By Sahil Patel
Last week, DreamWorks Animation and its subsidiary AwesomenessTV launched DreamWorksTV, a new YouTube channel focused on original live-action and animated programming for kids and families.
It’s a pretty interesting attempt by DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind hit film and TV franchises like “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda,” to reach its young audience where they already are. Or, more accurately, it’s a decision that makes a lot of sense; but what’s interesting about it is how DreamWorks and AwesomenessTV hope to reach and engage with fans with content on the channel.
To learn more about the channel’s content and programming strategy, which includes producing 2–3 new pieces of content every day, VideoInk spoke with Birk Rawlings, head of animations for DreamWorksTV.
One of the more interesting things about the launch is creating vlogs starring DreamWorks characters. Explain the decision to bring these popular characters to YouTube.
Basically, we feel like a huge number of these characters’ fans already live and breathe on YouTube. So it feels like a bit of a no-brainer to create content that speaks directly to the YouTube audience in the format that they’re already used to.
How will the videos be written?
Content will be specific to each character. Po will share tidbits on what he thinks is wisdom — which is often misplaced or misunderstood wisdom. Puss in Boots, who has a healthy self image, will focus more on answering questions and offering advice. It’ll be a bit more listy — teaching you how to be cool like him. Whereas with Shrek, who’s this lovable grump, the creative will be driven more to what’s bothering him on that particular day.
All of it will be within the traditional vlog format found on YouTube, but it will all be character driven. We are trying to stay as true as possible to what DreamWorks created.
What release strategy are you going with?
Weekly. Each character will upload a video on the same day. That said, our programming strategy is very flexible. We will listen to the audience and iterate based on that.
The thing with vlogs, they can also be timely. Will that be something you’d look to do?
Yes, but it’s important that we stay true to the character and the world. Shrek can address things that are current, but it has to be through the filter of Far Far Away. He might talk about the latest boy band, for instance, but it’s Wrong Direction, not One Direction.
You’re launching with Shrek, Po, and Puss in Boots. Any more coming to YouTube?
We’re planning to add characters later in the summer. And we will move characters in and out depending on what works and doesn’t. It’s also important that we support whatever the franchise goals are for each of these characters.
The focus is on both animated and live-action. When looking at new projects, are you doing them on a project-by-project basis? Or is there a mandate to have a certain amount of content be live action, and a certain amount be animated?
There is no mandate other than we want to make sure we have a good mix of animation and live-action across the board. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver what the audience wants. We are starting out with a pretty even mix but if some things do better, we will do more of that.
There are several projects in the launch slate that come from others. How much of the channel’s programming will be fully developed in-house, and how much of it is ideas pitched to you by external creators and animators?
We are working with a wide range of creators for animated shows. People from feature backgrounds, TV backgrounds, and web-content backgrounds. What I can say is everything except the DreamWorks character pieces are things that have come from — whether they work for DreamWorks or not — people coming in to pitch the ideas.
It really is all of the above. We are reaching out and talking to people who we really want to work with. Our door is also open for outside people to come in.