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OIAF 2018 In Review: Fred Seibert

We were fortunate enough to have Brent Smith in attendance this year at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and he was taking notes! We’re going to share some of his highlights with you here over the next week or so, starting with a presentation by Mr Frederator himself, Fred Seibert!

Here’s Brent’s breakdown of the chat.

Fred Seibert tells ALL: Confessions of a Serial Media Innovator

About Fred:

  • as MTV’s first creative director, he commissioned the famous mutating logo
  • he was the last president of Hanna-Barbera
  • he successfully overhauled the then-floundering Nickelodeon, moving it from worst to first in the ratings in six months
  • Created WOW! Unlimited, a Canadian animation and media holding company
  • Launching Canadian-based shorts program
  • Dramabug – latest short
  • Bee and Puppycat 
    • most backed animated Kickstarter project


On starting Frederator channel on Youtube:

  • didn’t expect hundreds of competing channels created by animators
  • knew he couldn’t reach all the artists they wanted to
  • when gatekeeper becomes viewer, it opens up limitless opportunities
  • Bee and Puppycat
    • tried pitching a series aimed at teenage girls
      • no one wanted to partner with Fred, ended up as webseries
    • creator given note that Pea can never be sexy


At Frederator, they have no idea how to follow trends

  • accidentally create trends
  • choosing trends is a recipe for failure


Nickelodeon didn’t own its original properties, it licensed them

  • told kids there were others out there in the world like them


Cartoon Network approached Fred to figure out how to develop their own properties

  • Fred’s studio was creating interstitials at the time
  • suggested going to the old shorts development method
    • CN said no

A year later Ted Turner came to bring Fred on for Hanna-Barbera

  • he pitched the shorts development method
    • again was initially rejected, asked Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna directly
      • Fred ended up running HB
    • wants a storyboard pitched live
      • no pitch bible submissions
    • received 5000 submissions, which turned into 48 shorts/pilots
    • all but 2 came from inside the studios:
      • Courage the Cowardly Dog
      • Johnny Bravo


Adventure time

  • “Working with a talented creator will change you.” – Fred Siebert
  • he turned it down 5 times
    • refused because of the look of the animation style and the story didn’t fit his cultural expectations
  • staff locked Fred in a room to get him to agree to approve a short for Nickelodeon
    • exclusive for 2 years
      • ripping up that exclusive deal to take it elsewhere to actually get it into production
      • made up loss from broken contract by getting it on the air
    • Adventure time was most popular thing on Tumblr
      • other artists flocked to the platform to share and build audience


Átomo Network

  • Frederator and Anima Estudios joint venture
  • recruiting Spanish speaking animators to provide the same kind of audience-development and programming services available to creators in the Channel Frederator Network on YouTube

Fred toured North America

  • found discouraged Canadians with aspirations to be world class talent
  • currently working on a shorts program for Canada, not yet greenlit
    • still getting financial partners
  • the traditional system of developing shows leave large amounts of damaged talent behind


Kids show creators in 70s were insane

“It doesn’t hurt to be crazy.” – Fred Siebert

Great films are the ones that connect with people and create a commune between creators and audience. Community is important.

In next 10 years

  • quoted that we’ve been told we are in new golden age of animation 3 times
    • each one coincided with change of technology
  • seems like big streamers right now hate kids
    • put properties in “kids” folder and don’t promote them
  • tech is changing, not just how animation is made
    • audience has exploded demographics
    • for kids in this age, much easier to access programs meant for adults
    • demographics have become fuzzier
  • networks require enormous audiences
    • cable required smaller audience
      • Beavis & Butthead narrowed the audience further
        • the love for the property goes deeper
      • Youtube allows for this narrowed audience
        • changes the audience in unknown ways
      • humour series
        • more likely to see more European creators coming into this space


On Castlevania

  • most of the audience aren’t game players
    • it took 10 years to find partner
      • Netflix bought 4 epsodes
        • most hits for a first (animated?) episode


On the importance of going to lunch with people:

  • asking for money requires lots of trust
    • more lunches = more trust
  • from Florence Snell:
    • buyers have a lot of other things on their mind
      • you need to merchandise yourself, not just your properties
    • your production partner might come to you in a moment of need because of that trust you have build
      • this might be where they give a rejected property another look as well as look at your other ideas


  • doesn’t share details with creators/producers
    • only way to be sure of popularity is when Netflix orders more episodes
  • to calculate your show’s popularity, monitor social media activity


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