With a pair of hit free-to-play mobile games under the Best Fiends brand and a third on the way later this summer, game maker Seriously is taking another step in the same direction as Rovio Entertainment with the launch of its first animated short.
Best Fiends Boot Camp features an all-star voice cast of Kate Walsh (13 Reasons Why), Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Pamela Adlon (Better Things), David Herman (Office Space), Billy West (Futurama) and Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe). The short features full 3D computer animation production by Reel FX, the studio behind The Book of Life and some recent Looney Tunes shorts. Boot Camp’s music is composed by Heitor Pereira (Despicable Me), and is written by Emmy Award-winning producer and writer J. Stewart Burns (The Simpsons) and produced by veteran animation producer, Claudia De La Roca (Futurama).
Andrew Stalbow, co-founder and CEO of Seriously, told AListDaily that the company has created an entertainment franchise built on mobile first. Seriously is building out games, animations and consumer products based on the Best Fiends property.
“Best Fiends Boot Camp is our first attempt to share the world of Best Fiends in animated form, and given how we’re connected to a large audience in the Best Fiends game, we’ll be using the app to promote it,” Stalbow explained. “To round out the mobile experience, a live Boot Camp event will simultaneously be released inside the Best Fiends games, where Hank and Roger, the stars of the short, will make a special guest appearance.”
The three-and-a-half-minute-long short introduces female lead JoJo, voiced by Walsh, and Temper, voiced by Hamill. It took nine months of development in Hollywood and it’s part of an ongoing series. The second short film, List Minutia, will launch later this summer and introduce Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back) as Pilot Slug and Maurice Lemarche (Pinky and the Brain) as Howie. Stalbow said production on the next two shorts has just begun and the plan is to release many more humorous shorts in the future.
“We set a vision to create a short that had the quality to play in movie theaters before a feature like Despicable Me 3, and worked really hard to assemble an incredibly talented team to help us achieve that,” Stalbow said. “We always try to differentiate our apps by trying to build a gorgeous, rich experience that stands out because of the care we put into every detail. Having been lucky enough to work with some wonderful brands at Rovio and at Fox, the number one thing we’ve learned is that you have to love and sweat every single element, and I think that shows in both our games and now in our first animated short too.”
Stalbow said Seriously wanted to go after animation that felt “subversive yet sweet” and could appeal to the whole family. Claudia de la Roca, who has worked with Matt Groening, became part of the core creative team that assembled the rest of the talent.
This marks a continuation of Seriously’s work with Kate Walsh, who partnered with the game company last year on the Don’t Download Best Fiends video, which was viewed over 8.5 million times. Stalbow said the actress was a fan of the game franchise and wanted to continue to work with the team on these animate shorts. Walsh worked with YouTubers Joey Graceffa and Rosanna Pansino on the viral video, which was part of a strategic marketing approach the company has taken for this brand.
“We have a roster of influencers we are working with to introduce the animated short to a wide audience from the opening weekend, primarily focusing on YouTube and Instagram,” Stalbow said. “We’re also buying a little bit of outdoor media in major cities in the US to promote the short a little bit like a movie, even though it’s available in the app. We think that’s a fun way to differentiate ourselves and spread the message that we’re building a ‘World on your Mobile,’ and then we’ll also promote the animation through various Google channels.”
Seriously’s app has more than 70 million downloads and approximately two million daily players. The company reaches an additional seven million fans across its branded YouTube channel, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, VK, Weibo, the Best Fiends website and its newsletter.
These animated shorts are part of a long-term plan to use the game and its audience as a delivery platform, like Rovio does with Angry Birds.
“We feel like the direct connection with our audience through mobile differentiates us from other entertainment brands,” Stalbow said. “We think that Hollywood will ultimately make a transition over the next few years to focus on building direct relationships with audiences through the content itself. Right now, Hollywood makes most of its money creating content and then distributing it through third-party platforms. Suddenly with mobile, a small content creator like Seriously can build and distribute content directly to the audience, and we want to lean into that opportunity.”
Stalbow said Best Fiends was built as an entertainment brand that can appeal to everyone. There are over 200 characters within the world, which is spread across multiple games and now animated shorts. He said there’s an over-arching theme that focuses on “small things can make a big difference,” which ties into the transformation each of the Fiend characters go through as they level up from cute to fiendish while battling against the Slugs to restore their world (Minutia) to harmony.
“This theme is also reflected in our attention to all the little details in our games and animations,” Stalbow said.
He added that long-term, the hope is to bring Best Fiends to the big screen, which is also something Rovio did successfully with Angry Birds.