Social Studies: Bleacher Report's "Game Of Zones" Creators Bring The Laughs
Bleacher Report’s “Game of Zones” premiered its sixth season last week (@BleacherReport), and the animated video series is as popular as ever. The series began with brothers and co-creators Adam and Craig Malamut doing everything, but as the series has become more successful, they have been able to expand their team. Adam Malamut said, "Craig and I do the bulk of the writing and directing and all the voices. But we have a whole animation team and an animation production manager as well as a producer. They handle a lot of the stuff we’re not good at -- mostly animation and more technical stuff like exporting and editing." Craig Malamut added, "With these designers and animators we can do more and more of the things we only dreamed about doing like the complex expressions, having a horse running around. We used to have to write very restrictively to what we could animate." The web series does not run parallel to "Game of Thrones." But this season they do parody memorable scenes from Seasons 1 and 5 of the HBO series.
Origin of the series:
CM: We were freelance animators. We were really into “Game of Thrones” at the time and thought, "Oh, man, it would be so fun to do the NFL as 'Game of Thrones' because they are so similar. You have these warrior-like athletes with helmets on charging into battle. We started impersonating Tom Brady as Jamie Lannister. Then we met with (Bleacher Report Senior VP/Programming) Bennett Spector, he had seen our cartoons and wanted to do something with us.
AM: We had this menu of ideas and one of them was this football-"Game of Thrones" mashup. He (Spector) was like, “That sounds cool, but can we do that as NBA?” Bleacher Report had recently been purchased by Turner and had a good relationship with the NBA. We made “Game of Zones.” We thought it was going to be a one-off viral video.
CM: The video went up and had like a million views in 36 hours. We were so excited. Bleacher Report called us up again and said, “Can you do another?”
Knowing you had a hit:
CM: The first episode, every comment was positive. That never happens on the Internet. It was mind blowing. When we made additional seasons, it was still incredibly positive. My girlfriend went for ice cream wearing a “Game of Zones” hat and the guy scooping ice cream said he loved “Game of Zones” and said, “Instead of a small, I am going to upgrade to a medium for free.”
AM: At the time, even ESPN was showing it. When ESPN was showing Bleacher Report stuff we knew. Michelle Beadle put it on her show -- that was a crazy moment where we would dance around our apartment. A huge moment was when they showed it on “Inside the NBA” and Sir Charles and Shaq started talking about it. That was surreal.
AM: Everyone has been a really good sport about it, everyone has been a good sport about it except for maybe one subtweet we may have gotten from (Suns F) T.J. Warren. These guys get a lot of real criticism in a more serious context and to see it in cartoon form is a little disarming for people.
AM: We really, especially when we are making stuff, barely have time to watch many NBA games. I tend to watch a Sixers game if I am home or sometimes my fiancée will make me watch that Lindsay Lohan show where she has a beach house on Mykonos. Most of our research comes from the people here at Bleacher Report that we talk to -- the experts in different areas -- we try to leverage that as much as possible. We see ourselves as the people who can craft this into a story, but not the experts. But we also want to make stuff that appeals to experts and isn’t wrong.
AM: What’s funny is we don’t really have a method for thinking about these things. If you look at our collection of episodes, they are all kind of different, come from different places. The way we keep things fresh is if one episode was really talky and silly, let’s do a serious one now. People say, “You’ve got to do a Nuggets episode.” We want to do a Nuggets episode, but it’s whatever the funniest idea that bubbles up. There’s no rhyme or reason.
CM: James Harden is really great. He is basically ("GoT" character) Oberyn Martell and just evolved. He is a swashbuckling Spaniard who sounds like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Vlade Divac. We pitch-shifted his voice down so deep that he’s the deepest speaking character. It creates this rich voice.
AM: (Cavaliers G) Nik Stauskas is a fun character this season. I like Mike D’Antoni. We made him like he’s a Nutty Professor type character. Jimmy Butler will make quite the impression this season.
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