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I’m happy to report that Sequart’s SHE MAKES COMICS documentary has been fully funded and reached a first stretch goal of making a special 15 minute mini-documentary about Jackie Ormes, the first black woman cartoonist.
The film will be directed by Marisa Stotter, and co-produced by Karen Green, and include an oral history of women in comics as fans and creators. (Disclosure: I’m scheduled to be interviewed to it at some point.)
This is a story that needs to be told. I can’t embed it, but Stotter made a little film shown here about going to Meltdown Comics and asking people to name female comics creators. The results may surprise you. Or not. Anyway, I’m excited to see the stories of people who were pioneers in moving comics forward—aside from any gender consideration—being told on film.
First completed illustration for Julie Hedlund’s “My Love for You is the Sun”
My friend, fellow writer and editing client, Julie Foster Hedlund, is conducting a unique experiment in hybrid publishing – a process that may well become a model to help small publishers increase their lists and authors and illustrators find opportunities beyond self-publishing. She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund the production, publication and printing of one of her picture books – even though she has a traditional publisher committed to the project.
The book is a beauty – one I’m proud to say I served as editor for. “My Love for You is the Sun” is a love letter from parent to child, written in verse and expressing that timeless and unconditional love through metaphors from the natural world. My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but of course, it’s also about more than familial or parental love, it’s about the universal, infinite nature of love itself, and as such, will hold crossover appeal for all ages. The book is being illustrated by Susan Eaddy, whose three-dimensional clay illustrations provide extraordinary depth and texture. Julie’s goal is for the end result to be a beautiful book in every way – from design to paper to binding, worthy of becoming a family keepsake for generations. If her crowdfunding efforts are successful, I have no doubt this will be the case.
This hybrid publishing concept is very intriguing, and in my view may well become an industry standard in the very near future. Stacey Williams-Ng, editor and art director at Little Bahalia - a small indie publisher with a laser focus on quality – liked ”My Love for You is the Sun” and wanted to publish it, but her list was full. Julie proposed the idea of crowdfunding the initial production and printing costs, and a new contract model was created.
What’s really interesting about this project, though, is that Julie is documenting her process to help other authors and illustrators. A couple of weeks ago, she posted a five-part series on “Why Crowdfunding?” on her blog, and recently shared the Top Five lessons she’s learned so far, as follows:
- If you are going to crowdfund, make it count. Select a project you are passionate about so your passion permeates every aspect of the campaign.
- Crowdfunding is a TON of work and is by no means an “easy route” to publishing. Another reason why having passion for your project is critical.
- WHY are you crowdfunding? Know the answer to that question, because you will be asked to answer it hundreds of times.
- Give yourself way more time than you think you need to pull everything together. Everything I did to prepare for the launch took longer than I expected, and there is SO much more I wish I could have done.
- Build a team. Even if you are crowdfunding a self-publishing project (mine is hybrid), pull together a group of people who will give you timely feedback on your video, your rewards, and your project description/pitch. You’d never publish a book without critiques and edits, so don’t launch a crowdfunding project without them either.
The good news is that within 24 hours of launching her Kickstarter campaign, Julie was already 60% funded – so it looks like this is going to fly.
If you are remotely interested in self- or hybrid publishing, it’s well worth following this project. You can find out more and become a part of Julie’s team (not to mention get an advance copy of this beautiful book once its published) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022559326/my-love-for-you-is-the-sun-a-picture-book
Crowdfunding has yet to prove itself as a reliable source of funding for new animation concepts, but filmmakers who have a well established style or who want to fund an existing property are continuing to find success. The latest major beneficiary of a Kickstarter campaign is the young Japanese animation studio Trigger, which is using Kickstarter to fund the next installment of its animated property Little Witch Academia, created and directed by Yoh Yoshinari. This spring, they released the first Little Witch Academia short with English subtitles on YouTube, where it has gathered nearly 800,000 views:
Their second Little Witch Academia short was to have been 20 minutes long, but they started a Kickstarter asking for $150,000 to expand the episode by 15 minutes. They achieved that goal in under six hours. After three days, the total raised is $348,789 from 4,487 backers, and there are still 27 days left in the campaign. If they hit their new stretch goal of $500,000, they will release an audio commentary, a ‘making of’ documentary, soundtrack and art book.
(An American Tail, The Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, Ratatouille
) short film The Saga of Rex was released on YouTube this week,
adapted from his graphic novel of the same name, the film follows the daring cosmic adventure of a clever fox that has been abducted to the arcane planet of Edernia.
Originally published as a serialized story in volumes 2 through 7 of the comic anthology Flight, it was then repackaged as a trade paperback by Image Comics in 2010. The 4-minute short was funded by raising over $57,000 on Kickstarter last year and is to be the first installment of a classically drawn independent animated feature film that Gagné is planning. “I would like to believe that there are still some people out there who want to see good old 2D classical animation being done,” Gagné told Cartoon Brew. “I know that my big donors love this type of animation and want to see it continue. We can’t rely on the big studios to keep the art of 2D full-animation going, so it’s up to us.”
His 1995 film Prelude to Eden was created using the now defunct 2D animation software Animo, which had remained his “go-to” production software up until 2012 when he began looking for an update. He gave Toon Boom a try and was pleased with the results. “I quickly realized that I’d just upgraded my old Model T Ford for a car of the year.” So, with Toon Boom in hand, along with Photoshop, After Affects and Premiere, Gagné set out to see just how much progress could be made adapting The Saga of Rex for the screen. “I wanted to test my limits and see what I could do single-handedly in a set period of time. What you see here is about six and a half months of work.”
The short, which is subtitled The Animated Film Project Pt. 1 – Abduction is animated in pantomime, which is Gagné’s intention for the entire film. “I’ve toyed with the idea of adding narration to the film, but then again, I realized it would take away some of the mystery,” he said. “In a way, I’m not sure I want people to fully understand what is going on. I want them to ask questions and create their own meaning.”
An MTV Animation studio alum who worked on the television shows Beavis & Butt-head and Daria,
Brooklyn-based Willy Hartland
is an independent animator and storyboard artist who experiments with combining digital animation with clay models and cut-out techniques. His new ten-minute short film, New York City: An Animated Sketchbook
is the subject of today’s Crowdfund Friday
. It’s quite literally a living sketchbook of everyday life in the big city:
“The genesis for the film happened organically, growing out of the thousands of sketches I’ve done of New Yorkers over the past several years. Drawings of urban life as seen in subways, parks, cafes, bars, basically anywhere people will sit still long enough to capture with my quick contour line. Places where the dynamism of the city is evident and part of the concrete jungle that is the visceral pulse of a thriving city.”
The finished film will incorporate Cinema 4D, Flash and cut-out animation. With four minutes of the film already in the can, Hartland is asking for $17,500 to finish animation with an animation assistant, post-production, and to hire a sound designer and music composer. The campaign is currently at $7,896 with 26 days left to go. Rewards include signed DVDs of the completed film, original artwork, and the opportunity to appear as an animated extra.
Vera Greentea’s new Kickstarter project, for Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits, sees her teaming with artist Laura Muller for a second time. After previously having the first issue of their planned four-part miniseries funded through the service, the team have now set up a new Kickstarter for part two. Set during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, the story focuses on the eponymous Nenetl, a ghost who comes back to Earth for this one day in order to look for her family.
Greentea has has five successful Kickstarters in a row, with this being her sixth. She was kind enough to talk to me about what Nenetl is about, how the series has developed, and her advice for anyone else looking to take their projects to Kickstarter.
Steve: Who is Nenetl, and what is her story?
Vera: Nenetl is a spirit from the Forgotten Realm, the place where ghosts who had been forgotten by everyone go. Given a chance to come back to the world of the living, she has a single day to find someone to remember her. If she finds at least one person who would care enough to invite her spirit every year, she won’t have to go back to the Forgotten Realm. She’d be able come back every year for the Day of the Dead (the Mexican festival that celebrates remembered passed ones). But it’s not so simple. Her family is long gone and there are exorcists on her trail trying to send her back to the Realm. Part Two of the series begins to explore as to why they need Nena to go back to where she came from.
Steve: What inspired you to write the series? What was the moment where you knew this was an idea you wanted to pursue further?
Vera: The idea of the Day of the Dead very much took hold of me when I first delved into it. Both my cultures (I consider myself part of American and Russian cultures) are rather somber about the idea of death and afterlife. The passing of a beloved person leads to so much anguish in day-to-day life, and I thought it a great comfort when I discovered the Day of the Dead and its cheering traditions. I read as much as I could about it, and somewhere along the way, Nenetl was born. I didn’t intend to write about any of it at first, but I think a large part of me had to share the magic of this festival.
Steve: How did you first get interested in Mexican mythology? It’s an interesting choice of inspiration for a horror series, given how joyous the celebration is.
Vera: I love to spend time reading about different cultures, but with the Mexican culture specifically, I got into it through cooking. My significant other is of Spanish and Latino descent, so we like to shop at a grocery shop that targets the local Latin population. It didn’t take me too long to look up the provenance of a traditional Mexican recipe and begin exploring the Day of the Dead and its incredible culinary practices for the holiday.
And even though it’s such a jovial and optimistic holiday, I do think there’s a lot of spookiness in the festival that absolutely lends itself to a horror series.
Steve: And another thing to note is that this is an all-ages series. Was that always the intent? Do you think writing for all-ages brings another element of challenge into writing a horror story?
Vera: Yes, Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits was always meant to be all-ages in my mind. As a writer, I tend to go for whimsy and magic more often than not, and I wanted to do a scary series that has an enchantment to it. I’m not one for gore or sex in my writing anyway, so it wasn’t too far of a bend to make sure this book is kid-friendly. Of course, there’s a balance to stride between spooky and terrifying, and I hope that I was able to do that. That said, I do think kids can take horror as long as it’s served with hope and goodness.
Steve: This is the second part of a planned four-issue miniseries. Could you see the character appearing in more stories, following this miniseries? Do you prefer telling a story with a determined ending, or do you have any interest in an ongoing, returning property?
Vera: This particular story of Nenetl does have a very definite and what I hope is a satisfying ending, and I haven’t planned to write more after the miniseries is done. However, I do see myself missing this world of Nena and the Day of the Dead, and I’m sure I can be persuaded to write another story with one or more of the characters from it. In general, I like experimentation, so I have no problem in doing short stories with a determined ending or going on a long, winding road of one ongoing story. I guess it varies with how much there is to tell about a single character or his/her world.
Steve: The astonishing Laura Müller is drawing and colouring the series. What do you think she brings to the story?
Vera: Oh yes! Laura brings so much to the story! She’s extraordinary. She is very thoughtful in her designs and has an incredible intuitive sense for layout. She also has this sublime feel for the nuances in the personalities of the characters and their acting out the story. She brought energy and vibrancy into the series. And the way she colors… I can’t even. Laura is brilliant.
Steve: How did you first find her work? Did you find her whilst looking for this project, or did you bring this project to her based on having seen her work?
Vera: I was very lucky in discovering her work fairly soon after I wrote the last word of the script. I was looking for someone with a dynamic presence in their work and once I found her, I never looked back. I contacted her immediately and was intensely excited when she wrote back within a few minutes. It was a good day.
Steve: How has the collaborative process been between you both? A lot of research must have gone into the character designs.
Vera: Absolutely. We do like to talk about the feel and personality of the character or the setting, as well as what part of the story they’re playing and how they should look. Laura and I work very closely on the designs, but at the same time I try to give her space to explore her own feelings about every part within our comic process. I find that when I do that, she comes back with her most amazing work, and I can approve it happily.
Steve: This isn’t your first Kickstarter – how has your experience with crowdfunding been, in general? Greg Rucka described it recently as being “a full-time job”.
Vera: Rucka is so right. It is absolutely a full-time job. But in my personal experience, it’s also a really fun and compelling full-time job. I very much enjoy communicating with my supporters and try to be as present as I can: answering questions, replying to them and being accessible in general. It can take away time from writing, but I find the experience very worth it. And my gosh, this is my sixth project!
Steve: What would you advise for anybody looking to set up their own project? What have you learned works best in terms of incentives, etc?
Vera: My biggest piece of advice is don’t be fearful – really, if you have an amazing project in you, do it. Even if you fail to make your goal, it doesn’t mean you failed – you got your work out there for people to see, you gauged the popularity of this one project, and you showed the world that you are serious about your work.
My second piece of advice is make sure your project is something you can complete in a determined amount of time. You know the ending to your story and how to get there. You know you can do it in 3 months (or 3 years). You can learn other stuff on the job, but you must have those particular basics down.
As for incentives, well, put your best-valued gift at $25-$35 and make sure you’re accessible for questions!
Many thanks to Vera for her time! You can find more details on the Kickstarter on its page. You can also find Vera on Twitter here, and on her website.
Double Fine has released a teaser trailer for its point-and-click adventure game Broken Age, which raised $3.3 million on Kickstarter last year (a record for games at the time). The game is the parallel story of a young boy and girl:
The girl has been chosen by her village to be sacrificed to a terrible monster–but she decides to fight back. Meanwhile, a boy on a spaceship is living a solitary life under the care of a motherly computer, but he wants to break free to lead adventures and do good in the world.
An exciting new original graphic novel from Serena Obhrai and Jennie Gyllblad following the epic adventures of a not so ordinary girl.
One of the huge benefits to co-organising the Women in Comics Europe community (and its communal output page) has been getting to know many of the extremely talented women in the industry and keeping up with their various projects. One such artist is Jennie Gyllblad, whose bi-weekly Jenspiration webcomic has become part of my regular reading, and I was thrilled to hear that she was involved in a new project that really showcased her work.
Elysia is a 300 page urban fantasy and sci-fi graphic novel written by the prolific Serena Obhrai, that is currently causing a storm on Kickstarter. With 21 days still to pledge the project has already achieved 74% of the funding required and shows no sign of abating. In other words, get in quick!
Part of the popularity is surely down to the pitch itself, a tale of a fictional future where angels and humans have to coexist side by side, the former guarding the latter but never to enter a relationship with each other. Elysia is the result of a broken rule, and is not only struggling with the usual perils of growing up, but with the clash of cultures and identities within her, as well as being the key to saving the world! Importantly it’s established in the blurb that this is not a religious tale, the angels instead being led by “planetary alignments”.
A story of angels is not something I’ve quite come across in comics before – save of course for Preacher, which is an entirely different sort of story! – and it strikes me as one that will have mass appeal. Angels in Young Adult fiction were rather overdone a couple of years ago, but the focus was always on the tragic suffocating love story rather than the sci-fi and fantasy aspects that the idea is surely ripe for.
The art is stunning with fully painted pages and excellent character design. The Kickstarter video makes it clear just how much work has already been done on this project in terms of design and planning, and this video is, I think, also key to the popularity of the project (go watch it now!). As is a rather clever pledge feature – a ticket to the exclusive launch signing in London. The higher tier pledges also offer fans a chance to appear in the comic themselves.
Obhrai and Gyllblad are clearly ambitious with this just the first volume of many, and future plans to turn Elysia into an animated TV series and computer game.
The Kickstarter campaign is for the 300 page Volume 1, split into three chapters of 100 full colour pages with the first scheduled for release in September 2013.
Kickstarter: Join Elysia On Her Journey…
Okay, comics just got a little cooler. Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta have started a Kickstarter to produce Harry Palmer: Starstruck, a long in the making continuation of heir Starstruck storyline.
If you read this when it came out or in the recent IDW reprinting, you know it’s one of the most fantastic space operas ever produced in comics.
Given the fluid nature of all the various versions of Starstruck over the year it is only far to ask: “So, what’s in the book?”
• 176 pages of Starstrucky goodness, including 140 pages of sequential art, plus gallery, glossary and special features to immerse you deeply in Harry’s corner of the Multiverse.
• A terrific science fiction story about what it means to be human, even when you’re not quite sure you are human.
• 60 pages of Harry Palmer’s 140 page-plus story will be reprinted from the Marvel/Epic Startruck series, episodes #2 and #3, but the pages will be expanded from within with exciting flashbacks of Harry’s former life as a rebel soldier and mercenary “proldier.”
• 80 brand new story pages, detailing Harry’s past—as a rebel fighter in the revolution and a proldier fighting for Cyberforms in the Droid Wars—then taking us further into his very strange future. Yes, 80 never-before-seen pages of Kaluta’s unforgettable art… beautifully painted, if we meet our secondary goal.
• More action, adventure and intrigue! More dirt on the private lives of androids and clones! The scoop on “Running in Place,” the most popular, most dangerous, and most addictive means of life extension in the Starstruck Multiverse.
• Your book will be printed in stunning black & white, if we make our basic goal, in glorious, all-new, fully-painted, digital color, if we make a bit more. (Help us find donors, you’ll get an upgraded book and additional rewards. It’s up to you!)
• And so you won’t be kept waiting too long, everyone who pledges enough to receive the book, will also receive PDFs of each chapter, approximately 22 pages in length, as the chapters are finished!
This books needs to be in color so we suggest giving as generously as you can!
As most Cartoon Brew readers are aware by now, we’ve had a “no crowdfunding” policy in place for a long time. But times change, and as more animation filmmakers incorporate crowdfunding into their production plans, we feel that it’s necessary to provide a platform for noteworthy projects that need funding. Starting today, we’re going to try something new by featuring a curated selection of crowdfunded animation projects on Fridays. We especially aim to give exposure to promising animation that may slip through the cracks due to a lack of exposure in mainstream media.
For starters, I’d like to highlight WONDER 365 Animation Project by Japanese filmmaker Mirai Mizue. Mizue creates his abstract films the old-school way by drawing and painting onto paper, but he uses digital compositing techniques to fantastic effect:
If you follow Mizue on Vimeo, you know that he’s been working diligently on WONDER 365 for the past 365 days in a row. Mizue received a grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, which allowed him to hire over 150 painters to help color the film, but he’s still looking for funding to complete the music recording and post production.
The Wonder 365 crowdfunding effort continues through April 30. The project is currently 22% funded. Here is the film’s trailer:
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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, Stop Motion
, Doug TenNapel
, Earthworm Jim
, Ed Schofield
, Mike Dietz
, Pencil Test Studios
, The Neverhood
, Add a tag
Doug TenNapel, creator of games like Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood and the TV series Catscratch, is crowdfunding a new clay-animated stop motion game called Armikrog. He’s working with Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield of Pencil Test Studios, his animation collaborators on earlier games, to create a point-and-click adventure game for PC, Mac OSX and Linux.
The game tracks the adventures of “a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind alien, talking dog named Beak-Beak [who] crash land on a weird planet and end up locked in a mysterious fortress called Armikrog.” TenNapel’s Kickstarter goal is to raise $900,000 in 30 days, and the production has already received over $11,000 in a little over one hour of campaign time.
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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, Annecy International Animated Film Festival
, Annecy Plus
, Betty's Blues
, Bill Kroyer
, Bill Plympton
, Blue Umbrella
, Chel White
, Chris Landreth
, Chris Prynoski
, Dan Scanlon
, Dominique Puthod
, Drunker Than a Skunk
, Eric Goldberg
, Johan Klungel
, John Dilworth
, Lucas Plympton
, Marcel Jean
, Michaela Pavlatova
, Monsters University
, Remi Vandenitte
, Sandrine Plympton
, Saschka Unseld
, Serge Bromberg
, Subconscious Password
, Add a tag
Bill Plympton with Chris Landreth
BILL PLYMPTON is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of seven animated features and more than thirty animated shorts. His new feature Cheatin’ will premiere this fall. Learn more about his work at Plymptoons.com.
I went to Annecy with mixed emotions this year—after all, it was a year of major changes.
The iconic Bonlieu Centre, where all the action usually takes place, was being torn down to be replaced by a larger and hopefully more beautiful structure. Some say the new theater complex will be finished next year and some say in two years—who knows, with French construction workers.
The other new kink was the fact that celebrated artistic director Serge Bromberg was leaving after fifteen wonderful years, to be replaced by Marcel Jean. So, naturally, I felt that this would be a transitional year.
My wife Sandrine and I arrived just in time to go to the opening night event, taking place in the freshly-constructed hybrid tent cinema. The opening film was the long anticipated Pixar sequel Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon, along with the new Pixar short Blue Umbrella. The latter six-minute short by Saschka Unseld had a very different look from all of the former Pixar shorts, a lot more realistic, and the love story involving two colored umbrellas in a rainstorm has certain similarities to last year’s Oscar winner, Paperman.
Monsters University was a bit disappointing—for me there were too many extraneous characters to get emotionally involved, and the colors, especially the backgrounds on the campus grounds, were too neon-bright, which made it hard to enjoy the beautiful design and follow the characters.
The next morning I had a panel about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Like a similar panel I hosted at Stuttgart, it was a packed house. After years of sucking off the government teat, the Europeans are mad for a more democratic, and perhaps hassle-free, way for raising money to make films.
Bill Plympton with his son Lucas Plympton
Tuesday afternoon was the Competition Shorts creening #2, and my film Drunker Than a Skunk was in that group, so Sandrine and I needed to attend to present the film. The program started off promisingly enough—meaning that the films were not that good and hence the audience would love our film. All the early films in the program were abstract or avant-garde, therefore not crowd-pleasers. Then came Remi Vandenitte’s Betty’s Blues, a wonderful ode to Southern blues music that had a terrific style. Then Drunker came on and we received a very nice reaction. We felt we were looking good for Awards Night.
But, later in the program, came Chris Landreth’s unmemorably named Subconscious Password, a totally delightful and bold CG film starring Chris and the enigmatic John Dilworth. Then and there, I knew our awards chances flew out the window. Oh well, once I knew I didn’t have to worry about awards, I could just enjoy the week and relax.
My next event was a work-in-progress screening of my new feature, Cheatin’. There was a really good buzz going about this film, so tickets were hard to get and a lot of people asked me to sneak them in.
I showed some pencil tests and finished scenes, drew some of the character designs and talked about the production. The audience applauded throughout (which I loved) and then I moved to a table just outside the exit, next to a beautiful creek, and gave everyone in line a free sketch, which took about an hour.
For the past seven years, I’ve been presenting the “Annecy Plus” show, first with Pat Smith, and now with Nik and Nancy Phelps. It’s been a smashing success. This year, we were forced to relocate the popular event to the wonderful Café des Arts in Old Town. We promoted the hell out of it, and the weather was perfect so we had high hopes for a big success. Unfortunately, there was no movie screen!
Jonas Raeber, the projectionist and sound man, was able to “borrow” two large sheets from his hotel. Another problem: the door with access to the balcony, where we wanted to hang the sheets, was locked with no key. So, a drunk Indian animator volunteered to leap from an open window across to the balcony—a real Jackie Chan-type moment. I had visions of a terrible accident, and me spending three years in French courts fighting a lawsuit, but the dashing Indian succeeded, and he had free beers all night.
Nik Phelps and his band kicked off the evening with some lively music, and we began the show. Then, the next tragedy struck. Even though Virginia, the proprietor of the bar, had received permission from the city council to hold a late-night screening, there was a rave the night before and it created such a ruckus that her permit was revoked. Thus, we had to turn the sound off at 10p.m., and the problem with that was that it didn’t get dark until 9:30. As a result, the audience only heard one out of the four programs—the last three were silent. Quel dommage.
Bill Plympton with Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski
However, there was enough beer and wine for everyone, and a good time was had by all. The Annecy Plus winning film, by the way, was Super by Johan Klungel. As for the main Annecy awards show, it was a happy affair with nice weather, and Serge showed up to give out the awards with Marcel Jean. The big winner of the evening, and justifiably so, was Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth. He gave a fantastic speech, then we all went to party at the Palais, where I visited with Eric Goldberg, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynoski of Titmouse Studios, Dominique Puthod (the president of the festival), Chel White, and Michaela Pavlatova, last year’s winner with Tram.
The best news was that everyone was talking about Cheatin’, so chances are good it will be in competition next year in Annecy. See you all there!
Dominique Puthod (Annecy Festival President), his wife Catherine, Bill and
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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, Cuthbert Was Bored
, Monster Mania
, St. Trinian's
, Uli Meyer
, Uli Meyer Animation
, Add a tag
Even if you are a skilled animator with your own studio and decades of experience under your belt, without the support and deep pockets of a major studio, financing an animated film is a task of Sisyphean proportions.
Animation veteran Uli Meyer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest) recently posted 15 minutes of the story reel for his 90-minute CG feature film project MonsterMania, which has been in and out of pre-production for almost a decade. After 20 years of running his own commercial house and working on a variety of high profile projects like the special 70mm Lion King feature Circle of Life, the Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain and large portions of the 1996 sports comedy Space Jam for Warner Bros., he has decided to focus on original animation productions.
From his studio in London, Meyer took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Cartoon Brew about the challenges of financing animated films, finicky studio tastes and the progress of his hand-drawn, half-hour St. Trinian’s featurette.
Cartoon Brew: Tell us about MonsterMania.
Uli Meyer: MonsterMania is a horror comedy featuring my own versions of the classic monsters and also a few new ones. The film is… wait for it… Young Frankenstein meets The Fearless Vampire Killers, but all animated.
An animated adventure with plenty of spooky moments and funny moments and monster moments — I get goosebumps just thinking about it. When Christopher Lee read the script, he immediately agreed to do one of the voices and we recorded him in 2007.
Cartoon Brew: You’ve been pitching the film to studios? How has it been received?
Uli Meyer: When I first took the film idea to Los Angeles to pitch to the major studios in 2004, I was hoping to secure a distribution deal. During my visit I found out that both Sony and DreamWorks had monster movies on their development slate (Hotel Transylvania and Monsters vs. Aliens, respectively), but I was not concerned; studios take notoriously long to green light anything and I hoped that I could outrun them once I had that distribution deal, but the other studios weren’t forthcoming. The argument was that DreamWorks and Sony were most likely to spend $100m+ on their films plus the same again on advertising. Because of that my measly $40m budget wouldn’t afford a movie that could compete.
A $40m budget is tiny for US standards but was unheard of in Europe.
Back in England I started looking into alternative ways to keep the project going. A $40m budget is tiny for US standards, but was unheard of in Europe. I believe in a global success, but most European films at the time cost between $2m and $6m and they are never seen outside their home territory. I teamed up with a German producer team who assured me that they could get my film financed and they managed to raise an initial sum of money that was used to keep developing the film further, but after several half-witted attempts to find partners in European markets, it transpired that these guys had no idea what they were doing.
I always thought that my project would be perfect for Universal. Unfortunately all they were interested in was to make sure that my version of Frankenstein’s monster didn’t have bolts on the neck and wasn’t green. Universal was in the middle of trying to revive their monsters through live-action incarnations and that year the lacklustre success of Van Helsing somewhat dampened their enthusiasm.
Cartoon Brew: On your website you stated, “Trying to make a film independently has so far never quite worked out for my studio.” A lot of animators out there dream of one day making their own movie and believe that starting their own studio is the last step in that dream. In your experience, what has been the biggest hurdle in getting your own feature films made?
Uli Meyer: For the benefit of anybody who reads this, I am giving you a radically abbreviated account of some of the things that happened in my professional life so that you can draw your own conclusions. I absolutely encourage anybody to make their own film and find their way and maybe this account will help those individuals to avoid some of the downfalls.
As an animator you like nothing better than to create. The idea of having your own studio where you can beaver away is very exciting. But if making your own movie is your dream, setting up a studio first in order to one day make a movie is not necessarily the best way to make that dream happen. Running a studio is a huge responsibility, rent, rates, utilities, wages, insurance, equipment, maintenance, etc. become a monthly liability that demands a lot of turnover. Even at its smallest, my studio in London had to have a minimum yearly turnover of $1.2m just to break even. Most of the time you will find yourself working on client projects and frantically pitching for more work and the landlord will pocket most of your profits. If you work hard and find that there is a bit of spare money at the end of the year, you can use the little time left to do your own thing. But therein lies the problem; trying to make a feature film is a full time job and nigh impossible to achieve as a side project.
But let’s say you do. After a year or so working on your film, you will eventually realise that unless you want to do a Richard Williams (spending 30 years on a film that never gets made) you need to go out there and raise money. Now you will encounter the world of film finance, which is completely different to the world an animator/filmmaker inhabits. Yet, the one can’t live without the other. In order to learn the finance game properly, you will have to abandon your creative job and be prepared to spend considerable time learning about business and building business connections. I do not know many artists who have a head or the patience for that. I don’t. Instead I’ve tried to partner up with people who I hoped could fulfill that role. Unfortunately none succeeded. I actually believe they do not exist. If they would, they wouldn’t be looking for work.
Cartoon Brew: So, is it any easier for an experienced animator such as yourself?
Uli Meyer: It has been fairly easy for me to arrange pitch screenings with the major studios because of my studio’s reputation. Building that reputation took a few years and animation was a different game then; it depended on the artist’s abilities to draw. Today there are so many studios out there creating highly polished digital images, it is difficult to lift your studio’s profile above the crowd based solely on your work. We would always create the most elaborate pitches, with proof of concept films to screen and design bibles to illustrate the ideas, but pitch methods change and if you consider that today some projects get green-lit based on a headline and mock-up movie poster, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. And you do not need to own a studio for that.
After more than twenty years of making commercials and creating animated films for clients, I decided earlier in the year to shutter up my commercial studio. I had a great time and am proud to have worked with so many talented and wonderful artists. But it is time to pay attention to my projects full time and explore all the new possibilities of making that dream happen.
Cartoon Brew: There seems to be an expectation from new animators and animation fans that the talented artists should simply get together and work on their own project independent of the big studios. But it seems like it’s far more complicated than that. What is the biggest misconception about the process of making your own feature length movie?
Uli Meyer: It always makes me smile when I read that suggestion somewhere. How would that work though? These guys have to earn a living and where would the money come from?
Cartoon Brew: What’s your experience with crowdfunding? Do you intend on taking advantage of it with MonsterMania?
Uli Meyer: I’m happy to say that I successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to produce a picture book entitled Cuthbert was Bored. It was a great experience and worked well for the relatively small amount of funding I was seeking. Running a campaign is a lot of hard work if you want it to succeed. For its 30-day duration I worked nearly full-time on simply creating awareness. After stretching past my goal, I delivered the book I wanted to make.
I am considering a Kickstarter campaign for MonsterMania and working on how to make it work and how to get backers excited – and most importantly on how to get it out there and how to advertise it. I am thinking about what could be the reward for backing an animatic? It couldn’t be the actual animatic for obvious reasons. Maybe access to a production diary and artwork, limited edition merchandising, only available for Kickstarter backers might be a way? Something that is great value for money. I’m still thinking and suggestions are welcome.
Cartoon Brew: When it comes to film production do you believe crowd funding is a viable option? Do you think it has any shortcomings?
Uli Meyer: The biggest hurdle is creating awareness. If nobody knows your project is out there, you’re doomed to fail. You have to reach those few thousand animation enthusiasts to back your project with a few quid each. I am sure they are out there.
I can see Kickstarter or similar sites changing the way film projects get financed — especially short films and other non-commercial formats could get a new lease of life. I have always wanted to make a Tex Avery style short, hand-drawn, watercolor backgrounds, fully animated entirely the traditional way. Just like the original ones. While there is no way to ever finance a thing like that today through the old channels, crowd funding is a viable option.
Cartoon Brew: Last year, you announced the shelving of your St. Trinian’s project due to unforeseen setbacks. Can you say anything about the status of that project?
Uli Meyer: The St. Trinian’s project is still on hold. It is all to do with animation rights that were erroneously sold as part of a package to a live action company who wants to make their version. They do not have the rights to Ronald’s designs though; I am the only one who has permission to use them. Not that they are interested in animation. But they refuse to license the animation rights to me. For what reason one can only guess.
For the first time ever, the director of a Disney feature film is using crowdfunding to launch an animated feature project. Art Story, which debuted yesterday on Kickstarter, is a new project from Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams.
Blaise, who is one of the only artists who can claim to have worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida on the studio’s opening day in 1989 and its closing day in 2004, animated on many of the modern-day Disney classics including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, before he co-directed Brother Bear. Chuck Williams was the producer of the latter film, which went on to be nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.
More recently, Blaise and Williams were set to be the directors of The Legend of Tembo, which was to have been the first feature from Digital Domain’s Tradition Studios. The very public meltdown of that studio last year left them out in the cold, but they’ve bounced back from that experience with this project of their own, an unconventional and creative CGI family film about a boy and his grandfather who become trapped in the world of fine art. Here is their pitch for the project:
The Art Story Kickstarter is asking for $350,000 over 47 days. The campaign has raised nearly $17,000 in less than 24 hours, which puts it on a solid pace to achieve its goal. Blaise and Williams point out that the production of the film will need additional funding—in the tens of millions—and that the money they are raising will allow them to create a children’s storybook, script, development art and storyreel. The majority of the Kickstarter rewards, such as the children’s book, film pitch book and physical rewards will be honored even if the film doesn’t make it to production.
The Kickstarter rewards include all the usuals—development blog access, digital download of children’s storybook, T-shirts, posters—but also some unique items, such as a PDF of their film pitch book, the chance to sit in on a story meeting, and even a three-month apprenticeship to participate in the development of the film. They’ve set up the Kickstarter in a unique way that allows every backer to experience and participate in the development of an animated feature; even the $1 donation level lets backers make their voice heard in the development process by suggesting paintings they want to see in the film.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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One of the ways many people stumbled onto their first comic was through the promotional comics that used to come bundled in with action figures. You know the ones – you buy a He-Man figure, and in the box comes a comic which shows him in action, fighting against all the other characters who coincidentally also have action figures available too.
Well, if you do remember those comics, then here’s a kickstarter for you – Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley, and Tim Seeley’s MINI COMICS INCLUDED.
Mini Comics Included will be a set of six mini-comics, which replicate the sort of comics which used to come packaged in with action figures and board games. Each drawn by a different artist, with Moreci and the Seeleys writing all six issues. And if you pledge towards the project, you can get your hands not just on the comics – but also on action figures which have been custom made to go along with the comics.
I spoke to Michael Moreci about the project, and how it came into existence.
Steve: Mini Comics Included are based on the comics that used to be enclosed in the box whenever you bought toys like He-Man action figures, or Transformers. What are your memories from those mini-comics?
Michael: I have such amazing memories of Christmas morning, unwrapping presents with my older brother and revealing glorious He-Man action figures. We were into other stuff as well—I was especially a fan of the Super Powers figures—but He-Man was the alpha and omega of my childhood. Rick, my brother, and I would play with these figures all day long, making up stories, designing our own cartoon ideas, and acting them out. We’d cut up comics and paste new panels together that made little sense, but the stories were ours.
As a matter of fact, I really think that’s the beginnings of my love of storytelling in general, the ability—and encouragement from my parents—to make stuff up on my own. To wonder, to imagine. I read so many comics—mainly the minis that accompanied He-Man figures—and watched so many cartoons that the structure of stories got ingrained in me at a young age.
Specifically, with the comics, I was always hooked by the curiosity “what’s next?!” factor. Because, let’s face it, a lot of those comics were simply rad catalogues. Their whole purpose was to show off the next villain or weapon or whatever. Like, He-Man would suddenly bust out this underwater gear and, as an adult I’m like “where the hell did that come from? Dude’s wearing a loincloth and nothing else…” But as a kid, my mind was immediately set to “must have!” mode. Luckily, my mom worked at a toy store, so I had a hook up.
The comics were cool because, yeah, they were sometimes promo pieces, but they were also simple stories. They were just cool stories that enhanced the experience of being a He-Man fan, or a comic fan.
Steve: Why recreate that style of comic, in particular?
Michael: A lot of the discussions the three of us have regarding comics—and a lot of people have about comics—is the lack of fun, just pure, raw, fun. Guys like Kirby, Mantlo, Toth, you name it, were all exceedingly enthusiastic and had these wild imaginations. And that doesn’t exist all that much anymore. We’re too serious of an industry, like we won’t be regarded enough if we allowed our work to do all those wonderful things comics are capable of doing.
Getting back on point – Steve, Tim , and I have all had this itch to do something that harkens back to this particular comic/cartoon/toy era that we love so much and influenced us so heavily. And we wanted to do it right—nothing watered down, nothing compromised. We want to take readers back to a time when comics were something to enjoy, pure and simple. You read them because you were like “oh my God, who is this new character?! Is he good? Bad? What does this mean?!” But, again, so much of comics, right now, is set in its ways. Stories have to be told in a certain way, for a certain audience, in a certain format. We’re breaking all those rules because, one, we want to do something fun and original and totally unique; and two, we absolutely know people want this. These are the comics we love, but they’re also the comics people want.
Steve: You’ve worked with Steve Seeley frequently, with the current Hoax Hunters series at Image being one of the most high profile works. How did you all come together on this project in particular, and realise it was something you wanted to try and make a reality?
Michael: Steve and I, and Tim, share a similar affinity for this era of nerd culture, that late 70s early 80s cartoon, comic, toy, etc. I mean, we’re three 30s-ish geeks, how could we not?
It’s not just that, though. We’re also creators who like to think outside the box, creatively and professionally. And doing a Kickstarter has been on our minds for awhile, but we wanted to do it right. Meaning, we wanted their to be a reason we were doing a Kickstarter, not just some cash grab to make good on our names. That’s lame.
So, one night we were drinking—as we are wont to do—and kicking around ideas. We had something there, like we were scratching the surface. We knew we wanted it to be inspired by those comics and toys we loved, but that wasn’t quite enough. It still didn’t have that “okay, but why?” factor. And Tim hit it: Mini comics. Everything took off from there, making them a certain size, getting the toy designers on board, even the weird incentives. Because, truly, this isn’t something we could do anywhere else. Not like this. That’s is what makes it a perfect project for Kickstarter—we’re not just giving away art or head sketches or whatever. We’re all in on this the mini comics theme, and the drive is a ton of fun because of that.
Steve: How has the process of working with the Seeleys been? Both on Hoax Hunters, and now with Mini Comics Included.
Michael: Tim and Steve are like brothers to me. We work really well together because we share both common interests and common values. We’re workers, we’re that prototypical Midwestern no-frills get-the-job-done type professionals. We love what we do, but the cornerstone of how we operate is grounded in dedication to the work.
Yet, as similar as we are, we’re also very different. We each bring something different to the table and, out of that, we refine the best possible product. That’s how Hoax Hunters is—Steve and I often have different sensibilities and have to find a middle ground; the process of doing so makes us really understand where we’re coming from on a story level, and the book is better for it.
Steve: So, to the comics in particular – how did you decide which characters to use for these stories? Did you have some of the characters in mind already, or did you create them just for this project?
Michael: For the most part, yes. These were kind of pet projects that we knew, to some degree, would not thrive in the Direct Market system. This was an opportunity for us to cast off those shackles and say, “okay, we’re doing these stories right here, right now.” Steve and I have been chipping away at Prime-8s, and we had done an Omega Family short for Double Feature Comics awhile back. Tim had done a Colt Noble one-shot with Image awhile ago as well. His other two ideas are just exercises in weird and crazy stuff that Tim digs. So, beware.
The main requirement, though, was to align the stories with the spirit of the project. This isn’t one big excuse for a vanity press—some stories didn’t make the cut. We were looking for a specific type of playfulness. For instance, Literary Commandos is a G.I. Joe riff; Prime-8s is kind of He-Man meets Ninja Turtles; Colt Noble has He-Man written all over it. The feel of the book matters. Without that, it doesn’t matter what size it is or what toy you may have purchased; the story, and art, has to function. Speaking of, the artists on these titles are incredible. Paul Tucker, Brent Schoonover, Sean Dove, Clint Hiliniski are all absolutely killing on these books, and we selected them because they’re such perfect, perfect fits.
Steve: How long are each of the issues?
Michael: Sixteen total pages for each comic.
Steve: Are there any characters you’re particularly fond of? I couldn’t help but notice there is a frog cyborg, and I immediately need to know everything about this character, please.
Michael: Ha, well, that’s actually a frog totoro, though easily mistaken as a cyborg. He’s the leader of the hyper-evolutionaries who make havoc for the Omegas. That’s all Paul Tucker—his design sensibility and playfulness are out of this world. Watch that name, he’s going places.
Hmmm… favorites. Well, Dracula Man (from Superbeasts) is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in a while. I love the Prime-8s villains, Dogtastrophe (you know, a play CATastrphe, get it?) and the K-G-Bee. And what’s not to love about a four-armed gorilla named Fourilla? There’s Marksman Twain, that’s a good one. Kikintha Balls…oh, and Daxxis from Omega Family. Love that Woolly Mammoth…thing.
Steve: BUT! Has it been difficult to create characters who can match up to the might of The Street Sharks?
Michael: Where would democracy be without them? And Battletoads?
In terms of raw power, I’d need to wrap up Travis Bickle with Driver with a mutated dinosaur to enter the arena. Those were some badass sharks.
Steve: How tongue in cheek will the comics be? Looking back now, we’re aware that the comics were a way to try and sell more toys to kids – are you going to play with that, at all, or are you playing things straight? Is it tempting to try a more satirical approach with the stories, and wink at the readers?
Michael: We sort of play with the stories. As mentioned above, we’re totally aware that these comics were often promo pieces, and that’s that. But one thing we absolutely did not want to do was get ironic with this. Nobody enjoys nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. So we had to walk a fine of embracing the idea too much and making it a sell aware wink at the tradition. I think the balance we have is a good one. We embrace it and honor what we’re working with, but make it our own as well, in a very loving way. Again, we want to recapture that feel of the time, and the best way to do so, we think, is to make it somewhat contemporary but retain the best sensibilities
Steve: How do you see the project moving on, if this Kickstarter is successful? Could we see a second wave in the future?
Michael: Oh boy…that’s like asking a woman who’s crowning if she’s thinking of having another kid. Okay, maybe not QUITE like that, but I’ve already had nightmares about the launch, and I’m writing this before actually doing so. I’m so thrilled about the project, but it’s also going to be a massive undertaking, from start to finish. I would love to do six more titles and make this a thing, and I think Steve and Tim would also. Right now, I’d say I’m hopeful. After all, we still haven’t told the story of the Blasteroids!
Many thanks to Michael for his time. So, one last mention – you can find Mini Comics Included on Kickstarter here. You can also find Michael on Twitter here!
This one is like one of those baseball games that goes into the 17th inning, long and murky with no real payoff.
SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS by Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe has a rather interesting history. An irresistible tale of a baseball team that has to go up against a team of monsters, it’s drawn in Stokoe’s choice style, and since the first images started circulating, it’s looked great. In 2010 it was to be published by Image Comics, and a big round of promo for this followed. However, that book never came out—although it was released digitally as a creator-owned comic—and instead it bounced back as a Kickstarter last year. With over $97,000 raised, surely this was a big success. Although the book was long drawn, copies only started shipping recently, after a bit of complaining over the delays. However it was worth the wait, as a super deluxe edition was declared to be worth the international postage:
The real unsung hero in this entire project is Sullivan’s Sluggers creator Mark Andrew Smith for the constant communication with the backers, and making sure everyone is still in the loop after all this time. Who could have possibly foreseen how massively successful this project would have been? Smith has remained professional throughout, delaying his other projects such as Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors and the eventual Sullivan’s Sluggers sequel, Pele’s Pounders. Has he learned a thing or two for the next Kickstarter project he starts? Absolutely.
Although this sounds a little like one of those mysterious new poster “I plan to go there again!” restaurant reviews on Yelp, it’s written by an actual person, Cameron Hatheway
of Cammy’s Comics Corner
As someone who desired to read SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS but didn’t get in on the Kickstarter thing, I was happy to find you could now purchase it again…on Kickstarter. Smith started a campaign with a $1 goal, so people who want various levels can just pledge and get the package they want.
The new Kickstarter is, in part to pay for postage, says Smith. Part of the delay was what is becoming more and more common with Kickstarters: not figuring out how much it is really going to cost. As Smith wrote on his tumblr
Yes, there will be another opportunity for those that missed Sullivan’s Sluggers to pick it up this next month. I was a bone head and hugely underestimated international shipping because I saw another Kickstarter that was doing huge numbers at the time, and it said “International Orders Please Add $10”, and I said to myself “They know what they’re doing” and copied it FOOLISHLY. So lesson to be learned, look up the shipping costs by weight for international next time if you’re doing a Kickstarter. I’m going to do an adjustment Kickstarter to help out with international costs, so that I can eat the difference and not ask for more money from international backers, but to ship for the low low original price of $10 per book. But it’s only for the US, and the other books are going to post first.
This whole situation led to some snarking on Twitter—you can follow along with the various conversations in these tweets. Basically people felt that Smith was just using Kickstarter to sell copies of the comic.
While I understand the ire, for those who want a copy of the book it seems like a simple transaction. But Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to just sell things that are lying around your house.
And now more clarification: it turns out Stokoe, whose always spectacular art is the draw on the books, is not involved in ANY of this. He drew the book for a page rate and has now publicly distanced himself from it.
First off, I want to make abundantly clear that I’m in no way involved with the direction of either of the Kickstarters, or any other other outlet where that book is sold. The Writer and myself had briefly talked about working together on the KS, but due to some disagreements, I decided to remove myself from it completely.
There’s been talk on my behalf about fair compensation from the KS earnings, but I have to say that it personally doesn’t bother me. I have been paid what I was contracted for, and I’ve been very content to keep my nose out of anything involving the book post-Kickstarter. In other words, there’s really no reason to be offended on my behalf. I’m doing fine. I understand that some backers may feel mislead in that they were supporting me financially by backing the book, and for that I apologize. There was very little I could do once the ball started rolling in that regard, shy of shitting on the whole parade.
Blogger David Brothers
has long been critical of the whole way this was handled, and I understand he has another post on the subject coming out today.
Complicating matters even more, SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS is in development as a movie, billed as “Major League meets Zombieland”—although that was last year and we know how these things tend to fade away.
We haven’t yet seen crowdfunding turn into an angry mob in the comics sphere, and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact smoking gun here, but selling backstock on Kickstarter does seem to be against the spirit of the thing at the very least. And backers are beginning to feel annoyed.
Jankiness in the form of this entire kickstarter. I funded the original and still haven't received my copy and now there is another kickstarter to enable me to get my copy. I could have ordered it on Amazon instead.
And as Stokoe’s statement makes clear, the “creator owned” comics world is often not what it seems.
If you don’t want to bother with the whole mess, for a short while you can just download the first two digital “issues” for free.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Kickstarter has been a talking point in the comics industry ever since its conception, most recently and prominently for the fallout between Mark Andrew Smith and the problems he’s been having with his Sullivan Sluggers book. My experience with the platform has been limited: I use it purely as a pre-order service and since May last year (when I first began using the site), I’ve backed a total of 9 projects, 8 of which have been successfully funded. Of these 9 -all of which have been comics- I have so far received 3 books, each one at least 4 months later than initially promised.
Many more generous and patient people than myself are happy to lend their backing to a project simply because they find it interesting or as a way to show their support for the creator, and don’t mind weathering out any delay in the release of the end product. I’m of the notion that when you undertake an endeavour such as crowd-funding a book, you research it thoroughly, analyse any risks and generally go in to it as prepared as possible. If you give a ballpark estimate of when you hope to ship a book out, it should remain in that ballpark, major catastrophes aside. The relationship between backers and a creator is one of goodwill and trust, and any problems that occur should be relayed with honesty and open-ness.
Which is all to say I’m now even choosier when selecting projects I’d like to see realised. With that in mind, I’m pointing you in the direction of Lars Brown’s excellent-looking Penultimate Quest, a simple, no-frills Kickstarter, with a book that’s complete and ready to go, and an extremely modest target of $350, which is currently galloping nicely along at $2267. Here’s more from Brown:
This Kickstarter is to fund a small print run of my new book, Penultimate Quest book 1. My plan is to distribute it on my website, larsbrown.com, and conventions that I’m able to attend. It is 90 pages long.
I started Penultimate Quest in January 2012, at the time I conceived it as a jokey, stand alone mini comic… later in the year I started to kick around the idea of making it into a full length story. The idea of a never-ending dungeon was tantalizing and it carried with it a special challenge of explaining its origin and placing it all in a satisfying story. With my notes in place I began work on the full story in December and now have the first part complete.
If you would like to read the comic it is all available online at my website, larsbrown.com. Thank you.’
I love the story concept and art on this and have happily pledged for a book complete with sketch. Funding ends March 22nd, with $15 getting you a copy of the book within the US, plus an additional $10 anywhere else in the world (which is very reasonable when taking into account the shipping hike. I’m slightly obsessed with the increase in US shipping costs as it’s cutting me off from a load of comics, so I hereby reserve the right to mention it in every post from now to May).
You can back Penultimate Quest here.
Here’s a real Kickstarter based on a fake artist whose real work has been forged by Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton, both of whom are real living people and are not figments of fiction, unlike the artist who didn’t draw this comic strip, because he never existed. Got that? This is GOLDTIGER.
I’ll explain it properly. The idea of the Kickstarter is that Adams and Broxton have restored a classic, controversial comic strip created in the 1960s by artist Antonio Barreti and writer Louis Shaeffer. The strip was commissioned run in a national newspaper, but was deemed too risque and scandalous for publication. The strip was locked out of circulation, Barreti had a breakdown and spent four years in a rehab clinic in Turin. Shaeffer continued to send him new scripts, however, and the team kept creating more stories for their characters. Shaeffer sadly died, and following his death, Barreti vanished.
The stories have just been collected together, however, and restored. The artwork is enhanced and lettering fixed, and the first volume of stories will be put out via Kickstarter.
— The thing is, Barreti and Shaeffer don’t exist, and never did. GOLDTIGER is an all-new creation from Adams and Broxton, which collects 128 pages of comics into a hardcover book. But not just the strips are collected in the book: the idea is that readers will also be able to trace the fictional life story of the two creators, and their journey whilst seeing that reflected in the story. While the strips progress in a 1960s style, you’ll also see how Barreti and Shaeffer’s personal lives affected GOLDTIGER itself. So in essence, you’re getting two stories – the comic strips, which tell spy action adventures with more than a hint of sex; and the assorted bits and pieces which tell the story of fictional GOLDTIGER creators Barreti and Shaeffer.
It’s a madcap idea for a comics project, and the Kickstarter is currently 3/4 funded, with only three days to go. Head on over to the Kickstarter, and have a read of the concept in more detail! Broxton is a fantastic artist, and Adams a great writer. This is a real high concept, but one which looks well worth trying out.
A couple of interviews with more information on Make That Thing, the new company that helps successful Kickstarter campaign actually send out all their rewards. it’s a division of TopatoCo, the webcomics’s merchandising company which already has a formidable infrastructure—a fork lift!, warehouses, employees!—and manufacturing contacts to help their cartoonists sell their merch. The program is rolling out slowly as an in house project. Todd Allen talks to David Malki about some of the metrics:
PW: How do you price this sort of service?
MALKI: Generally speaking, on the net [profits of the Kickstarter campaign]. This is another area where Machine of Death and The Tomorrow Girl are going to be our test cases to see where the bottlenecks are when coordinating between a site like Kickstarter and our existing workflows. Establishing the workflows is going to determine the pricing, and there may also be variation depending on the particulars of the project. But the watchword is collaboration: we want to be a service to creators, not a liability. We want everyone in this exchange to be successful. So by pricing on the net, we have a vested interest in efficiency, but it still scales with the success (and the complexity) of the project.
Over at Fleen, Gary Tyrell
talking to the other principle, Holly Rowland
Fleen: So once things open up and Jenny Q. Cartoonist is getting ready to Kickstart Yurt Days, when does she contact you? Are you going to need clients to work with you to lay out their campaigns, and especially their estimated delivery dates?
Rowland: Ideally, we would work with the client from the beginning. They would contact us with a short proposal (we will have an online form) and if our panel of experts decides that the project is a good fit, then we work with the creator to figure out all of the bits and what their goal should be. I have been doing A LOT of reading about crowd funding and the challenges therein, and budgeting and goals is a really big one for some.
Delivery dates are also an issue that comes up time and time again. We want to build in a 6-8 month tight turnaround, and make the artist stick to the deadlines.
Fleen: How big do you see MTT getting? On the one hand, you need to keep a schedule of projects such that your employees stay busy. On the other hand, you can’t be so packed full that an unexpectedly big success messes up your logistics for the next two months.
Rowland: We’re going to take it slow for the first year and only run one or two campaigns at a time². That feels manageable, and gives us space to tweak as we go. After that, who knows? If we could afford to hire a campaign manager for each campaign, that is something I would love to do. A Kickstarter sherpa, if you will.
So as you can see this is a pilot program that will probably stay within the company for a while, not the solution to shipping out Veronica Mars dvds. If it works out—and we can’t see why it wouldn’t given TopatoCo’s resources and strang management—we’d imaine other companies would spring up to do much the same thing.
BTW, reading between the lines of Malki and Rowland’s comments this is more a partnership than a fulfillment house. If you squint a little bit, it looks kind of like the services of a traditional publisher, only the money is coming directly from the consumers. What’s revolutionary about the whole process is that it allows the transaction between creator and consumer to be as transparent as possible, but the actual services are much the same. Sometimes everyone goes a different way to see the same thing.
Good news everybody! Today has seen two more Kickstarter projects funded: Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton’s GOLDTIGER, as well as Steven Sanders’ SYMBIOSIS. Both projects were featured on The Beat, so we’ll take full credit for the successes. The projects both still have a little time available if you’d like to get involved, however…
GOLDTIGER was mentioned only a few days ago! This is a hardcover book collecting together a collection of new comic strips created by Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton. The idea is that these strips will be dated in order to look like they were first made in the 1960s, and were created by a writer and artist from that time. The book will chronicle these fictional creators of the book at the same time as collecting the strips, giving the reader two narratives for the price of one. You can find the Kickstarter here.
SYMBIOSIS is an art book created entirely by Steven Sanders. Each copy comes with a creative commons license, meaning you can use any of the ideas or concepts Sanders uses for your own work. Alex De Campi has already said that she’ll be writing a short story based on one of the characters, whilst several other people have decided to bring the ideas to life in a variety of ways. More on that later, hopefully. This also comes as a hardback, and you can find the Kickstarter here.
Congratulations to all!
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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The Kickstarter campaign to produce an animated series based on the online comic Cyanide and Happiness concluded a few minutes ago with a grand total of $770,309 from 14,242 backers. The amount of money raised obliterates the previous animation crowdfunding record held by David Fincher and Blur Studio’s The Goon animatic, which raised $442,000 last November.
Last month when the Cyanide and Happiness campaign was at its midway point, Cartoon Brew wrote about how well the effort was doing. The four creators of C&H—Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin, Dave McElfatrick—had set their fundraising goal at $250,000. They exceeded that amount by 300%, and with the money they’ve raised, their team will now produce eleven 10-12 minute episodes, as well as weekly short-form pieces for an entire year.
“This hardcover graphic novel covers the 1920 unsolved murder of author and bridge expert, Joseph Elwell.”
I doubt you will need more encouragement than the above to go RIGHT THIS MINUTE and support Rick Geary’s
Kickstarter for The Elwell Enigma
— but just in case, here are five more reasons:
* Rick Geary is one of the best (and most underrated, IMHO) cartoonists of his generation, with more than 30 years of distinctive, disturbing and thought provoking work in his resume.
* Geary’s two Treasuries of Murder — Victorian and 20th Century— both published by NBM, are eerie, fascinating painstakingly researched accounts of the most notorious crimes of 200 years, from Lizzie Borden and Mary Rogers to Sacco & Vanzetti and William Desmond Taylor. They are non fiction comics at their best.
* Though NBM has supported Geary’s murder series very well, he’s taking matters into his own hands with this Kickstarter, so you can now support him directly.
* The Elwell murder is a classic “locked room” mystery — he was found inside a locked house, shot in the head. The crime has has never been solved. I confess, as a bit of a “murder buff,” I had never heard of this crime, so I’m looking forward to learning all about it.
* The book is almost finished—all but 20 pages are drawn—so rest assured YOU WILL GET YOUR BOOK and postcards and whatever in a timely fashion.
Bonus! Geary talks about the new Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium, Volume 1 here
I always try to find out as much as I can about whatever subject I’ve chosen. This is probably my favorite part of the process because it’s often a journey of discovery in which what I thought I knew about a particular case turns out to be untrue or misleading.
With the more famous cases, I always end up with more information than I would ever need for an 80-page book. In that case, the process becomes one of editing down and searching out the essential elements. With other cases—likeThe Bloody Benders or The Axe-Man of New Orleans—there is relatively little material out there, so it’s more a matter of expanding what I have by means of fewer panels per page, more full-page illustrations, etc.
Of course, with all the books I’ve done, the research process never really ends because I’m constantly acquiring new bits of information and incorporating them into both text and visuals up through the final inking.
It’s been a HUGE month for webcomics projects on Kickstarter with no less than four six-figure projects.
The Cyanide and Happiness crew netted $770,309 for their animation projects—the most ever for an animation Kickstarter. You may recall that the four-man combine rejected three established TV deals to do it their own way.
David Makli!’s Game of Death party game raised $556,596. And Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak is up to $396,250 wth a few days left. Finally Howzard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary has raised $138,063 for a series of collectible coins [yes, POGs are back], with a few hours to get your order in.
As I’ve said here many times, a popular webcomic having a huge Kickstarter is not really news…but four of them in one month raising six figures show no letdown in interest and enthusiasm. Welp, guess that’s not really news. either. Anyway. add them all up and it’s more than $1,860,000, about half of what Veronica Mars has raised thus far.
Gary Tyrrell at Fleen has more commentary and observations on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter—he’s a much more savvy observer of all this than I, so just go read what he has to say.
If first you don’t succeed….
If you’ve been following the Sullivan’s Slugger’s controversy—catch up here and here—you know that writer Mark Andrew Smith has gotten a lot of criticism over his handling of the fulfillment of last year’s $97k Kickstarter for the story about a minor league baseball team going up against a monster invasion. Among the problems: stores got copies before paying customers, international customers still hadn’t gotten theirs and artist James Stokoe has disavowed the book, prompting writer Smith to accuse him of ending his marriage via stress among other things.
Last month Smith started a second kickstarter for SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS, with the stated goal of raising money to pay for international shipping on the first kickstarter. The mechanism for this was simply selling MORE copies of SULLIVAN’S SLUGGERS, which goes against the general rules of Kickstarter. Amid outcry, the campaign was suspended a few days in.
But now Smith is back with an Indiegogo campaignto raise the international shipping money
The book grew in size/uprgrades to an omnibus edition and the costs of shipping (3.5 lbs) jumped up a lot with the extra weight. International shipping prices from the USPS skyrocketed this year as well.
I didn't freight directly from China to the UK, EU, and AU which would have saved a lot of time and money and now I have to freight the books from California to these destinations. All of these factors added up to a huge price jump.
I need to raise more funds to get the book to international backers. That's where you come in.
The campaign is asking for $16,000
— just how many international copies did he sell anyway? Well, let’s do some spitballing. Admittedly, it is expensive to ship a 3.5 lb book overseas — perhaps as much as $40. So $16,000 would ship 400 books, and if you look at the original Kickstarter
under “International edition” there are 387 orders—so that kinda checks out. Except that in the same price bracket are people who chose to get a print with their copy of the book, so we’ll never know just how many of those 387 are international and how many are orders for a print.
It’s clear that the new campaign is also geared towards selling more copies of the book: Smith’s Indiegogo includes the same level of retailer orders as the last Kickstarter — $500 gets you 24 copies of the book, $1000 gets you a 60-pack.
Meanwhile, some purchasers took to Twitter to complain:
According to his Twitter feed, White is from Newfoundland, so this would come under the dreaded international orders.
This whole matter doesn’t seem to be getting cleaned up any time soon. After Smith’s mishandling of the earlier campaign, at the very least hecould be more transparent about how much money he needs to raise for international shipping. And those customers who paid for their books should get them, regardless.
More to come, we’re sure….
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Writer/publisher Vera Greentea is shooting for her fifth successful Kickstarter comic book campaign. Since 2010 she has raised $22,601 and this time she’s trying to hit her $10,000 goal to fund her latest anthology, PAPA.
The expected release for this book is (American) Fathers Day. The money raised will go to the printing. PAPA is expected to be full color, 50 pages in standard comic book format. Vera’s previous projects have been accessible to all ages but PAPA is intended for a mature audience. I suspect this might affect her and dissuade previous supporters, and grow a whole new audience.
Greentea has recruited some stellar talent this time around. I have participated in a successful Kickstarter anthologies where it’s very apparent that it’s the artist’s first printed work but we all have to start somewhere. The only artist I’m familiar with in this book is Lizzy John—I really enjoyed her run on Fraggle Rock, and it’s good to see her still behind the drawing board. It’s nice to see Vera taking a chance on working with other artist that could use the spotlight.
The stories will be illustrated by three insanely gifted artists that I discovered in some prodigy-ridden pocket universe. They are Ben Jelter (Sidius Nova, The Tumor); Lizzy John (Fraggle Rock) and Joseph Lacroix (Diablo).
Vera was kind enough to give me time from her busy publishing schedule to give us some insight on the success of her previous projects and what goes in to creating a successful Kickstarter project. Don’t forget to visit the project page and kick-in a few shekels and help this book see the light of day.
Henry Barajas: You and the artist, Laura Müller, really worked well together on NENETL— how did you two find each other and make this book come alive?
Vera Greentea: For every book I do, I look for a particular “feel” that might give the story a certain kind of atmosphere or flow. For Nenetl, I was looking for an artist that could draw movement. It took some time, but I was excited to find Laura’s art blog, her work is so incredibly dynamic and has a fantastic organic appeal to it. I contacted her and she replied almost immediately. It was clear we were enthusiastic about each other’s work, and I think that shows in the book and gives it so much life. She’s my Nenetl soulmate.
Dia De Los Muertos parade image from NENETL
Barajas: NENETL revolved around Hispanic culture. What got you interested and what kind of research did you do?
Greentea: I feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of Hispanic aspects of culture, especially food – there’s a grocery store by me full of interesting ingredients targeted at the local Latino population, I guess, but I love exploring when it comes to cooking. I constantly look up the provenance of traditional recipes. So I was looking up a recipe, when I came upon information about the Mexican celebration Day of the Dead. I’ve heard of the festival before, but the article just took hold of me. Suddenly it was many hours later and I found myself deep into researching this particular tradition and many peripheral aspects of the culture as well. Something about a culture that isn’t mournful about death, but treasures and invites their passed ones really touched me on a personal level – that is what made me want to delve into its world. I didn’t mean to write a story about it, that just happened I think because part of me wanted to share the gorgeously unique and non-melancholy idea behind the Day of the Dead festival. Even though I finished writing NENTEL l, I still continuously research this tradition, online and off.
Barajas :What helped you the most in achieving the last goal?
Greentea: Laura’s gorgeous art really made a difference from the beginning – it’s just so striking. I tend to be very vocal on the Kickstarter blog for my projects, and this time I had so much art to show in the process updates. With every art-brimming update, people fell in love with Nenetl more and more.
Barajas: You have came up with some interesting pledge rewards and set yourself apart from the rest of the project out there. How do you come up with new rewards for your projects?
Greentea: To tell you a secret, I actually find coming up with incentives really really hard. I have no idea how to create a gorgeous hoodie with Recipes art, or how to find someone to make a life-size plushie of a Nightbird! How do people do that? So I try to come up with bizarre things that no one else will think to have, and things that I feel they can have with them – like a guitar pick on a keychain. Plus, I discovered a lot of fathers these days play guitar. Maybe it’s a rebel baby boomer thing?
Barajas: What can you tell us about PAPA that isn’t already on the page?
Greentea: PAPA is a collection of dark creepy stories about men put in difficult situations, men who also happen to be fathers. Children can be tragically influenced by their parents, and when their fathers are forced to react to their bizarre situations… well, none of the kids can take it lightly. What you can expect are twists and twisted endings, characters with emotional agendas, some humor, but most basically of all, stories about pride and fear and love.
Barajas: Was the making of this book a way to work out some underlining “daddy issues?”
Greentea: Ha! Well, I wouldn’t say I have daddy issues per se, not more than anyone else at least – I do have an interesting father who I love. I find myself interested in relationships, especially the ones between parents and their children. Fathers and mothers are everything to a child, they’re practically their gods. But they’re also just people with human agendas, and silly goals, and just a bundle of ideas that can be absolutely wrong. All the fathers in PAPA are fallible and imperfect.
In the story of NENETL, the main theme is also about a child looking for her family, so I guess I don’t really veer that far from the particular concept of what is the importance of family.
Barajas: It feels like you have a lot of stories that you’re dying to share, why is this story important to tell?
Greentea: I actually wrote the stories of PAPA before I wrote Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits. To Stop Dreaming of Goddesses, the first comic I wrote, is also rather dark – it’s about fighting your personal demons, even if you think they make you a better person. I think I became a little lighter lately, even as I write stories about long dead kids searching for someone to love them.
Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies. He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas.