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So uh... what's going on with Infinity Train?
Infinity Train Taken off HBOMax
The announcement on Wednesday of Infinity Train, OKKO, Summer Camp Island, The Fungies and many other shows being taken off of HBOMax was a shock to all of us. Not just to fans, but to the creators and artists that made the shows as well. I had no idea it was coming, neither did any other show creator I’ve talked with, nor any of their representatives.
People have been working behind the scenes for days now trying to figure out what’s going on. A thousand phone calls, texts, and emails have been sent, but the problem is that the entirety of Warner and Discovery is undergoing a merger. This means that people who you would normally talk to have been fired, moved, or quit, so no one has any idea how to get the information they need right now. This is the same thing that happened in the early months of the merger with AT&T. Never cheer for a corporate merger, they help about 100 people and hurt thousands.
Because of all this confusion, I thought I’d share what I know as of today, Saturday, August 20.
So far, everything related to or mentioning Infinity Train has been removed from:
HBOMax and Cartoon Network’s Twitter accounts
HBOMax and Cartoon Network’s Youtube accounts
All music streaming services
Currently, it is still available on:
I do not know how long it will stay on any of those services. No one does. As of yesterday evening, I was assured by Warner that it would not be taken down from any pay-per-season/episode services.
I’m pretty sure that, if iTunes is no longer allowed to have the show, they won’t take it away after you’ve already paid for it. However, I don’t know for a fact about any of this, much less the other providers. This is the scary part about no longer using physical media.
I was also assured late yesterday evening that the show is not being used for that tax write off loophole that is now so overwhelmingly associated with Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt. Will this continue to be true? I also don’t know, but the end date for the tax write off is the beginning of September, so maybe that will give us a hint.
How did this chaos happen?
No idea. I’m told from various sources that this wasn’t supposed to happen until next week sometime so that Cartoon Network/HBOMax/etc could have time to tell all the show creators and artists what’s going on. That’s obviously not what happened, and now this is where that disorganization has gotten us. Cartoon Network warned them not to do this as it would hurt relationships with creators and talent, but they clearly do not care what any of this looks like publicly, much less about how we feel about it.
Why did they do this?
No one knows, but we do know it was a direct order from Discovery, and it’s about saving money somehow.
Update 08/24/22- 12:10am
Normally I wouldn’t update this, I would just let people read what the animation guild said, but seeing as a lot of people are now using this post as a reference point and it’s getting a lot of views every day, I thought I should update here. The Animation Guild has responded to the idea that this is all about residuals with the following update:
“…Studio contributions to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans will not be affected by pulling these shows. Currently, streaming does not provide residuals that fund these TAG plans in the same way that other unions, such as SAG-AFTRA, might be affected by these decisions. Warner Bros. Discovery is not attempting to avoid any obligations it has to TAG members and MPI by these actions.”
The following italicized paragraphs were what were here originally.
The general consensus is that it has something to do with paying animators and artists their residuals that they’re owed for their work. You will sometimes see an argument online of “well they were already paid the artists to make it, so what are they complaining about?” Do not listen to someone who says this because they either don’t understand or don’t care about what our pay structure is.
Our pay is not complete without the ongoing residuals. Those residuals aren’t paid directly to the artists, they actually go to our union to pay for our healthcare. So not paying artists residuals on their work means they are indirectly defunding our healthcare.
This also means that music and actor residuals will stop. For reference, the first quarter of this year I made $388.45 off of residuals from voicing One-One. We’re not talking about a whole lot of money here, that’s the equivalent of the studio accidentally buying an extra office chair.
CNBC has estimated that this will likely save Discovery somewhere in the tens of millions of dollars. A very small drop in the bucket of the 3 billion that David Zaslov has said he wants save by 2023.
CNBC also says “Everything getting pulled from HBO Max was infrequently watched, according to people familiar with the matter.” First off, no one is familiar with the matter, because the entire industry has been trying to reach people that are familiar with the matter for three days and haven’t been able to do so.
That said, it’s hard to believe that Shock Corridor, Mystery of the Wax Museum, The X From Outer Space, Ice Station Zema, Red Sonja or Captain Blood, while all fantastic movies in their own rights, are being “frequently watched”. So clearly, it’s not frequency, therefore it must be something else.
However, if they WERE able to find someone familiar with the matter and it WAS about frequency, Discovery has failed to show statistics or provide what metrics they’re using. By all publicly available metrics, Infinity Train was in the 91st percentile in children’s media, at it’s height* was 17x more popular than the average TV show, as of yesterday evening was #1, #2, #3, and #5 on itunes for kids and family, and in the top 20 on iTunes overall.
Or maybe it was underperforming. No way to know for sure, as they haven’t provided anyone with the actual numbers or metrics they’re using, not even their own shareholders.
*iirc, I’m not gonna pay for a parrot analytics account to double check what it was a year+ ago just for a newsletter.
Is the Show Gone Forever?
I don’t believe so.
As I said, it’s apparently still available on those sources listed above, though I do not know for how long. The problem is that I can’t be entirely sure if the information I’m getting is truthful or if it’s just to placate us so we’ll stop pestering them with so many questions. They certainly haven’t earned anyone’s trust with the way they’ve handled all this, so obviously take all of this with a grain or two or a million of salt (though I’m sure you’re feeling plenty salty already).
In the meantime, I’ll be working with my management team on figuring out some other kind of fate for the show.
Why did they delete all the social media talking about it if it’s not gone forever?
No clue. I can’t even expand on this in any way, that’s how little of a clue I or anyone else has.
How are you feeling?
Shitty. I was just going about my life driving home from a work meeting, listening to the Bad Animals album by Heart, when all of the sudden my phone started blowing up. It interrupted my song!
I think the way that Discovery went about this is incredibly unprofessional, rude, and just straight up slimy. I think most everyone who makes anything feels this way. Across the industry, talent is mad, agents are mad, lawyers and managers are mad, even execs at these companies are mad. I can’t think of a single person who works in animation and entertainment that, when you bring this all up, doesn’t say “What the fuck are they doing? How do they plan to have anyone ever want to work with them again?”
Because why would we? What is the point of making something, spending years working on it, putting in nights and weekends doing their terrible notes, losing sleep and not seeing our families, if it’s just going to be taken away and shot in the backyard? It’s so incredibly discouraging and they’re definitely not going to be getting their best work out of whoever decides to stay.
We’re working at the intersection of art and commerce, but the people in charge have clearly forgotten that they’ll have no commerce without the art.
What can I do?
First off, I’ve been told people are posting addresses of the executives in charge of this decision online. Do NOT do that! It is dangerous. You have no idea who is reading what you’re typing at any given moment and what that could motivate them to do. I’m telling you, I’ve restricted how much I interact with fans in general for a reason. I’ve met a few people that are right on the edge and they project all of their issues onto a show I made or onto me. It can get very weird, and you have no idea what they’re going to do.
Posting their addresses will not bring the show back. It’s one thing when we do that to people like judges or lawmakers who are actually restricting people’s rights to their own bodies, but to an exec because they took away a cartoon? No. There are different degrees of protest and taking away a cartoon does not reach the degree necessary for doxxing someone or worse (as I said, there are some real nutso people out there).
On a more positive note, people talking about the show increases the value of it. So the fact that Infinity Train trended on twitter for 3 days after all this? That adds value. The fact that Infinity Train is now topping the charts on iTunes? That adds value. If it has more value, that means the people in charge will want to keep it or license it.
So honestly, just keep doing what you’re doing. With my current contract at my current job (which I can’t disclose right now) I have a carve out for Infinity Train. If Infinity Train is picked up again somewhere, I can work on that at the same time that I’m working for the company I’m currently working for. I think I get less money or something, I don’t remember, but whatever.
If the show ends up licensed on some other streaming platform, the best thing you can do is watch it there. Again, as of now, you can still buy it on those services mentioned above, and maybe step aboard a ship sailing the high seas to keep an extra copy for yourself.
This might, ironically, have become the best advertising the show has ever gotten.
Is pirating a movie or TV show ethical?
That’s up to you.
We’re talking about art here. Art is for people to see and experience. Art makes up our culture, it’s the most human thing that humans do. No other animal makes art except for us. That’s fascinating right? Our culture is preserved through our art. The most popular kind of art we have currently is television and movies, which means that those are the greatest and most widely seen depictions of our culture at the moment.
The issue we have right now is that our most well known art is, for the most part, owned by about five gigantic, multinational corporations. That means they also own our culture. If you own our culture, then you also own our history and our access to it. Should a handful of companies own that, much less have the monopoly they have on it right now? I don’t think so.
So the question you have to ask yourself becomes: if a giant corporation has stopped me from having the ability to access my own culture, is it ok for me to watch a copy that doesn’t funnel any money toward them, doesn’t create scarcity of the art, and doesn’t make a mark on some algorithm’s metrics?
Only you can answer that for yourself.
I don’t believe you should pirate something just because you don’t have money. That’s essentially saying “Yes, you artist, you made something and now I get to have it for free. You don’t get to be paid, you don’t get to have your health insurance, all because I wanna see something you worked for years on for free this evening while I eat a frozen pizza.” That’s very selfish and I would consider that to be theft of labor.
However, if you’re no longer given any chance to access or pay for the art? We’re now talking about restricting you from seeing and experiencing your culture and history, purely because someone is creating artificial scarcity. Now we’re talking about preservation of our history.
I often own multiple copies of media that I care about. A digital version that I can quickly access on my TV, and a physical or pirated copy for myself with no DRM rights attached to it. Basically I own one for convenience, and one for preservation during the apocalypse (or the corporate equivalent of an apocalypse).
Does this logic hold true on every kind of art and in every instance? No, absolutely not. That’s why I say this is something for you to choose. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and not just because you don’t feel like paying a couple dollars to someone who labored to make something. Artists need to pay their rent, artists need healthcare, and artists have a right to show their work in the way they intended. Remember, a percentage of that money DOES go to them, so just think about what you’re doing ethically and don’t try to justify it post hoc.
I’ve also seen all the thoughtful, wonderful things people have said about Infinity Train online and I’m very touched. My friends and I and many of the former members of the Infinity Train crew have been sharing images, texts, and emails they’ve received about the show with each other and every one of them is absolutely appreciated. Thank you so much, and I will continue to try and get more made somehow.
The Musical Car
Obviously I’m gonna put Bad Animals by Heart as a whole album to listen to. It’s a perfect album, one of my favorites, and it has a real good flow through each song into the other.
I’ve also added a few new songs to the Musical Car playlist:
**Updated 9:33pm: Earlier version of this referred to “royalties” but was supposed to say “residuals”. Corrected.
***Addendum 08/21/22: I didn’t think this was going to blow up like this, so I thought I’d share one last quick thing: I don’t think you’re a bad person for pirating something. I’ve pirated stuff when I didn’t have any money too. I forget that sometimes that people haven’t read absolutely everything I’ve ever written in my life, so I just wanna reiterate: In the past I’ve often said that I care more about you watching and enjoying the stuff I make, just please pay for it as well when you can finally afford it. My thoughts up there on piracy are my general thoughts on it, but it’s obviously a complex issue and I’m not gonna judge if you take another approach to it. Just pay when you can because it does affect people and it does affect whether more will be made of the thing you love. That’s all.
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