Some thoughts on the Canadaland podcast with Adam Hines.
Hines is one half of the now-defunct Guys With Pencils podcast,
which he records with Andrew Murray. I realize this article is two weeks late, yet it’s still
not as late as Teletoon’s 2014-15 fall schedule announcement. Just sayin’.
In the intro to this Canadaland episode, Jesse Brown mentions John Kricfalusi, Norman McLaren, and NFB shorts. Brown ignores Danny Antonucci, whose Cartoon Network show Ed, Edd n Eddy was spearheaded by Antonucci’s a.k.a. Cartoon in Vancouver, and commissioned by Cartoon Network. Granted, Brown admits he doesn’t know much about how the commercial animation business works, but it’s odd to ignore the rare Canadian-made television show commissioned by an American channel – the normal procedure for American television is to acquire a Canadian show through the production company (see: DHX Media’s Supernoobs). Ed, Edd n Eddy managed sixty-nine episodes and the Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show television film. Ed, Edd n Eddy is also the last major North American animated television series to switch from cel animation to digital ink-and-paint.
Ed, Edd n Eddy was the last of what Cartoon Network terms the Cartoon Cartoons when it ended in 2009. Unfortunately, as Ed, Edd n Eddy was commissioned by an American channel, the show isn’t considered Canadian by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office. It’s a strange quirk of the Canadian television business. Had the show gone through the usual Canadian channels (YTV, Family Channel, Teletoon), the show would have triggered fund money, but it’s hard to say whether Ed, Edd n Eddy would have earned the creative control Cartoon Network gave it. Hell, it was a risk to give Antonucci a children’s show after a.k.a. Cartoon made The Brothers Grunt for MTV in 1994; those who have seen The Brothers Grunt know what I’m talking about.
When people mention “shitty Flash cartoons,” they refer to vector-based animation that is reliant on computer-based inbetweening, which Hines explains to Brown. Canadian broadcasters greenlight a lot of these type cartoons – Total Drama, Numb Chucks, Rocket Monkeys, etc. A reason these shows exist is to increase the available amount of content in a company’s catalog. Corus and DHX Media own cable properties (Corus with Teletoon, Treehouse and YTV; DHX Media with Family Channel), which gives them an edge over independent Canadian animation companies. Corus also owns animation studio Nelvana and animation software company Toon Boom, while DHX Media owns what used to be Studio B Productions.
If there’s a current need to knock out five times the amount of content compared to Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Animation Group (a company Hines mentions in the podcast), it’s because Time Warner owns the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies and MGM cartoon libraries, the Hanna-Barbera and select Ruby-Spears assets, Cartoon Network, and the library of animated series/films based on DC Entertainment properties. The legwork for what is currently Time Warner began in 1967, when Kinney National Services bought National Periodical Publications (i.e., DC Comics); Warner Bros./Seven Arts joined the conglomerate in 1969. Even then, Kinney’s objective was to diversify beyond parking lots, funeral homes, cleaning firms, and wood flooring. Amassing a content library was nowhere near as important as it is now.
Nelvana’s animation catalog only dates back to the early 1970s. DHX Media has a large animation catalog due to the company being a series of mergers and acquisitions; 9 Story Entertainment is in the process of building its own sizable catalog. It doesn’t matter about a show’s quality so much as if the reruns can still sell. Canadian television animation is a producer’s market; Corus and DHX Media are shrewd enough to have vertically integrated models, while everyone else is in the business to survive.
The question of “why doesn’t Canada have its own Adventure Time?” is a cheat. Adventure Time began as a short on Nicktoons Network; two pitches by show producer Frederator Studios to turn Adventure Time into a Nicktoons series were rejected. It took a commitment by Cartoon Network, and a major retool on Pendleton Ward’s part, for the show to become what it currently is. It’s hard for America to build its own Adventure Time, never mind Canada. That’s not to say Canadian companies can’t make their own Adventure Time. Bite on Mondo is a start. Blue Ant Media wants to build Bite into a legitimate competitor to Bell Media’s Comedy Network, while affiliating itself with an American company it might want to acquire a few years down the road. In today’s corporate culture, BoM is as shrewd a business decision as any.
A weird thing about this episode of Canadaland is that it doesn’t mention Guys With Pencils’ recent decision to shut down its podcast. I’m not sure if the interviews are banked beforehand, and if they are, for how long. I just find it an odd thing to omit. To be fair, I’m surprised Canadaland even talks about Canadian animation, or else this article wouldn’t exist.
Also, The Raccoons is not the apex of anything.