Friday, October 20, 2006

The Great Sketch Experiment

I received an email from Evan Spiridellis of JibJab. You've got to hand it to the Spiridellis brothers. They refuse to stand still. They invited 50 comedy sketch troops to submit scripts using a police station set. They selected the six best and flew the troupes to L.A. to make the sketches under the direction of John Landis. Those sketches are on the site as of today, in addition to a dozen documentaries on their making. Tonight the Spiridellis brothers will be appearing on The Tonight Show to talk about the project.

JibJab is not abandoning animation. Their next three projects are all animated.

At Evan's presentation at the Ottawa Festival, somebody asked him his opinion of YouTube. He replied that he felt they had done a poor job of branding. He considered JibJab a comedy brand. Clearly, these sketches were in the works during that appearance and are proof that JibJab sees itself as something bigger than just animation.

I think this is all to the good. Historically, companies that focus only on animation have had a rough time. Disney did not become truly successful in a financial sense until the 1950's when the company diversified into live action, TV and theme parks. In the 1950's, commercials studios like Shamus Culhane Productions and Pelican both made money on live action and struggled to make money with animation. Pixar chose to sell itself to Disney rather than take its chances as an animation-only company. By broadening its brand beyond animation, JibJab is building a stronger foundation for its future.

The Spiridellis brothers are also ace marketers. I wasn't the only one to receive Evan's email. Today on CinemaTech, there's a discussion of filmmakers building databases of their audiences as a marketing tool. This is old news to the JibJab boys, who have been doing this all along.

As I mentioned in a comment under To Pitch or Not to Pitch, NBC is laying off 700 people and giving up on producing comedy or drama for the 8-9 p.m. timeslot. They can't compete and have decided to shrink. At the same time, JibJab is expanding and offering a wider variety of content. There's still a tremendous gap between NBC and JibJab, but it's only going to get smaller. That's why I think that pitching to a dying TV industry is a mistake. Better to own your own content and build your own audience like JibJab.

And if this industry discussion isn't your cup of tea, why not head over to JibJab for a laugh?

1 comment:

Nancy said...

JibJab has also just hired Tina Price, one of the Disney studio's animation and preproduction wizard(esses), as a producer.
So a good artist is now going to be a producer...and I'm sure the results will be very special. I've always thought artists should get into the producers' ranks, but was informed that it was often a difficult and painful process. I'm watching JibJab pretty regularly--these fellows definitely have the right idea. Use a new medium, avoid dinosaur networks...and feature entertainment that is not created by a business committee.