I’ve been getting tagged all week on social media platforms about the successful IndeGoGo-finded project, Hullabaloo. I was originally going to respond to this via Facebook, but it started to get too long, and thought this better suited for a blogpost.
First off, this definitely needs to be said — congratulations to the animators and creative team behind this project. After my own experience with Kickstarter, both the positive and the negative, it is always awesome to see brilliant, passionate crowdfunded projects not only hit their goals but surpass them. Well done, Team Hullabaloo. You kicked ass, and even grabbed the attention of io9 in the process. That is tremendous work, and I admire that.
Second, it’s nice that when people think of steampunk, they think of me, my wife, and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. We’ve been working hard since breaking into the genre and it means a lot to me that people are curious as to my thoughts on steampunk creations.
So, what are my thoughts?
From their IndeGoGo page…
“We want you to join us in making a short film that will showcase the world of Hullabaloo, which we can show to investors to fund a full length 2D feature. 2D animation is a beautiful but dying art form that the animation studios have all but abandoned. But if we can fund this film with your help, we will be able to show investors that people really do want to see a feature length animated steampunk film, allowing us to get the tremendous amount of funding needed to complete Hullabaloo as the full-length feature we believe you want to see.”
The way I interpret this: The backers just funded a demo reel.
This is shown to investors who then decide “Yeah, I’ll back this…” or “ I’ll get back to you…” Rarely are demo reels ever seen by the public, but with the Internet people have been leaking demos out to get the buzz going again. While this project is visually stunning and offers wonderful steampunk imagery, the return of classic 2D animation in that Classic Disney/Don Bleuth style, and terrific characters encouraging science and technology for girls, I’m all in.
Believe me, I want this.
If I am interpreting this correctly, though, this IndeGogo was for a demo reel for investors. It could make the rounds in Hollywood (again and again) and we’ll never see anything beyond breathtaking stills and the Kickstarter video. Provided all is in the green from this point on—and considering the success of their crowdfunded campaign I can’t imagine the production having any issues financially—and the demo reel is completed, that hardly means a series is going to happen. Investors have to step up, and they will be looking at other factors beyond the brilliant glimpses we’ve had of this world. They will weigh in the appeal of 2D animation against the 3D animation that—let’s be honest—audiences have grown accustomed to seeing. It’s a bit like going from IMAX to black-and-white films. They will also look at the voice talent and say “Yeah, I’ll back this…but who are the A-listers that will guarantee butts-in-seats?” Then you have cost of these talented artists. For hand-drawn animation.
That’s what I’m picturing off the top of my head and how I understand production costs. (As some of you may know, I’ve got some experience behind the camera as well as in front of it.) When a producer sat down with me and Pip to talk about the potential of a web series, I had questions. I’m sure investors will ask other questions. Those questions, as I found out in my discussion with this independent filmmaker, adds to the cost of the project.
Also, I know one of its producers was a driving force behind World of Steam which also showed great promise only to stall hard after Episode 1. World of Steam is not the only crowdfunded project to surpass goals only to go nowhere. Auror’s Tale was a Harry Potter-inspired web series that never made it beyond the trailer. Time and again, be it crowdfunded short films, web series, or video games, crowdfunded projects that promise the world and surpass their goals wind up somewhere in development hell. It’s been two years since World of Steam’s successful Kickstarter, and we are still waiting.
And since I mentioned “Development Hell” should I ask about the status of Boilerplate that J.J. Abrams picked up? What about Bruce Boxleightner’s ambitious steampunk epic Lantern City which had cast locked in for a pilot episode? And when will WETA decide what to do with Dr. Grordbort from Greg Broardmore? Video game? Television? Film? Animated? I’m dying to know! I don’t believe steampunk is overdone or dead, but I do think it is still a hard sell for television and film. It’s a combination of Victorian flair with technology, and that can be hard to keep economical. Especially with hand-drawn animation — a style befitting of steampunk, and an art form I’d like to see return. I love 3D animation, but technology is no replacement for animation like The Black Cauldron, The Secret of NIMH and An American Tale.
I wish Hullabaloo all the luck in the world; but a long, twisted road now stretches ahead of them. I won’t get excited until we get a release date.