Thursday, August 30, 2007

JibJab!

Well today is my last day at JibJab. I'm heading back to Sheridan to kick off my last year!

So what to say? I can't believe it's been four months already - it literally felt like two weeks - that I was just here and now I have to leave.

Being in California has truly been an eye-opening experience. I would highly recommend to any of you Sheridan readers or anyone in Canadaland to visit the L.A. and Bay areas to check out the animation scene. Everything is truly happening in California and you don't really appreciate it until you see it.

As for JibJab, some of you may be wondering what they do, who they are, and what I did with my time in sunny Santa Monica.

JibJab was started on October 1st, 1999 and can only be described as a fast-moving, manic studio creating content specifically for the web. I'm definitely fresh full of links to educate you guys about JibJab. First, check JibJab's own About page to see a brief history of the studio. JibJab has also been featured on Cartoon Brew (What JibJab Could Teach TV, JibJab's Big Box Mart, as well as other great blogs like Mark Mayerson's (Get Out of the Kitchen, The Great Sketch Experiment, and Here).

But what's really all the hubbub? What makes JibJab different than any other studio? I'd recommend checking out those links, as they'd be able to express it better than I, but its quite clear that JibJab is a novel example of creative web economics.


What JibJab is doing by creating content for the web is bypassing permission or guidance from anyone but themselves, to an increasingly captive audience (over 275,000,000 jokes have been served on JibJab.com, has an active mailing list of over 750,000 viewers who are constantly updated with the latest from JibJab, and their latest hit, Starring You, has been a resounding success (If you don't believe me, check out the "public heads" tab on Starring You - there are over 600 pages of heads uploaded to be used publicly by users - with 24 heads on each page. That's a lot of heads! - And this doesn't even count the much larger sum of privately created heads, nor the amount of Starring You! movies created in total)).

JibJab's Starring You was recently featured on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" (I can't believe I prepped a file that would have been seen by so many people!), the company's work has been repeated featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and has partnered with large media empires like MSN in the past (and continues to do so).

I think many artists can appreciate an audience like that, and especially not having to answer to any of the gatekeepers who run those businesses. A lot of people are convinced that blogs, social networks, and the new "Web 2.0" is a new frontier and that there's money to be made (Even these old fogies think so!).

JibJab never stays still. You can see from Starring You! that they are already integrating themselves into social networks and blogs, with a built-in embed feature that allows users to easily post these videos to their myspace and facebook accounts, as well as to their blogs. While JibJab.com essentially is the YouTube.com for joke videos, they differ in that they create original content as well. It's pretty clear, though, that Starring You! is a step up.

Starring You! is a flash app that allows you to cut out a picture, and paste it onto one of five premade dances, to much hilarity. Starring You! lives and relies completely on JibJab.com, even if it pops up on another site. The fact that a) the content is personalised, and b) the content is stored on JibJab's servers means that the hits and viewership is always allocated to JibJab. This is far cry from the big networks, who have seen their shows being repeatedly uploaded to video hosting sites like YouTube, where they lose their viewership and ad revenue from content that they funded. And the networks don't really seem to be getting much better at integrating into the new landscape - they are simply using the medium to advertise content on their other platforms (Such as metacafe.com's Bourne Ultimatum Mashup Channel). Users can do creative things with JibJab's content (like this, I guess), but it's definitely limited and hardly stealing content or popularity away from the brand. But that's enough about JibJab as a company. What's it like to be an animator working for them?

JibJab's forward thinking isn't only really limited to just their content, but the creation of their content. Because they don't have to answer to any other higher powers and money grabbers, the heads of the studio call all the shots. And in this case, those heads are the maniacal (in a good way) balls of enthusiasm that are Evan and Gregg Spiridellis. The brother team of animator and business person works extremely well, and having the guy you're working for is versed in the ways of animation himself is a never-ending blessing. But because an animator is calling the shots, there aren't really those unnecessary revisions from higher-ups, or producers grabbing for control - just the Spiridellis Brothers a few steps away in the office. While production is a small group of people, it's pretty closely-knit with everyone working together on just about every project, with Evan upstairs coming up with even more maniacal things to do with his studio. In the time I've been at JibJab, I've gotten the chance to work on projects (in some capacity) that featured live action, puppets, stop-motion, flash, 2D, After Effects, and the innumerable combinations of all of the above.

The other fantastic thing were the people working at Jibjab. Kevin, Nate, Will, and Dave in production were great to work with (you guys in programming were really swell too - there's just so many of you!), but just as exciting was working with a bunch of students from Calarts (Matt, Ian, Diana, Joe, Dimitri), as well as meeting so many more (Lorelay, Brigitte, Ed, Christian, Mario, Adrian, Sue, Alex, Minkyu, Matthias, and Nick). These people were all great artists and I hope to work with them sometime in the future.

I will definitely be missing SoCal! San Diego Comic-Con was absolutely incredible, I loved both San Diego and San Francisco (and to a lesser extent - Los Angeles), and possibly best of all, got to check around the studios like Sony, Dreamworks (The picture to the left is the beautiful fountain on the DW campus) and Pixar, as well as Calarts. And I will most certainly be missing living on the beach.

Anyways, this post was overly-huge because I'm about to set off on a cross-country road trip from Vancouver to Toronto before (and maybe even a little after) school starts. I doubt I'll be blogging much (if at all) in this week-or-so time that it will take to get to Ontario, so see you guys on the other side! As a parting shot, here is my awesome business card (both sides in one image):

5 comments:

Mark Mayerson 5:22 AM  

Terrific report, Alan. Looking forward to seeing you back at Sheridan.

Tapan Gandhi 1:56 PM  

luckyyyyyyyyy

i hate you, i hope u know :)

i just hope u don't start talking like a valley girl

brando 2:17 PM  

Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Empire? Jesus all I got was "art guy". Fucking jipped! Haha

Glad you had a good time man. They're a great group of people down there and Cali is an incredible experience. Sounds like you got to check out more than I did while I was down there, way to go!

Ian Worrel 12:11 PM  

You haven't posted since AUG 31st. You are the laziest blog poster ever. Lame.

Cooked Art 10:08 PM  

Mark - You too. I'll be sure to seek you out!

Tapan - Just for you, I'll show you the ropes.

Brandon - Ya, they let me choose my title. I guess it's maybe a little too much?

Ian - Ya man, it seems that I took inspiration from an uncaricaturable supervillain named Captain Serious.

By the way... I like your Garegarega blog more than your other two. Who likes seeing drawings of big cats, old men, and life drawings? Simplicity is in, and you hit it, man.

Actually, I just got back today (Sept 16th) to Canadaland...

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I love animation and making films.

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