Why you DON’T need to pitch a cartoon to Cartoon Network
If you’ve read my opening entry, this might seem the opposite of what the goal of this site is.
But before we go any further, there’s a pregnant elephant in the room that needs addressing.
I’m talking about the unstoppable force that has changed many industries, global economies, and our very way of life.
No, not COVID-19.
It’s something that America Online used to sell by the hour via colorful CD-ROMs they sent in the mail.
I’m speaking of course, about the Internet.
It’s been around for some time now, and it’s probably not going anywhere. At least until the robots take over.
(“Hey Alexa, when will the machines take over?”)
The Internet and affordable animation software has made it easy for anyone to create and distribute animation. That’s wonderful news!
You might be saying, “You mean, I don’t have to pitch my cartoon to some giant company for it to become a reality?”
That’s right! (And if you’re an industry veteran, I know you already knew that!)
You can create your own Homestar Runner or Simon’s Cat, build an audience of loyal fans, and make some money selling ads and merchandise!
But to pull off something like those guys, you’ll need the following:
- Technical and artistic know-how
- Marketing skills
- Maybe a creative partner or two
Sounds easy enough, right? Yet, despite modern technologies and websites that make it easier than ever to share your ideas with the world, creator-driven content is king. (And clever marketing is the chariot it rides on.)
Giant media companies will always be listening to pitches from creative people like yourself.
But you don’t have to work for “the man” if you don’t want to.
The biggest perk to distributing your own animated content is that you’ll keep all creative control (and profits). You won’t have to bend at the whim of some non-creative executive. You won’t have to react to the rise and fall of trends and fads, nor will you be at the mercy of the dreaded focus group test results.
Steve Ahn’s Blossom Detective Holmes short is a perfect example of someone who’s created a passion project, and is spreading the word via social media. You can check out the teaser trailer on Vimeo.
Ah, such power.
In a hypothetical example, your singing hat character can keep its Australian accent and that tattoo of Hugh Jackman you spent hours designing!
However, the biggest drawback is that you won’t have the marketing muscle of a major network spending millions of dollars to tell anyone outside your social media circle.
And unless you know a lot of talented friends who can help you produce new content on a regular basis, you’re going to be too busy and tired to enjoy life.
It’s also incredibly difficult to make a living solely by your Internet art, unless your creation has gone viral, and you’ve built a fan base willing to spend money on your art.
You may have the funniest show packed with jaw-dropping action and endearing characters that you’re happy with, but if your only fan is your mom, well…it’s a good thing she has that spare bedroom.
Your dream may be to create something so spectacular that the general public loves it and embraces you. And when the major studios call, you can tell them “Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather keep all my rights and money.”
Or you could also say, “No thanks Netflix, but I have another idea I’d like to pitch.”
Guess what? They’ll listen, because you’re a recognizable name with a built- in fan base, and you’ re probably worth the risk.
All the more reason to keep that web comic, Tumblr account, YouTube channel, and/or Instagram profile active! You never know who might see it and want to pay you to work with them.
Here’s a short list of some of the most popular websites to distribute your animated content. Most of these you already know about. These sites can help you build an audience, get noticed, and ultimately get paid.
- Amazon Video Direct
- TikTok (See how this platform is a great way to build a gigantic following with short animated content.)
I highly recommend you test your show concept by creating some content and putting it online to get audience reaction. It may take some time, but it’s a fantastic way to connect with and build an audience early.
Be careful if you’re attempting to create a show for kids to watch online. The feedback you’ll get will most likely be from 20-somethings who aren’t the network’s target audience. They can be your biggest fans, or the most obnoxious critics. Either way, their comments should be taken as a grain of salt.
“What if I don’t have a fully-animated pilot to share online?”
Try creating a Kickstarter campaign. It’s worked before.
Take LeSean Thomas’ Cannon Buster s series. It started as a comic back in 2005, and after a successful 2014 Kickstarter campaign to produce a short, animated pilot, Netflix has ordered 12 episodes of the series!
Another example of a successful animated project from Kickstarter is “Long Gone Gulch” by Tara Billinger and Zach Bellissimo. They’ve raised money for a pilot, and are well on their way to completing it, thanks to their generous backers!
If you can make and sustain an animated project online, go for it! It’s a lot of hard work, so you’d better be passionate about your project and keep feeding your fans content. If you’re successful, your fans will feed you, AND you won’t need to learn how to pitch a show to Netflix, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, or anybody!
But if you want to take your chances by going through a network or studio, come back for more pitchin’ utensils!