Barry Blumberg is the President of the #4 ranked YouTube channel, Smosh, and its animation arm, Shut Up! Cartoons. Since its launch in April of 2012, Shut Up! Cartoons has produced almost two dozen original animated series, garnering over a million devoted YouTube subscribers. With Shut Up! Cartoons’ hit series Oishi High School Battle just starting its second season, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk to Mr. Blumberg about his rapidly expanding online animated empire.
Barry Blumberg is no stranger to the cartoon community. As the former Executive Vice President of Harvey Entertainment, he once managed media and merchandising for Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich. Following that, Blumberg served as President of Walt Disney Television Animation, where he oversaw the production of such hit Disney Channel shows as Kim Possible and Disney's House of Mouse.
Upon leaving Disney, Blumberg took the role of Executive VP for Defy Media, a digital media company that produces original online content for 12-34 year olds. In addition to being the Executive VP for Defy Media Blumberg is also President of the Defy-owned Smosh - hailed by TIME Magazine as the "SNL of the Internet" and the #4 rated channel on YouTube. He also heads up Smosh’s animation arm, Shut Up! Cartoons, which has produced almost two dozen original animated series since its launch in April of 2012.
With Shut Up! Cartoons’ wildly popular Oishi High School Battle just starting its second season, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk to Mr. Blumberg about his rapidly expanding online animated empire.
Ju-osh M.: It’s amazing to think that with over a million YouTube subscribers, Shut-Up! Cartoons only launched two short years ago. What were your initial goals for the channel?
Barry Blumberg: Our initial goal with the channel was to work with creators and give them an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and make cartoons that they’ve always wanted to. We also wanted to give them a strong platform on which to do that. We look to give everybody that’s produced a show for us the opportunity to have their work seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
Ju-osh: How do you go about curating content and talent for the channel?
Blumberg: We reached out to the animation community at large and told them what we were doing, what audience the channel was trying to reach, and provided parameters around budget, length, and tone. Once we put that out there, we received hundreds of pitches that came in from people who wanted to make shows with us. Some worked, some didn’t, and some were really strong and ultimately we wound up going with those. In addition to that, there were a few shows like SMOSH Babies and Teleporting Fat Guy, that we wanted to make internally and for those we worked to find the right producing partners to bring those ideas to life.
Ju-osh: The shows on Shut Up! Cartoons are pretty varied in content. On the one hand, you’ve got the anime-inspired insanity of Oishi High School Battle. But then you’ve also got Emily Brundige's subversive and surprisingly sensitive Pubertina. How would you describe the Shut Up! Cartoons aesthetic?
Blumberg: Irreverent, Smosh-like, outspoken, weird and funny.
Ju-osh: Speaking of Oishi High School Battle, season 2 just kicked off on December 6. Would you tell me how you first hooked up with the show’s creators, Dan Dominguez and Joe Gressis, and how you all went about developing the show for Shut Up! Cartoons?
Blumberg: Dan was an editor who was writing stories for Smosh.com and he came to us with a show idea that he wanted to pitch and we agreed to meet with him. So Dan and Joe came in and pitched us on Oishi and we immediately knew it was a great show for our audience and that we wanted to make it. Oishi is probably our most successful show, and the two are currently developing another show for us called 16-bit High that we are really excited about.
Ju-osh: Blending animation with live action is a tradition almost as old as animation itself. You’ve got Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, Walt Disney’s Alice Comedies and Max Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell shorts. That said, when you look at animation’s long history, there are a relatively small number of these productions — especially as series. What inspired you guys to go this route for Oishi High School Battle?
Blumberg: It was what the guys wanted to do. That was their vision and we really support our creators in this way and help guide the process.
Ju-osh: A number of your other shows are about to enter their second and third seasons. This is still relatively uncharted territory for online animated programs. Could you share some of the secrets you’ve learned for keeping things familiar without feeling stale?
Blumberg: It’s about evolving the shows as they go. Looking at Oishi now in it’s second season, there’s more of a continuous narrative that unfolds throughout the course of the season that will keep people interested.
Ju-osh: What shows are currently the most popular on Shut Up! Cartoons? Do you have a guess as to why?
Blumberg: In addition to Oishi, I’d say Teleporting Fat Guy and SMOSH Babies do really well for us. I think the shows that are the closest to the SMOSH brand wind up being really successful on the channel.
Ju-osh: You previously served as the President of Walt Disney Television Animation. What are some of the differences between working in an established corporate behemoth and working in a small - albeit hugely successful - internet start-up?
Blumberg: The turnaround is a lot faster now. When people come in and they pitch us on a show, we’re able to make a decision as to whether or not move forward with an idea pretty quickly. There are fewer people who need to be part of the development process and that can be both good and bad. When you’re at a company like Disney, the process can take a bit longer, since there are a lot of very smart people who weigh in and have input into what it is you’re doing. But with Shut Up! Cartoons, you definitely get to see more of the creators vision up on the screen.
Ju-osh: So here’s where I give you that stern, father-of-the-girl-you’re-taking-to-the-prom stare and ask: What are your intentions for Shut-Up! Cartoons?
Blumberg: We still have a long run with the second season and new shows ahead of us. In addition to the second season of Oishi, we also have second seasons for Teleporting Fat Guy andSMOSH Babies. As well as exciting new programs coming up, like 16-Bit High.
Ju-osh: Sounds great. It’s been a lot of fun watching Shut Up! Cartoons grow. I can’t wait to see what you guys are doing in two more years!