Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Company, New Job, say hi to Wildseed Studios

Wildseed Studios
In the whirlwind of activity since my business partner and I announced our new Company with this feature in WIRED Magazine I have been criminally negligent of my blog.

This comes from being the webmaster for our temporary website, managing director of the company, accountant, para-legal, head of production and operations ....

It's been non-stop since we announced. This week we are in the middle of a 9 day shoot for our first live action sci-fi/horror project. It will start off as web series and we'll see where it goes. It is directed by the outrageously talented Drew Casson who has been making YouTube Videos since he was in his early teens. Here's the vid that caught our eye and made us get in touch with him.

We are also in the last week of production of our first animated project, making the wickedly funny comic strips of Ralph Kidson walk and talk ....

There will be a proper blog post in a week or two when we the dust has settled on the shoot and I am not out of the office for 14 hours a day making lunch and booking extras and filling in health and safety forms and talking to investors ...

Suffice to say that, aside from Jesse (co-founder and creative director of Wildseed Studios and myself) the average age of the people we are working with this week is 19 and the amount of energy they have, the stuff they know, their willingness to do things so very differently is utterly inspiring and I am already proud and very happy to be in business with them.

What this also means is that I am no longer really available as a consultant. Just in case you were wondering.

And here is a link to a great piece in Forbes about what we are doing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Freemium, Pay Walls and Albi Cathedral's near-perfect marketingexecution

I'm in Toulouse for the Cartoon Forum. I've been to the Forum before as my regular readers will know.

Today we were treated to a tour of Albi and it's frankly hideous but nevertheless imposing brick-built Cathedral.

Of interest to those of trying to figure out how to monetise content was a brave and near-perfect attempt at monetisation through the Freemium business model ...

First off it should be said that His Eminence the Archbishop of Albi has found a very strong promotional hook for his Cathedral: Albi is the largest brick-built building in the world, constructed using some 8.5 million bricks at the end of the 13th Century. A strong enough pitch to get me on a one hour coach trip to see what it was all about.

Once in Albi, you enter the cathedral and marvel at the Nave (if you like that sort of thing).

You wander round and, after just the right amount of time, come up against this, the Albi cathedral pay wall. They want to charge you to see The Choir and The Crypt.

Immediately you think 'I wonder what's behind there, it must be interesting if they are charging for it' and sure enough I paid to see the exclusive, pay-users-only content that was 'The Choir'. So far, so good.

However, I say near-perfect execution because I think they could have taken more money off me and off other cathedral architecture fans. Here's what would have made the execution flawless:

It cost €2 to see The Choir (not a significant barrier to purchase) and €3 to see The Choir and The Crypt.

I only spent the €2. Because they undersold The Crypt.

The offer should have been €2 to see The Choir €5 to see The Crypt, or €4 to see the Crypt if you had a Choir Ticket.

This pricing would have made me believe that The Crypt was valuable content worth paying the extra to see. As it was, at €1 extra, I figured it was probably a little bit 'meh'. Plus, if they had set the price for the Crypt at €4 with a Choir ticket I would have felt that I was getting a bargain because of the €1 price reduction.

To mitigate any risk of shoppers remorse the Archbishop would need to make sure that the the crypt was loaded with valuable content .. a sarcophagus or two or other artefacts from the store and perhaps some well presented additional information about the history of the building and certainly a congratulatory message printed on a souvenir ticket reassuring the holder that they had made a great decision to visit The Crypt, a sort of ecclesiastical auto-reposponder.

Of course the really bold play would have been to invite a more substantial contribution to the cathedrals coffers, perhaps offering a 'friend of the cathedral' status with an undertaking by the His Eminence to have a word with his and our ultimate boss on your behalf so that, come judgement day, your passage through the ultimate pay wall could be more positively ensured.

Not sure, that might require some user testing and feedback analysis. To keep the Cathedral even maintained the Archbishop has to maximise revenues but he does have a brand to think about which over-zealous monetisation could damage.

It just goes to show that constructing your freemium proposition is an art as much as a science.

Back on the bus to Toulouse I reflected that in cathedral architecture terms, I am nearly a whale but his Eminence failed to exploit my love of gothic architecture or to play on my fears around eternal damnation.

However, we shouldn't overlook his success in relieving me of €2 and he could have a future in devising monetisation strategies for mobile games.

Back to the Cartoons tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crowd-Funding Films – Fad or the Future?

As promised, a summary of the short talk I gave at the marvellous Galway Film Fleadh on Friday July 13th

Crowd Funding is in the news at the moment – especially the tech/geek news. As of 18:17 Sunday July 15th (UK time) Ouya, an Android-powered, open-source games console, has used the internet based crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to raise an eye watering $4.8m against a target of $950k in less than a week. Other stories, especially around Kickstarter, are popping up all over the place.

It’s an alluring model for financing movies – if you can finance the film from the crowd you get to own the negative and you get to make the film you want to make without financier ‘notes’.  But is it really that easy, can you just post your project on Kickstarter and watch the money roll in? Of course not. But while researching the subject I came across a few tips and case studies that I found interesting and I watched some really fresh and interesting movies too.

My interest in the subject started when another Aardman alumnus, the talented Sara Barbas, used crowd-funding platform Rocket Hub   to try and finance her latest short film, Final Call . I had the honour of being her first donor ($50 since you ask).

I followed her campaign with interest and at first sight it could be said to have been a disappointment, raising only $8,878 out of a target of $41,000 but, as we shall see, her story did have a happy ending.

There are two basic crowd-funding models: the ‘all-or-nothing’ or ‘keep-it-all’ models.

In the all-or-nothing scenario you set a financial target and specify the amount of time your campaign will last. If you hit your target within your timeframe then your funders’ credit cards are charged and you get the money. If you don’t hit the target you don’t get anything and funders don’t get charged.

In the keep-it-all model you get to keep the money raised whether you hit the target or not, funders’ credit cards are charged at the point of pledging.

Of the three Internet crowd-funding platforms that I have looked at RocketHub uses the keep-it-all model, Kickstarter the all-or-nothing and Indiegogo gives you the choice of either. Other platforms are available.

The fees for each are pretty similar – 4% to 5% of the money raised goes to the platform, plus 3% to 4% credit card processing fees. For the ‘Keep-It-All’ model you get charged an extra 4% fee if you don’t hit your target. This apparently is to encourage you to set realistic targets for your projects.

On Kickstarter Film and Video has been the dominant category accounting for some $75m of the $275m pledged to date. (I suspect these numbers are changing fast and that Games are catching up quickly). Nevertheless the numbers for individual films are not huge. The average donation on Kickstarter is about $75, the median donation around $25.

The most funded film on the platform is called Blue Like Jazz.  In common with many of the film projects on Kickstarter it has some crucial characteristics:
  • it is a feature documentary

  • it speaks to a very engaged and motivated audience, in this case fans of the eponymous book on which it is based and Christians .. the log-line for film and book is ‘Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality’

  • there is a ‘this belongs to us’ (‘us’ being ‘the crowd’) feel to the campaign to get the movie funded. The Kickstarter campaign plays on the last minute failure of the film to get financed through conventional means as a motivator for people to donate, even calling the campaign ‘Save Blue Like Jazz The Movie’

The current poster child for Kickstarter crowd-funded movies though is Indie Game – The Movie  – a brilliant, feature-documentary about the indie game scene tracking three indie games creators as they battle time and their own obsessive-compulsive perfectionism to get their games to market.

The directors did two Kickstarter campaigns to get funds for their film – one at the beginning to get the film off the ground ($23,000) and one towards the end of the project to get it finished and to raise funds for marketing and distribution ($71,000). Here's the movie trailer.

The distribution model for the film is also very interesting. Festivals and other theatrical screenings are part of the plan but at the moment the main effort seems to be going into digital distribution though iTunes, Steam and DRM free through the movie website.

The big win may well be the spin-off opportunity that the documentary has generated though – Producer Scott Rudin picking up the idea to create a comedy series for HBO.

One more example before trying to figure out where crowd funding is heading.

Spanner Films The Age of Stupid was an early example of a crowd-funded film and was made before crowd-funding became fashionable.

The producers raised an impressive £450,000 to produce an environmental polemic, set in 2055, where Pete Postlethwaite looks back at the time between 2010 and 2015 as the era in which, had we taken action, we could have spared the planet the environmental disaster that later destroyed almost everything.

On the Age of Stupid website is a very useful guide to crowd funding your movie including legal documentation that you can download and adapt for your own campaign if you are thinking of doing it without a Kickstarter or RocketHub.

The story of the funding process for Age of Stupid also contains a cautionary tale. They were very close to launching their fundraising campaign but thought they’d just check in with their lawyer who advised them that, brilliant though their scheme was, it was also totally illegal as they were offering financial products to the public but without going through the necessary regulatory frameworks. Hence one of their pieces of advice, hire a good lawyer.

Uniquely among the films mentioned here Age of Stupid offered a profit share to its larger funders. They did underestimate the amount of work involved in paying that profit share out every year – they had 250+ profit sharing donors in the end, that’s a lot of royalty statements to calculate and cheques to write.

So, reading the material and talking to people who have crowd funded their films, there are some definite trends, tips and tricks to think about if you are going to go down the crowd-funding route.

  • under-promise and over-deliver: everyone advises setting a realistic funding target. It needs to look like a target that will deliver tangible results, so maybe part of the film rather than the whole thing, but it’s a much better story if you can overshoot a modest target rather than under-perform against an over ambitious one.

  • The sales video for your campaign is crucial. Make it personal and speak directly to your audience. If your trailer is too slick or too much like a short film then people will be asking themselves why you need the money and if you do not appear in your sales film people will not know who they are investing in and whether they can trust you.

  • The projects that succeed are the ones that engage a motivated community. Christians, gamers and environmentalists are the communities that the films above tapped into. My friend Sara makes lovely films but they appeal to a general audience that is not motivated to fund her activities to the extent that she hoped. However Sara though did raise enough money to develop her film sufficiently to get other producers and funders interested and it now seems very likely that Final Call will get made as a co-production with a Polish Studio  and her crowd funded script and animatic are what created that opportunity for her.

  • In the funding cycle the most donations will come at the beginning and end of your chosen funding timeframe. In the middle, activity will be flat. This is when you need to work hardest and communicate most with ‘the crowd’. Communication is key at all times but most of all when people’s motivation to donate is at its lowest ebb.

  • The rewards that you offer to funders are crucial and you need to think about them carefully. Both the value of them and the practicality of delivering them.  According to Kickstarter, campaigns that do not have low value rewards ($20 or less) are 20% less likely to reach their targets than campaigns that do. Study the reward offerings of successful and comparable projects and learn from them.

  • Remember to factor in the cost of buying or creating your rewards and the cost of delivering them to your funders. Some Kickstarters recommend allowing 10% to 20% of the funds that you raise for rewards.

There were people in the session at the Film Fleadh who had tried crowd-funding projects, only two of them confessed to succeeding. One was Joseph Campo who raised enough to enable him (with some match funding from Northern Irish Screen) to make two pilot episodes of a web series called The Clandestine. It’s a funny idea and I wish him well with the project.

One of the really interesting questions that got asked after I shut up was whether I thought this was a fad. Stories abound of people’s Facebook timelines being bombarded with crowd-funding requests. This will piss people off very quickly. Also, sooner or later there will be a fraudulent scheme that will cause a scandal and damage the movement.

But I think it will settle down and persist. It won’t always be as hot as it is now as more and more commercial rather than personal projects seek to fund themselves in this way.

The freshness, the honesty and the passion evident in films like ’Indie Game’ and ‘Stupid’ bear out the advantages of the true independence that crowd-funding and direct to consumer digital distribution give to filmmakers and for that reason I think the funding model will survive, even if not at the level that it will probably reach over the next year or so. We shall see.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Brothels vs The Childrens Media Conference

This is a weird way to start a post about a Children's Media Conference and I am fully aware of how implausible it sounds but I have a good friend who has a business associate who is addicted to using prostitutes.

No, it's not me nor is it the good friend. It really is a business associate of a good friend of mine. Really, it is.

On one particular occasion my friend accompanied his business associate to a brothel to see what all the fuss was about. He sat at the bar while his business associate did what he had to do and the thing that struck my friend most forcefully was how much the girls laughed at his business associate's terrible, terrible jokes.

The business associate failed to appreciate the significance of his role as a buyer in the situation. The (much smarter) girls ended up taking him for over £1,000 for drinks and a hand job (my friend said he would have done it for £400) but he was happy and, to this day, the business associate probably thinks that he is *this close* to having a career as a stand up comedian.

My point is this.  When you leave a big job at a prestigious company like an Aardman or a BBC or a Disney to go independent, you do immediately ask yourself, 'am I actually funny and interesting and likeable or did everyone just laugh at my jokes because of where I worked and what I might be able to do for them?'

And so, with a little trepidation, 3 days after leaving my job at Aardman, I headed up to Sheffield for the Children's Media Conference to hang out with an awful lot of the people I have come into contact with over the last nine years of my employment at Aardman.

I think I did OK. To be fair to me, I have always practised what I preach to anyone who'll listen: 'be nice to the runner or receptionist or secretary because if they are any good, one day you will be working for them'. My first job in the media was as a runner on a feature film. One of the members of the production team treated me very badly. It was only some 10 years later that he, still working in the same role, applied for a job at the Company that I was then running. There is a time for forgiveness, that wasn't one of them.

People were incredibly supportive and positive about my plans and I don't think I'm going to starve in my new life as a freelancer. Result.

Back to the Childrens' Media Conference which, as usual, was fascinating and fun and sociable and inspiring. It's two and a half days of talks and workshops and panels on a huge variety of subjects which, if you have anything to do with Children's Media, you should attend. Acclaimed author Patrick Ness was a brilliant keynote interviewee (Mark Lawson presided) but here are 5 random things that I took away from the sessions that I attended, some of which made me punch the air so strongly did they chime with my sometimes partially formed thoughts:

1) There is a lot of noise at the moment about the 'second screen' experience, i.e. watching TV and playing with or using some sort of app on your mobile/tablet/laptop which is in sync with the TV show. When you hear about these things you invariably think 'oh shit, another thing I'm not taking seriously enough - this could be the next big thing'.

My view: it won't be. A perfectly good presentation by 2nd screen evangelists convinced me that while the second screen will be great for playing along with game and quiz shows they are going to be about as game-changing as the red button on your remote, i.e. not at all.

One of the most successful red-button applications ever was the one that showed lyrics to songs playing on Top Of The Pops. This tells me that the second-screen, simultaneous experience will have a very few, very simple, successful applications. As more people watch video on their computers or mobile devices (the subject of another good session) the second screen becomes the first screen and TV's are too dumb to become a second screen. Which leads me neatly on to;

2)  Smart TV's are irrelevant and need to get dumber not smarter. This was an incidental takeaway from a brilliant session on monetising apps. People upgrade their TV's much less frequently than they do their mobiles, laptops or tablets. The 'smartness' will always reside on the mobile device and the best that smart TV's can hope for is to be the big screen on which we view the content that we select and manipulate through our much smarter mobile device. Forget Smart TV's, concentrate on the device in your hand or on your lap. This is different to the simultaneous, second-screen experience. It's the mobile device as the super-smart storage device and TV remote, not as a second screen.

3) A thrilling viewpoint on the role of narrative in games also came out of the monetising apps session. Good games create narrative but they don't respond well to having narrative thrust upon them.  Games are about users manipulating characters in worlds to create narrative. Films (in their broadest sense) are about using narrative to drive characters through worlds to a pre-determined outcome. The two are different, we need to stop saying they are the same.

4)  The funding model for children's TV in the UK is in big trouble. The UK tax credit for animation can't come soon enough. As I contemplate setting up a business I can't even imagine going to investors and plausibly convincing them that kids TV would be a good bet in the UK at the current time. I am fearful for the business, it badly needs re-capitalising, companies that only do kids TV are going to find the next 12 to 24 months very hard indeed in the UK.

5)  The people who work in kids media are the best. It's an amazing community of caring, passionate and committed people who want to do the best for their audience and, probably because the amounts of money that they are dealing with aren't that huge, it is a w@*nker free zone.

Unlike the brothel that my good friend's business associate chose to visit.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Moving on and Starting-Up

'Do one thing every day that scares you'
Eleanor Roosevelt
US diplomat & reformer (1884 - 1962)

to cheer my dad up, I thought I’d wear a tie on my first day
in my new job, working for myself
Can I ask, Eleanor, if you do something that really, really scares you one day, can you have a few days off being scared afterwards?

I ask because after nine years at Aardman I have decided that it’s time for a new challenge and so today is the first day of the next chapter in my professional career.

I left the Company at the end of June and as of today I work for myself.

I am fortunate to still be working with Aardman as a consultant in a freelance capacity but no longer exclusively.

It was a hard decision to make. Aardman is an amazing Company which has given me extraordinary opportunities to work on world-class projects, meet exceptionally talented people and get involved with huge campaigns.

But, I’m not getting any younger and I still have the energy, time and the hunger for another professional adventure.

For now I am out there as an ‘Independent Media Consultant’. I will be consulting, teaching (which I love) – anything that takes my fancy where I can add value.

At the same time, I’m writing a business plan for my own project. I say ‘project’ to be cryptic for now, partly because I am still figuring out exactly what it is.
It will almost certainly be something that brings together my passions and experience – chief among them digital media, comedy and animation.

It’s an odd time to be getting back into the labour market and looking to raise finance for a new venture. The UK is in a double-dip recession, the Eurozone is flirting with meltdown, banks aren’t lending etc. etc.

But, once the urge gets hold of you to get out there and start something new, there’s no stopping it. It’s like falling in love, it can happen at the most absurd and inconvenient moments.

On the bright side there are plusses to starting a new business venture in a recession, so I’m going to be thinking mostly about these:

  • Everything is cheaper in a recession: office space, people, second hand equipment, interest rates
  • It’s a great PR story – ‘bucking the trend’, ‘taking matters into your own hands’, ‘beating the odds’
  • If you can survive and prosper during the lean times you can flourish as the good times return
  • Investors still want to invest, they are still looking for growth stories and solid propositions to get involved with.

Something like half of all start-ups fail within three years. Bizarrely this needn’t be a problem. Apparently your chances of succeeding are significantly increased if you have previously failed as an entrepreneur. I wonder if I should open with that in my investor pitches …

So Eleanor, I’m definitely shit-scared but in the good way that you were talking about. I’m also unfeasibly excited. And you can’t be excited without just a little bit of fear.

To be continued ….

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wowser! Tax Credits are Go!

OK, OK, so not a go just yet. Today's budget announcement heralded, in fact, another year's work ahead of us before the Tax Credit will be fully introduced in April 2013. We were worried that it was going to take two years by which time a whole bunch more companies would have gone to the wall. A year is near enough for most to be able to hunker down and wait for the cavalry to arrive.

I have learnt so much about so many things by being part of the team pushing the Tax Credit agenda. Time for a list:

Miles Bullough - Movember
1)  Try not to launch a high profile media campaign during Movember. If you've never grown a moustache in your life it's not a good time to try, when you are on TV every other day. The worst thing though was the Spectator interview I did in Movember but which wasn't published until February. The reporter quite fairly called me on my stupid tache but failed to mention that he had talked to me three months before .... the Spectator didn't want anyone to think that it took them three months to get their act together.

2) This is tricky but try to make a statement that suggests a controversial headline but which doesn't go the whole way so that when sections of the media publish the controversial headline you can deny it but still get the media coverage. In our case the story that Aardman was to quit the UK which appeared on the BBC website and spread like wildfire, was a not very subtle distortion of a statement that I made that we would be outsourcing some of our work overseas if we didn't get a tax credit. Beautiful. I was able to deny the story while still getting it in front of everyone's face. I had plausible deniability.

I was surprised (but grateful) that it was the BBC website that took this approach to the story but they do have 'form' in this regard having been the source of the story that Aardman's studio had burnt down in 2005 when in fact it was a storage facility.

3)  While people like me blab away to the media, behind the scenes someone has to be doing some very hard work. Most of it was done by the indefatigable Oli Hyatt of Blue Zoo, without him the campaign would never have happened or succeeded. Aardman may have been the trump card but Oli played a difficult hand with great skill. Respect is due.

4)  Radio 4 has amazing reach and influence. The campaign took off in the media after the interview I gave to The World This Weekend on Radio 4. It was a great interview by Shaun Ley and most of the rest of the media coverage at that time ran on from that interview, or a strange version of it.

5) The press agencies sent under-qualified people to interview me; cameramen with a couple of questions emailed to them on their phones. The decline in quality of the news provided by agencies (as described in brilliant detail in Nick Davies' Flat Earth News) is a great worry - so many news organisations rely on agencies for their stories.

6) The FT is ace, they reported the story in depth and accurately, another good way of getting your story in front of the Treasury, for example.

7) Sky News appeared to be a serious news organisation committed to getting the story right, I had not expected this when they asked for an interview.

8)  Don't watch your TV interviews back especially if, like me, you are not a 'natural'. I hate seeing and hearing myself on TV or Radio but the job had to be done. By not watching any of it back I didn't get self conscious and worry about how I was coming across. People said I was OK, I chose to believe them without checking for myself.

9)  Journalists short of ideas and background information will often default to the adversarial approach .... using attack as the best form of covering up their lack of preparedness or skill.

10) There is just a tiny, tiny chance that the Chancellor gave UK animation producers a tax credit just so that he could make the Wallace and Gromit gag about the labour front bench.

11) There is no 11, I just think lists of 10 are lazy.

Update: 23rd March 2012

12) I feel the need to add another item to my list as I have been reminded, very good-naturedly, that the media hullaballoo actually began in our august trade mag, Broadcast. Back in October I gave a rushed interview to a reporter who, in my view, didn't report the substance of what I had said and instead cherry-picked a quote to prove a point she had to make about the film tax credit. I complained to the editor who was sympathetic. She offered me an opinion piece in the mag and made it clear that Broadcast was going to be a suporter of the campaign, which it really has been. I wrote the piece and it's one of the things that got Radio 4 (see item 4) interested. Again, it's not always a disaster being misquoted ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cartoon Movie 2012 - view from the small-screen guy

Back from Lyon after attending Cartoon Movie where European animated film-makers gather to pitch their concepts, projects in development or production and finished films to European animated feature film financiers and distributors.

I was there to nose around and look for talent and ideas and money and opportunities and also to present Aardman’s latest feature film ‘Pirates! in An Adventure with Scientists’  to the delegates. I had nothing to do with the making of the film but I was at the conference so I got to pitch the film. Lovely.

Aardman operates in a very different market for films than the ones celebrated at Cartoon Movie. We make big budget, mainstream, family-entertainment movies that get worldwide distribution and which are expected to achieve global box office success. The films cannot be too ‘kiddy’ or too adult, they must be universal and international in appeal.

By contrast, most of the films presented at Cartoon Movie were art-house or niche or kids movies and were in the lower budget ranges of €1m to €10m Euros for the most part. Many of the films presented will not get made and many of the films made will get only a limited theatrical release and probably no release at all in the UK whose screens are all but monopolised by blockbuster, largely US-made films.

A fine example of one of the really good films at the Conference was ‘Wrinkles’ (‘Arrugas la Pelicula’ in the original Spanish)  It tells a moving story of an elderly man with Alzheimer's going into a care home and his experience there and of his illness. It was a story that was perfect for animation which can sometimes deal with difficult subjects in a revealing and sensitive way. It’s a film that would never have got made if the commercial market had been asked to finance it, it needed the patchwork of Euro subsidies, grants and tax breaks to meet its budget and this was the financing model that many of the films at the conference were pursuing.

Aardman is in the very fortunate position of being held up as a great example of what can be achieved by a European animation house. As I basked in the entirely reflected glory of Pete Lord’s magnificent Pirates! film many people came up to me at the conference and asked me a question along the lines of ‘What does it take to get to where Aardman is?’

I thought about it and and I came up with three things that I thought that the film-makers that I saw there would need to think about if they wanted their films to become more mainstream and popular. By that I don’t mean necessarily better just more mainstream and popular. And I also don't mean that these are the only three things, they're just the ones I thought of based on what I saw in Lyon:

(1) Focus on Comedy. While intellectuals like you and me love to watch ‘Waltz With Bashir’ and ‘Persopolis’, regular folk want comedy from their animated films. There is of course a market for anything really really good but to address a mass audience an animated film has, by and large, to be funny. Proper funny. Written, directed, voiced and animated by people with funny bones

(2) Beware of child protagonists. Animation is very often perceived as being for kids. It is, if you like, the default setting for most people when they think about animation or, as they might call it, cartoons. Being perceived as being for kids can easily shift into being perceived as being childish and one of the best ways to compound that perception problem is to have a child protagonist. Even kids find that naff if you are not careful. They would much rather see an aspirational character and their parents would much rather see some layered adult humour with their pratfalls and fart gags.

(3) Don’t pitch the plot, pitch the story. It’s a mistake to describe a film in terms of what happens, it’s much more interesting to describe the characters and what makes them funny or like-able or interesting or aspirational - how are they changed by the events that unfold during the film, not just what the events are.

I probably use up more valuable baby-sitter time to see art-house movies than I do multiplex movies. But I guess it's fair to say that the multiplex films pay the bills.  So I’m glad Cartoon Movie is there, I recommend going to see ‘Wrinkles’ if you can find it on anywhere and, of course, I really recommend going to see Pirates! which opens pretty much everywhere at the end of March and is a comedy with interesting, funny characters that aren’t children and who make bad choices but get it right in the end.