What is a studio? Once it meant a physical place, with soundstages and a back lot and departments full of craftspeople with crazy skills. Now it requires only a name and money. And executives, I suppose, to move the money around.
Back when "antitrust" was, like, a real thing, it was decided, in United States vs.
Now, the trend is for distributors to become producers. Amazon Studios has come into the world alongside similar efforts by
It's a two-pronged approach: Via its Amazon Studios website (studios.amazon.com), anyone can post a film or TV script, giving Amazon the right to option, perchance to buy it. There is also a community aspect that lets other users submit comments and revisions to a work.
And then there is the old-school version, where executives take calls from agents and meet with writers over bottled water (I am imagining that part) and develop things in the way more usual to Hollywood. Studio head Roy Price spent several years at Disney, where he was involved with the cartoon series "Kim Possible" and "Teacher's Pet"; programming chief
Even the public-rating feature, despite being ballyhooed as a striking innovation, is fundamentally old-fashioned, an Internet-age variation on the preview cards and focus groups studios have used since forever. (And the pilot-to-production system resembles that of the humbler short-form-comedy website Channel 101, co-founded by
In fielding its TV slate, Amazon called specifically for half-hour comedies (that is, 22 minutes with room for commercials, should a show wind up on real TV) and children's shows (with an educational bent). Dramas are, of course, more expensive to produce, and there is already a (relatively) long, hearty history of comedy online, including a few creations that successfully jumped from the Internet to television,
The comedies, whose production is highly polished, range from OK to excellent -- nothing struck me as an outright failure, and the best I would watch for a season -- and many feature People You Know, including
The kids' shows are a little harder to judge, coming as they do in various stages of completion. Except for "Sara Solves It," which looks like a finished version of the 2-D cartoon it's meant to be, most rely on rough-sketch "animatics" to tell the bulk of the story, with brief examples of what the finished product would look like: There's puppet animation ("Tumbleaf"), puppets ("Teeny Tiny Dogs," which has Lisa Henson as a producer, so technically they might be Muppets), CGI ("Positively Ozitively") and live action ("Annebots").
I'll write critically and in more detail about these shows in a following post. But overall, it's a good start.