Eye Candy 01
Oddities speaks to Mondo Media Co-founder and CEO John Evershed about finding huge success in total destruction
By Jesse Horn
One of the most successful animated series available today can’t be found on regular television. Instead you will have to go online and watch it on YouTube . Created by the hugely successful Mondo Media, the show is called Happy Tree Friends and it focuses on a group of forest animals who are doing regular activities you might find in everyday life. What makes this cute and pleasant appearing cartoon unique is that before the animated short is complete nearly all of the characters will have met their doom in a violent and ultra graphic way. The official website at one point offered the warning “Cartoon Violence: Not recommended for small children, or big babies”. Despite some criticism about the content of the shows, there are legions of followers who can’t get enough. Online viewership of the shows has reached nearly a billion. Oddities contacted CEO and cofounder of Mondo Media John Evershed to cast some light on the history and success of Happy Tree Friends, as well as what the future holds.
“Mondo was founded in 1988, if you can imagine that?” Mr. Evershed began. “We were going after, at the time, what ever new media was. It’s evolved several times over. We started to focus on animation in about ’98, with an eye towards syndicating animation on the internet.” He explained that during this time there weren’t the financial underpinnings for advertising or even the basic most rudimentary measurement technology.
“Everything wasn’t there, so you had to hand make everything. What happened though was that we had the internet bubble pop, and we said ‘ok, let’s focus on Happy Tree Friends’ specifically as kind of a cross over property so it had both traditional and new media revenue streams combined. We started to sell a lot of DVDs at the time. We probably sold a million Happy Tree Friends DVDs world wide.” This took place just before DVD sales began to dramatically decline in the market.
“We used a lot of that money to use kind of an independent film model and took it and pre-sold it in markets over seas. And then used that to finance a television series based on Happy Tree Friends.” John said that the appeal is not lost in other cultures because there is no actual spoken dialog.
Trick or Treat
“We financed 13 half hours and that aired on G4 domestically and MTV on markets overseas. Then we started to develop merchandising programs.” Happy Tree Friends products are sold world wide with items such as back-to-school lines being sold in Latin America, or toys in Japan.
Mr. Evershed explained that as the DVD market began to evaporate as a means of driving the property a viable online venue became available. “We started to focus a lot of energy on Youtube over the last few years to use Happy Tree Friends as an anchor property for an animation channel. Were we showcased not just Happy Tree Friends, but other animated series for teens and young adults.”
As for the future of Mondo Media and technology, John sees a lot of potential.
“We are seeing increased viewership on mobile, and then of course over-the-top TV of various kinds. I’m anticipating that more of our content will be consumed on mobile devices, phones and mobile devices in general, ipad and that sort of thing.” He went on to say that the success of mobile viewing is obvious.
“If you look at itunes podcasts, Happy Tree Friends is and has been like almost the number one properties for many years running.”
Mr. Evershed envisions Mondo minishows as becoming the “definitive channel for animation for teen and young adults, using Happy Tree Friends as the anchor and, you know, tapping into the new platforms at they become realistic and more mature and financially viable.”
As for the success of the show, John whole heartedly gave credit to its creator, Kenn Navarro.
“He had a clear vision for that show and he’s just a brilliant animator. He has created something that is pretty universal. I envision kids watching Happy Tree Friends 20 or 30 years from now the same way that they watch Tom and Jerry now. So really it’s Ken Navarro.”
One common misunderstanding about the production of Mondo Media content is the investment.
“Happy Tree Friends looks like just a bunch of animated shorts, but there is about 5 million dollars invested in content. So as much as it might appear as a cute little show that kids are into, I think everybody completely underestimates the internet consistently, right. People under produce for, and they underestimate the production value. They don’t make enough content…Despite what everyone says, most people are treating it like secondary evolving thing…but its way beyond that now.”
As for new Mondo Media developments there are some new shows that John feels will be a great success as well.
“We have been developing some new series that we feel have some real momentum. The most recent one is called Dick Figures, about two stick figure characters. Another series that we like quite a bit is called Dr Tran, and another one is Baman and Piderman.
So we’re always looking for new animated series from independents and production companies because we can put them on YouTube and drive a lot of eyeballs to them very quickly. More so then if you just through them up on your own. We can also help monetize them, over seas, different TV…We do a lot of overseas licensing and that kind of thing.”
Whether you are a fan of Happy Tree Friends or not, there is no denying the amazing success of the program and individuals like John Evershed who help drive it to the masses. As the media world is quickly changing and evolving, and as technological advancements make it possible for world wide success, companies like Mondo Media are seizing opportunities that have not been available before.
Happy Tree Friends with Flippy and his bombs