Shaleen Desai is like a caped crusader for content. This SVP of Adult Animation is super focused on solid stories and shares how he is bringing super heroes and more to animation…and beyond. In his career of 20+ years and counting in Hollywood, Desai has been with Letterman, Viacom/CMT, Fox 21 and gone from working with Jason Bateman at Aggregate to Warner Bros. on “Batman” and other IP. Overall, whether it’s animated or audio his focus is making sure Warner Brothers Animation products will resonate anywhere as just good storytelling!
While Insider Interviews listeners heard from Desai in Epi 33 – which was taken from his NATPE ContentCast panel about crossover IP — in this episode 36 Desai gets the chance to go more in-depth around how Warner Bros. Animation and Blue Ribbon Content work with the overall organization to tap top talent — from development to writers to the stars behind the mics. For example, when you hear those words, “I’m
Batman” in a forthcoming scripted podcast it might be spoken seriously by Winston Duke on Spotify… or by a campier Jeffrey Wright in a version called Batman the Audio Adventures on HBO Max. [Since this recording earlier in September it was announced that The Audio Adventures will launch on 9/18 — which is (who knew?!) “Batman Day“!] And of course, there’s always animation, with Batman, Caped Crusader headed to Cartoon Network and HBO Max soon.
But Desai is focused on more than super heroes. He’s also developing new approaches to content, dabbling in AI and more short digital films and podcasts through Blue Ribbon, and always working to just identify the next good story that can live, well, anywhere!
Want to know exactly how the pandemic shifted content consumption of more adult animation?
How do they pick which story might live as a cartoon or a podcast?
Will it land on Adult Swim or HBO Max …or even Spotify or Freeform?
Will Desai hire E.B. for voice work!? And why DO E.B.’s doormen call her “Batgirl”?
Learn all this and more from this Hollywood vet and the voiceover wannabe host of this episode.
I had the good fortune of being asked by NATPE – the global trade association focused on the business of content, to help produce the first ever conference in the media/marketing industry dedicated to the topic of iterating IP from podcasting to TV and back again.
What the heck does that mean? Well, it’s basically around how TV shows are turning into podcasts to find new audiences and podcasting content has turned into TV shows and films. Think Homeland, Dirty John, even Dirty Diana! So of course I made myself one of the moderators (oh, and a did a little co-hosting with actor Amy Hill (“Magnum, P.I.”)).
This conference streams free on July 14,2021. If you missed the full four hour event you’ll want to join NATPE and to play that – and their myriad other conference about the content business, on demand. The good news is that at least you can hear some of THIS panel right here. The bad news? The audio is lifted right off of the conference recording. So some of the quality of the sound might not be perfect, but the quality of the content is excellent.
With that, hear why I called this a panel of over-achievers who will wow you with their accomplishments, and their insights.
Lantigua-Williams: I am the founder of Lantigua-Williams & Co. We’re an independent podcast and film studio, and we adopted the slogan erasing the margins earlier this year, after three years of thinking about what it is that we want to do in the world. And that seemed to fit. We try to tell stories that make it really complicated to put things and people in boxes.
Washington: My name is Glynn Washington. I am the host of Snap Judgment and Snap Judgement Studios. We created the shows Spooked, Heaven’s Gate and Snap Judgement.
Wilson: I’m Steve Wilson. I’m chief strategy officer at QCode Media. We specialize in making original scripted fiction podcasts. We’re really trying to tell new stories, with amazing creators and see them become the next wave of content that we all love in the world.
Desai: I’m Shaleen Desai the senior vice president of Animation at Warner Brothers Animation. I also oversee our company’s scripted podcasts initiative for Warner Media.
Moss: Steve, you spent 15 years at Apple, you’re a font of knowledge. I think that you’re probably putting that to good use at QCode, which is a relatively newer to the industry. So, I wanted to start with you so that you’d give us some building blocks. What inspired you to join QCode and skip retiring with the ‘gold Apple watch’?
Wilson: Well, I certainly did enjoy my time at Apple, working with partners in the content space. I did editorial and partner relations and marketing for apple podcasts for some time. In working with partners, always envisioned myself, going to the publisher side, having the opportunity to, not just be on the platform side, but really work with original stories and amazing partners. Got to work with everyone in the podcast industry, some incredible people, including the panelists here. And, as I looked across the industry, I was fascinated by what QCode was doing.
The company that started about two years ago by a former agent named Rob Herting. And Rob had seen time and again how Hollywood can be risk-averse, and it can be challenging, to start new stories. QCode was founded to try to build new properties and audio experiences for people that the world had never heard before.
And something I’d point out at the top is it’s interesting in all the media that we consume how, fiction plays a really big role — except for in podcasts; fiction tends to be a smaller portion of podcast consumption, and we really see there’s there being a huge opportunity to expand in that area. So, I just had to jump at the chance to join QCode.
Moss: So it’s safe to say that you are bullish on narrative audio. When you and the team are deciding on that content do you do it with an eye to the long tail? How well will it get monetized and will it, you know, play in Peoria and across other platforms?
Wilson: Well, it’s a consideration. We want to tell amazing original stories that there are audiences for that can be really niche and specific content and different verticals. We are building content that’s all different genres — sci-fi through even female erotica, like our show with Demi Moore called Dirty Diana. We think broadly about the different interest areas consumers have. And then when it comes to things like derivatives and TV and film, that’s a consideration though we are primarily focused to ensure that the podcasts that we make is going to work on its own. And we turned down projects that won’t work as a podcast. So we do think about the holistic view of the stories and the content that’s being told though.
Moss: So, it’s not just QCode developing and finding the product, but it’s also those coming to you and you’re looking at it all through that lens of first will it play as a podcast?
Wilson: A hundred percent. Some of them come in as original podcast ideas. Others came from different forms of media to begin with. So, the Left Right Game, for example, was a viral Reddit thread that we developed as a podcast, and it’s now in development, with Amazon. And, we have other projects as well, like Dirty Diana came in as a book. So sometimes the idea for the podcast actually originates in another media type and becomes a podcast and then can go be that other media type as well.
Moss: I want to do something that’s common in marketing podcasts: a little cross-promotion. I want to give props to AdLandia. It’s a great B2B podcast about the industry, (unless you think insider interviews is even better!) You were just on that episode last month and it was packed with great information — and the hosts quoted Malcolm Gladwell, who said, ‘we think with our eyes and feel with our ears.’ Is that also how QCode approaches projects?
Wilson: Yeah, I think so. Of course, Malcolm Gladwell’s is a brilliant person to quote and put things so eloquently. You know, we definitely take a lot of pride in how we put our projects together. So Q code, um, you know, really one of our pillars is rich sound design. We invest heavily in that area. We have a head of music. Is incredible, you know, classically trained pianist, a guy named Darren Johnson. He was touring with Paula Abdul and discovered by Miles Davis. Has done all kinds of work in TV and film, and he’s the one who scores, uh, our podcasts. We also partnered with Adobe on Atmos and Dolby Atmos isn’t even really supported across the industry yet on the distribution side We’ve pre produced all of our contents to really have that immersive sound because we believe that sort of elevates and takes the stories to the next level.
And we’re seeing an increase in that side too, just in the way that TV and film progressed from, you know, television sets and, you know, CTRs up through, you know, 4k HDR. We’re seeing that same increase in audio quality. And we, we make that a core part of the projects we make.
The world of comic books and graphic novels is serious fun.Meaning, both serious and fun. From a serious shift in the revenue model as paper product has gone digital and the edutainment factor of non-fiction hand-drawn histories, to the wildly wicked fantasies spawned by Barbarella type heroines to fictionalized lives of heroes among us.Darren G. Davis, president of one of the leading producers of both the serious and the fun books, TidalWave Productions, made a spontaneous appearance for Episode 8 of Insider Interviews with E.B. Moss – who was actually his former boss at the start of his career in entertainment, and now counts herself as a friend to the seriously funny founder!
In an office surrounded by framed super heroes, acquired during his days at DC Comics, and signed comic book covers from his biographical spins on everyone from Hillary Clinton to Barbara Walters, Davis both reminisced about our days at E! and his path forward from there, dished the dirt, and shared breaking news of stranger than fiction comics to come. Hint: Thought you’d heard the last of Stormy Daniels?….
Davis described the evolution of some of the iconic titles he’s created or developed over the past 20 years, including the top-selling “10th Muse” for Image Comics, and the niche he carved out in the fiction world via successful collaborations with iconic larger than life real characters ranging from William Shatner (Star Trek) and Adam West (Batman), to Vincent Price, William Nolan (Logan’s Run), Roger Corman, and now even the infamous Tiger King!
Listen for some of these moments, but it’s a breezy 35-minutes and you’ll want to hear all the fairly unfiltered anecdotes of this side of the content business:
03:45 Leveraging an E! internship to a network ad sales career to marketing “B” movies (including his first encounter with Leprechaun the movie, which made its way years later into a comic book) to repping artists — and how it all came together to create a new career;
08:00: From the muse of Olivia Newton John to learning to love the WWF
09:30: The difference between a comic book and a graphic novel
:11:40: Phone messages from Batman and making misadventures for Adam West
13:00: How Julie Newmar ended up back in time as Catwoman meets super-secret spy
15:25: How to wear multiple hats and learn to pivot as a manager
17:10: How to calm the tempest of Stormy Daniels’ angry manager (or lawyer) and wind up as friends – and business partners
20:25: Turing women ranging from Condoleezza, and Sarah to Hillary and Stormy into a female force series (Hint: listen here for the breaking news!) to showcase the positivity in what they’ve accomplished – and the inspiration for it from the master, Stan Lee;
23:15: The origins and value of comic books as educational – and taking a non-partisan stance, even when drawing on Obama to Bush;
27:25: How Nook and Google and other platforms fill in the pages of lost print ads
29:00: A not so serious discussion of fantasy super powers
30:20 A serious discussion of celebrations and creations during COVID times
33:00: The evolution of a “best worst idea”… twice
And…best ending ever? Davis pays tribute to Moss as SuperMentor.
PS: You heard this here first, too: He promises to put me in a comic some day!