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Blizzard Sprite writes...

Hello, Mr. Weisman.

These questions are an extension of the previous question I submitted.

6. Before Nielsen ratings were released for animated programs, what size audience had to be attracted in order to keep a show alive on a network? Since you worked on a number of projects over the years, it would make sense that you'd have a pretty good grasp on the matter.

7. How important are Nielsen ratings for animé dubbed into English and subsequently aired on the channels? Ratings for these shows almost never appear on ratings outlets, like Zap2It (http://www.zap2it.com/) and TV Series finale (http://tvseriesfinale.com/).

Thank you for your time.

Greg responds...

6. Nielsen ratings pre-dates my professional career - by a lot. (How old do you think I am exactly?) Anyway, ratings mean different things in different times. Before People Meters, kids ratings in general were way higher than after People Meters became standard. There isn't some fixed number that says this is good. Below this is bad. Everything's relative.

7. As important as for anything. Bigger numbers are better than smaller. But a show that's cheaper to produce can get away with lower numbers and skate by. But ultimately, if a program is dragging a network down, it's toast.

Response recorded on March 13, 2013

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Blizzard Sprite writes...

Hello, Mr. Weisman.

I had a few questions that pertain to the Nielsen's ratings system.

1. Why isn't there any public information about Nielsen's ratings for most of the animated series that have been on television? Classic cartoons and many of the modern ones have virtually no ratings tied to them. In the past few years, the figures have been released for programs that have performed well for cartoons, such as the animated series that currently air on Fox, Avatar: The Legend of Korra on Nickelodeon, Adventure Time on Cartoon Network not to mention Young Justice, as well as a few other programs on or were on the air.

2. Are networks allowed to request that the ratings for a show be withheld or simply not released to the public? In addition, why are the ratings released for some episodes of animated television programs, such as Young Justice or Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, while not being provided for others?

3. As someone who has worked on a variety of animated projects over the years, were you given the exact ratings of a program to work with? By that, I mean were the exact ratings made available to you, and if so, who provided them? Or was that information not provided? And did these particular ratings have any leverage on what would go in the animated universe?

4. What were the ratings like for your original animated series, Gargoyles? A search on Google turns up an article, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-15899915.html, which requires a subscription to read in full, reads:

"Walt Disney Television Animation's Gargoyles new animated show delivered a strong 2.8 Nielsen metered-market rating and an 8 share average over a special stripped debut Oct. 24-28. That was up 33% in share from its,"

5. Are you even allowed to discuss the ratings of an animated program, or is there a contractual obligation that prevents you (and others) from doing so?

Thank you for your time.

Greg responds...

1. As far as I know, anyone can PAY to get Nielsen results. But if you don't feel like paying, then you're reliant on getting those results from entities that have paid. Those entities tend to be news organizations (that may not think enough of the general public has an interest in cartoon ratings) or networks (who are only going to display ratings that make them look good and/or suit their current strategy). But I'm no expert.

2. You've got it backwards. Nielsen is a COMPANY that charges for its services. It's not some public forum that networks have somehow forced to withhold info from you. If you really want the info, go pay for it.

3. Very inconsistently.

3a. For example, on YJ, we occasionally got ratings reports from CN via our bosses at WB.

3b. Often, we got no info.

3c. Absolutely not, because by the time ratings came in we were way past committed to whatever creative decisions had been made. Whether those numbers effected air dates, hiatuses (hiatusi?) or pickups is a your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine thing. I haven't seen enough of the raw numbers myself to make an evaluation.

4. As I recall, during our first season on Gargoyles, when we were weekly, our ratings were very strong. Our second season, when we were on five days a week, was during the peak of the Power Rangers craze, and although our ratings were solid, we were consistently beat by that show, coming in at number two for our time slot week after week after week.

5. There's no contractual obligation, but there are political considerations. Plus, as I said above, I'm not always informed. And I'm not fond of passing on rumors or making half-assed guesses.

Response recorded on March 13, 2013

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Facts and Fiction about "Deadly Force"

Facts and Fiction about "Deadly Force".

We got a shout out here:

http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=33538

15 Temporarily Banned Episodes of Popular TV Shows

"Deadly Force" made #5!!! Which is very, very cool!

It's ALWAYS nice to be talked about, and I don't want to sound like a churl, but in the very short paragraph describing the situation, there are at least four errors. Here's the original text from the website:

5. Gargoyles, "Deadly Force"
Controversy: Gunplay

While pretending to use a gun in "Deadly Force," Broadway accidentally shoots Elisa and attempts to cover up his crime. Although this episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups, it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa's shooting. It has since been added to the DVD collection.

Error #1: Broadway wasn't "pretending to use a gun". He was playing with an ACTUAL gun, pretending to be a cowboy. (This one may sound nit-picky, but I don't think the original phrasing is clear at all.)

Error #2: "[Broadway] attempts to cover up his crime". Not really. He's so afraid and ashamed, he runs away and hides. When Goliath accuses Dracon, it takes Broadway a few minutes to own up to his culpability. But there's no attempt at a cover-up.

Error #3: "[T]his episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups..." That's untrue. In fact, the REVERSE is true. Advisory Groups LOVED this episode. For example, we got a positive write-up in Madeline Levine's "Viewing Violence", which I can tell you was not overly kind to most animated television series. No, the truth is we were fine when the series was in syndication and when it was rerun on the USA network. But when it moved to what was then called "ToonDisney", a new group of Disney S&P execs over-ruled what our original S&P exec had decided and ignored ALL the good press that the episode had received. Thus (for a long while), TPTB removed it from the rerun rotation.

Error #4: "...it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa's shooting..." Again, this is inaccurate. The episode aired ONCE with the excessive blood, because Frank Paur and myself didn't get the retake with less blood back from Japan in time. WE were the ones who wanted less blood, because (a) we didn't want it to appear that Elisa had already bled out and (b) that much blood seemed distracting, like we were trying to get away with something instead of trying to tell the story. By the episode's second airing, the retake was in and the episode aired multiple times with less blood in syndication and on USA before the series' reruns moved to ToonDisney, and the version with less blood was pulled from the rotation. It's reinstatement had nothing to do with quantity of blood. It was originally brought back for Halloween marathons - I suppose because TPTB at ToonDisney thought they could get away with it on Halloween. Then later, when we began airing VERY, VERY late at night, I suppose they figured there was no reason not to include it.

Anyway, so there you have it. Still glad we were mentioned, but I figured I should set the record straight on these points.

I'm sure you're all still wondering why my presence here at ASK GREG has been so minimal. I'm still quite swamped with work, but I wanted to try to post a little something...


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the greenman writes...

1) Reading the Stargate bible, have ever considered a Star Trek animated series? I know Paramount is very strict on that property.

2) Will you ever do another series of your own creation?

Thank you very much. Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Greg responds...

1. I'd love to do one, but no one's asked me. (Keep in mind, I was asked to develop Stargate. I don't just go out and independently develop series based on properties that somebody else owns.)

2. Again, I'd love to, but no one's bought anything original that I've pitched in a VERY long time.

Response recorded on December 28, 2012

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Tom writes...

Young Justice: Invasion is the only comic series I've bought regularly (came close with the Jaime/Blue Beetle one couple of years ago). Like the TV series it's got a great mix of characters and tells a bunch of engaging stories at an all ages level. I love being able to read a series and share it with my younger brother (So many of the 'normal' series are intensely violent and feature sexual assault so often...).

So, thank you and your staff for making this series so great! It's always sold out at our local store. I'm sorry to hear that it's ending in two months.

What are your thoughts on how to keep comics relevant and get them to people, particularly younger crowds? Are downloads making a difference? Would releasing more series as longer graphic novels twice a year rather than shorter monthlies help? What about the content? Thanks for your time!

Greg responds...

I don't claim to be an expert on these topics. Generally, I just write the kind of stories that _I_ would like to read.

Response recorded on December 26, 2012

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Freeman writes...

Hello Greg Weisman, thank you for this interesting opportunity. I'm a big fan of Young Justice and it's great to see another great DC show around. I'm sorry to say this is the first show by you that I've watched (I should fix that). Snappy writing, fun undercurrent of mystery, and from what I understand is a staple of your shows, not assuming your fans are incapable of following an ongoing plot line.

I love the fight scenes in the show. Very fluid animation; and I enjoy in particular when the "normals" get to cut loose and drop some martial arts on each other. I also find it fun when Superboy gets to utterly wail on people.

Anyways, I have a question that has been plaguing me in recent years. I'm not sure if the answer varies from show to show but here it is. How much say do the writers get in the crafting of the action scenes? Do you guys lay down some guidelines for what must happen in a fight or do you ultimately leave it up to the animators and/or artists?

Well, there's my question that quickly devolved into a multi-question, I'm sorry. But, please, keep the awesome coming man! I hope this show keeps on keepin' on! Six seasons and a movie!

Greg responds...

Every series is different. On YJ - and most of the shows I've produced - I make sure that the script spells out the action in real detail - in part to attempt to assure that we're not winding up with an episode that's too long or too short. Having said that, I then am happy to have our board artists, directors and my fellow producer (on YJ that's Brandon Vietti) go to town and PLUS the action and visuals. But I do get approvals on all this to make sure we're staying on point with our story and not doing stuff that's out of character or off-tone for our series. Then you have the timers and, of course, the animators contributing too.

Response recorded on October 08, 2012

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Anonymous writes...

I just read a comment there about shows being leaked on youtube. Not taking away from what you creative guys do but I think a lot of the blame should go to how the industry is structured. Taking Young Justice for example, If you live somewhere like America were Young Justice is screened on tv, catch up service on the Cartoon networks website(probably), available for purchase digitally from Itunes or Amazon or on a region 1 DVD, then there's no excuse. But due to international copyright laws that's not the case for those outside of the US, the show hasn't been made available to purchase in any way.

And it goes both ways. There are popular european tv shows, particularly british shows that US citizens want but can't purchase due to the DVD region system. Or if they can they are expected to wait for two-three years possibly, indefinately. Look at Gargoyles. It's only been partially released in the US, there's been zero releases to the rest of the world.

The best way to discourage piracy, in my opinion, is to make content available universally, so people are actually able to purchase the SAME content at the SAME time. If not through DVDS then digitally. I don't know why the entertainment has such a problem with this?

Greg responds...

I'm very much in favor of entertainment companies making their product available.

Response recorded on September 26, 2012

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NY writes...

Hi Greg! I looked through the archives and found that you previously mentioned that the first couple seasons of Gargoyles cost $400k-500k per episode to produce.

Assuming the cost of haven't changed dramatically, it seems as though animation is cheaper than the standard scripted network show. Given that, I'm surprised there aren't more animated shows on the major networks, especially with anime so popular in the US now, particularly among older audiences.

I think the only weakness to Young Justice is that it feels like the stories are big enough to fit in a whole hour, but are being condensed to thirty minutes. Again, assuming the cost of animation is in the ballpark of what it was for Gargoyles, an hour-long show doesn't strike me as financially prohibitive.

1. Can you say how much Young Justice costs to produce? A ballpark would be fine if you can't/don't want to give exact numbers.

2. What are your thoughts on the lack of non-Fox/non-comedy prime-time animation? Do you think this is something that can change in the future?

3. Do you think we might one day see hour-long dramatic animation? Did you ever consider making YJ an hour long?

Thank you very much for many excellent shows and opening yourself up for questions from the community!

Greg responds...

Your assumptions are faulty. Animation and anime have not - in this country - hit the kind of critical mass among adults that you seem to think they have. A few comedies, like Simpsons and Family Guy have worked in primetime, but others have failed. Even the great BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES - which was a huge success in the afternoons - didn't fare well in primetime.

In addition, costs HAVE changed dramatically. Budgets have not, but that means we have to learn to do more with less, generally.

More important is the issue of shelf space. An hour - per conventional wisdom - is a LONG time for kids to sit and watch an animated show. We're told, with some evidence to back it up, that they get bored. And kids still define the economics of most animated product. So if you are going to use up the VERY limited shelf space that any network has with an hour show, it darn well better kick some major butt in the ratings. Because otherwise, for nearly the same money, they could put on two shows (if not four) and have twice (or four times) the opportunity to grab the audience.

In fact, the trend isn't to longer shows, but to SHORTER shows. 11 minute episodes.

So with all that in mind:

1. No. That's proprietary information I'm not authorized to reveal.

2. Yes, I think it can change. But I won't pretend it would be easy to change the corporate culture that doesn't believe in this notion at all. What it takes, of course, is one network taking a chance on one show that's SO GOOD, that it's a hit in defiance of that culture and all conventional wisdom. That would break the floodgates. The inevitable result would be a lot of crap would go on the air, fail, and the conventional wisdom would come back into play with a vengeance. The one hit would be the "exception that proves the rule" and that would be it for awhile. That's what happened after Simpsons. (Who remembers Fish Police?) But the door would be open at least a little. Over the very long haul change is possible.

3. One day? Sure. In fact, I hope so.

3a. I'm not saying it's never crossed my mind. I'd love it, of course. But (a) it's not up to me, and (b) it's never been a realistic possibility.

Response recorded on September 19, 2012

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Todd Jensen writes...

The first season of "Young Justice" takes place over the course of half a year, starting on the Fourth of July and continuing to New Year's Eve in the Season One finale (with episodes set on Halloween and Thanksgiving along the way). I remember that the first season of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" similarly stretched from the start of the school year in September to Thanksgiving (with a Halloween episode along the way), and that the second season got up at least to Valentine's Day. The time progression in "Gargoyles" was more vague, but we had two Halloween stories ("Eye of the Beholder" and the Double Date story) and three wintry episodes in New York ("Her Brother's Keeper", which ends with a snowfall, "Re-Awakening", and "The Price"), as well as a clear timeline for the Stone of Destiny story.

I like this sense of the year's progress through the seasons and landmark days (like the Fourth of July and Halloween), but it doesn't seem that common in animated series outside your own work. I've seen two speculations on why that element is so rare in animated series. One is that a lot of the people who engage in such creative work aren't big on continuity and change, far less than you are. Another is that most people involved in creating animated television series live in or near Los Angeles and other parts of California, where the climate is pretty much the same year around and there's less a sense of four seasons than in other parts of the United States. I was wondering what your thoughts were on these theories.

Greg responds...

Both these theories seem valid to me, but they probably pale from the economic explanation: if you progress through the seasons then you have to redress backgrounds and characters, and that's expensive. Me, I believe it's WORTH the expense. But that's only true if you're really going to DO something with it. If you're not, then there's not much point. (We also did it on W.I.T.C.H. by the way.)

Response recorded on September 12, 2012

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AJC writes...

Just watched Downtime and it was a great episode! I'm impressed by the amount of detail in the choreography and backgrounds, and the number of voice actors you had in the episode. While I thought cutting from scene to scene of each YJ member during their downtime would be a bit choppy, it was actually very insightful, and it made it very realistic to see each of their lives.

How do companies decide what kind of budget to give to cartoon shows? Some older cartoon shows (ie from the 90s) had worse animation as the series progressed. I noticed the even the batman's animation wasn't as good as its earlier days(although still never went that bad).

Have you or brandon watched avatar the last airbender? I feel your show is taking some cues from the show (ie, the water sorcery, the diverse locations the team travels to each ep).

I have a question about aqualad. He obviously does not live at mount justice so would he not return to atlantis when he's not crime fighting? So wouldn't that mean he sees tula and garth still? Or is he that busy?

Greg responds...

Let's answer these in reverse order.

As I've MENTIONED BEFORE, Aqualad DOES go home to Atlantis (the continent/country) between missions. He just doesn't live in the city of Poseidonis, so that, yes, a couple months had passed since he had last seen his friends. He was surprised that it had been that long. But time flies, you know...

I don't know about Brandon, but I've begun watching Avatar with my son Benny. We're near the beginning of Season Two. I like it. I don't know how much of an influence there's been, since we started YJ before I started watching Avatar.

The way companies decide on budgets is an arcane science beyond my pay grade. But guys like Brandon and myself make it our mission to squeeze as much onto the screen from whatever budget we have.

Response recorded on May 12, 2011


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