“Sometimes you get so many voices in a room telling you what to do that you can lose your own voice. It's not uncommon for a TV network to want to reach or market to a specific demographic. This can pull away from the authenticity of a project — and this ‘inauthenticity’ does not have a place in our current cultural space.”
The above quote is a core tenet of Carl Jones's latest project — part of the fuel launching the talented Boondocks producer and actor into the Web 3.0 space. The Project? Bubblegoose Ballers.
This Web 3.0 undertaking is here to not only become the top project on Solana's NFT blockchain but also disrupt the streaming/TV space. The acclaimed animation producer has been a creative force on projects like The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, Tyler the Creator's Jellies, The Last OG, as well as more projects on the way under his own animation studio dubbed Martian Blueberry.
Shows like The Boondocks have become culture-disrupting, cult classics — still relevant as ever due to their nuanced animation, potent social commentary, and gut-busting jokes. However, despite all of the success, Jones will be the first to tell you that building a property with your own distinct creative vision and voice is no easy feat, and can be downright impossible — even if you are a veteran in the industry.
Television networks and streaming services tend to focus on creating things that reach the biggest audience possible rather than something authentic; plus, sole-creative ownership is a rarity in television.
But, things are changing. The new emerging technologies shaping Web 3.0 are putting a lot of power back into creatives' hands - specifically blockchain technologies and Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Now, before you go rolling your eyes, bear with me a second.
What is Web 3.0? For the uninitiated, Web 3.0 is a term coined to describe a new version of the internet that combines ideas such as decentralization, blockchain technology, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies.
The biggest takeaway from Web 3.0 is that it has the potential to decentralize and even democratize a lot of the systems currently in place. If anything, these technologies are a skeleton key for creatives like Jones, opening the door to various avenues to get their story out the way they want it without giving up ownership or relying on a gatekeeper.
Enter Bubblegoose Ballers.
What is Bubblegoose Ballers?
An idea born out of his childhood in Fayetteville "Fayettenam," North Carolina, Bubblegoose Ballers is a 10,000-piece NFT collection with a growing and passionate community around it. With their help, Jones aims to develop a new series starring the Bubblegoose Ballers — a show expected to be honest, edgy, and even more crazier than Black Dynamite or The Boondocks.
By using Web 3.0 technologies, the producer believes he can create original content and develop an active community around it — one that not only gets the opportunity to creatively shape Bubblegoose Ballers in real-time, but also financially benefits from the success of the project. If done right, Jones believes he can build a multimedia company with a wide range of creatives that can cultivate IP, build worlds, and establish communities. In short, he plans on creating the next-gen Pixar.
We sat down with Carl Jones to dive deeper into his Bubblegoose Ballers project, Web 3.0, NFTs, and his animation studio.
Check out the Carl Jones Bubblegoose Ballers interview below.
The initial idea of Bubblegoose Ballers can be tied all the way back to your childhood: How did you come up with it?
I grew up in a town called Fayetteville, North Carolina, "affectionately" known as "Fayettenam" during the hype of the crack epidemic. The ballers in my neighbourhood wore "Bubblegoose Coats." They were status symbols in the same way that sneakers are, or even NFTs today. It was all about the flex. The jacket let people know that you were successful and tough.
Looking back, the coat was aspirational to me. With that context, as a kid, I started drawing this goofy little goose in a Bubblegoose Coat — a character that, in many ways, reflected my personality. The character just stayed with me over the years until I had the opportunity to launch a new TV series over at Adult Swim.
We did a pilot episode around the Bubblegoose Ballers, but I ended up walking from the deal because of creative differences. The character stayed in my sketchbook until I entered the Web 3.0 world.
Why did you feel like now was the best time to pursue it? In your own words, why should the average Boondocks or Black Dynamite fan buy a Bubblegoose Baller? What about this NFT community resonates with those audiences?
You can buy a Bubblegoose Baller. But I don't really like to see myself as someone who sells NFTs. I say that because NFTs have been stigmatized a lot because of the bad actors in the space. I like to focus more on the brand and community-building side of things. So this project is more of a continuation of what I have been doing my whole career. The blockchain just provides the technology needed to pursue the creative freedom I've been seeking.
I view this project as an extension of some of the properties I have previously worked on — featuring the same distinct voice and cultural point of view. But, now, fans participate in the creative choices that are being made.
The community so far has been extremely supportive. I 100% believe if we do this project successfully, it will open the door for us to build an Adult Pixar in the Web 3 world, which is my ultimate goal.
What's your outlook on self-funding cartoons/media via NFTs? Do you feel like it's going to change the type of storytelling we see?
When I first started in the animation industry, I was an artist, but I was not 100% comfortable with my art being used as a vehicle for someone else's stories. So, I learned how to write. This allowed me to write and illustrate the stories that matter to me.
Equally, I quickly learned that it is going to be picked apart by executives who all have "thoughts and opinions." Sometimes you get so many voices in a room telling you what to do that you can lose your own voice. Or, it's not uncommon for a network to want to reach or market towards a specific demographic.
This can pull away from the authenticity of a show. This forced me to get good at articulating and defending my work, which the networks did not receive well. So, here I am now with an extremely supportive community that has given me the leverage I need to make the Bubblegoose brand a success in Web 3 and the TV/film world.
What is interesting is that the communities that have built up these brands can now profit from the projects they are passionate about. It truly levels the playing field. It allows us to be more creative and puts the networks in a position where they have to be more open to creators, the different types of stories being told, and different forms of storytelling.
With Web 3.0, "the people" are telling the world what is hot or not. I don't think people want to be "sold to" anymore, but they still want to buy. Nonetheless, they want to buy a product they can genuinely relate to and, in some ways, that makes them feel empowered.
NFTs, offer people the opportunity to identify with something, to be a part of a community, and financial freedom.
How do NFTs impact the communities around content? As the head creator, is the increased level of engagement exciting or intimidating?
It is very exciting but also incredibly intimidating, to be honest. I remember pitching a joke in the community writer's room, and it did not land at all.
I don't want to set myself up as someone who is infallible or knows everything about this new creative space in the Web 3.0 world. Within this community, I am always transparent with what we are doing behind the scenes — while moving through this process in a way that allows for mistakes. I am constantly learning new things about this new creative outlet and Web 3.0.
As long as I am honest and the community trusts me enough with the property, we will do a lot of great things together. This relationship is what makes this project that much more special.
Most of the stories that I have told throughout my career have come from real people or cultural moments. For example, I remember while working on The Boondocks, going on WorldStarHipHop every morning like it was the news. These real people and things happening in the culture, in real-time, would inspire the stories and characters we created.
We are looking to do something similar now with Bubblegoose Ballers, pulling directly from people part of our community — basically setting up a writer's room with our community where members can shape the Bubblegoose story. While I come in at the helm, making final cuts.
As someone who's working with HBO Max and Netflix, where do you see NFTs land in the digital media landscape? Do you think streaming giants like these will get into web3 as well?
If they don't, they will cease to exist. They need to understand that they are no longer building brands for an audience, but rather the audience is building brands for you.
So, instead of being money hungry and going as broad as possible with the concept so you can reach everybody and everything, I think they are going to have to start focusing on smaller lanes. Take streaming services, for example. Everyone is trying to reach so many people with the broadest kind of content. They will have to start looking at things differently.
Your animation studio, Martian Blueberry, recently dropped a series of otherworldly visualizers for Megan Thee Stallion's latest album. Give our audience a brief breakdown and history of the studio.
We launched Martian Blueberry during the pandemic. There are a couple of reasons why the company needed to exist in my mind. Throughout my career, there was this need to create culturally specific content and creative work. But, there was no animation studio that truly understood the nuances, perspectives, and references tied to culture as a whole. While working with other animation studios, we found ourselves spending tons of time and money fixing projects. Even when it came to getting a certain facial expression on a character, we would end up sending tons of references just for a studio to get it right.
It may seem small or tedious, but it's what can make or break a story. It's what made the Boondocks and Black Dynamite so special and separated us from the other shows at the time. We were litigious about capturing those subtle nuances in our characters.
I am the type of person that believes in being the change that I am looking for. I couldn't find any studio out there that could accommodate our needs. Along with Love Barnett and Omar Clinton, we started this small virtual studio — a studio capable of creating, producing, and perfecting animation from anywhere in the world.
The Megan the Stallion project made sense. Anime has huge support from Black people. They even coined the term Blerds. But, there is no anime that represents us. Megan the Stallion's love for anime is great for the community allowing us to explore what a Black character in this space could look like. We have got some other stuff in the pipeline with her. It was a good look and was one of the first projects seen by the public.
What advice can you pass on to Black creators looking to get into the ever-expanding NFT space?
You have to be original and unique. You have to find your voice and don't compromise it. Web 3.0 is hungry for authenticity, but this is not an opportunity to "get rich quick." That sort of mentality turns people into dishonest salesmen. Then you find yourself pushing digital art, and this technology offers way more than another payday. Really think of the "why" of it all and the long-term goal of what you are doing.
Finally, do your research, and take your time to look at all the possibilities the technology offers. This is a huge opportunity to change people's lives. You should take full advantage of that.
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