How Dick Figures Broke the Kickstarter Record for Funding of an Animation Project
It's been a whirlwind few months for Ed Skudder and Zack Keller, creators of the popular animated web series Dick Figures. When we first met, they were at the Los Angeles Animation Festival gearing up for the fourth season of the YouTube smash hit. At that point, the show, which centers on two stick figures named Blue and Red, had just hit 100 million views. Now, they're quickly approaching 140 million views as they close out the season.
But there's more. The fans -- and there are a lot of them -- have been clamoring for something bigger than episodes that usually clock in under the four-minute mark. They want a Dick Figures movie and they will be getting that, probably by next spring.
This isn't just the movie they wanted, it's the one they funded. In the middle of working on the show's current season, Skudder and Keller launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $313,000 in pledges at its conclusion last week. Right now, it is the most successful campaign for an animation project in the fundraising platform's history.
Turning to Kickstarter was necessary to get the Dick Figures movie off the ground. Skudder and Keller don't work alone. They make the show, which airs on YouTube via Mondo Media, through animation studio Six Point Harness. They have a small team that churns out one new episode in about two weeks.
Zack Keller and Ed Skudder
By animation standards, they work with a small budget and quick turnaround, but it's still a costly endeavor. Getting Hollywood producers in on the action wasn't feasible. The duo already tried that and said that, while executives seemed impressed with their numbers, they didn't quite understand the show itself. The idea of two stick figures getting into misadventures as they riff on Internet memes wasn't the big studios' idea of a hit. Maybe some things are best left to flourish online.
Dick Figures: The Movie landed on Kickstater with a much larger audience than many other projects in need of crowdfunding, but the creators also set the bar higher than your typical animation project. While they did ultimately succeed, they didn't enter the project thinking that this would be an automatic win. "Ed and I had a lot of deals that looked like they were going to happen but fell apart," Keller says. The knowledge that even the most promising opportunities may not come to fruition kept the two motivated to make this work. "We pushed it every day," he continues. "I was nervous the entire time."
Where Hollywood didn't necessarily understand the show, some fans didn't understand why Skudder and Keller needed the to reach $250,000 goal they set on the all-or-nothing fundraising site. "A lot of fans thought that it was Zack and me doing it for fun, for free, when in fact it costs thousands and thousands of dollars," Skudder says. "When we asked for $250,000, people automatically stood up and said, 'What are you doing? It's a scam. Stop robbing us.'"
The duo responded with a video that shows exactly how the Kickstarter money would be spent and gives some insight into what it takes to make a cartoon. They also broke down the numbers to show how more pledges means a longer movie. (Ultimately, they raised enough to make a film that's between 40 and 45 minutes.) That helped the project earn support, although not everyone changed their tune. "We definitely lost a lot of fans because there are people who were, like, 'This is free, we shouldn't have to pay for it,'" Skudder says.