In the past, pitching a pilot for a television was an incredibly daunting experience for creators, and a painfully long process for everyone involved. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, traditionally television networks in America would take on a few hundred brief pitches, before filtering those down into seventy potential scripts and finally producing twenty of those scripts into episodes. The final decision to produce a full season depends on the feedback from network executives and test audiences.
However, with the advent of video sharing platforms like YouTube, this once traditional method has received something of an update. If you aren’t well versed in the animation scene, there is a pilot of a show floating around on YouTube called Hazbin Hotel. Helmed by creator Vivienne Medrano, or ‘Vivziepop’ on YouTube, the project is an animated musical adult-comedy, with the plot following Charlie, a princess of Hell opening up a hotel with the intention of rehabilitating demons who wish to repent for their sins. Released on YouTube on the 28th of October in 2019, it has since garnered 42 million views at the time of writing.
As of last week, the pilot has been picked up by studio A24 to be developed into a full first season. Though they are most well-known for films like Uncut Gems, Midsommar, and Hereditary, they are also responsible for TV projects such as Euphoria on HBO.
YouTube has been around for a very long time and there is all sorts of content that are on the platform. However, for a company with ties into Hollywood to officially recognise this piece of work proves a vital change in the media. While that means that Hazbin Hotel will be allowed to develop with the help of a solid entertainment company, it also shows as an example to how traditional methods of television production are changing with the development of the internet.
Now, off the cuff, one of the most notable aspects of this show in comparison to other pilots is that it’s already a fully developed project. Many pilots are usually scripts that flirt between cancellation and production, but not Hazbin Hotel. Instead of relying on potential networks to invest their own resources into a project that might not take off, it’s already a fully produced episode, made by a ragtag group of talented animators, composers and voice actors who have done a lot of the work themselves. Additionally, instead of allowing a group of potential network executives/test audiences to assemble to watch the final project, YouTube takes away that requirement and provides tangible results for everyone to see.
This represents a significant change in the balance of power between the creator and networks, leaning more towards the side of creators. Instead of forcing their project through a strict and unforgiving process which allows very little room for failure, it bypasses that completely, developing from an idea into full production without any outside influence. Additionally, this also allows networks to save resources that they would otherwise feel uncomfortable lending to a project while the creators have an opportunity to make sure that their project isn’t dead on arrival.
Though creators have been using YouTube to host their own content independently for years, companies with ties to the film and television industry taking an interest in this kind of stuff are becoming more popular in recent years, especially with services like YouTube Red. There was a brief period of time where Hollywood actually completely hopped on the internet craze with Films like The Smosh Movie and The Fred Movie. While these YouTubers were popular in their own right, their translation into film didn’t function at all. It was a dark time for both films and YouTube content.
While the internet has allowed fanbases for shows to blossom or even independent creators to try their hand at making something for a vast audience to consume, examples like Hazbin Hotel being picked up are exceedingly rare, but not unheard of. Companies like Rooster Teeth, which are now popular web-based media companies loved the world over, started off with just a few guys and an idea. Shows like RWBY and Red Vs Blue have taken off since their inception, with RWBY becoming the first American-made project to be marketed and released in Japan, as well as hints for RvB season eighteen’s release floating around. These success stories are an encouraging tale for people to follow their passions.
Hazbin Hotel, then, represents a clear change in traditional media. It leaps over strict, decades-old systems and is a clear-cut example of what can happen to an idea if you have just enough passion, hard work and the slightest bit of luck. As for the pilot itself: while comedy is subjective, and it may not be for everyone, it is a well-designed bit of animation which deserves a watch.
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