resettled in New York, working with the likes of Rocketboom. He became part of our founders’ group after our first group conversation in my apartment in early 2006. Herb Scannell and I had grown up together on Long Island and worked together for too many years at MTV Networks, and he joined up as our founding CEO the same day.
Later in the year, out West talking to investors ,we met up with the writer/director, Justin Johnson. Not only was Justin one of the very first video bloggers, but he’d been producing dozens of fabulous Channel Frederator promotional films for over a year. Next New had its very first creative employee. Over the next few months people kept showing up at Park Avenue South and we were able to fill out our roster with creators, network managers, producers, you name it.
I’ve got to save a special shout out to our Frederator/NY producer Carrie Miller. She signed up to work in animation, and attacked Channel Frederator and the production of The Meth Minute 39 and Nite Fite with all the attention they deserved. But, over the summer of 2006 I was out for an operation, and coming back to work I foisted this big surprise of a new company, new partners, and a whole heap of new work on her lap. She took it all in stride worked her tail off to help everyone accomplish everything they were dreaming. We couldn’t have worked our way out of a paper bag without you Carrie.
Soon enough, our team was complete.
Thank you everyone. It’s been a great beginning.
“A. I’m dying for the PG-13 animated movies and the R-animated movies. Come on, let’s go. The Ralph Bakshi stuff. “Pirates,” in a way, was a PG-13 animated movie. It’s very Harryhausen [Ray Harryhausen, the legendary special-effects creator]. But I think that ‘70s animation was really fantastic. Imagine what we could do now.”
I joined tumblr at the beginning, before then really, since founder David Karp was our high school intern in 2001 and then set up his developer business at Frederator/NY in 2006. And, Adventure Time fans have followed us over there. Obviously, they’ve spread through the world like a wildfire, growing to the 40th largest site on the internet.
Interestingly, at least to readers of this blog, there’s not all that much cartoon action on tumblr. At least, to my taste, not enough. We do our best with Adventure Time, Fanboy & Chum Chum, and the rest of our action, but it still doesn’t come anywhere near what happens there in fashion, illustration, or just plain ‘art.’
Anyhow, all of this chatter was just an excuse to post the longest video interview I’ve seen with David. (Thanks for the shout out at the end buddy.)
Robert Christgau is the kind of inspiring critic and editor (primarily with New York’s The Village Voice) I wish we had in animation. A passionate musical eclectic, reading him in real time (the key might be “real time”) for most of the last 40 years would constantly keep you in a state of imagination and optimism. Even when you disagreed with him (I certainly did a majority of the time), his enthusiasms couldn’t help but infect you with the notion that pop music was worth it, that the very immediacy of popular culture had something to offer all of us. Of course, his definition of “pop” spanned the distance from Ornette Coleman to Patti Smith to Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five.
And that breadth was a lot of his message. Thousands of recordings are released, more thousands all the time, and it seemed like Christgau felt that the very fact they were released at all was cause for attention. He’d you he was inspired and that maybe you could be too. For me, like writer Anthony DeCurtis, Christgau was really a reporter about culture. His radar on punk and disco and hip-hop constantly reminded me to keep my mind open to creative people of all stripes, even though I was applying it in jazz, then television, and eventually, to animation.
My sister’s friend, publisher Russ Smith, opines in the doc that Bob Christgau was emblematic of the decline in The Village Voice’s audience, which is just a rival’s sour grapes. For this reader, certainly, he was the reason (and not just his columns, but the diversity of the other writers he brought to the music section) I regularly bought the paper throughout its ups and downs.
In animation, we appear to have almost no journalists interested enough in our medium to so completely immerse themselves in everything the art has to offer. I’ve posted about my admiration for Chris Robinson’s writing, and Charles Solomon and Michael Barrier write intelligently too. However, the almost purposeful disinterest in anything outside of their subjective parameters “quality” make their work a bit, um, limiting. Amid Amidi is certainly impassioned, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the confines of his shtick. Jerry Beck (and one of his mentors, Leonard Maltin) are heartfelt writers with perhaps the widest range of public interests in animation and cartoons, then again, I’m not sure I’d really describe them as critics, certainly in the manner of Robert Christgau (or Pauline Kael or Whitney Balliett). I, for one, would love to have a good writer constantly challenging all of us to work beyond our current projects, to aspire to greatness, whether it be greatness dumb or intelligent.
I just stumbled upon this short, enjoyable, 1999 documentary on Christgau by director Paul Lovelace (split into four parts on YouTube). I’d never heard about it and I can’t find much of anything about it (or Lovelace) on the web, but… here it is.
I’m going out on a limb here, trying to make a connection between the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s solemn “I have a dream!” speech, and our art of creating cartoons, but I mean no disrespect. Just the opposite, it’s about my great admiration for MLK’s imagination and its place in the long creative traditions of oral and cultural history.
There’s a fantastic radio piece from NPR’s On The Media, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Public Imagination,” yesterday about the development of this famous speech. It doesn’t come right out and connect all the dots, but in my listening it tells the story of how the speech was essentially improvised from his well prepared outline, and then he scats it, mashing up using his long observance of black preaching customs. A lot like great black music over the last century, from the blues right up through hip hop, he sampled a variety of sources, including some from a speech by a direct opponent of his principles, spinning it to his own glorious ends.
Why am I citing this piece on a cartoon blog? Simply, maybe tritely, listening to this report reminded me of why I like the classic cartoon creation method. That it, the “writing” of toons directly on storyboards, often from a written outline.Watching a team knock together a great film this way is an inspiring experience. Unfortunately, it’s one I seldom see, given the prejudice towards script writing. To each his/her own, but I love the results from this kind of animated remix. Am I pushing the analogy too much? Maybe. However, when I see what happens on Adventure Time, for instance (not to hype, or ignore others; just my most recent direct board experience), seeing how 100 years of cartoons, movies, music, and videogames come together into the stew… Well, I can only say it’s amazing to behold.
There’s more in the radio piece, of course. Be happy I won’t go into what it says (to my ears, once again) about the limits of current, egregious, abuse of the concept of copyright. But, if you can, open your own ears to what it says about creative process. It’s amazing how we all do what we do, and where it comes from.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
For some Friends of Frederator, there was no bigger 2010 news than the reissue of the Chevy Camaro, but our extended family had a banner year at work too. Cartoon hits, original internet hits, hits hits hits everywhere.
At Frederator, 2010 actually started in November 09 with the stellar launch of Eric Robles’ Fanboy & Chum Chum, the first series spun off of our Random! Cartoons shorts series. The show was Nickelodeon and Frederator’s first original CG series (Penguins and Jimmy Neutron both started as features) and went where very few computer images had gone before. Namely, great characters and great stories combined with the classic squash and stretch animation innovation of the 1920’s.
Adventure Time from fredseibert on Vimeo.
Five years in gestation from its start on Random! Cartoons, Adventure Time premiered in early April to equally fabulous reaction. Aside from all the great reviews and great ratings, you went beyond the call of duty and on day one you’d already submitted hundreds of pieces of fan art. No one’s ever seen a show like AT, and going into our third season the thrills (and chills) continue to be mathematical.
Moving on to my parallel existence in the New York internet dimension, Next New Networks, the company I founded in 2007 but never officially worked at, asked me this summer to become the interim, part time CEO. I agreed mainly because of the talented staff had worked incredibly hard to build the most successful online television company in the world, and if there was anything I could do to help them I considered it an honor. And boy, have they delivered.
First, in June came the news the company had amassed 1 billion video views and 8000 episodes since it’s founding, in addition to 10 Webby Awards in 2010 alone. By September our monthly view count jumped to 150 million, up from 30 million a year before. As of today the company’s up to 200 million monthly views, with over 1.2 billion in calendar 2010 (remember, it took us three years for the first billion).Then, we got the word that NNN videos were the top two most viewed of the year on YouTube, the world’s largest online video platform, and Next New’s biggest distributor.
#1. Without my help, a lot of you have already seen The Gregory Brothers‘ “Bed Intruder Song,” YouTube’s most viewed video of the year (60 million views), proudly distributed by Next New Networks. At the NNN Christmas party the other day, I told Michael Gregory that their indie cred is completely shot. Now, that they’re at the top of the charts they’re like The Bay City Rollers or Britney Spears or something.#2. The Key of Awesome (part of our Barely Political network) is one of the most popular shows on YouTube in 2010 (last I looked it was number two). With musical parodies almost every week, they’ve taken on everyone from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga (where do you think she got the idea for her meat dress? Seriously.) Well, one of their Ke$ha videos, a parody of Tik-Tok called “Glitter Puke” has almost 58 million views, 20 million more than the original. Go Awesome!
So, like I said at the top, WOW! Thanks to all of you who’ve been loyal fans throughout the year, and of course, thanks to all of the creative and production folks who’ve made all this great stuff.