Yesterday, Cartoon Hangover – a Youtube channel by Frederator known for shows such as Bravest Warriors and Bee and Puppycat – awoke from a long hiatus of no new original content beyond commentary about popular animation by other companies to finally announce new episodes of the aforementioned series. These episodes, they said, would be available exclusively in the United States via a paid subscription to the VRV app.
Hangover explained the reason for the change in a respectably straight-forward manner: Youtube simply doesn’t pay enough to produce television quality animated shorts using ad revenue alone, and the amount of merchandise sold didn’t make up the difference. The move to VRV, they said, was necessary to keep providing content, and they were working on international releases as fast as they could.
As one might expect after roughly two years with no news and an international audience, pandemonium quickly broke out in the comments, and the channel pinned a comment that made an effort to defend their stance:
People don’t seem to understand how much time and money it takes to produce just one episode of these cartoons.
Under normal circumstances, that would sum things up quite nicely. Youtube’s pay rate is pretty awful, cartoons are expensive and take forever to make, international rights take time that nobody is happy with them taking, and Frederator has the right to do what they want with the content they’re paying the produce. However, there’s just one thing that makes this entire argument fall apart:
Bee and Puppycat was crowdfunded.
Bravest Warriors? Sure, put it on VRV. It needs to make money. The problem here is Bee and Puppycat already has made its money… and more. The Kickstarter stretched past its goal of $600k, raking in enough to – according to Frederator – make a whopping nine episodes instead of the original goal of five. When people claimed dropping 600 grand for 5 episodes was too much, I backed Frederator up, because animation is that expensive.
Of course, my defense of Frederator involved making an assumption, and that was that an animation company with 15 years of industry experience knew how to estimate a production budget before presenting it to potential producers, and that’s that crowdfunders essentially are: a democracy of producers. Now, Frederator is claiming they grossly underestimated their need for funding and needs to put Bee and Puppycat on VRV to make up the difference, despite the Kickstarter never even suggesting using a paid platform in the event of partial funding was a possibility. They went as far as to say in the video that they paid for a tenth episode – not met in the stretch goals – out of pocket… which absolutely nobody asked for.
What fans did ask for – what they paid for – was a collection of high-quality animated shorts accessible to everyone, everywhere. The cartoon being free to everyone was never presented as a stretch goal. It was implied throughout as the plan and the reason so much funding was needed. To add insult to injury, the free link for backers has apparently not been working and/or been taken down very quickly, and many are still waiting for backer rewards.
Hangover is either so completely out of touch with how to propose a budget that they can’t see why their producers are upset, or they’re simply ignoring the reason people are actually upset. Bee and Puppycat was already paid for, plain and simple. Asking fans to pay for it again because an experienced animation firm can’t handle a budget is extremely unprofessional and does not deserve the respect that is being asked of fans.
Despite Hangover’s pleas, the series will get pirated and… honestly, as much as it pains me to say because nothing makes me happier than supporting independent animation and telling people we need to support independent animation, I wonder if that needs to happen for Frederator for them to stop acting like Kickstarter is a charity and that people should be honored to help produce something and get nothing in return because it’s artistic. They owe fans nothing less than a public apology and releasing the rest of their crowdfunded series to the world for free, because that’s how much they said it’d cost them to make with fans’ help.