By Michael Varrati
It’s such a colossal number that, while we recognize such a sum’s actual existence, it nearly defies the scope of our average, daily perceptions. When I begin to do research on the actual scope of a number like 2 billion, I’m hit with some staggering statistics. The population of the United States alone doesn’t scratch the surface of one billion, let alone two. In fact, for the general population of the US to reach the 2 billion mark, you’d have to duplicate every last person within our country’s boundaries no less than seven times to even come close to hitting that number.
That’s why, when it was recently announced that the multi-platform sensation “The Annoying Orange” hit 2 billion YouTube channel views, it wasn’t just a moment of celebration for the show’s creators, but a significant landmark in content creation history.
“There’s no way I could have ever imagined this would happen,” says Dane Boedigheimer, the man behind “The Annoying Orange” phenomenon, about the milestone. “I had the idea that I was just going to try this YouTube thing and see where it went, but if it never got successful or never went any place big, that would have been okay. I just wanted to give it a shot. But no, there’s no way I would have ever thought it’d get to the point it has today.”
The show, which expanded past the web when a televised version premiered on Cartoon Network in 2012, is a branding phenomenon and a golden example of the sway digital audiences have on modern entertainment. For young males, ages 6–13, “The Annoying Orange” has an undeniable appeal that keeps them coming back for more. According to Collective Digital Studio’s Dan Weinstein, whose representation aided the Cartoon Network crossover, the property also has a unique flexibility that has enabled its success across multiple platforms.
“’The Annoying Orange’ was on a rocket ship trajectory,” Weinstein tells me. “The show was character and story driven, as opposed to personality driven. So, as opposed to talent acting like a stand-up comedian, like a vlogger, if you will, this was narrative content. The opportunity to expand that in all manner of ways and all manner of platforms was present. That’s what made it exciting. That’s what made us believe we had the opportunity to help it be the brand that it became.”
It’s a sentiment that is echoed by Conrad Montgomery, the director of comedy animation for Cartoon Network, who was present for the show’s transition from the web to TV.
“’The Annoying Orange’ was quite an exciting experience on many fronts,” Montgomery says, “Its unique look, comedic tone, and built-in online awareness felt like a fresh voice for CN and our core boys’ demo. It was great collaborating with Dane and his team, working through new production processes and building a bridge from YouTube hit to an original television series.”
With a lot of strong believers in his corner, not to mention millions subscribing and tuning in, Dane Boedigheimer has been able to bring “The Annoying Orange” to a staggering audience of billions.
Recognizing that all their hard work lead to such an outstanding milestone, Boedigheimer and company felt it necessary to take a moment to mark the occasion this past April 4, 2014 at YouTube Space LA, by throwing a celebratory event to say thank you to all the viewers and collaborators who helped him get there.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this accomplishment, and one of the reasons I wanted to have something at YouTube Space LA is to show my appreciation,” says Boedigheimer. “All of this is a giant collaborative process. It wouldn’t be where it’s at today without everyone involved, and that includes the people on my staff, the animators, writers, everything. Also, the people at YouTube and all the other content creators. Without them being on the show and introducing us to their audience and vice-versa, it wouldn’t be where it’s at today. The biggest thing in the last week or so is just wanting to say thank you.”
When I ask Boedigheimer if the pressure’s on to keep the show fresh now that he knows it could potentially be seen by audiences larger than the population of small countries, he’s cool and collected. He recognizes with bigger numbers comes more visibility, but also more opportunity to continue doing what he loves.
“Early on, Spencer Grove, who’s been with me since the beginning, and I used to joke about how we didn’t know how far we could take this without running out of ideas,” Boedigheimer says. “But, as the show has gone on, we’ve found that there’s literally nowhere we can’t go. Anything out there that’s ever been created, we can spoof or do our own version. We can do game show formats, different animation styles, make fun of popular shows. It’s just taking what we know works, what the audience expects, and then doing something different with the format and structure. We actually really enjoy the process and challenge of keeping it fresh. Ultimately, we’re kind of doing the same thing we’ve been doing since we started, and that’s to make ourselves laugh. I think if you can do that, there’s always the possibility that you can make other people laugh.”
With a firm recipe for success in place, there seems to be no stopping Boedigheimer and “The Annoying Orange.” Yet, one has to wonder, now that a landmark viewership has been reached, what does Boedigheimer have up his sleeve for the two billion to come?
“Definitely at the end of the day, I’d love to do a movie,” he says. “Whether it’s in theaters or distributed online. Beyond the “The Annoying Orange” realm, we’re working with different IPs, which is something with which we’ve been experimenting. We did a show called ‘The Misfortune of Being Ned,’ which we posted to The Annoying Orange channel. First, I was a little worried, because it’s a complete departure from ‘Orange,’ completely different animation, completely different agenda. The audience actually responded really well. And through that we’re trying to make Annoying Orange somewhat of a destination for all kinds of different fun animation, live action, whatever…I want it to be a channel that really anybody could come and watch.”
“The sky’s the limit for ‘The Annoying Orange’ at the moment,” Weinstein adds. “What has more value in the long term: ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ or Nickelodeon? The clear answer is Nickleodeon. What we’d like to do is turn the audience that Dane has built into a destination point for kids that has multiple pieces of content that are different, and become this next generation’s version of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, for lack of a better analogy. That’s bigger than solely focusing on one brand. If there’s one thing that’s true in the history of entertainment, it’s that everything at some point comes to an end. At some point, that content is over. But, if you can build a lasting distribution mechanism or brand that has multiple pieces that keeps offering the next thing, you can really create massive value. We’re viewing ‘The Annoying Orange’ as a hopefully not-so-small version of that, but rather what could the next version of that medium.”
It’s a goal that points to a future that is not only bright, but also extremely orange.
Enjoyed reading about DaneBoe? Check out some of the other prominent and interesting creators we’ve profiled in weeks past!