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A special form of resilience in the middle of a chaotic world – boost in cartoons

June 1, 2020
Editor(s): Jiamin Fang
Writer(s): Richard Yuan, Nuoya Liu

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought confusing circumstances to the world and has had several detrimental consequences on the economy and people’s social lives. On the plus side, it has also brought some unprecedented benefits to the animation industry, which is currently thriving as a result of the lockdowns.

Animated cartoons have been around for about one hundred years, and they have played a huge role in modern society as a great source of comedy and entertainment. Over the years, cartoon viewers have continued to grow in numbers, encouraging more streaming services to come into the picture and compete for television channels. However, recently, the number of viewers has grown substantially. To be more specific, there has been a 21.66% growth in cartoon streaming since the onset of the national lockdown, the biggest increase in all genres.

TV Show and Movie Genre Performance May 2020

One of the key reasons for this spike in views is, without a doubt, the mandatory social isolation that many are facing as a result of the lockdowns and social distancing rules. Given more time to spend at home with families, it is natural that both children and adults would turn their attention to various forms of technology, such as video games and television shows. However, the fact that the biggest growth in streaming has been with cartoon suggests that there are some characteristics of this particular genre that make it especially stand out during this period of time.

First and foremost, cartoons have a broad range of audiences. It is suited not only for children and teenagers but also for people of other ages. With most parents staying and spending time with their children, cartoon becomes an easy form of family entertainment as it is appropriate for both audiences. It is also a great form of stress-relief for other adults as numbers clearly indicate that in times of crisis, people tend to lean toward easy-to-watch content as a way of defense against mental or emotional breakdowns. The most popular TV show seems to be “Rick and Morty”, an animated series that enjoyed a 12.69% spike in views during the health crisis. The fact that other light-hearted and feel-good shows also experienced a similar increase in streaming supports the view that people tend to resort to more relaxing sources of entertainment in times of stress and uncertainty. For instance, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Schnitt’s Creak” have seen boosts in streaming at around 6% from March to May. On the contrary, genres like horror have seen an 8% decrease in views.

Top 20 Lighthearted or Feel Good TV Shows People Watched During the Quarantine

Furthermore, the animation industry has also benefited from the shuttered production of live-action entertainment as a result of the virus. Due to social-distancing rules, other forms of entertainment – including sports, most live-action television shows, commercials, and feature films  – are frozen indefinitely. Consequently, the significant decrease in competition has given animation TVs a huge advantage since they are considerably less affected by the transition to home production: animation and voice-over can be produced almost anywhere. Most studios can easily adapt to the stay-at-home world as many have made heavy investments in workflow automation technologies over the past decade. These “pipeline” systems guide projects from the script and storyboard phase through to the final cut using online collaboration tools in combination with the specialized software for illustration, animation, coloring, and editing. In other words, the entire animation production process can be digitized and does not rely on face-to-face physical interaction.  Moreover, most creative professionals in the industry do not mind being at home as they “all grew up reading books, drawing, playing games” and are “fine being alone in [their] own minds”. This serves as another competitive advantage for animation producers in that their people are also more adaptable to the current work-at-home environment.

The surge in demand for animation has important implications. On one hand, animation producers are getting increasing attention in the entertainment industry, making a lot of the actors – some of whom may not have had an interest in animation before – suddenly available and very keen to do voice work. In fact, producers do not have to be shy about asking anyone in the industry that they want to work with, making their lives a lot easier. As a result, the most limiting factor on production is not labor or studio capacity, but budget and timing: it takes time and a fair amount of money, even with today’s advanced data systems, to get an animated show ready for streaming. Nevertheless, producers have been able to adapt by providing more content over time. For instance, a streaming platform with a selection of animation TV – including the classic cartoon series “Looney Tunes” – has been launched by HBO Max.

Moreover, the current boom in the industry has also seen large growth figures for many producers. Many animation firms have seen dramatic increases in turnover, requests for content, and revenues. This, in turn, generated positions for job seekers with the required skills and portfolios. Though storyboarders – who break down the script into visual scenes – are in the highest demand, studios are also hiring for character designers, background designers, colorists, animators, and cleaners. For instance, Fox-owned Bento Box Productions is among the firms that are looking to hire more individuals. As journalists predict that the current boom in the animation industry will outlast the virus, it is likely that the industry will continue to offer job opportunities in the long run.

References

Ellis, E. (2020,2020-05-10). “Quarantine Is a Weirdly Good Time for Animation”. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/animation-tv-covid-19-coronavirus/

Houghton T. (2020, 2020-05-12). “Animation firm grows six-fold during lockdown thanks to new “generation of video-makers”. Retrieved from https://www.business-live.co.uk/technology/animation-firm-grows-six-fold-18239573

O’Reilly, L. (2020, 2020-03-20). “With schools shut, kids linear TV ratings are on the up”. Retrieved from https://digiday.com/media/schools-shut-kids-linear-tv-ratings/

Salkowitz, R. (2020, 2020-05-13). “With Live Action On Lockdown, Animation Is Hotter Than Ever”. Retreived from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2020/05/13/with-live-action-on-lockdown-animation-is-hotter-than-ever/#714581795a40

Santos, M. (2020, 2020-05-18). “Most Popular TV and Movie Genres in the Midst of the Pandemic.” Retrieved from https://blog.reelgood.com/most-popular-tv-and-movie-genres-in-the-midst-of-the-pandemic

Stabile, A. (2020, 2020-05-27). “Coronavirus lockdowns give cartoons big boost”. Retrieve  from https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/coronavirus-gives-big-boost-to-cartoon-streaming

Thorpe, V. (2020, 2020-04-12). “Read my lips: how lockdown TV could boost children’s literacy”. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2020/apr/12/read-my-lips-how-lockdown-tv-could-boost-childrens-literacy

The CAINZ Digest is published by CAINZ, a student society affiliated with the Faculty of Business at the University of Melbourne. Opinions published are not necessarily those of the publishers, printers or editors. CAINZ, our Partners and the University of Melbourne do not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in the publication.

Meet our authors:

Jiamin Fang
Editor
Richard Yuan
Writer
Nuoya Liu
Writer