Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Warning: Major dithery grump ahead.*

I've been having a little crisis regarding these cartoons.

See, some of my cartoons have had a lot of views. One of them has 30-something thousand, a couple of them are 10-thousand plus, plenty of them are over one thousand. That ain't exactly Charlie the Unicorn numbers, but it's not bad. And I am grateful for every damn person who ever watched these silly things, honest to Pete I am. I don't get many comments, but the comments that I do get are overwhelmingly supportive, and that's awesome.

I haven't been shy about promoting these cartoons. I've probably been kind of gross about it, actually. I've done everything I could think of to get people interested in my stories about these two strange little characters who have all sorts of funny (to me) and sexy (to me) adventures. I have beat the skin off my little drum, here.

But I don't seem to be building an audience. At this point I know that a lot of people have seen one or two of my cartoons, once. But it's becoming all too clear that very few of them come back for more. Unless a cartoon has an actual gender change in it or something else that's potentially jerk-off-able, my new cartoons seem to stall out somewhere in the 250-500 view range. I know that eventually - very eventually - they'll probably get a thousand views. But when I see somebody like Onision - bless his heart - make a video where he just lets food dribble down his chin or something and it gets more hits in an hour than I'll get in a year, it's.... frustrating. To say the least.

I've been telling myself that all that really matters is that I'm having fun, that making these cartoons is a learning experience and it's healthy for me to get this stuff out there, and all that other stuff that you tell yourself when you've been working hard on something and it kinda feels like the world doesn't give half a poop...

But if I'm doing these cartoons about all kinds of crazy, fetishy sex stuff, and I can't build an audience with magical gender swaps and conversations about dongs, maybe I'm doing doing something wrong. Maybe there's a reason why all those people watch one cartoon and then never come back. Maybe there's a reason why even people I know never seem to get around to watching my new episodes.

Sometimes I think that the serial nature of these cartoons is what's killing me. I've got like a zillion episodes now, and most of them are part of an ongoing story. That's going to be really daunting for any new viewers, and it doesn't help that a lot of my early stuff is pretty rough. Even if I feel like I've gotten better since then, who wants to muddle through a bunch of crude, bad cartoons to get to the good stuff? But I keep trying to drop the serial elements, and I just can't seem to do it. All of my story ideas build on what came before.

I still feel a strange compulsion to keep making these things. But Xtranormal keeps finding new ways to complicate the process of making these silly cartoons, and it's reaching a point where it feels like a lot of work just to jerk off into the wind.

I had to stop making these cartoons for about a year and a half, for reasons I won't bore you with. It was due to external forces, and during that extended break I ached to get back to work. But lately I've found myself thinking about getting to episode 100, and then quitting. Or maybe doing episodes that are like 10 minutes long, so I can tell an entire story in one go instead of spreading it out over 9 episodes and then watching my audience give up around episode 3.

I don't know what to change. But it feels like I've got to change something.

* Doesn't Major Dithery Grump sound like an Edward Gorey character?


Anonymous said...

As I haven't caught up to the newer episodes quite yet I can't really give an opinion on them (I like to watch stuff in order). I'm up to oh, lets see, #48 after stumbling across your vids last week.

There's a certain something about them I like, and well, surprisingly enough it's not the gender swapping. Well not exactly,. I guess its how far it takes breaking the fourth wall, with characters who are semi-adversarial to their creator, and actively in conflict with the limitations of their own medium.

But yeah, remember a lot of people may do the same thing: start from the beginning and take a while to catch up. It doesn't mean they won't see what you've made new, just that they may not see it WHEN it's new.

Mindi Flyth said...

That's nice to hear, because I'm really into formal experimentation and I think a lot of my viewers don't pay much attention to that stuff. I like the idea of totally breaking down the fourth wall, so you never forget that these are made-up characters in a constructed reality, but (ideally) you still care about them anyway. Even if they're not real, their problems are.

Aaron said...

Hello, Ursula. It's me, Seven. (Like a lot of people, I've got multiple e-mail accounts.)

So let me ask you a question. If you're of the opinion that your audience is the same, and that it's your stories that have changed, then what is different? What did people get from your older stories that they aren't getting now? When you watch your most-viewed and least-viewed videos, what do you think is different about them?

For myself, I think that perhaps you've fallen into a rut, with the stories being somewhat predictable, even if the details are different each time out. But I don't know. So if experimentation is where it's at, go for it, and see what develops.

Mindi Flyth said...

Well, Aaron, I'm a little surprised to hear you say that. You've been very supportive before, so I'm sorry if you're not enjoying the cartoon much these days. It's depressing to hear.

But as critical as I can be of my work, I don't really feel like I'm in a rut. I actually feel like my cartoons have been getting better lately as I learn what I'm doing. I feel like I'm finally learning to plot a little better.

One other person said I needed to "try new characters" or something like that, so there's two of you. "We Are Me" directly continued from "Swap Meat," so maybe the sheer length of the current story is getting frustrating for you. It's also been a while since I did anything super-fetishy, so maybe you're missing the sexy stuff. I don't know. If you have some concrete suggestions, I'll listen.

As I said in the post, I think people really want one-off cartoons with a sexy transformation in them. If I just turned Meany into a sexy girl every time and there was no ongoing story, I know I'd be more popular. But I can only make cartoons when I think of ideas, and I keep thinking up ongoing stories. So there it is.

(And come on, recently we've had genital swapping, sexual orientation switches, multiple personalities, lead characters literally dying of horniness... That's a "rut"?)

Seven said...

Yes, Ursula, you CAN be very critical of your own work. So, you don't need to read me as being critical as well. I'm not trying to say that what you're doing isn't enjoyable. I loved Law and Order. But it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how the episodes were going to end. Inside Ursula Hitler's Head is a funny show. And an enjoyable one to watch.

(And come on, recently we've had genital swapping, sexual orientation switches, multiple personalities, lead characters literally dying of horniness... That's a "rut"?)

Zoom out a bit, Ursula. I'm not trying to say that all of your stories are exactly the same. But the more recent stories feel more similar to one another than they do to some other earlier stories, even though the details are different. Invasion of the Posh Spice Zombies had a much different feel than We Are Me, even though the overall story elements were the same.

I'm not really sure what to tell you, Ursula. I feel your frustration with being unable to build an audience without thinking that you're pandering to their baser instincts.

But I was thinking about your original post, and perhaps it's the fact that it seems to much like work. So do some cartoons just because they're fun. That's what you were doing in the beginning, right? Don't fight with them. Maybe tell a short story about some of the other characters that inhabit the world inside your head. What's Bad Doggy P or Officer Nobb been up to lately?

I don't claim to have the answers. I have a blog that very few people read, so I clearly don't know jack about audience building. But it seems on some level that this whole exercise is making you sad, and that's not right. So be radical and let things fall where they may.


Mindi Flyth said...

When I said these cartoons were too much work, I was referring to all the technical stuff. Xtranormal has really made some missteps in the last few months, and making these cartoons has become much more complicated. But the creative process is still fun, and like I said I've felt more confident about what I'm doing lately.

I do plan to get back to Badd Doggy P and other characters, but it really is a question of waiting to have an idea for what to do with them. If I sit down and say, "I need to do a Badd Doggy P cartoon," I can't always come up with anything worth doing.

I apologize if I sounded touchy before. But like I said, these cartoons have become a lot of work and they don't get a lot of response, so I've been a little soured on the whole process and I wasn't in the best mood for criticism.

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