Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


The Frederatorian Armada

Remember when Hanna-Barbera was brought back from near death in the 90's? Like Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio in The Abyss? Fred Siebert was Hanna-Barbera's Virgil Brigman. He slapped the life back into the studio by creating the What-A-Cartoon! showcase for new shorts, reorganizing the personnel and modernizing their process, resulting in scads of great shorts that spun off several great shows for Cartoon Network including Cow & Chicken, Powerpuff Girls, and Dexter's Lab.

With the Hanna-Barbera brand saved, Fred then founded Frederator Studios in 1997, and their first project was Oh Yeah! Cartoons for Nickelodeon, another showcase of shorts featuring many of the same animators and directors who had produced work for What-A-Cartoon. Oh Yeah! has spun off 3 series for Nick so far, most notably the wonderfully awesome My Life as a Teenage Robot (created by Rob Renzetti who storyboarded some of the best episodes of Dexter's Lab) and Megahit work of genius The Fairly Oddparents, created by Butch Hartman. Farily Oddparents is Nick's second most-popular show, only surpassed by the mighty Bob l'├ęponge; it's a powerful mix of wish fulfillment, brilliantly mutated character tropes, mind-blowing voice performances, and a self-aware formula that never seems to get stale, with a seventh season of episodes just beginning to air. The loud characters and slapstick potty moments (Supertoilet!) successfully scare off most adults, but Cosmo and Wanda just kick so much ass on so many levels that you musn't dare write off FOP as pablum.

While Fred excels at pulling together fresh teams for these showcase incubator series, and the newest Frederator project, Random Cartoons, is another installment in Fred's trademark genre. Frederator has also produced the Nicktoons Film Festival, an open call for shorts from animators of all stripes. The best shorts are aired on TV and the possibility of being the next Frederator star looms large for the participants. Fred is serious about crowdsourcing and his methods have brought TV some of the most innovative and hilarious cartoons of the past 15 years.

However, Fred (who was also MTV's first creative director, producer of the early MTV and Nick animated IDs, and savior of Nickelodeon with the Nick at Nite concept) is no one-trick-pony; Frederator's online offerings rival their TV projects, and Frederator gets it right so much more throughly than almost anyone else in the TV business it's a little shocking. For instance, check out one of Frederator's 65 blogs, including Fred's official blog or the Fairly Odd Blog. While it's still unique for a studio to essentially insist that each project has a corresponding blog, the best parts of the Frederator online presence are their web-native projects.

Channel Frederator takes Fred's trademark approach -- welcome all comers -- and ports it online into a channel full of new cartoon shorts that anyone can submit to and a podcast of the best stuff. There's also annual Channel Frederator Awards (voting is now open for the best of 2007) and one truly standout original series of shorts: The Meth Minute 39, by Dan Meth. The Meth Minute can best be described as the Wario Ware of cartoons; short, hilarious, usually inappropriate, steeped in pop references, and with many sets of recurring characters. The latest episode of the Meth Minute features Ultra and the Lazer Hearts, who exist to hang jokes upon the truly outrageous carcass of Jem and the Holograms. One of Meth's most-forwarded shorts is the undeniably NSFW Dog Video Dating, and the first episode, meme-tribute Internet People, became a bit of a meme of its own. Even the Meth Minute 39 is in on Fred's crowdsourcing mission, currently running a contest to find the best viewer-created short using meth minute characters, with a cash prize.

In addition to the awesomeness of Channel Frederator is ReFrederator, a simply amazing daily podcast that features a different vintage cartoon each day, along with some incredibly knowledgable posts. The work the ReFrederator folks are doing is nothing short of miraculous; acquiring, digitizing, and archiving priceless but usually commercially worthless cartoons in a modern format that's simply one of the very best podcasts on the whole dang intertubes.

However, the absolutely best thing that Fred has done recently has been to discover a guy named Pendleton Ward and give him the chance to make Adventure Time. Go watch Adventure Time right now, and be forewarned that the next time you see something really awesome, you just might find yourself using 'ALGEBRAIC!' as an expletive of awesomeness.

Frederator Studios is doing totally RHOMBUS work all over the place; but Channel Frederator is merely the anchor of Fred's newest corporation, nextnewnetworks, which takes Fred's proven old/new media flexibility and mastery and stretches the definition of a video network in a very forward-looking direction, towards nichier audiences and snappier, shorter, more frequent programming. See Ultra Kawaii (so cute it hurts), Threadbanger (for DIY Fashionistas), Vette Dogs (for corvette owners) or Total MMO (for Massively Mutliplayer Online gamers). Fred will rule the world someday, perched atop his shiny red armada of networks and viewer-created content flying in close formation. Submit now and you can say you were a Frederatorian before it was compulsory!

Labels: , , , , ,


  • At 12:57 PM, Blogger Fred Seibert said…

    Wow Eli! Your post just popped on my radar. Thanks for all the kind words.


Post a Comment

<< Home