As promised after 500,000 views:

In early 2011 I started looking into producing an animated music video for LeetStreet Boys song “She’s So Kawaii.” The song was already getting sales on iTunes and fond responses at live shows, so we were really excited about it. However, upon releasing the video it’s had more than 50% dislikes, with a seemingly endless supply of nasty comments. So what exactly went wrong?

After Guitar Hero Hero we needed to find another animator. It’s always hard finding somone who could animate in “anime” style. Talented anime illustrators and lots of 3D animators abound, but not both skills. Finally I saw a solicitation from a new animation studio opening in Boston. I took a tour of the office and met with the higher-ups and was impressed with some portfolio pieces they showed me. I gave them a deposit of half up-front and I thought we were off to the races.

Things got off to a slow start, but at first I didn’t worry too much because we had a whole year to get it done. Six months went by and I barely saw anything new since the first animatic. I gave them a second deposit even though things were really behind schedule, because I believed in the project and wanted to trust them. I glossed over the signs of trouble, like the studio moving out of their office to a small cubicle in a shared space, or most of the company founders I had met parting ways. The initial project deadline came and went, even after deposit #2. The president continued to lie and promise progress like the con men in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Finally he brought in some student interns to work on it and I came into the office to check it out. They were inexperienced and unskilled, and the reason the video looks so inconsistent is because different people with different skill levels contributed.

I had intended to debut the video at Anime Boston that year as I had done successfully with “Yuri The Only One.” The night before the show the president again fed me a slew of absurd lies to excuse his negligence. The “final cut” they sent in to play at Anime Boston (which I never got to see beforehand) was riddled with blatant technical errors, embarrassing and totally unprofessional. After this happened, I learned that the animation studio was going out of business. Since the video was not fit to show anyone, I hired former lead animator Heather Bloss to finish the project, and also got help from post-production artist Colby Peterson. They did the best they could and fixed all the major problems that were capable of being fixed, but with more than a year’s worth of poor production there was only so much possible. The end result is the inconsistent and polarizing piece you see on YouTube.

I learned later that an independent game studio paid him thousands of dollars for art which was never delivered at all, so at least I got something for my persistence. He also still owes his lead animator a good chunk of change, and basically he’s a super slimy jerk. I sincerely hope he never works in the animation industry again because he makes it worse for all the honest people doing their best. So long story short is this was never intended, I hired the wrong people and then did everything I could to recover. The silver lining is that I learned a lot about project management, which has made me a stronger and more capable animation producer today. Some valuable lessons:

* Never pay someone a big deposit if you haven’t worked with them before. Instead give them a small task and see how they perform first.

* Don’t hire a studio with a president who is not also the lead artist. They are a useless middle-man at best. Instead, make a commitment to managing the project and people on the team yourself.

* If things are going poorly, don’t throw good money after bad. Instead fire the people doing poorly and find replacements or cancel the project.

* Anime animators are hard to find, so treat them like gold. :)

Got a question I didn’t answer? Ask in the comments!