Friday, August 04, 2006


This is of course an allusion to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, wherein cartoon people live in a ghetto of alternative physics, more characteristic of cartoons. Toons rhymes with Sims quite a bit (not literally).

However, in this namespace, ToonTown refers to a region of Portland, Oregon (in the heart of the Silicon Forest), which some speculate might be about to dive head first into the computer animation business.

Of course that's already happening in Portland, thanks to the precedent of Will Vinton Studios (since sold to Nike's Phil Knight and rebranded).

The question is more one of neighborhood: will the city blocks from around Free Geek, Good Will and OMSI, north towards Lucky Lab, and on up along MLK and the train tracks, past Produce Row, provide safe harbor for a goodly number of private studios focusing on the making of "toons" i.e. instructional videos (e.g. screencasts -- see InfoWorld July 31, 2006) laced with computer graphics? Entertaining, not just instructional (gnurotic even).

When 4D Studios purchased Turning the Wheel from DWA (one of my wife's companies), and rebranded it, so far only informally, as our Portland Knowledge Lab, this was the kind of thing I had in mind. This office provides only a small footprint in the neighborhood at this point (close to Lucky Lab), but floorspace is not the point in this business.

What you need is a niche, a look and feel, and the ability to scout for and recruit complementary talent, for purposes of collaboration and mutual benefit. In my case, The Wanderers has been a primary venue for such activities, with excellent results (including my Saturday Academy gigs).

In my case, "a look and feel" means a lot of Fuller School type visual motifs (including hypertoons [PDF]), other trademarks. Yes, others will imitate (flattering), but 4D Solutions (DBA of 4D Studios) already has a strong track record in this domain, albiet on a small scale.

Again, frequency and/or energy involvement is not the critical number; it's the quality of the programming that I'm advertising. A lucky few speculators should have no problem seeing the potential advantages of co-venturing. That's what last night's meeting at The Bagdad was about (we talked a lot about AJAX).