Yes! I did it! I sold my HappyLand IP, including all 52 HappyLand Shorts episodes, the HappyLand pilot, the working files including character rigs and scene files, and pretty much everything HappyLand related.
Let me explain…
Years ago, some time around 2006, I was animating kids shows (‘Jozi Zoo’ and ‘Cool Catz’) at a Johannesburg media house. I was animating entire 5 / 6 minute episodes per 2 weeks, sometimes every week. As you may imagine the quality wasn’t too great. I was learning the software, the pre-production was rushed, the scripts were good but the characters weren’t really built for animation. During this time, however, I cut my teeth on the animation software I still use to this day. It used to be called MOHO. Now it’s called Anime Studio and has gone through various versions but the core remains the same. From using the software nearly daily and from sharing knowledge on the LostMarble animation forums I became a somewhat experienced user in the software. I thought to myself “Hmm. I bet I could make my own show.” I went to ComiCon in San Diego, saw Pen Ward’s ‘Adventure Time’ pilot (now a successful animated series), it blew my mind, I came back to South Africa, quit my job and decided that I’m going freelance. I also decided that I could make a show by myself with my brother making music. I moved to Plettenberg Bay and set about creating ‘HappyLand’.
The idea behind HappyLand is a really gentle, appealing show where not a lot of angst happens. At the time I was a bit zonked out with the drama that other shows built up and I didn’t really like it. I preferred relaxed, transporting, gentle shows where snappy retorts weren’t the order of the day. I understand that some kind of obstacle is often necessary to drive a story, but I think a lot of shows displayed more animosity than positivity.
Two years later and I had made the pilot and was desperately wanting to sell the show based on the it. I went to Johannesburg and had various meetings: a TV station, some media houses, various connections, an agent, made up press kits, printed booklets; no insta-luck (three or more agents have tried to sell the show and while stations have expressed interest, they weren’t willing to pay too much – if at all – for third-party content). I had spent quite a bit of time and energy on the pilot and I thought it was of value. Our South African stations were a bit baffled as to how to even articulate material that hasn’t been produced / bought through their usual systems. So, I got my butt into gear and hustled for more work, I got a job as a runner for a film crew filming in Plett. After working like a banshee I thought “Man, I think I can give animation another proper go” so I approached one of my favourite bands ‘Goldfish’ and secured a job animating one of their music videos. It worked out well. Encouraged by this I got a few more animation jobs and decided to pick up HappyLand again in around 2010. I reworked the show and made 30 second shorts without dialogue, only featuring two characters. I liked the appeal of the minimal setup. I storyboarded 52 episodes, animated them myself and put the project together. I was actively avoiding the trap of waiting for someone to tell me it was great. I went to Cape Town and made music and sfx for the episodes. Most of this was done at a coffee shop close to where I was staying – they had wi-fi. I sat there for days and weeks with my headphones and laptop, using YMCK’s ‘Magical 8bit plug’ in GarageBand.
At last the entire series was finished. I showed a couple people, some people bought DVDs and I was pleased to have completed something of this magnitude (I make a point with finishing projects I’ve started, even if it takes years). And then … nothing. I contacted a couple people, asked TV stations if they’d be interested in screening the shorts – it’s not usual that someone makes an entire series of Interstitials alone; often a producer may secure funding and a broadcast deal before further production begins. I was coming in cold without an agent. I carried on with other work.
Then, earlier this year I went to Annecy in France – the world’s biggest animation festival. I showed my HappyLand series (in a fairly ad-hoc manner) at the South African stand. People milling around the MIFA area seemed to be interested in it. Because I hadn’t watched them in a while I had forgotten quite a bit. I was also entertained and with a fresh perspective I could see HappyLand was actually pretty kiff.
I got back to South Africa with plans to work up HappyLand once again and follow up on one of the many leads I had got from companies actively looking for animated shorts. No sooner had I begun when lo and behold I got an email enquiring as to whether the series was still for sale. I followed up, we made a deal and BOOM. HappyLand is sold.
The buyer (I’ve got approval to share this information) is Darryl Swanepoel. He’s from South African and has been living in China for 10 years. I found out he’s been a huge fan of HappyLand since 2007 from when I was posting HappyLand’s progress in the LostMarble forums. This pleases me greatly. Darryl offered a few words:
With its vibrant characters, boundless backdrop and Mike Scotts’ live wire animation style, HappyLand creates just the right mix for creating captivating learning material for young children – and some grown-ups!
I’m very excited about the future of HappyLand and also the possibility of learning through these animations created by one of South Africa’s best digital animators.
How cool?! Darryl’s bought the entire HappyLand IP and I think the characters and show has found a really good home. I wish him success with whatever he chooses to do with them and I’m incredibly encouraged. HappyLand’s been quite a journey. He seems like a really good guy too which makes the deal even sweeter. Thanks Darryl.
Now on to my next diabolical plan mwah ha ha.
I’ve removed most of the HappyLand material that was uploaded to my account but have been permitted to keep the pilot up. Nice: