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TELETOON Detour Pilot Project now on iTunes

Last year’s batch of Teletoon’s tax credit babies are now available on iTunes. Among the titles are:

Angora Napkin
Dunce Bucket
Ninjamaica
Fugget About It
Chinatown Cops
Space Knights
Celebutard Nation
Drop Dead Gorgeous
Nerdland

You can find out more on the official Teletoon website or via Mike Valiquette’s reviews from last year.

If you like these eps, I guess we’re supposed to DL them over and over, just like we voted for them over and over last year to no effect. If I remember correctly, in spite of these being called ‘pilots’ not one of these have been greenlit into a series. Therefore, I suspect these cartoons were much like like YTV’s FUNPAK series from five years ago – a potentially bogus open call designed to spend federal grant or tax money to ensure the company’s eligibility for the next fiscal year.

I’d like to be proven wrong, Teletoon. Perhaps someone in your boardroom has had the courage to back one of these Pilot Project ideas and actually make one into a series that you wholly own and can properly license? Time shall tell.

YTV’s already got a leg up by co-producing at least one from their crop of the FunPak calls: Sidekick. Granted, it took five full years to get around to Sidekick, but at least they pulled their socks up and did it. Others in that run included: ‘Cool man!’, ‘Gruesomestein’s Monsters’, ‘Harold Rosenbaum: Chartered Accountant’, ‘Martini and Meatballs’, ‘Miracle Koala’, ‘Rotting Hills’, ‘The 9th Life of Sherman Phelps’, ‘The Manly Bee’, and ‘The Wild Wild Circus Company’. As far as I know, none have been developed by YTV into a series. Personally, I think ‘The Manly Bee’ had a shot until ‘The Mighty B’ showed up at Nickelodeon, and ‘The 9th Life of Sherman Phelps’ could be interesting. But YTV didn’t listen at all to the numbers in 2005, as ‘Gruesomestine’s Monsters’ often won their competition weeks and yet never got the greenlight. It’s kind of odd that YTV let ‘Sidekick’ lie fallow until someone else expressed an interest in it and the rights were about to revert back to the creators. Makes you wonder why these broadcasters bother, doesn’t it?

I hope Teletoon is better organized than their competitors have proven to be with these open calls. Once the California studios figure out their new tax credit system, I have a hunch us cartoonists are gonna be in a world of hurt unless the homegrown stations really start backing creators in their own backyard.

It’s pretty ridiculous that so many Canadian creators are continously pitching to interested American production companies & networks and not getting any interest from the production companies and broadcasters down the street.  Some creators get traction at home after meeting with those same Canadian production studios while they’re both in LA. (The creators of ‘Spliced!‘ did exactly that, as stated in this WGC podast). Now that’s just weird.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to DL all the Detour eps you can stomach, cartoon fans. It very well may be your last chance until the rights revert to the creators four years from now. That is, unless Teletoon is on their toes. And I hope they are.

24 Comments

  1. Cameron A. Cameron A. November 1, 2010

    At least Teletoon gives its pilots free distribution over iTunes. I’d love to see CBC do that with its pilots. Seriously, I’ve seen a few promising failed pilots from CBC Television, which are normally aired as filler in between Stanley Cup playoff games.

    Teletoon’s big drawback, at least for me, is that it rarely does anything quickly. Look at the Pilot Project and The Dating Guy. The Pilot Project was announced in 2007. The Dating Guy was announced in 2006. I’m not sure of the normal turnaround between announced program and finished series, but four years is pushing it.

    I think the Teletoon Pilot Project will bear fruit. It needs to. Teletoon at Night doesn’t have that much on the go for either 2010-11 or 2011-12. There’s Crash Canyon, but I’m stuck on shows beyond that. Teletoon lost a lot when it allowed most of [adult swim]’s newer shows to migrate to G4 Canada around 2009-10. Futurama and King of the Hill reruns can only be stretched so far.

  2. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 2, 2010

    I’d like to think this would bear fruit as well, Cameron, but I’m skeptical. The CBC, as a government body, often loses shows in the shuffle without a strong cheerleader in-house. I imagine it’s the same within Teletoon’s walls. Perhaps these shows have lost theirs? Hard to say. Some probably don’t deserve a cheerleader, but the idea behind the Pilot Project does, and I think it’s died. It’s been three years, as you said.

    I truly think Teletoon as a company needs to re-think it’s charter. It moves at a glacial pace for any entertainment company, as you’ve noted. Without the CRTC and no serious competition (one channel, maybe two owned by the same parent company isn’t considered serious), the pace that they release stuff would ensure its demise.

    Not only that, but they are really piddling away a vast resource of revenue – the cartoonists & show runners in this country. I’ve rarely heard of a get-together sponsored by them to meet creators and potentials, at a festival or anywhere else. And I know for a fact that Cartoon Network has done so in Toronto a few times over the years. I know because I helped the recruiter line up creators and make sure they met – I’ve never worked for CN, but I want local talent to get the type of work they deserve so I did it. I’ve seen the DisneyTV creative heads make the rounds through studios and creators in Toronto, resulting in shows getting optioned and consulting offers.

    And Teletoon? Nowhere. Their backyards are getting poached and they don’t even know it, or care. They’d rather let the larger networks create the show with creators from Guelph (Secret Saturdays) or Toronto (Monstrocity High, Total Drama series, although I think it was a co-production) or Vancouver (Atomic Betty) and then rent the territory rights to broadcast in Canada. Maybe a great way to save dough, but no creative vision for development seems to exist there. And entertainment congloms with poor creative vision tend to fail.

    So, rant aside? Yes, I agree that the Pilot Project needs to bear fruit, but I don’t think it will. Because there seems to be no will at Teletoon. As I said, time shall tell. And I hope I’m wrong. There are some potential shows in this batch.

  3. Mike Valiquette Mike Valiquette November 2, 2010

    ug. I’m going to have to weigh in on this, aren’t I? Maybe it’s finally time for me to write my next challenge of animation column. I’m probably going to get myself in trouble.

  4. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 2, 2010

    What, the idea of things being good enough not good enough? 🙂
    I love our welfare entertainment state!

  5. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 2, 2010

    Well, there’s a lot I don’t know about how Teletoon develops it’s material.

    I could be waaaaay off base, and if I am, then someone enlighten me.

    But I wonder if this is how it goes:

    Since there doesn’t seem to be any agency mechanism in place for introducing creators to networks or production companies in Canada, it seems that someone has to be hitting the shoeleather and doing the legwork – and so far it’s incumbent on the artist/producers to present to the network directly. Nothing new there.

    I guess that’s where production companies like Portfolio, DeCode, et al come into the picture. YTV and Teletoon require artists to try to sell ideas to production companies, who alter it to what they think will sell, then shop it to the two or three cartoon broadcasters in Canada. So these production companies are de facto development execs AND agents since there are no agencies on the hustle? And they’d often like to own the rights to it as well, if they sign you?

    This model seems quite different from networks like CN, who can take pitches straight, no filter, and Nickelodeon and DisneyTV who require agents to front the artists to filter out the flakes, but who do not often try to claim rights to the material and take percentages or upfront fees instead. Regardless, all three companies from down south regularly send execs out to scout potentials in most territories where they broadcast. Active scouting for resources. Teletoon either does this infrequently or not very much at all from what I’ve heard.

    I just think it’s unusual is for a network like Teletoon to be so lackadaisical on keeping up with competition in the race for resources.

    And I can’t figure out why…

  6. Cameron A. Cameron A. November 2, 2010

    To be fair, I don’t mind what Teletoon has done during the daytime. They’ve at least given a consistent home to shows like Jimmy Two Shoes, Total Drama, 6teen, Stoked and Spliced! (As an aside, I’m not sure which shows originated at Teletoon, and which are imported projects with Teletoon Original slapped onto the side.) Teletoon’s fairly active and successful with regards to daytime, especially since Cartoon Network relies on a few Teletoon originals itself.

    It’s the At Night side that worries me. I think Sons of Butcher and Quads! are the only Teletoon Unleashed/Detour/At Night originals with more than a season under their belts, and no, I don’t count Life’s a Zoo.tv‘s 20-episode order as “two seasons.”

    In 2009, Teletoon earned $76,267,679 in revenue and a $35,278,771 profit before interest and taxes (CRTC figures taken from the Toronto Star.) The station makes a fairly robust profit.

    Meanwhile, what does Teletoon At Night get? Archer, which debuted in 2009-10 on FX, and The Dating Guy, which debuted in 2009-10 on HDNet. Oh, and new American Dad episodes. Teletoon At Night needs to do better than that and the constant reruns.

    If Teletoon still had [adult swim], I’d write the Pilot Project off, but the former post-9:00 PM block has become dilapidated. It’s really the perfect time for Teletoon to launch a couple, three new shows, even if it’s to give the finger to G4 Canada. Maybe I’m being too much of an optimist re: the Pilot Project, but Teletoon Unleashed/Detour/At Night can’t continue with its strategy of debuting one new Canadian show a year and hoping it won’t bomb.

  7. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 2, 2010

    I guess it’s apples to apples then. Teletoon IS a smaller station, no doubt about it, and Corus most likely does not have the resources that CN’s, Nick’s or DisneyTV’s parent companies do. Yes, the station makes a fairly robust profit, and yes there are 8 Teletoon originals you’ve listed there, which looks accurate.

    CN’s slate looks like this:

    Adventure Time, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Generator Rex, Unnatural History (live action), Tower Prep (live action), Sym-Bionic Titan, MAD, Regular Show, Robotomy, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, The Looney Tunes Show, Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated, Young Justice, Run It Back Sunday, Total Drama World Tour, Metajets, BEYBLADE: Metal Fusion, The Amazing Spiez.

    And those are just the new shows for 2010, not the recurring ones. As far as I know, only Total Drama and perhaps Beyblade are Teletoon originals. CN is also bragging about it’s reach into other media, with a projected 30% grab of the mobile sector expected. (taken from the Kagan SNL report in 2009).

    And now we have Teletoon trotting out three year old pilots to iTunes. Pilots that have yet to really get cemented into an actual slate.

    I think we agree on the same thing, Cameron. Teletoon has done fairly well in it’s own pond, but it has its work cut out for it if it wants a bigger slice of its sector by providing content viewers can’t get anywhere else.

    And let’s not forget that CN, Nick and DisneyTv provide the bulk of kids programs up here too, the ironic thing being that some of those shows are actually produced in Canada, aired in the US and then licensed to the Corus group to air on YTV, Teletoon, Family, Treehouse, or Nickelodeon Canada. In order to augment the Teletoon roster of imports with more indigenous breakout hits to export back south, more than the CRTC minimum anyway, I’d have thought there’d be more hustle than this. It’s a fairly simple trail to backtrack which local studios are keeping the competition happy and offering them a shot at developing a new property. I could be wrong, but I haven’t heard much of that going on despite the modest profits Teletoon has been able to muster.

    I’m hoping Teletoon can really step into the breach as well. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned? But for how long?

    Since they seem to have been able to outsource their creative development department, I’ll guess we’ll have to cross our fingers that the smaller production intermediaries (Decode, Portfolio, Fresh, etc) decide to take this on for them.

  8. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 3, 2010

    It is a very different system in Canada compared to the US as to how networks not only look for shows but how the green light them. Part of it is due to Government legislation.
    CN is allowed to own their own animation studio. They look for new talent because they know that their audience will stop watching if there is nothing interesting on it. Creator driven content in this case lends to higher potential revenue. Look at SpongeBob and Power Puff Girls. The network also had a stake in the ancillary products, toys and such and have made buckets of money.
    In Canada a network is not allowed to own either a studio or, someone correct me here, any portion of the rights beyond the temporary rights bought to air the series on TV or web. If I am wrong here I am sorry. 🙂
    Networks are legally required to buy X number of hours of Canadian made content. Sort of like minimum wage but for TV. They do realize the need for quality of course. Quality brings in more advertising and so on BUT there really is no built in incentive beyond that to pursue what some may call higher quality or others would call riskier content.
    It is very rare that a creator will get a green light from a Canadian network without a PROVEN deliverer of content already behind them. Hence studios like the ones many of us work for.
    This is where that Agent/Producer/distributor/Dev excecs come into play.
    The system is designed in a way to protect us the viewers, our culture (whatever that means), the studios that employ us and the networks that buy and put on the content.
    In my humble opinion this system has so many built in safety factors that no one will ever be willing to take any sort of real risk and is why the words “good enough” are pervasive within this industry at all levels. Canada will never get a SpongeBob with the way things are now. We came close with Atomic Betty.
    I am not trying to belittle any of the quality shows that are on TV right now as there are a few.
    So, high risk high reward versus legislated protectionism and Government financing.
    The first has more failures that we never see or remember but bigger hits. The second has seemingly fewer failures but a far higher % of mediocre content and of course keeps us gainfully employed for the most part.
    What was the last Canadian animated series to go beyond two seasons?
    No I am not bitter, just feeling blunt. 🙂

  9. Mike Valiquette Mike Valiquette November 3, 2010

    Rob’s assessment is pretty fair. Basically, what we have in Canada is a system where we have a handful of conservative venture capitalists, the broadcasters, who are prevented by our government from actually owning any of the product they invest in. Broadcasters basically rent shows from producers/creators for a set amount of time. I think there are some areas where they can keep some participation, and I seem to recall someone from a network once telling me that there are opportunities for them to be involved in merchandising, but the impression that I get is that it’s more work than it’s worth. Our reality is that the broadcaster is making money off its advertising. It leases a product to bring in viewers. They broadcaster’s safest route to filling that time is to simply buy a product that has already been produced, rather than pay to produce it themselves. The price point is way better. Without ownership, they really have no incentive at all to spend on development or production. To offset this, the government makes money available for original production, making it cheaper for the broadcaster to undertake, and then creates more legislation forcing the broadcaster to air Canadian content, which they’re willing to subsidize.
    So the government legislates to prevent the broadcaster from owning the content they broadcast, thereby removing the incentive to produce original content. Then the government creates more legislation and subsidies to get the producer to create original content.
    But the broadcaster can still only profit from the advertising, rather than the content itself. So the business model they follow is a conservative one, one that guarantees healthy revenue streams that they don’t want to mess with too much.
    “Cartoons are the things we put on between commercials.” This is something that was once quoted to me and credited to someone at the very upper levels of a broadcaster. That statement probably horrifies most readers. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s not that guy’s job to give a shit about cartoons. His job is to secure profit for his corporation. That’s it. He has a model he’s been given to secure that profit. It involves putting cartoons on between commercials. Quite simple. So he has a team of people working for him to put those cartoons on. One means is acquisitions. Acquisitions cost less than original productions, and you can see what’s already tested well elsewhere and piggyback popularity. I’m sure if it were up to the top dude, he’d run his network on acquisitions alone. But the pesky government makes them make shows: Original Content(this is where you pay someone to give a shit about cartoons). Far riskier. So they look to minimize the risk. Always. How they specifically do that, I’m not sure. But the safest means to making money is minimizing risk.
    American broadcasters at least have a good reason to take risks: buttloads of money. With ownership, all you need is one hit, one Simpsons, one Spongebob, one Beavis and Butthead: one cash cow to make all the risk worthwhile. American broadcasters have a model with a built in allowance for failure. Without some failure, you never hit the big hit. They also have tax shelter legislation, which goes a long way to encouraging risk-taking. We did away with ours around the same time we brought in our tax credits.
    Our model seeks to eliminate the possibility of failure, so it removes risk, and pretty much guarantees we’ll never have a hit.
    People ask, broadcasters included, “where’s our Spongebob?” It’s a silly question. We’re not built for it.
    I gotta get back to work, but this is a great thread, one that’s maybe going in a slightly different direction than intended, but this is the conversation we should be having.

  10. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 3, 2010

    On a positive note I really enjoyed the Pilot Project and hope that more things like this get done!

  11. Cameron A. Cameron A. November 3, 2010

    Teletoon and YTV have one CN-like advantage: Nelvana is a sister company in the Corus organization. Corus owns the cablecasters and the production company, and has Shaw as a parent.

    Heck, Nelvana even part-owns ION Media Networks’ qubo, although the E/I requirements on qubo, plus ION Media Networks’ weak reach, handcuff Nelvana’s presence in America. I’d love to see Spliced! on at a decent time on qubo, not 4:00 AM in the morning. Nelvana does program a lot of qubo’s content, though.

    I’m not saying that Teletoon can compete with Cartoon Network on CN’s level. It can’t, and I’m not expecting it to. Acquisitions are cheaper, obviously, and you’re more likely to see an established Canadian company like Cookie Jar, Nelvana and Cuppa Coffee on Teletoon than, say, Mugisha Enterprises.

    The point I’m trying to make is that, even within the parameters that handcuff Canadian cablecos and broadcasters, there isn’t a lot of risk being taken anyway. Whether it’s due to government mandates or an unwillingness to mess with what makes money, I don’t know. I just think Teletoon and YTV play it too safe at times, and safe tends to get stale faster.

    Also, Rob Anderson, you forgot Johnny Test.

  12. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 3, 2010

    “So the government legislates to prevent the broadcaster from owning the content they broadcast, thereby removing the incentive to produce original content. Then the government creates more legislation and subsidies to get the producer to create original content. But the broadcaster can still only profit from the advertising, rather than the content itself.”

    That explains everything. Thanks, I think. ;P

    I don’t know if I’d bother either, if I were in their shoes.

    So that answers why Teletoon and YTV fail to greenlight these open calls. What for? They’ve served their purpose of ensuring eligibility for credits for the following fiscal year. I’ve been approached by a large production studio about making a short film using some left over tax money for exactly that reason, so I’m going to have to assume it’s like spotting a mouse – find one, you can be pretty sure that there’s dozens more you don’t see.

    Unfortunately, that setup leaves those of us on the production side holding a big ol’ bag of ‘eff all’ if the ad revenue system that’s been propping up TV for so long starts to erode. That situation’s been predicted for TV for a while now, and has recently come true for newspapers as they are pushed out by online sources. With the home box convergence, I wonder how long TV can keep pace. I know my household has cut cable and we’re a now on AppleTV & Netflix with online sources for current news. I’m my own axeman…huh.

    The tax creds already have diminished, as we’ve all experienced – that drop manifested as lower rates for the TV cartoon trade because no broadcaster has any incentive to put their own dough into the pot to make good cartoons with some shelf life, as you’ve said. So I guess any extra investment in an original cartoon would logically have to come from the production companies whom I know for a fact are often surfing on gov’t credits to stay above water. Unless, the proprietors have nards of steel and can invest in themselves or can hustle up wealthy patrons. Or if the proper minister is lobbied hard every four years. Hmmmm. A lotta ‘ifs’.

    I guess, if I were a smaller development company in Canada, I’d do some serious shopping at comic and anim fests – because you could own a chunk of what you buy if you can talk a creator into a mutually beneficial partnership…and you can rent out the resulting series to anyone who wants it. Nice work if you can get it. Now I understand why the system is set up the way it is! Thanks Mike!…I think…

    It sounds like it’s high time to make the cartoons I’d want to watch – all on my lonesome or with buddies. Because no one else will by the sounds of it – unless another cattle call comes round. That’s actually kind of liberating if I can stay employed. Nothing new there. HAHAHAHAHA!

    ‘Dis iz a SYSTEM?’

    Where’s the Scotch?

  13. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 3, 2010

    @ Cameron: “I just think Teletoon and YTV play it too safe at times, and safe tends to get stale faster.”

    Hear, Hear! As a fan myself, I’m almost continually disappointed by what shows don’t get very far. I think Dunce Bucket and Angora Napkin would have some pretty decent odds if they got picked up. They might have better homes on other Corus channels, but still. The spirit of experimentation is something that I’d like to see.

    Like many readers, the demise of Nick’s ‘El Tigre’ & ‘Mighty B’ and CN’s ‘Chowder’ and The Secret Saturdays just made zero sense to me as a fan. It irks me when I see YTV and Teletoon make similar choices with local goods.

  14. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 3, 2010

    @ Rob Anderson – “Also, Rob Anderson, you forgot Johnny Test.”
    AND – The Total Drama series. LOL

  15. Cameron A. Cameron A. November 3, 2010

    Just to add to the conversation re: PBITs and financial number-crunching:

    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/BrAnalysis/psp2009/individual/ipsp2009.pdf

    Interesting note: YTV’s smaller PBIT is due to, among other things, more of a promotional budget. YTV spent $8 million last year on sales/promotion. Teletoon spent $2.5 million, almost half its 2005 numbers. Canadian programming costs for both channels are similar. Either Teletoon has less overhead or is a smaller outfit altogether, but it seems to be more profitable than YTV.

  16. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 3, 2010

    I keep trying to forget those shows but people keep reminding me. I find nothing appealing about Johnny test. The same stale gags with a shallow attempt at skinning them for a newish audience. 🙂
    Total drama and the monsters that have crawled out of the heap after it are exactly what my issues are with Canadian TV today.
    I think I have more fun cutting an apple in half and betting which side will turn brown first. But that’s just me!

  17. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 4, 2010

    Well, thank goodness that the independant animation scene is so vibrant. It’s much more fun talking about that!

  18. Kevin Chow Kevin Chow November 8, 2010

    All of these posts have been very informative on why there are no good Canadian Animated Shows!

    As a former Classical Animation graduate with NO studio experience, instead opting to pursue a degree in Marketing, how would you professionals suggest I go about pitching a cartoon idea targeting tweens to adults? I will not waste your time talking about my show or how great I think it is. But I do ask, with websites such as YouTube, would it be wise to publicly post short clips to build public interest, or post animated custom scenes with the characters joking that they would like to be on television? The animation world is one big poker game, and I have enough chips for one hand and I’ve been delt a low hand. How do I bluff my way into a win?

  19. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 8, 2010

    Hi Kevin
    That is a tough question to answer in a post!
    I know of a few independents that have gone the route of youtube and such to build followers. It has worked for some. Case in point being Adventure Time. That was bought by CN I believe.

  20. Kevin Chow Kevin Chow November 12, 2010

    Thanks for the advice Rob!

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