Where did the general audience go?

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Animation takes a long time and is expensive. So for a long time, animation has lived in “general audience”. To justify the cost, the work must appeal towards the widest audience possible. Slowly things are changing, tastes are diverging. We are faced with the truth there is no general audience anymore. People used to go to the movies one or more times a week. They went to the movies not knowing what they’d see. That was a general audience. The business was about who you could convince off the street to see your movie. Then people stopped walking into the movies and starting channel surfing, again people wandering around looking for something to watch. That was another kind of general audience. That audience started splintering, moving to more specific channels.  With the internet, people splintered even further. People might surf the web but they aren’t just looking for something to watch, they are looking for something specific. The reason that Netflix and Youtube are so popular today is because they serve up what you want to watch next. The content you’re most likely to want next. It doesn’t work all the time, but it’s learning and they’re investing huge amounts of money to make the content. When ubiquitous attention is going to become more scarce the specific becomes valuable. What works well now is the work that is made really well for a certain group of people. It is work that works to find it’s audience. This is the change we’ve been waiting for in animation. To create cartoons that don’t talk down to it’s audience. To make a series with context, stakes and meaning, there’s work that needs to be done. We need to find the collaborators who will take on some of the risk. We can move first. We can start producing our ideas in public, planting the seeds to try and find an audience. Testing the work in a cheaper medium like comics, podcasts, or novels. Once you have the audience you have a bargaining chip for the series. Attention is so scarce that people will pay for that access.

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