The field of television animation, like most job markets right now, is completely saturated. With a new generation of emerging artists seeking to fulfill their dreams of creating a successful TV cartoon, it is not a huge surprise that many would rather forgo the stress and disappointment of pitching ideas to a network executive and instead turn to the Internet to broadcast their creations to the world. YouTube has become a hub for indie animation. With production companies like Frederator supporting the shift wholeheartedly with their Cartoon Hangover project, it seems like YouTube is where the future of animation for many young cartoonists lies.
Cartoon Hangover already airs several brilliant cartoons, such as Pendleton Ward’s goofy sci-fi creation Bravest Warriors, and the adorable and absolutely hysterical Bee and Puppycat by Natasha Allegri. Aside from these very popular regularly airing shows, Frederator also occasionally allows for the first few episodes of new indie shows to be aired. This works like test run for animators so they can see how well their ideas fare with a larger audience than they may have independently.
YouTube provides the freedom for these artists to experiment with their ideas, and to prove to corporate bigwigs that their ideas of what is and is not marketable are outdated or simply incorrect. Shows that would never make it past the pitching phase with a cable network are allowed to flourish and be successful on their own terms online.
YouTube is an invaluable resource for these indie animators, not only because it allows for cartoons that might never be seen on TV to be given a place to grow and be seen, but because they allow for creators to maintain full copyright control of their brainchildren and decide their own futures. In many cases, creators are swindled out of the rights to their shows by corporate executives, and when the shows take off, the original creator never sees any of the profits. An example of this is what happened to Johnen Vasquez – who recently appeared as a guest writer on an episode Bravest Warriors – and his show Invader Zim. The show became a wildly popular cult classic with a ton of merchandise, but because Vasquez was forced to sign a contract with Nickelodeon he was never able to reap the benefits of its wild success.
While things have most certainly improved in terms of ethics regarding artistic rights when dealing with big companies, with YouTube that situation can no longer happen. Creators maintain full claim to their rights as a creator and also take the position as lead writer, producer, animator, and pretty much anything else they want to do personally for their show.
And it is not limited to children’s shows, either. Animators who wish to create cartoons that deal with adult subject matter are also given free rein, albeit with a smaller reach than the family friendly shows. Anything goes on YouTube; no one has to pass censors or be approved by the board of corporate decision-makers, everything is up to the artist. As long as they don’t violate the terms of service, they can do whatever they want without worrying whether they will be turned down. Obviously, this is a very appealing combination of circumstances that poses a quick, simple solution to animators both young and old-looking to break into the field or return to it. Given the situation artists are faced with, it is no surprise that cartoons have become so abundant on YouTube, and it is plain to see that animation will only become more popular in the future.
Opinion by Robin Syrenne