Full Stream Ahead

A spe­cial re­port on what the top an­i­ma­tion execs at Net­flix, Dis­ney+, HBO Max, Ap­ple TV+ and other stream­ing out­lets are look­ing for in 2020.

Animation Magazine - - CONTENTS - By K.J. Yoss­man

A spe­cial re­port on what the top an­i­ma­tion execs at Net­flix, Dis­ney+, HBO Max, Ap­ple TV+ and other stream­ing out­lets are look­ing for in 2020.

'The chal­lenge is fun­da­men­tally the same — to work with in­ven­tive, in­spired cre­ators and help them re­al­ize the very best ver­sion of their cre­ative vision.' — Billy Wee, SVP of Orig­i­nal An­i­ma­tion at HBO Max

Big names, big bud­gets, big ideas: the last decade ush­ered in a new golden age of tele­vi­sion, thanks in no small part to the as­cen­dency of stream­ing plat­forms. With au­di­ences now ac­cus­tomed to choos­ing from a dizzy­ing ar­ray of ti­tles at any given mo­ment, both stu­dios and on-de­mand ser­vices have had to adapt quickly to fight for those all-im­por­tant eye­balls, most no­tice­ably by in­vest­ing heav­ily in new con­tent. It’s a strat­egy that has been wel­comed by sto­ry­tellers and view­ers alike, but it re­mains to be seen whether it rep­re­sents a sus­tain­able busi­ness model. More poignantly, what does the in­creas­ing dom­i­nance of stream­ing plat­forms over both tra­di­tional net­works and the­atri­cal ex­hibitors bode for the fu­ture of an­i­ma­tion?

“Stream­ing is a more wide-open land­scape than lin­ear,” says Billy Wee, SVP of Orig­i­nal An­i­ma­tion at HBO Max. “But the chal­lenge is fun­da­men­tally the same: to work with in­ven­tive, in­spired cre­ators and help them re­al­ize the very best ver­sion of their cre­ative vision.” Among the ti­tles HBO Max has lined up for the plat­form’s May launch are Ad­ven­ture Time: Dis­tant Lands (four one-hour spe­cials based on the beloved Cartoon Net­work se­ries, which ended in 2018), a new se­ries of Looney Tunes shorts spear­headed by Peter Brown­gardt, a re­boot of Aaron McGruder’s comic strip The Boon­docks, and Jelly­stone, a new Warner Bros An­i­ma­tion show fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar char­ac­ters from the Hanna-Bar­bera li­brary.

With so much con­tent now at our fin­ger­tips, the na­ture of an­i­ma­tion is also adapt­ing, mov­ing away from trend-based con­cepts to more ex­per­i­men­tal of­fer­ings, par­tic­u­larly now cre­ators are no longer shack­led by the strin­gent time-keep­ing of tra­di­tional tele­vi­sion and the­ater (a new­found free­dom that will no doubt fur­ther be ce­mented with the up­com­ing launch of Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion co-founder Jef­frey Katzen­berg’s mobile short­form plat­form Quibi). “As there are more and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for an­i­ma­tors, we are go

ing to see a va­ri­ety in an­i­mated con­tent like never be­fore,” says Mike Moon, Di­rec­tor of Orig­i­nal Se­ries at Net­flix. “We want to cre­ate great, sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ments for our cre­ators to come and do their best work — when that hap­pens, the sky’s the limit on what is pos­si­ble for the art­form.”

A Wide Spec­trum

“I love the range of cre­ative swings that we saw in 2018 and 2019, and the sheer am­bi­tion that has come to de­fine the global an­i­ma­tion busi­ness,” Wee con­curs. “It’s hugely in­spir­ing and I ex­pect to see that con­tinue in 2020 and be­yond.”

While, un­sur­pris­ingly, Dis­ney+ re­lied on its bil­lion-dollar brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Frozen to mar­ket the Novem­ber launch of its stream­ing ser­vice – a gold­mine of con­tent that quickly re­duced any pos­si­ble dis­ad­van­tage the com­pany may have en­coun­tered in their rel­a­tively late en­try to the stream­ing game – Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of Con­tent, Agnes Chu, says the plat­form is equally keen to em­brace the new free­doms that stream­ing can of­fer.“We have an un­par­al­leled li­brary of iconic an­i­mated fea­ture films and se­ries cur­rently stream­ing on Dis­ney+, and new an­i­mated orig­i­nals pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to com­ple­ment that of­fer by break­ing out of typ­i­cal for­mats, du­ra­tions, gen­res and tar­get demos,” Chu ex­plains. Exclusive ti­tles on the plat­form in­clude Forky Asks a Ques­tion (fea­tur­ing Toy Story 4’s pop­u­lar char­ac­ter), What If…? from Marvel Stu­dios (which re-imag­ines piv­otal mo­ments from the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse), a new sea­son of Star Wars Clone Wars and fresh Pixar shorts. Also in the works are Mon­sters at Work, Earth to Ned, a

Chip ‘n’ Dale se­ries and Mup­pets Now.

“Dis­ney has long ap­proached an­i­ma­tion as a pow­er­ful sto­ry­telling medium rather than a genre,” adds Chu. “Nev­er­the­less, we are not rest­ing on our lau­rels, and it’s ex­cit­ing to ex­plore this new era of an­i­ma­tion with our part­ners and con­sider au­di­ences and ap­proaches that ex­pand and broaden the scope of the medium to reach new heights.”

With Dis­ney+ now the sole re­cip­i­ent of its par­ent com­pany’s long and pro­lific legacy in Amer­i­can an­i­ma­tion, it’s un­sur­pris­ing other stream­ing plat­forms are re-fo­cus­ing on in­ter­na­tional out­put. Last Oc­to­ber, HBO Max stole a march on com­peti­tors by an­nounc­ing they had se­cured the rights to the en­tire Stu­dio Ghi­bli cat­a­log – quite a coup con­sid­er­ing it has never be­fore been avail­able dig­i­tally – while Net­flix has the ad­van­tage of be­ing largely un­fet­tered by geo-li­cens­ing re­stric­tions, which in­forms its slate. “Ev­ery story we pro­duce we re­lease si­mul­ta­ne­ously in ev­ery lan­guage and coun­try we’re in,” ex­plains Melissa Cobb, Vice Pres­i­dent of Orig­i­nal An­i­ma­tion at Net­flix. “We are grow­ing out­side the U.S. at a rapid pace, and it’s a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for us be­cause an­i­ma­tion is a form of vis­ual sto­ry­telling that trav­els so well.”

Global Ap­petite for Qual­ity

Among the an­i­mated fea­tures Net­flix has snapped up from over­seas are French fan­tasy I Lost My Body and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddo­n from Bri­tain’s Aard­man An­i­ma­tions. It has even made in­cur­sions into Dis­ney’s tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory with last Novem­ber’s Christ­mas movie Klaus, a hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion pro­duced by De­spi­ca­ble Me cre­ator Ser­gio Pab­los al­most en­tirely in his Spain-based stu­dio. Cobb namechecks Klaus and In­dian preschool an­i­ma­tion Mighty Lit­tle Bheem as

'Since we aren’t be­holden to ad­ver­tis­ers or time slots, we’re able to re­ally fo­cus on the dif­fer­ent cre­ators’ vi­sions.' — Mike Moon, VP of Orig­i­nal Se­ries at Net­flix

It’s Not TV! New stream­ing out­fit HBO Max will fea­ture a re­boot of cult fave The Boon­docks, four one-hour Ad­ven­ture Time spe­cials and Jelly­stone (a se­ries fea­tur­ing clas­sic Hanna-Bar­bera char­ac­ters).

In the Net­flix Fam­ily: Among the pop­u­lar an­i­mated ti­tles on Net­flix are, clockwise from top: BoJack Horse­man (which is end­ing this sea­son), The Dragon Prince, Big Mouth, orig­i­nal movies such as this spring’s The Wil­lough­bys, and Fred­er­a­tor/Pow­er­house An­i­ma­tion’s Castl­e­va­nia.

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