Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. He is still at it. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact
Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Cartoon series on the Net have been slow to pick up steam, likely because they face heavyweight competition from TV and traditional print formats. The entrenched mediums compete so fiercely in terms of detail and interaction, that one has to wonder exactly what the Internet can offer? Let’s take a look at some of the entries and what makes them click-worthy-or not. . .
The Joe Psycho & Moo Frog Cartoon Show (www.goblinstudios.com) is a wacky animated series that tracks the capers of Joe Psycho and his sidekick Moo Frog as they hang out in Spleen, Oregon, a place where hamsters steal your underwear, aliens run rampant and cows and frogs produce offspring.
Bozlo the Beaver (www.bozlo.com) is an offering produced by Togglethis that breaks the format mold for toon series. Bozlo the Beaver lives in your computer and wreaks havoc by hurling virtual objects at you and eating your clicker icon. Devilish and silly, Bozlo is all about fun and É hee hee hee, amusement.
Marvel Comics has revived and revamped radio theater with Excelsior Theatre (www.marvelzone.com). Back in the heyday of the soundbox, listeners used imagination to bring to life the chilling, death-defying tales of comic book heroes that were broadcast on the airwaves. You could do the same today, but what’s the point when you have Real Video 5.1. Welcome to the `90s, kids!
Of the lot, the most interesting has to be Bozlo the Beaver. The format is atypical. Instead of following a screen-to-screen storyline, Bozlo shows up on your desktop and immediately begins mucking around with your icons while eating a birthday cake (episode 6). Try to click on him and he ducks, taunts you and blows kisses. Toss him around and he bites through your pointer. Eventually, a heavy object falls on him, which unfortunately doesn’t kill him. Truth is, the little bugger is a lot of fun for the couple of minutes it takes for the series to run.
By comparison, the other two are sleeping on it; Joe Psycho and Moo Frog has a colorful full-motion intro complete with a jazzy audio file, but the Digital Psychosis section (where the ongoing series is found), consists of static, traditional comic panels that you might find in Saturday’s newspaper. In the Marvelzone, both the presentation and the content of Excelsior Theatre are very two-dimensional and really slow, rendering the series too low-tech to successfully compete with its Internet counterparts, despite its nostalgic element.
Each series has something unique to offer, but the million dollar question remains: Is there enough interesting content to make you want to follow the series regularly? The truth is, only two of the three sites make you want to pay a return visit, and Marvelzone’s radio show isn’t one of them. But low-tech or not, Excelsior Theatre scores major points for adding the sonic element, a great Net concept that very few designers employ, but that definitely adds a burst of dimensional flavor to any digital offering. Joe Psycho and Moo Frog features tight artwork and quirky humor, and the stories are short so you don’t mind taking the time to check in periodically. Bozlo sends e-mails to its regular readers to let them know when series updates are posted (a brilliant concept), and the goofy beaver is so fun and interactive, you’ll want to spend the minute it takes to download the latest episode.
The Bottom Line
On-line cartoon series are alive and kicking, but they still have a long way to go. As it stands now, interaction often means a crude, one-dimensional translation of a print comic strip for the on-line medium, and audio elements, when they’re included at all, are still pretty choppy. On the other hand, the characters featured in these series are such that potential applications are boundless. Bozlo is a highly brandable beaver that could easily breed a TV show or movie, not to mention licensed merchandise and promotion. Harkening back to the dawn of television broadcast shows us how far TV toon series have come. The same will prove true for the Net, it’s just going to take a little time.
Next month, ‘The Cyber Space’ looks at smart toys-the cyber-evolved spawn of Chatty Cathy.