The video embedded above has been viewed almost 42 million times. That's a number larger than the population of many countries, including Canada.
If you're not aware of it, Simon's Cat has been around for about 5 years and is a series of cartoons like the above by Simon Tofield on YouTube. In addition to his animation, Tofield has authored eight books featuring the character.
Now, he has sold worldwide distribution rights to Entertainment One, and their goal is to broadly merchandise the character.
Merchandising has always been gravy money in the animation business. Somebody pays you to produce products featuring your character. While there are some costs associated with it, such as quality control, it's less expensive than animation and more profitable. Licensing a character is as close as you can get in animation to printing money. (That's why The Simpsons is still on the air even though its ratings have fallen substantially over the years).
Look at what Tofield has done. The series is designed to be just linework, no colour or gray tones. All the films are pantomime so that they can be understood around the world. There is no music except over the opening and closing credits. They videos are based on an animal that's familiar to everyone. The videos are short and there is no standard length, so they are as long as they need to be, not padded like TV animation to fill a predetermined slot. It's built on a continuing character and the animation focuses on behavior, not stock poses or timing.
Not every idea is going to catch on with audiences, but here is proof that a single person with an idea and the ability to design to fit his production limitations can create a success and keep ownership of it.
Thanks to the internet, there were no gatekeepers. There were no broadcasters changing the idea to make it more popular (as if they know how); no studio to take the rights away from Tofield and offer him what's called monkey points. Monkey points are a percentage of profits, but when the studio is doing the book keeping, somehow there never are profits no matter how successful a property becomes.
Tofield had an idea and a way to get it to the audience. That opportunity is available to everyone. While the results will vary, it's more proof that pitching ideas to studios or broadcasters isn't necessary for success.
(Thanks, Paul Teolis)