Looks like the Deviantart OC’s have been let loose! For those unaware Hazbin Hotel is an animation pilot that has over 11 million views on YouTube in just two weeks since being upload to show creator Vivziepop’s channel. Hazbin Hotel takes place in the depths of hell as the Princess of Hell decides to rehabilitate the sinners and help them reach salvation with a new hotel service.
This isn’t your typical animation affair, with queer representation and plenty of sexual innuendos this show isn’t the typical kid’s show affair as it’s vibrant, eccentric characters and setting would lead you to believe. However, the show has generally been well perceived, it’s an open concept brimming with potential, and the animation quality is pretty dang good given that it is an indie project.
It’s an adult comedy, animated, musical at the very least that’s incredibly unique and screams of a cult following. If you want a review of the pilot short… go on YouTube you’ll find a million of them. Instead, I’m a self-proclaimed genius so instead of saying what I liked or what was good/bad let’s take this unique opportunity to think where do we go from here? If I were to advise the team behind this on what direction to take in the future to be the most successful what would I do and what do I think about the potential future of Hazbin Hotel?
Should We Soften It?
I think this is one of the major things that needs to be addressed with this show. Hazbin Hotel is a tough sell, with the abundance and gratuitous violence, cursing, sexual remarks and overall deviancy this show is very much “Adult Animation”. The thing is the art style does have a cutesy element to it, at times it looks like Star Vs. The Forces of Evil and Wander Over Yonder. It certainly is easier on the eyes than Ricky and Morty and Big Mouth which look like ugly turds. If you wanted to have a larger appeal, because the majority of animation is for kids you can soften this show up for at least a slightly younger demographic.
Don’t tell me a show about Hell can’t be aimed at children, probably be backlash from the church moms but you could make it work. You know what show was on TV when I was younger, Almost Naked Animals. A show in which animals in their underpants ran a hotel. Like Hello, excuse me, that’s a little risque for the 6 year old babies watching that.
The characters are eccentric and the animation is kiddish that if you remove references to kink and the bad words I could go in there, hack up that pilot and stick it in the floorboards leaving something suitable for a pre-teen show on a streaming service.
However, I would try and advise sticking by our guns and not shifting the demo. I think it’s clever to start out really abrasive because it’s easier to compromise and tone it down then dial it up later. I think the cat is out of the bag and since viewers have already seen the pilot, that’s what they expect and I’m sure the loyal fan base would be disappointed with a softer, general appeal show. Last I think the novelty of the show is what it has working for it. An adult animated musical, challenging buyers to invest in something that is “unprecedented” is a good selling strategy.
Who Are We Pitching To?
This is where we have to consider who would be interested in such a show. I really don’t see this ending up on TV, without a softer image: Disney XD, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network are a No-Go. I think it’s niche appeal and abrasive content also means Fox isn’t touching it and I don’t see it intermingling with the crude Adult Swim family. Are the Squid-billies audience going to watch Hazbin Hotel after or change the channel… I don’t know.
However, there’s a plethora of streaming option looking to build a library so who do I think fits the glass slipper? I think the perfect fit is you got to go to YouTube Red/ YouTube Originals. YouTube Premium has a stinky lineup that nobody cares about, and YouTube has bad relationships with its content creators. I think this would be a great PR move, YouTube can show we believe in our creators and they can co-exist with Cobra Kai and what not.
YouTube right now only sees its creators as marketable stars, but using animators who are a little more professional in nature to bolster this “we make the dreams of the everyday person come true”. C’mon let’s put the “You” back in YouTube. When you can market yourselves as creating shows for “You” and by “You” not some out of touch big wig boomers that gives you an identity in this bloated streaming market.
The show’s already found an audience on the platform and this isn’t a pipe dream they already got a 30 minute pilot by their own means. I think YouTube has the funds to offer a negative pickup deal (contractual agreement to pay a certain amount when the rights are delivered upon an agreed upon date) So that way YouTube gets some accountability to deliver, is able to decide if they want to pay the full cost or less, and the show gets a bank loan to cover some of the cost.
This could be bad for the show as with a streaming service we won’t have foreign pre-sale rights to recoup costs if YouTube doesn’t cover the full projected budget. If not fully funded by YouTube then you got to possibly depend on merchandise profit or Kickstarter to get that extra leg of the race done.
I don’t know if YouTube has this sort of industry connection, but to ease the trust I think it would be smart on YouTube’s part to use its network and either get approval of what production student they align themselves with or even bring in some industry professionals to up the production level.
I think YouTube would be a match made in heaven, however… good chance this would never happen so what other options do we have. I like VRV, they really have an unconventional library and looking at their shows: RWBY (produced by RoosterTeeth) Cyanide & Happiness (web series on YouTube), and Bee and PuppyCat (Frederator YouTube Web series). I think I solved the case… this show is 1000% ending up on VRV mark my words. VRV is a subsidiary of AT&T Time-Warner so they might have some valuable connection or funds to offer but I really don’t see them offering much support outside of we will scoop up your thing when you make it.
Finally, Netflix is my desperate shot in the wind. I just think this show would get buried on Netflix and since Netflix literally produces any 1st draft slapped on their desk, I don’t think they’re going to nurture this show.
How Do We Adapt and Approve?
I guess this is when we get more into constructive criticism of Hazbin Hotel, while also sort of discussing the trajectory of the show. The first thing that bothered me was the character designs seem busy. I understand the show wants a crazy vibrant energy to it, but every character seems to exhibit a feel of sensory overload. I’d recommend Daft Pina’s video that made this point better, and went through ways you could simplify some of the character designs.
There’s other details to address like the abundance of overused sound effects and inconsistent sound quality but that is easy stuff once you get a more consistent production plan. I’ll chalk these up as limitations than real creative choices but still something to discuss down the road.
The direction to take the series is the crucial decision and I’m conflicted on what should be the course of action taken. The pacing of the pilot is atrocious, but I get it; you got so many interesting ideas swirling around that you don’t want to leave anything good on the table in fears that you didn’t create enough appealing elements. There’s great elements scattered throughout but let’s let them breathe, and accentuate the character dynamics a little bit.
This idea is tough to sell, so of course I’d fight for a full season but I feel I’m working with a 6 episode pickup deal in which I go and prove to you that we can produce a hit. Here’s how I would alter it so each big development featured in the pilot gets a smoother introduction.
Episode 1: Charlie and Vaggie search across Hell to find the perfect location for Charlie’s ambitious new project.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that these two characters just click, great chemistry and it’s enjoyable to see them play off one another. This gives us an opportunity to showcase the denizens of hell, and commit to some world building and establish the setting. Meanwhile, we establish the most important character relationship of Vaggie being critical yet supportive of Charlie’s wild scheme and showing Charlie’s commitment to her resolve despite finding great real estate isn’t as easy as it seems.
Episode 2: With the hotel now in business, Charlie finds her first Client, Angel Dust to be a handful.
Not changing much from the pilot, you can still have the newsroom set up and the eventually tarnishing of the hotel’s reputation through Angel Dust’s deviancy. Giving each reoccurring character their own introduction highlights what they have to offer to the show in which this case it is going to be humor and maybe the voice of the “to be rehabilitated”. I think there’s a nice moment of Angel Dust wanted to console Charlie before opting not to and I think that would be a good punctuation of his introduction showing “look these are the shitheads you’re dealing with, but there’s hope that maybe there’s more beyond the surface”. End the episode with Charlie and Vaggy having a heart to heart and realizing something along the lines of people don’t change easily but they can’t change if you don’t give them the chance so Charlie can’t give up on Angel Dust and the demons of hell just yet.
Episode 3: Alastor the Radio Demon offers his assistance in maintaining the hotel.
A lot of people enjoy this character so let’s explore him a bit more for an introduction. He’s an interesting character as he can prey on Charlie’s incompetence and nativity a bit. Let’s spend a whole episode battling with this idea of accepting help from an untrustworthy source, and to what lengths Charlie is willing to go to push her agenda forward. It’s an interesting dilemma as Charlie is in a position of having to trust that the awful people in hell will want to change but also has to wonder if her trust is being abused when aligning herself with someone purely evil. Is Alastor worth both the power and guidance she desperately needs? I think this ends the same way it ends with allowing Alastor to help but with conditions, but let’s flesh it out with some more Alastor hi-jinks, and Charlie’s internal conflict on understanding who she’s inviting here.
Episode 4-6: Show me what you got
Ultimately I broke down the pilot into more 11 minute premises, tried to give more opportunity to establish how these characters interact with one another and showcase the internal and external conflict that exist in each character’s journey. I think if given a six episode pickup, here we are demonstrating that we know how to refine our ideas. This requires less time and budget as storyboards, beats, musical numbers, and ideas can be reused from the pilot. We still get a couple more episodes to say that we have plenty of other good stuff to explore.
Yet, I don’t necessarily disagree with Vivienne Medrano, Hazbin Hotel creator, when she stated on a podcast that she’d probably like to just move on from the exposition and just move forward. I think again this makes a lot of sense as cat is out of the bag, people have seen this pilot and even with refining and reshaping these moments the pre-established audience might be flustered by the amount of repetition, especially if it is in a limited release.
What Do We Think?
I’m rooting for this series, personally I don’t think it is my cup of tea but for an independent project the animation is delightful and with both the conceptual promise and originality, it’s brimming with potential. I think it’s an interesting anomaly to try and deal with a web pilot of this high quality and gaining traction yet be nearly impossible to sell.
This is my not so expert opinion, let me know what you think. I wouldn’t soften the adult content, I’d be trying to be in contact with YouTube and VRV and I would try and figure out what is best course of action to emphasize characters and story. Now it is your turn, put on your producer cap and let me know how you would manage such a unique opportunity.
Thank you for joining me, have a good one, and I will see you at the movies!
Images are from: Hazbin Hotel [credit: Viziepop]
and Almost Naked Animals [credit: 9 Story Media Group, Cartoon Network]