Octopie Network Spreads its Tentacles
By Alex Starace
If you still think of animation as cartoons that air on Saturday mornings, you have a lot of catching up to do. As now-classics like The Simpsons, South Park and Aqua Teen Hunger Force can attest, the form is no longer targeted at just kids. These days, animation appeals to a broader audience and often airs on prime time or late night. But the media landscape is changing. Increasingly viewers expect on-demand content streamed through a variety of devices. What does that mean for animation? And where can fans catch the next big thing?
Meet the Mastermind
Micah Brooke, the Chief Content Officer of the Octopie Network, hopes to provide the answer. “We think that there is a huge opportunity right now,” said Brooke. “We look at something like Adult Swim [the Cartoon Network’s nightly 10-hour block of animation-based shows], which is killing it in broadcast … and there’s just a huge gap, where nobody really controls that space online.” Octopie Network is looking to change that.
Brooke got his start managing user-uploaded animated content at the video-game themed website Machinima, where he eventually becoming the Director of Programming. “That just sort of opened my eyes and I saw that there’s so much talent out there and there’s so much passion for content creation,” he said. Previous to these digital platforms, there was very little opportunity for budding animators to get their work seen, since their options were limited to major networks.
“We were seeing the emergence of these fledgling creatives really starting to find their voice, really starting to develop. Through that we feel like there is really an opportunity to start to identify who’s going to be the next Trey Parker [co-creator of South Park], who’s going to be the next Seth MacFarlane [creator of Family Guy].” It’s with this spirit that Brooke started Octopie Network with two partners, Lon Strickland and Isaac Krauss, intending to connect to viewers via online media.
Behind the Scenes
As the Chief Content Officer, it’s Brooke’s job to figure out which shows will succeed with proper backing and how to connect them with the right projects. “For us it’s about the voice, even if the animation isn’t top quality. Do you have something to say? Do you have a perspective that’s interesting? That’s what we’re looking for.
“What’s been interesting to me is seeing that because we get such immediate feedback in the online space, we see how many views a video is getting, we see how many likes versus dislikes it’s getting, we see the comments. We’re starting to see it’s not about producing the most expensive, glossy, beautiful content. It’s really about the voice.” Despite being less than two years old, Octopie Network has already seen success finding the right spots for its creators.
The Success Stories
The company helped LowBrow Studios develop Explosion Jones, which is the first animated series on the network El Rey. Starring Michael Madsen (of Reservoir Dogs fame), it’s an inside joke-laden send-up of 1980s and 1990s action flicks. “We were able to take these creators we’ve been working with for seven years, pair them with Robert Rodriquez, a prominent filmmaker who’s working on the show as a producer,” said Brooke. The online influencers whom Brooke had identified as possible stars are now putting their work in front of a much larger (and still appreciative) audience. “For us, that’s a great story because it shows this formula works,” said Brooke.
Another of Octopie Network’s successful projects is bringing the first animation to Animal Planet, in the form of Celebrity Animal Encounters, which will air on the network in 2018. Very simple in concept, celebrities like Kristen Bell, Al Roker and Fabio narrate some of their more unusual animal experiences, while having the scene re-enacted via animation provided by Octopie Network.
In one story, actor Danny Trejo (from Machete, among many other action films) narrates how he stopped traffic to rescue an ungroomed dog that had just plopped down in the middle of a busy road. Trejo eventually adopted it. “You really get some insight into who he is as a person,” said Brooke. “He’s a big teddy bear.”
With Octopie Network looking to launch its own network soon, this likely won’t be the last you hear from the company. “We’ve seen that there’s a model there to both scale and grow an audience, but also a business model,” said Brooke. The goal of the Octopie Network is to become the number one online animation brand in the world. A heady ambition, but they’re certainly off to a good start.
Editor’s note: YouTube animation fans, be sure to watch for an exciting new original content launch in 2018 from the Octopie Network.