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Ofttimes, I am amused by very simple things. And nothing is quite so amusing to me these days that the non-sequitur brilliance of Lolcats. For those who aren’t up on your internet memes, Lolcats are the labeling of random pictures of cats (or other critters) usually with an in-joke based on Lolcats itself.  It all started at icanhascheezburger.com, which has become a latter day YTMND. Easily one of the best time wasters you will find.

But nothing has quite stirred the ol’ Otter’s heart like the drama and heartbreak of the Saga of Lolrus.  

While not quite an otter (and actually was a seal), Lolrus was a fellow creature of the sea who just wanted a bucket, dammit. Was that too much to ask?

And now he’s gone. Rest in peace, sweet, sweet pinniped.  You will be missed. At least you shall forever live on, online.

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This technology isn’t new, it’s been used at Disneyland’s Fantasmic show for well over a decade, but this is the first time I’ve seen it used for a temporary promotion.

To advertise the film ‘The Water Horse’, promoters are creating a hologram by projecting the Nessie image over a very fine mist being sprayed in the air. The effect is quite good. Something the producers of ‘Cloverfield 2′ should keep in mind.

  YouTube Preview Image

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This is a bit late, since I started it last weekend then got bogged down at work. But life is funny that way. Ok, so I usually don’t do reviews on the blog but I though that since we’re featuring the announcement of Hasbro’s tie-in figure of the "Cloverfield Monster" on the front page that it was relevant to review this film since I saw Cloverfield over the weekend.

For those who don’t know what it’s about, the plot has been described as "Blair Witch Project meets Gozilla"; a group of twenty somethings leave a party to rescue a friend while a monster trashes Manhattan. The whole thing is captured by a member of the group using a handheld video camera, with no soundtrack and no (overt) editing.

I liked it well enough, as an experiment, and it definitely accomplished it’s goals, but throughout the entire thing I couldn’t stop thinking of some nagging thoughts that kept pulling me out of the movie: why is Hud (the cameraman) filming everything but the monster most of the time? Why did they make these characters so vacuous? Why are they constantly running into the monster, no matter where they go? I know the filmmakers wanted the commentary on today’s callow youth, but I didn’t care about any of the characters once throughout the whole film.

And that’s the problem I had with the whole "found footage" conceit:  everything that happens happens because that’s what the audience needs to see next, not because it feels very organic to the story. The whole exercise is built around the concept. But then the dialogue constantly feels stilted and written, not spontaneous. The camera work is shaky, but not realistic at all (would anyone be filming their friends running around instead of a big monster?). And the whole thing felt like a ride at Disneyland: you get the setup, then you see bits of the monster, a couple of surprises happen, then you see the whole monster but far away, then you finally get a close-up and bang! You’re going through the doors and out of the ride. And the whole thing is contained in a little building where the track loops back on itself over and over.


That’s what watching this movie felt like to me:  following a pre-ordained track and twisted and turned in place to give the illusion of traveling over a large distance. And lots of shocks, but no real danger at all. I didn’t really have a problem not seeing the monster, but if you’re not going to show it then stop with the convoluted teases. Go watch Alien/Aliens to see how you can only show glimpses of something yet still be very effective in feeling like you’ve "had a full meal". And to be honest, I’m not sure that using an omniscent viewpoint and professional handheld camera wouldn’t have worked equally as well. Just do it more cinema verité like a documentary. But none of what i was watching felt "real" outside of the effects. I actually would have liked it a lot more if we didn’t have the crazy backstory and instead just maybe had a coupe of guys running around with a camera trying to see the creature and hooking up with people along the way. Then it would have made sense to see it, see the military, and be logical why you’re not getting the hell out of the city. 

Anyway I did like it well enough, and will watch it again on DVD, but it’s not the instant classic I was hoping for. Still kicks Godzilla ’98’s ass, though.

And here’s some fan art that seems to be pretty close to what I can tell the creature looked like, if you want a preview of Hasbro’s toy.

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…but you’re gonna have to face it you’re addicted to toy information. 

I recently answered a forum post to explain to a faithful reader why our trusty Mattel rep, ToyGuru, hadn’t posted lately to spill the beans on the upcoming JLU announcement in February’s Toyfare magazineClick here to read that exchange. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

Back already?  OK, good. Basically, my explanation was that companies sometimes do things that don’t always seem logical to the public, but they usually have some internal reasoning that justifies the decisions. The decision in question here is "why did Mattel give Toyfare magazine a big scoop and even so why won’t the let the fans know the gist of that upcoming article so they can be happy or mad ahead of time?".  So I though I’d follow that post up with the argument that it actually isn’t in their best interests to cater to fans at all!

As someone who works in the marketing industry, I read a lot of marketing blogs every day. And two entries on prolific author Seth Godin’s blog caught my eye last week, particularly how they relate to today’s topic.

The first one talks about the Iowa Caucuses and how few people traditionally attend them and those that do are the ones who are devoted and motivated to be there. The relevance here is that fans/collectors/forum members are the same as the Iowa Caucuses: they WANT to be here. They want to stand up and tell everyone who they support, and try and convince you to support them too. Which is precisely why it isn’t worth the time spent for Mattel (or Hasbro, etc.) to talk to this group. They are already convinced. And in fact are insatiable for info; they are never satisfied to know what is coming next, they want to know what’s coming after that, and after that, and after that. To feed this hunger is a thankless job.

Talking to the fans doesn’t increase sales (the fan will buy the product regardless), and many times doesn’t even give accurate feedback because the fan’s passion skews the impression too far in one direction. Cost wise, the interaction and time spent is much more valuable by reaching out to those that aren’t already seeking the information. Which means ads & exclusives in Toyfare. And ads in comic books. And flyers in comic shops. And promotions in toy stores. But not interaction online. The execs probably get this, and is one reason this type of thing is frowned upon. And a huge reason the ToyGuru and Jesse Falcons of the world should be even more appreciated than they are.

The second relevant post by Seth talks about how overpromising to the consumer never ends well. And honestly, most employees at the toy companies don’t know what is going to happen in the future, they only know what is being planned to happen. But as we’ve seen over and over again, things change. A lot. And when a rep says one thing, but something else happens they tend to get attacked. And even worse, called a liar. Most of the time they’re not at liberty to discuss what went wrong, so they defend themselves with silence, which leads to the demand for information again and we’re back to square one. And at the end of the day, the lesson learned is that it’s better to give no information, than inadvertantly give wrong information.

Starting to get the picture why so few designers talk to the fans? 

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The New Year’s traveling cut short my blogging time the past couple of days, so I’m a bit behind the schedule I had planned to keep.  So I think I’ll write a few extra posts over the next week to catch up.

One thing I did see over the holidays was this crazy toy on Mark Evanier’s blog (one of my favorite places to check out, even if Mark did slap me down on Usenet 15 years ago for a false assertion). I both can and can’t believe that this was ever made. I can believe it because I’ve come up with just as crazy concepts over the years in brainstorm sessions. I can’t believe it because most of those concepts usually get shot down before they go much further. 

So without further ado, I give you: Hasbro’s Pie Face

YouTube Preview Image 

Mark also followed up his original post with these rememberences from his readers

If you folks like this, send me your suggestions and I’ll make this a regular feature.

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Ottertorials 2008 January