A behind-the-scenes book detailing the production of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog has just been released, a few months shy of the seminal web series’ three-year anniversary. But looking back at the last few years, what did Joss Whedon’s “lark” really do for the web video world?
Dr. Horrible collaborator Jed Whedon, in between writing for television and helping Felicia Day make music videos, has kept busy with his own projects. And his new self-published album, entitled History of Forgotten Things, represents a sincere effort to create compelling original music.
Joss Whedon didn’t quite give an answer as to the question of whether or not we can expect a Dr. Horrible sequel anytime in the near future. But he responded to the question “Have you considered doing a subscription-based web series?” by saying “Absolutely.”
At the San Diego Comic-Con, smaller projects have a hard time getting included in the conference programming. Thus a Celebrate the Web event, featuring over a dozen current and upcoming web series, is being planned for Saturday, July 24.
Dr. Horrible is back for more. For more of its fans love and spare change, that is, as the web’s favorite musical is gearing of for a Blu-ray release next month. The disc will feature a bunch of extras, including the previously released Commentary! The Musical, as well as a “making of” and various fan videos. The whole package will sell for a suggested retail price of $19.95 and will go on sale on May 25, with pre-orders starting April 27.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Horrible has gone physical, or retail, for that matter. A DVD of the musical was released in time for the holidays in 2008, and the commentary tracks went on sale on iTunes earlier this year. The musical’s soundtrack has also been on iTunes for some 18 months now, and Jinx is now completely sold out of those Captain Hammer t-shirts.
So how have all those media and merchandise goodies been working out for the Dr. Horrible franchise? Pretty well, apparently: The DVD release sold 60,000 copies within its first six months, according to distribution company New Video NYC. Of course, with Blu-ray now slated for release, one has to wonder what’s next: A 3-D version maybe? We’ve heard that’s all the rage with the kids nowadays…
Related content on GigaOm Pro: By The Numbers: Budget Analysis of a Web Series (subscription required)
We love us some Dr. Horrible, so we’ve been wondering if the commentary tracks from the video — which had previously been unavailable except on its DVD — would ever make their way to some sort of digital distribution. And now, thanks to a tweet by Horrible co-writer Maurissa Tancharoen, we’ve learned that Commentary! The Musical was just released on Apple’s iTunes.
Back when the DVD came out, we called the commentary musical the “centerpiece” of the disc. “Redefining post-modernism… Commentary! is actually a fun, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the production, heavily laced with inside jokes set to music very nearly as good as that in the actual production,” Liz Shannon Miller wrote in her review. And now it can all be yours, for just 99 cents a track or $9.99 for the whole shebang.
Of course, we’re not sure how many hardcore fans there are out there who would actually pay ten bucks for the commentary tracks by themselves, particularly when the whole DVD sells on Amazon.com for 50 cents less. But then, that’s probably why they’re called hardcore fans.
[show=jedmaurissa size=large]Dear Jed and Maurissa,
So, you don’t know me, but, well, I’ve seen you around a few times. In fact, Maurissa, you and I were both wearing the same Urban Outfitters top at the Guild and Dollhouse Comic-Con panels this year, which was a little embarrassing because you looked much cuter in it than me, but then I decided to take it as a sign that we both have excellent taste. Maybe we could go shopping together sometime! If you’re not busy, that is.
Because that’s the thing. You guys have been busy since co-writing and cameoing in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, most notably working on the second season of Dollhouse as staff writers. Some people — uncool people who don’t respect your talent, let’s be clear — might think you got that gig because of, um, family connections. However, the episodes you’ve written, including the Felicia Day-starring Epitaph One, have been standouts of the series and will hopefully ensure future work down the line.
But now that Dollhouse has been canceled and, in theory, you have some extra time on your hands — um, maybe you could make some more YouTube videos? Read More about An Open Letter to Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
Dr. Horrible 2 and Joss Whedon Digital Studio on the Way? Sequel to the smash web series will likely happen, according to creator Whedon, who is looking for $5 million investment for a new digital studio that would create for web series per year. (Tubefilter)
Google TV Ads Signs Ovation TV; the performing arts channel to give Google access to its ad inventory. (MediaPost)
Widgets or Browsers on Your TV; as television sets get connected to the net should they have full web browsing, or offer just widgets? (The Wall Street Journal)
Vevo Hires a Sales Chief; David Kohl joins the YouTube/music label video site from Nokia. (MediaMemo)
Starz Digital Media Titles on iTunes; content from Overture Films, Anchor Bay Films and Manga now available. (Multichannel News)
Magnify.net Launches iPhone App; lets users shoot and upload personal videos to any Magnify-hosted channel. (TechCrunch)
It’s not a huge surprise that Michael Eisner is a fan of premium content. He did, after all, run Disney (s DIS), one of the largest entertainment factories in the world. But in a nice little Q&A over at Broadcasting & Cable, Eisner showed just how big a proponent he is of high-end content. You should read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:
On free content: “It’s hysterical experimentation, but it’s not altogether inappropriate. Nobody knows what the next act is.”
On distribution vs. content: “My bet has always been what is more important, content or distribution; distribution companies tend to be more and less relevant with the waving of a wand. People still underestimate the value of content. If you have ownership of high-end, exclusive content, end of game.”
On high-end content: “This [environment] has killed mediocre content. Audiences don’t just have to sit there anymore and be entertained by mediocre content like in the past.”
Eisner’s words dovetail nicely with a discussion we had in our comments over the weekend about Dr. Horrible‘s success. That was a case where ownership of high-end content stood out from all else out there, and created both paid and free distribution opportunities for itself. It didn’t matter whether you got Horrible through Hulu, iTunes or physical DVDs, people just wanted it because it was so good. Granted, not everyone has those sweetheart relationships with Hollywood talent and distribution muscle, but Whedon’s actions and Eisner’s words are worth paying attention to.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible was an important (and entertaining) moment in web video. It helped legitimize the medium and showed the world that you could make a successful show outside of the Hollywood system. But that was more than a year a year ago. What has the web video industry done since?
Cat videos, mostly.
OK. I’m exaggerating and being too cantankerous, but I feel like we in the web video world are just resting on Whedon’s laurels. Rather than being inspired by him, it’s like we’re collectively waiting for him to do it again.
Am I expecting too much? Perhaps Horrible was just a fluke that won’t be replicated. It was all-but pre-ordained that Dr. Horrible would be a hit. Whedon was already a Hollywood name who had created two pop culture franchises in Buffy and Firefly. He made Dr. Horrible for $200,000 of his own money (an amount I’d wager most of us don’t have to spend on a passion project), and leveraged the heck out of his entertainment connections (something else most of us don’t have) to get an all-star cast, a studio backlot (for $900!) and a crew.
To be sure, Dr. Horrible did great things to build awareness of web video. It generated a ton of mainstream press coverage. It made numerous critics’ top ten best TV shows lists. And it has grossed $2.5 million (web series making money = good). But who has been the real recipient of that success? The web video industry or Joss Whedon?
At the end of the day, did the success of Dr. Horrible just prove that new media is still reliant on old media to create hits?