Last updated on December 1, 2020
I’ve been throwing around a lot of big talk lately about creative risk-taking in Canada and how we inevitably play it safe in pretty much everything we make. It’s tough, but it’s a fact we have to face, and one that we seem to understand really well in the trenches. We hear about how people can spot a Canadian show a mile away, and how it’s a label that’s not doing us any favours.
Well, if you’re looking fore an example, the LA Times recently ran a review of a bunch of shows, with a fair bit of Canadian craft among them, including the new episodes of Pen Ward’s Bravest Warriors. I watched most of the original episodes of Bravest Warriors, and was a fan. I’m going to openly admit that I haven’t seen any of this latest batch coming out of Nelvana. I’ve heard a few things. The first is that anyone I’ve talked to who’s working on it, loves working on it. Which is awesome. The second: It’s lost something.
Here’s what the LA Times had to say: This is the first season without input from (Breehn)Burns, and it shows a little. Now made under the wing of the Canadian animation house Nelvana, the series has become marginally less marvelous, a little too on point and digestible, with explanatory opening titles heretofore considered unnecessary. Still, there’s some good writing talent, including Kate Leth, who has written for the “Bravest Warriors” comic series and penned “Adventure Time” graphic novels. One hopes that the producers will remember that the biggest favor you can do your audience is not to do them any favors.
Damn. Looks like Bravest Warriors has been Canadian-ized. It’s amazing how this happens. You have a show that’s already been a show, created by one of the biggest names in the animation industry, and we still fuck around with it. The analysis here sounds so spot on in terms of the filter we put things through. Again, I haven’t seen the new episodes, something I should remedy, but when I read this it just flew off the page. This is so exactly a description of what I would fear would happen to such a show. And it sounds like it did. I’ve always asserted that at the very least, with a proven concept, a finished short film, a pilot, if it’s successful, and it’s good, then we might not fuck it up when moving it into production. But if something like Bravest Warriors, with its pedigree and previous success, can’t survive our meddling, what chance does new IP stand?
I don’t know the answer. Is there someone in the chain that should be fighting harder? Or is the architecture just too overwhelming? I honestly shiver at this. How do we not fuck up? How do we make better shows? How do we create a structure where the business understands the need to empower creativity and trust it, just a little bit more? I honestly believe that such a scenario is the best future we have for a profitable, sustainable industry. But it’s clearly a Sisyphusian mission.
It’s a good thing I’m already bald.
I’m working on it. One of the funnest project’s I’ve been a part of. But the answer is simple man. It’s being broadcast on Canadian Television. So the absolute freedom of the net is gone. Fight or no fight. It’s that simple. You want to put something on TV in a specific time slot, you have to follow the rules of that time slot. Simple. I don’t like it, but it’s the reality of Animation on Canadian Television.
And the show is still plenty funny, watch it. It will do great… but it will likely shift over into a new audience.
Two steps forward, one step back. Exactly! It’s very cool that Nelvana jumped on Bravest Warriors at all. There was a time they wouldn’t have touched it. I’m glad it’s here, I’m glad it’s not bad, and I’m glad you guys get to work on it. I think it’s just wild that the writer describes it exactly as we describe our frustrations with our own content.
@Anon jealous! It looks like such a fun show to be a part of.
@Mike I think the only way to create that structure is to pay for it ourselves until we have a proven record of creating hit IPs. Just like applying for a job, our hirer/financier has no interest in taking a chance on something because their money only goes so far and they have to be precious with it. That bein said, I kinda want to look into these “rules of the time slots” and see how they would affect the choices people make in making these shows.
“Again, I haven’t seen the new episodes, something I should remedy.”
With this one sentence you invalidated all critique that you posted here.It is all right to be outspoken, but with bit more in depth analysis.To base your opinion on someone else’s opinion piece, is in my view, something driven by emotion rather than true analysis, if you are meant to be taken seriously in a future, go and see 4-5 episodes (or all), then come back and comment.I saw 2 episodes and so far it is pretty good.Entertaining and funny.
I’m glad it’s pretty good! I’m glad you like it. I’m glad Nelvana thought it was a good project to acquire. There was a time they would never have considered it. I’m not saying we’re not making progress. That’s the Sisyphus reference.
And while I totally agree that I should watch the episodes, I think the eye-popping point here isn’t that I share the opinion of the writer about Bravest Warriors, it’s that the writer’s comments are so in line with our own criticisms of the work we generally are producing. That someone who would seem to have no connection to our own side of this industry should make an observation that supports our own internal arguments is what really grabbed my attention.
The other problem with IP in Canada is that a producer is trying to get money from government funds. Essentially what gets made is what gets government approval or, as in Canadian live action features, there is a group of darlings who, regardless of whether one of their last features was a piece of crap, will still keep getting that Telefilm envelope. We in animation can but hope for a huge lottery win that will take us out of the government funding loop.
There is plenty of talent in Canada to make content that can match or even surpass what it’s being done in the USA. The problem is not the Canadian content or talent. It’s the current business model on our networks that only seem to focus on filling in air time with shows that play it safe so they might make their money back. This is very detrimental for developing original new shows and for content creators. Once an original idea gets picked up and makes it to the network. They take over the idea and try fitting it into their outdated formulas. All done by a bunch of old dudes that don’t even watch cartoons or have an appreciation for the art form. Our networks don’t seem interested in trying to come up with the next SpongeBob. They seem more preoccupied on making shows take a back seat and let American networks/studios take the risk on developing the next SpongeBob.
This clearly reflects on our current shows and our studios portfolios (with a few exceptions: Atomic puppet, the 3 amigonauts). If you look at the portfolios of most of the studios here. It’s all preschool crap, reboots or just service work for great American content. We barely see studios developing shows that aim for a prime time spot or an older audience.
All of these create a terrible platform for creators. There is no incentive for original content beside a pat on the back from the networks. We are not fostering original ideas and talent. Forcing all the great Canadian artist and content creators to move to the states. Where there is a premium for being original and leading uncharted territories.
I am currently dealing with this myself. Recently got a show picked up by a studio here in Toronto and we are now pitching to networks. Canadian studios make it very clear from the beginning that once networks are involved, you (the creator) No have no say in writing, directing and direction of the project. In contrast to how they do it in the states.
There is no quick fix in my opinion. We will always be a service studios until our NETWORKS start fostering fresh ideas and taking risks on new ideas that reflect better our audience. Until they raise the bar and aim to be number one. We will always be second place.
Tsk! Tsk! We don’t talk about Atomic Puppet around here!
You do? Where?
You mean the show created by this guy? https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-drop-ab067a5/
Not sure how production went but as a whole. Its a great original show.Same as The 3 Argonauts. Regardless, its really refreshing seeing shows like this coming from Canadian talent for Canadian networks
Not able to respond directly to Mike’s response for some reason, but ya it was created by that guy. Not sure your point.
Julian I agree! It’s really refreshing!
Why all the negativity around here? Seems like the only posts being made other than job postings and press releases are negative ones about the industry. We’d all like to see things change but don’t you think that could happen by supporting the POSITIVE things that are happening? Or is there literally nothing positive happening from your vantage point?
Take this article for instance, you haven’t even taken the time to watch the episodes themselves before holding the show and the work that so many people are doing up as an example of what’s wrong in the industry. You’ve taken a show that you yourself say people enjoy working on and trashed it but for what gain?
I’m not trying to preach to you how to run your site. But it seems to me, that if you’d watched the show, you might have been able to come to the conclusion that, yes, it’s not as strong as the original but is doing it’s best to be damn close. And to me, in a system that we can all admit is broken and needs to strive to be better, should be considered a victory.
First, and I’m saying this with total honesty, thanks for commenting. It’s great to see discussion happening on here, and you’re right to call me out. You and Duerte are both right, I need to watch the new eps. And yes, I’m speaking emotionally these days. I’m going to toss out the notion though that this isn’t actually negative talk. It’s frustration, sure. And I’m starting to cause a bit more ruckus here on the site, yes. The overall industry needs an overhaul, and yes, I’m getting a little short fused over it these days. There are exciting things happening in Canadian animation, and I think I do a pretty good job when it comes to being supportive. The Breadwinner is one of the most exciting things to happen to Canadian animation in a very long time. It took non-animation people to produce it, to take a risk on it, and look! It’s paying off. Last year it was Nick DiLiberto’s Nova Seed, a home-made feature that kicked ass. I think we tried to do something exciting with Startoon, to some degree of success. I don’t think we should be patting ourselves on the back anytime soon for what’s happening in TV, even with shows like Kyle Marshall’s 3 Amigonauts. The point that I think I was making clumsily in this post was how clearly this article pointed out what we describe as our own frustration here in Canada with the content we produce. It’s less about the show itself, and more about the description of what seems to have happened to it since Nelvana took it on. The way the writer described it sounds exactly like how many of us describe the shows we work on here in Canada. It mirrored our own frustration so perfectly that I just started writing.
So yeah, there’s positive. And yeah, I stand by my fervor for this article, but less about Bravest Warriors and more for how accurately it describes the “Canadian-ness” of the new eps, in their opinion. But yes, I tend to write when inspired and perhaps need to cool my jets a bit every now and then.
However, I’m not satisfied with the suggested conclusion that, while it may not be as good as the original, we should consider it a victory that it’s not total shit. To me that’s like saying it sucks that I’m getting punched in the stomach, but I should be happy I’m not getting punched in the nuts. It’s an argument that to me isn’t a sound one. We’re talented enough to make world class shows. If we’re not, there’s a problem. And I don’t think the problem lies with the artists.
But this is great! Look at all the discussion! I feel like we’re in the middle of change, and I love that. I’m looking to you guys to be a part of this. We have this site, and we can use it to do better stuff as a group. For right now, that means talking about it, figuring it out. Hopefully that will turn into something more soon.
Mike is raising a very important topic, maybe the most important topic, as Can.anim moves into a more mature place.