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CAD the Animated Series

(David Herbert returns… this time with a surprising take on the much maligned CAD: the Animated Series.)

So this week I’ve decided to try something different and give you guys a column that’s partially a guest review but also something of a “Know Thy History” piece. And I can hear the scrolling of mice as people flurry to the comments section to bash Ctrl+Alt+Del before reading or possibly to bash me since I haven’t been too kind to Buckley in my other columns but please hold off for a little while… at least until the third paragraph.

So it’s no secret CAD has attracted its share of haters, for legitimate reasons and others that are rather overblown, which means anything related to the comic would attract a hatedom as well. Not just from Encyclopaedia Dramatica, which does not say anything kind, but also from the series’ director Ryan Sohmer, who has said it was the worst business venture he ever engaged in.

But honestly, it’s not that bad. It’s not that good, but I can’t call it horrible.

These days you can just stream the episodes for free, which is the only way to watch it because the premium section of CAD is gone now. And if you watch the show, honestly it’s just mediocre. Flat voice acting, with some bizarre pauses, the animation seems to be missing frames from the way characters jump around, and the plots of the episodes are boring. That’s really its worst flaw. It’s not entertaining even in a bad way.

Personally, I think it could have had an audience who would be willing to give it some time to find its feet if it had been put out on youtube or newgrounds for free. By the end of season one, they were improving, if you can ignore it being a rip off of Return of the Jedi just for an excuse to bash Jack Thompson and Hilary Clinton. Not my thing, but I can see it as having a sizeable fan base when you compare it to some of the things online out there that are popular.

So if it’s not as bad as everyone says, why did it bankrupt Blind Ferret’s animation department? The answer is kind of obvious but it goes even deeper than that. So let’s take a look back at history and see why CAD failed as hard as it did.

The Blind Leading the Blind

It’s a shame LICD got rid of its forum because that’s where all of Ryan Sohmer’s old blogs are and I could really have used them for this article. But there was one that has always stayed in my mind. While talking about the animation program BFE was using for LICD’s animated series (This was back in 08 or 09 if I recall correctly) Sohmer mentioned that he had actually initially bought his animation team copies of Flash first, but discovered it was horrible for getting the level of quality he wanted.

See, Sohmer wanted his animation department to be taken seriously. The Looking for Group movie was held up since it was planned to have a theatrical release and in this interview from 2008, he states his intention to try and get LICD on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. So why did he get Flash? Because he figured since it was a popular program it must be pro quality. And rather than do any research, he actually wasted his company’s money by buying copies.

Despite wanting to be a pro animation company, no one at Blind Ferret Entertainment had any real experience in the animation field aside from watching cartoons growing up.  And rather than hire a pro animation director, Sohmer chose to do the job himself. This meant that no one in charge had any idea what they were doing.

A particularly bad example was when Buckley turned in his first scripts. Everyone assumed that they would equate to a full length episode but only turned out to be five minutes in length. While talking about this to my sister, she immediately quoted Phillip J Fry: “It took me an hour to write, I figured it’d take an hour to read.”

Marketing 101

Back in the mid 90s, Cartoon Network launched the What a Cartoon show. The purpose of the show was for the creator to bring a return of seven minute one shots like Red Hot Riding Hood. However, many of these shorts gained a cry for more and were turned into TV shows. This is how we got Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Powerpuff Girls and my favourite of all, Dexter’s Laboratory. One was even retooled to become Family Guy.

It was thanks to these initial cheap shorts that Cartoon Network were able to gauge audience reactions and were able to build up their original content thanks to this method (Though we never got a Mina and the Count show. Sad). It also meant the shows had an audience who knew what to expect. This was still the method when I stopped watching CN so it must have worked well for them (No clue if they still do it though).

This also worked very well for BFE as well. Their animated musicals such as Slaughter the World and Why Won’t She Leave generated a lot of hype for the LFG movie and the LICD show. However, for CAD, all we got were snippets that told us nothing about the show aside from how poor the animation and voice acting were (Would you really pay $30 for a show that doesn’t even bother to do a second take so your writer doesn’t sound like he’s licking the mic?) and that was only for the second season.

Doomed From the Start

A few fans of Misfile and I have, for a while, been considering putting together an anime based on the comic. The reason we haven’t is that animation is damn expensive and even if we were partners on youtube or hosted on blip, we would need a LOT of viewers to pay for the episodes. However we have more options since most video providers do offer ad revenue these days.

The problem however is that CAD season one never had that option. It was released back in 2006 which meant subscription based payment was the only way to make money until a DVD could be released. There wasn’t a Hulu or Netflix either.  Their only choice was to rely on CAD’s popularity to make back the money, which didn’t happen since it is a fact that a chunk of the comic’s fan base are made of haters who just want to find something to mock Buckley for.

If BFE put a cease and desist on all the pirate sites and then rereleased it on a partnered channel, it might make back some of the money. But that’s over seven years after the pilot was released so there wouldn’t be much use in that except to help fund current projects.

Was There Any Hope?

There’s hope for anything. The problem is there was no real plan when it came to the execution of this series, it was just made and expected it to do well. That seems to be a recurring theme with a lot of BFE projects; they just rely on the popularity of the creators to make them money, Con Season being one of the worst cases.

If they had hired on someone with animation training and/or experience they could have ironed out a lot of the bugs. They could have also just worked on getting CAD onto network TV like they were going to for LICD and just shopped around a pilot that was polished to finesse, maybe even uploading it to try and drum up some hype to convince the networks it would sell.

Unfortunately, thanks to the lacklustre effort by everyone involved, CAD the animated series will always be regarded as a joke and a failure. And it probably hurt the PVP animated series as well.

Well that’s all from me for this week. Next week I’m going to embarrass myself by talking about my dumb writing from five years ago. Get your mocking comments ready for that one.

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Posted on April 8, 2013, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Why did you make me watch those? That was HORRIBLE.

  2. “That’s really its worst flaw. It’s not entertaining even in a bad way.”

    Well, I would call that horrible.

    Even looking at the thumbnails I have this impression that the art of CAD as it was does not lend itself to being animated. It just looks wooden. Mouths move, but not the chins.

    And no one had even a iota of background in animation. This really didn’t have a chance. And that’s somewhat sad because if it was done right it wouldn’t be much unlike Family Guy, what with the randomness and rambling.

    …So it was for the best that it failed, I suppose. Yeap. 😐

  3. I’ve never actually read CAD, so I thought I’d watch these shorts so I could see what the fuss was about. But I couldn’t finish any of them– I’d get 2/3 of the way through before the secondhand embarrassment was too much for me.

    • webcomicsunited

      Secondhand Embarrassment is the third greatest cause of shame throughout our country. Is it not enough for some people to embarrass themselves, do they also need to risk the dignity of those close to them, even pass on the awkwardness to their loved ones?

      Our noobs should not have to share your regret. A heartfelt message from the Internet Committee of Dignity.

  4. Kevin Martinez

    You know, I’m willing to forgive quite a bit when it comes to web animation, but the CAD cartoon has some of the most dire, catatonic writing ever. I mean, the Season 1 finale is a clumsy and awkward “spoof” of the original Star Wars trilogy with Jack Thompson as Darth Vader.

    I guess my advice for fellow web creators is to learn how to animate. Study the greats, learn the principles, because if you can’t make your characters move, how can you expect someone else to?

  5. “That’s really its worst flaw. It’s not entertaining even in a bad way.”
    Out of all the things you’ve wrote that I’ve read, one that really sticks with me is how you gave some comic 2 stars instead of one, citing that it was really a worse rating, because you can really hate a 1 star comic, a 2 star comic fails to evoke any sort of emotion. Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing really poorly here.

    I guess it didn’t actually stick with me as much as I’d thought.

    Anyway, my point is, I suppose that means you could rate CAD:ATS as 2 stars?

      • Well, if this were a webcartoon review site where Homestar Runner was 5 stars and poorly synched anime fan videos set to One Direction on YouTuve was holding down 1 stars, I would give CAD: The Animated series … 2 stars!

        Mainly because I’ve seen some truly atrocious stuff on Newgrounds.

        (Also, I had flirted with doing a webtoon review site once upon a time, but that little fad seems to have died down in the late 2000’s.)

        • If you were to start reviewing webcartoons, I would suggest only reviewing the ones that are an established series and thus have multiple episodes to cover. Going outside those boundaries is akin to walking into a minefield.

      • Oh right. Despite reading the article, the “posted by El Santo” stuck with me better than the following three words.

  6. It’s funny how admittedly the animation stays true to the style of the comics, but that works rather as a detriment to the animation. There are many ways to make scenes with two people talking interesting, but this show didn’t really tackle any of them. If you look at the storyboards of Simpsons, even that takes some pains on figuring out how to make a scene with Homer talking also LOOK interesting.

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