Monthly Archives: December 2017

Selling Out?: Hasbro’s Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters

From My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010 – present)  to Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015 – 2017)  Hasbro Studios has been behind the production of a wide variety of animated television and web series. As one of the largest toy-manufacturing companies in the world, it’s no surprise that the creation of its sudio’s series are directly tied to merchandising.

 

Hasbro is not the first production company that uses merchandising as a way to justify the hefty financial investment that corresponds with animation. In fact, Disney has used this business strategy for decades in order to increase its project’s revenues outside of the big and small screen. The difference between Disney’s production however, is that storytelling is of upmost priority, while toy sales only follow. On the other hand, the creation of works by Hasbro Studios are directly tied to and financially dependent upon the production and distribution of merchandise.

The conception of works is based upon their potential marketability to either young boys or girls. As series directly conceived on capitalistic foundation, it’s no surprise that many older viewers are heavily against these projects as many have the potential to tell an excellent story, yet are clearly restricted by market demand.

 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an outlier of this statement, as Lauren Faust did an amazing job in its initial development. And rather than focusing on what toys would sell, she and her team’s main priority has been to create something of high quality. Although Faust is no longer a part of the series’ production, her legacy has been carried over by the writers and storyboard artists who stayed around.

 

The topic of discussion however, is of a new Netflix series produced by Hasbro Studios titled: Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters. This Netflix original series was released in October of this year and has a total of 13 episodes along with an IMDB score of 7.2/10. A promotion for the series was released on IGN’s YouTube channel, but was greeted with many comments against the series:

FistbumpBros: This animation style. Just, wow. You’d reckon in 2017 they could just up the frames?

Muctaru Bah: Gotta makes that money

Gol. D Rodger: Why the black guy always a big muscular loudmouth or a complete dweeb… all I see is white dude with his black and Asian sidekicks yawn…

OTHE: But Why … ?

W01fman: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Klaud Speed: I’m guessing a new toyline. This time you gotta buy his stretchy friends and enemies too.

The Illuminati: I remember Stretch Armstrong being a muscly guy not a teenage kid.

Cat’s Tuxedo: Muscly guys aren’t as hip and marketable to their target demo.

YesteryearsGamer: Seriously… what? My only guess is, they wanted an excuse to renew the license. Or they’re bringing out new toys. Well, it is Hasbro, so it all comes back to toy sales for them.

 

Despite the subpar ratings, and the somewhat valid comments shown above, Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters is reminiscent of a combination of both Spectacular Spiderman and Ben 10: Alien Force. The series in question is actually produced and directed by Victor Cook who worked on the former project, and it definitely shows in both its art style and dialogue points.

 

While it is obvious that the series’ central focus is marketability through its character and design choices, many outside features (dialogue, plot, etc.) are quite creatively satisfying. The series is self-aware to a degree in subtly poking fun at cliché superhero tropes, which is one of its strong points. Dialogue can be very comedic, sharing the humor of its brother series Spectacular Spiderman. Some characters are very endearing and dynamic such as Jake, Nathan, and Erica; while others such as Ricardo and Riya fall flat, but additional character exploration can reverse this. Overall, the pros well outway the conceptual flaws and campy premise of teenage heroes granted with elasticity-themed powers. It is an enjoyable and light-hearted series which makes for a very high re-watch value.

 

While consumerism may not be the ideal platform for any form of storytelling to be built on, at the end of the day, it provides avid cartoon viewers with more animated content. It’s important to keep in mind that chastising a series for its capitalistic roots does not entirely exclude traditional television that thrives on advertising dollars. The clear difference is that Hasbro Studio’s series are directly tied to merchandise sales and need to cater its content to the production and distribution of products— while traditionally-aired series are expected to indirectly cater to advertisers through staying within their conceived target market. Overall, both routes are influenced by capitalistic undertones with are inherently just another component of entertainment; as such, should the level of capitalistic sway really be a defining factor of what makes an excellent series? Or rather, should a series be automatically reprimanded simply because it is funded by a children’s toy corporation?

 

In the Internet-dominated (Western) world, and as mentioned in my post titled Teen Titans GO! Does it Really Deserve all of this Hate?, the increase of streaming and torrenting, means that creatives are required to find different sources of funding in order to make their vision come to fruition. So can we really blame studios similar to, and including, Hasbro’s if the result is more opportunities for storytellers, animators, and producers to do what they love while providing their audience with some form of entertainment?

 


Like the vast majority of the articles I post, I honestly had no idea where I was going to take this. The flow state really took over, and I just began writing whatever came to my mind. This makes for some interesting (and sometimes unstructured) articles. Either way, I would love to hear your opinion on the topic of animated series conceived for the purpose of selling merchandise. Should they be considered low-brow entertainment? Or should this aspect be disregarded as long as the works are entertaining? Let’s have a discussion.

 

Muslim teen and transit hero discuss SkyTrain safety with Vancouver Mayor

On December 15th, Noor Fadel and Jake Taylor visited city hall to meet with Mayor Robertson to speak about effective ways to increase protection on public transportation.

Noor and Jake retold their story. Noor explained that the attacker approached her with an aggressive tone, loudly threatening and cursing at her. The verbal attacks soon escalated into physical assault.

Upon witnessing the attacker strike Noor, Jake disclosed that he sprang into action fending off the attacker with a shove along with a strong warning to “get the F out of here.”

Only one citizen protected Noor despite the train containing several passengers who passively observed the event unfold.

Noor and Jake stated that none of the passengers present have come forward as witnesses yet. After hearing their story Mayor Robertson suggested the formation of an awareness campaign.

Noor and Jake agreed on the importance of education about preventing assaults by taking action. They stressed the need for protecting the victim in several ways.

The two explained that passengers should take advantage of SkyTrain safety methods by pressing the yellow strip, or pushing the speaker button to speak to security.

They recommended on lookers call the police and film the incident to provide evidence. The pair then proposed installing CCTV’s in the trains to quell the voices that claim an incident as false because of insufficient evidence.

Mayor Robertson proposed the idea of the pair creating a documentary about the incident to shed light on preventing a bystander effect. Noor and Jake responded positively to the suggestion stating that speaking out about their story may better inform the public to take a stand together and help keep the community safe.

Click on the audio link below to listen to an interview with Noor Fadel:

V-Art

Team members: Shiva Roofigari, Gizelle Pillay, Macguire Rintoul, Jacky Au

Roles: Material design, interaction design

Overview

“V-Art” is a project that my teammate and I created for the final project of our material design course and it was done within a timeframe of 6 weeks. V-ART is a VR headset for the purpose of art history education. It is intended to be used in the context of an art gallery or museum, where gallery attendees can put on the headset and be taken through an art history experience, learning about different eras and styles. The device might also be purchased by art enthusiasts for home use, or by users who are not physically able to attend art galleries.

 

Process

At the beginning of our project, we had to choose the context and the target audience (demonstrated through an example persona) for our VR headset. We decided that our headset should be used in the context of art galleries or exhibits. The persona we chose was an art history enthusiast who wants to learn about art history through a virtual reality experience, who is looking for an innovative and engaging way to learn about art history.

After finalizing our context and persona, we each sketched potential forms for our VR headset. One of my groupmates introduced us to the art movement of Cubism. This was one of the most drastic art movements in history as it explored open form, the crossing of spaces, two-dimensionality, and angular interconnections. All of these aspects reflected upon the idea of time and space, and artists explored how these separate pieces could also be seen as a cohesive whole. From what we knew about cubism and our more in depth research, we came up with an original art piece. The double faces act as a mask for the person wearing it, and a symbolic representation of the cubism period. The two faces appear separate but can also be viewed as one full face.

We were assigned with two materials for our VR headset: plastic and fabric. We decided that we were going to use ABS plastic for the headset part as it is durable and light for the users. To create the artwork on the front of our headset, we found suitable fabrics and then cut and stitched them to create a cohesive piece. Since this will be the main visual attraction to our headset, we aimed to create an engaging piece in the style of the cubism art movement. The soft fabric was an interesting contrast to the smooth plastic of the frame, and we furthered the cubism metaphor by having the fabric artwork within the ‘frame’ of the front of our headset.

We used styrene for making our first prototype. This is because styrene is easy to work with and can easily be cut and shaped in different  forms and we could easily iterate.

I was responsible for drawing the orthographic views and the exploded view of the headset. I drew these using Adobe Illustrator.  This was very difficult because I had to consider average human anatomical proportions. I used the head measurement table in order to come up with the dimensions of the headset.

 

 

We decided to split the VR headset into two cubes, where the user had to slide their phone between the cubes. This had two reasons: so that 1) the form of our headset was following the cubist style and 2) that different phones could easily fit into out headset. We also designed the cubes so that they could slide into one another and create a more compact cubic form and in order to take less space for storage. For a better understanding, I drew the interactions of our VR headset in Adobe Illustrator.

Results and takeaways

One of my main takeaways from this project was the learning to take into account anatomical proportions. We had to consider the distance between the lens and the user’s eyes and also the length of the strap for different head sizes. Also, we needed to consider how to enable different sizes of phones to fit into the headset. We solved this by using the phone as a component which would hold the two parts of our headset together. Our project went well and we presented our final prototype in a public showcase at SFU.

compact form:

the damned – on wattpad

Music pounded throughout the streets, coming from the nightclub. Four teens rushed through these same streets, giggling.

“Guys!” One shrieked, laughing. She pointed towards a dark building covered in graffiti, every window boarded up. “Let’s go exploring.”

The boys whopped in agreement, but one teen disagreed, falling behind. “I don’t know guys, it’s creepy in there. I don’t want to get caught.”

“Come on Jenny,” one boy nudged her shoulder with a bottle. “Have another drink, it’ll give you courage.”

She took the bottle, taking a long swig, squinting her eyes from the burn of the alcohol. “No seriously, Haley that’s dangerous if we get caught in there…”

“We won’t!” Haley laughed, drinking a darker liquid. “Derek, give her some more, she needs to start having fun!”

Jenny rolled her eyes, gazing at the other boy. He had his arms draped around Haley. “Kyle, do you want to go in there?”

Kyle shrugged, his eyes were glossy. “I don’t see why not.”

Derek pulled Jenny towards him, “come on, don’t be a wimp.” Leaning down he began to kiss her neck.

Jenny closed her eyes, sighing. “Okay, fine.”

“Yes!” Haley shouted.

“Let’s hope they have a bed in there, huh?” Derek whispered in Jenny’s ear. Goosebumps rose on her skin, she took another swig from the bottle, it burned less this time.

The group ran to the side of the building, the boys ripped at the thin wood that laid in front of a window, while the girls searched for a rock heavy enough to break the glass. The sound of the glass shattering could hardly be heard over the loud music coming from a few buildings over. One by one they climbed inside.

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been so MIA… school really kicked my butt this semester. Lately, I’ve been feeling really unmotivated and frankly, unhappy. I’m just incredibly tired and burnt out. However, I could feel myself growing frustrated with the lack of writing projects collecting virtual dust on my computer. As much as I love the mini pieces I’ve written for this blog, I want to start beginning attention back to the larger pieces I started years ago.

I’ve decided to breathe some life back into my old ‘Wattpad’ account, and I will be posting this old/new project ‘The Damned’ on it. Hopefully, I can discipline myself to update frequently.

The piece you’ve read above is a little preview of the story, and I’d love if you checked out the full version on my Wattpad account linked below! Thanks ?

– Maddi Wilson

Maddi Wilson’s Wattpad accountThe Damned

Bangladesh.

As a hobbyist photographer and as an international student who hails from Bangladesh (no we’re not in India. We are a completely different and independent country for any of you who are wondering) where the weather is tropical all year round, the roads congested with traffic, where time never stands still and every single moment of the day is rush hour, I often used to fall in the trap of thinking there is perhaps nothing much to photograph back home in Bangladesh, that perhaps all the beauty in the world lies in Canada. Oh how wrong I was. Back in May 2016 I had the opportunity to go back home for a couple of weeks. It was AFTER I had developed an obsession for photography so armed with my shiny DSLR I was ready to take on the streets and sceneries of Bangladesh. One of the most intriguing things I realized is that in the capital city of Dhaka where I come from, there is hardly a sight which will beg you to get photographed. No. You need to look for chances, create your own photographs in your mind and then execute them. In this article I present to you some of the pictures I captured on my trip back to Bangladesh. I hope you enjoy them!

ESSAY #2 How I curated a new product and online presence

The online image can be interpreted as how others interact and perceive the value you provide for them. It is a summation of the content that you post online, and the persona that you express across various platforms. This essay will explore my experience in how I have created relevant content for my audience pertaining to an online media persona that I have developed through my studies in Publishing101.

Before entering Publishing101, my main social media pages were Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Across these platforms, I shared content I created (mostly personal media), without considering the impacts or optics on my audiences. I entered Publishing101 with the intentions to gain more engagements on my social media accounts to promote my choreography. However, I discovered instead, a new persona, an online image brand that I now enjoy developing.

I started off Publishing101 slow but steadily. I submitted both required course contents and personal branding content on the blog. I established that my main driver of audience interest was to instigate conversation from the stories I tell. I wanted to share something that people can talk about and relate to. Thus, I concluded that my audience was of a person who enjoys storytelling and online literature. This started my initial blog post on “How to get curved by Twitter girls.” Since this post was new and interesting, my friends discovered this post through social media and commented and direct messaged me their thoughts. The engagement did not last long however. I had less people read about “Part 2” of the story and it made me consider what other possible ways were there to engage a larger audience.

My blog revolves around storytelling, so it is a reasonable to assume that it is a form of literature. I needed to understand how the business of literature manifests online, so I can better perceive my audience needs and create content accordingly. Richard Nash defines that content “is the swirl and gurgle of idea and style in the expression of stories and concepts—the conversation, polemic, narrative force that goes on within and between texts, within and between people as they write, revise, discover, and respond to those texts.” (Nash, 2013) This extrapolates the idea that content can be a combination of different media forms. With the Publishing101 “Remix” project underway, I seized the opportunity to combine the two things that I love, Call of Duty and storytelling. These two mediums are two opposite platforms with their own unique points of interest. Call of Duty is videogame from a first-person shooter perspective that does not claim any narrative objective. Whereas, the stories that I tell, narrates and depicts social instances of my past. By combining these two, I created a product that was effectively engaging and surprisingly interesting. My first remixed video, “how I got a $500 Noise Complaint Ticket,” was the beta test for my new product. I shared the video on all my social media sites and the engagement and responses were just as high, or higher than my first original story post. This indicated that I was heading in the correct direction. Furthermore, Google analytics portrayed my audience demographic to be of those within North America mostly, which allowed me to gain insight on the culture type of who my audience was.

On the next video, I applied the feedback and adjusted my game volume, narration approach, and tone style to satisfy my audience needs. However, I also wanted to extend the capacity of this new product I developed. I began a new YouTube channel and Instagram handle specifically dedicated towards this content. I wanted to “develop [my] brand, curate an audience, and create content that is successfully geared towards [a] demographic” (Lindsay, 2014). The title of the channel on both platforms is called “Storytime with Kevin.” I specifically chose YouTube and Instagram because of their own unique value propositions.

YouTube lets their consumers “indulge in YouTube binges” (Lindsay, 2014) which means that consumers can watch as many videos without breaks or interruptions. I wanted that possibility for my channel because this will give the public the opportunity and choice of how much of my content they wish to receive. They are given the deciding power on whether it is one video that satisfies their curiosity or four or more videos.

Instagram on the other hand, caters to the millennial or generation Y demographic. “Generation Y is the first generation that has been growing up with internet and for them, mobile phones and social media highly involved in their normal social life” ( Johansson & Wallsbeck, 2014) So this demographic pertains and responds to “Innovation, autonomy, collaboration, flexibility…” (Daskal, 2016) Instagram being one of the top social media platforms to employ these values, I wanted my content shared and targeted to these individuals. Instagram accounts “bring their unique identities and values to life through captivating imagery and a focus on their respective communities,” ( Johansson & Wallsbeck, 2014) which is why starting an account can better allow me to drive up engagement and mark up impressions.

Having established both accounts, I now have a handful of followers on Instagram with a growing number of views. I currently do not have any comments on my blog, but I do have some on the new Instagram page. In the future, I intend to record and document my publishing process and share my thoughts and opinions on the blog. However, I truly believe pushing content through social media is a much more effective means of reaching people.

This newly curated product is something I enjoy doing and I am extremely grateful for Publishing101 for aiding me in its discovery. My online presence will polish and develop as I grow and understand more about myself, so the content value that I produce will indefinitely transpire to become something remarkable in the future.

 

References

Johansson, U., & Wallsbeck, F. E. (2014). Instagram Marketing – When brands want to reach Generation Y with their communication. The International Marketing Programme, 19.

Daskal, L. (2016, June 16). The Secret on How to Motivate Millennials. Retrieved from INC: https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/the-secret-on-how-to-motivate-millennials.html

Lindsay, K. (2014, December 26). UNPOPULAR OPINION: These YouTube Authors are Ruining the Publishing Industry. Retrieved from XOJane: https://www.xojane.com/issues/zoella-girl-online-youtube-authors

Nash, R. (2013, March 7). What Is the Business of Literature? Retrieved from VQR: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/what-business-literature

 

 

 

The Method Behind The Madness – part 1

So after my previous post, I realized that instead of just writing technical jibber jabber, what would really help my audience is a part by part explanation of a photo, and I decided to choose tis photo in particular because it contains some basic techniques as well as some advanced methods which might seem difficult at first but really once I tell you how it’s done, literally anyone can take such photos! So here goes nothing.

I was walking the streets of Granville a few weeks back, minding my own business, just my camera and tripod and a remote shutter in my backpack in what had to be one of the rarest rain-less nights in recent Vancouver history when I stumbled upon this famous street and my mind instantly started forming a photograph. The setting was perfect: Old, brick buildings, long, unique streetlights, neon signs lighting up the roadside, cars wheezing by. All that was left was to execute it. One of the things I wanted to experiment with was getting light trails in my picture. In layman’s terms, a light trail is when there is a moving light source in the frame and you leave the shutter open long enough for the camera to capture the moving light as a trail, rather than stationery light. Basically think of it like this: If there are cars moving, and the car’s headlights/tail lights are on, and you leave the shutter open long enough, the final image will appear as a trail of light. The cool trail of light you see on the road in the picture above is exactly that: Lights from cars! So the first thing I knew I needed to do was leave the shutter open long enough for 2 reasons: 1. to get light trails and 2. It was night and hence dark, apart from the neon lights so I wanted to make the image a bit brighter. So I set a shutter speed of 20 seconds, which meant as soon as I pressed the shutter, it would be open for 20 seconds before capturing the image. The second thing I wanted to do was keep my image as clean as possible, which meant using the lowest possible ISO. In this image I used a long shutter speed so it allowed me to escape using an ISO of 100. So far so good. The third thing I wanted to do was since it’s a cityscape and not a portrait, I wanted the viewers to experience all the details in the image so I needed to make the image as sharp as possible, which meant using a high f-stop, so I used an f-stop of 11.0. This, combined with the 25 second shutter speed and ISO 100, gave me the image above. AND ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE WHILE TAKING LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOS: THE.CAMERA.CAN.NEVER.MOVE. It is CRUCIAL that while the shutter is open, the camera remain absolutely still otherwise the image will get blurry. VERY blurry. So that was the image, and then I took it home and did some light retouching and the above image is what I ended up with!

*I’ll leave a link here for those who are interested in getting into and understanding long exposure photography:

Process Post #11: Community Guidelines

Community guidelines for the comment section will be listed below.

There is no toleration for the following:

  1. Malicious Speech/Harassment
  2. Gendered insults of any kind in comments
  3. Promoting products or services
  4. Sharing illegal content
  5. Promotion or Glorification of Self-Harm.
  6. Deceptive or Fraudulent Links.
  7. Confusion or Impersonation
  8. Spam
  9. Personal attacks or threats on community members
  10. Defamation of othersAll users who do not abide by these rules will be blocked.

Process Post #10: Google Analytics

Google analytics is an excellent tool to determine where the demographic of your audience is coming from. In the overview section under the audience tab, it gives you values on the number of sessions, users, page views, and bounce rate. This data can be useful to determine what type of materials your audience enjoys reading, and then you can later use this information to prioritize or make changes accordingly.

Knowing how visitors locate your website is essential to marketing and branching out your site. You can push views or impressions through social media sources or for paid advertisement, but when you can use google analytics to clearly see which impression stream is greatest, you can cater more input towards that marketing stream.

My site primarily receives its audience through my social media. I would post my “story” blog posts onto my Facebook page and have people see my content through that. Google analytics tell me both how many people come from Facebook and how much they actually read. Upon knowing which media stream generates the most views, you can further begin generating ideas on how to grow your platform.

For example, if Instagram is a providing a large portion of engagements, perhaps, mobile marketing is the direction to proceed. Then you can look into alternatives such as snapchat or Instagram sponsorships to fully utilize google analytics capabilities.

Google analytics is an excellent tool for new blogs and it is a ideal for recognizing your website’s growth and engagements.