The status quo is that it takes a hundred million dollars and four years to make a movie, and all that investment happens before and creator finds out whether that movie has an engaged community. But Virtue Animation flips that model around by favoring creators over committees. In this episode Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney and Josh Kriger welcome Bob Bacon, the founder and Head of Studio at Virtue Animation. Bob explains why he thinks community. New models are emerging where talent can have greater power over concept, design, content, and compensation. Get ready for the fun new rollercoaster ride that entertainment production will become. Later in the episode, Dave Uhryniak jumps in to discuss his hot topic: Tron Network and APE NFT Marketplace. Tune in and enjoy!
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Bob Bacon Of Virtue Animation – The WEB3 Studio That Favors Creators Over Committees, Plus Tron Network, APE NFT Marketplace, And More…
This episode features Bob Bacon, Founder of Virtue Animation, the Web3 studio that produces innovative, high-quality IP for the metaverse. With decades of experience working with leading animation companies, Virtue combines legendary creative storytelling with the international production to build a community around new worlds, engaging stories, and timeless characters. He is an animation industry leader and studio exec. His many years of career spans twenty award-winning films and over $6 billion at the global box office.
Bob, welcome to the show. It is great to have you here.
Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
It is exciting, Bob, to have an animation icon. It would take us a long time to read off your portfolio, but someone has to check you out on IMDb. The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan SpongeBob, what haven’t you been a part of that has been an epic part of childhoods for many several years. It is incredible.
I am lucky to have spent all this time in animation and been associated with so many amazing projects and people. I had a hand in many of those movies, but I am fortunate to work amongst the best.
We heard you hand drew every screen in Mulan.
I can’t draw at all. I will take no credit for that.
How does a traditional OG in the animation world get into this concept of Web3 and Virtue Animation? How does this ambitious project come to be?
I spent all my time in animation, telling these great stories, and making these great movies. When I saw what was going on in the NFT world and Web3, especially the stuff that is initially come out, it was mind-blowing to me, and it got me jazzed about the future of this platform. From what I saw was that there was a lot of cool imagery being put out there, but where I came from was it all that images were rooted in storytelling, design, and world-building.
I and my partners were fortunate enough to grow up around these legendary storytellers, working through the amazing processes that created all these films. We want to bring that into Web3 into the projects that we are creating. We plan to take a full entertainment approach to NFTs, and it is super exciting.
I am hearkening back to the intro there. You guys combined creative storytelling and international production to build this community around new worlds, engaging stories, and timeless characters. Give a secret sauce. How do you do that?
We start with creating a world, characters, and a story. We want to build that out into Web3, which means that we will provide storytelling that comes before a drop. The drop will intercede, and the story will follow that along with a lot of wide challenges, utility in gaming, and so forth. There is a structure to how we see a story laying out, which would be different than what we see in the filmmaking world, but in terms of the qualities of creating the same story, design, and world, that is all consistent.
WEB3 Studio: We want to engage with the talent that’s part of Web3.
It is uniquely human, the storytelling instinct. I studied biology, different types of animals, and some of the analogs of human creativity. The closest we get is birds that make art installations and sing cool songs, but stories are important to us as humans. It is fascinating.
Stories have always been a thing that ties us together and tells us some of our past and our future. Rooting everything in stories is what I am used to, and I am excited to see this rollout and take these projects to the next level.
Do you ever ask yourself or think about what it would have been like to create some of the productions that you created in the past with some of the technology that is converging nowadays?
Technology has always changed, and a little bit of our focus is to focus on the content piece because the platforms are changing, but it does open up new possibilities. One of the things that are interesting for us and trying to disrupt the status quo is I come from a world where movies cost $100 million to make, and they take four years. That is part of the cost.
Once you spend marketing and distribution dollars, you might be spending $250 million before your project comes out, before you even know what you have, and if the community is engaged with it or not. This platform is a way to flip that model. Instead of taking all that time and the money, we can start to engage with our community right away around concept, design, and content. That is a completely different model.
That would excite me because there are huge barriers to entry in the filmmaking business. Part of our ethos is to try to disrupt that because truly, me having spent some time sitting on the other side of the table, we take all the power, we control the projects, which ones get made, and what talents apply to that. That is how they are compensated and how they are rolled out. Now with Web3 coming along, blockchain and a lot of things it offers that are extremely disruptive to those traditional media companies.
On that note, Bob, do you feel like the traditional Hollywood model is unsustainable at this point? How does this shift that paradigm?
It is not unsustainable. It depends on a couple of things. The big media companies have a lot of resources. Their ability to move into space quickly is rather impressive. However, they do not move quickly in terms of their decision-making and purity of thought. There are a lot of hands in the pie. Things get convoluted and move slowly to that end. They are going to move into the space. It is something that we will see how this space is responsive. My contention is this is ultimately up to the talent because talent has to go to traditional media companies because they control all those barriers.
If we break down the barriers, there is not a compelling reason for the talent that has to go there anymore. More talents are their own brands. They want to reach their community directly, and this enables them to do that. If they can reach their community, they can create the content that they want, and they can be rewarded properly. It might invalidate that traditional model.
Somebody brought up that it is the talent that brings the eyeballs to the production. It is interesting because when there is money involved, ticket sales, production value, and all that stuff, it comes down to who is watching and how many are there. It is fascinating. Sometimes, it is the people that are participating in that project that are bringing those folks to the table.
They are largely the ones that bring it to the table in many cases. Money is a huge factor. If you have a lot of money invested in something because you have to, your reach has to be much straighter to be able to make yourself profitable. If your reach is greater, maybe your content is a little more diluted because it has got to appeal to many people. A more specific community around more branded talent reaching those people directly might allow different economic models that I am suggesting. That might be a way to preserve content and keep it more pure in the hands of content creators.
Let’s talk about content or project that you have been involved with your Super Friends, animated NFT. How is that different from the other projects out there?
The projects are evolving, but our project is different in the sense that we are taking a full story approach to it, number one. This story will be a gamified story along the way. Our NFTs, because we are an animation company, will have animated qualities to them. I am pretty excited about that. You will see things moving. Having a fact, little actions like that are not a static picture.
We plan to have multimedia components in our NFTs, including original music in our project too. We want to engage with the talent that is part of Web3. We see them as essential to our projects. We want to invite them into our projects and feature them in many cases. With music, we find a partner with some of the greatest Web3 musicians now in the space and bring them into our project.
Our story will have a point where the story laying out that tells you what is happening. We plan to engage the community through gamification and utility as a story starts to play out. Our Super Friends story is a heist, and it is a little heist story that we have got going. We layout the heist in the first part of our episodes before our drop. The rest of the drop is trying to solve the puzzle and figure out who the thief was. It will be a lot of fun with that.
I am a musician myself, and as you mentioned, bringing in the musical element. I tried my hand at film scoring for a little bit. It is fascinating. If you watch a movie without the music on and you will realize how much the music does to set the tone. It can change a scene from looking happy, exciting, and light to ominous and creepy. I can tell that is the direction you guys are coming from, having that cinematic experience and the music integration, wanting to bring that to the table.
When we do work in the process of screenings, we are doing it oftentimes without the temp score. You would not believe how hollow a movie sounds without the score. You would not believe how much professional voice actors bring to a movie versus people like that, sitting around trying to voice the characters, they do have talents, and they are special.
Jeff has got quite a killer voice. He might be able to have some voice acting.
I have never pursued it, but I set the bar too high, and I have got a little bit of a cold in the background too. You mentioned the heist story. Is there anything that you would tell us about how that will work with viewers in solving the mysteries of the heist and what that interaction would be like?
We will be telling a story, not to give too much away, but they will probably be some little clues and easter eggs being dropped along the way. Within the NFTs themselves, you will find some special qualities to them that will help once we get into the solving part of the story. What we should do is every episode that we will be laying out, there will be a little puzzle or clue, which we will send our viewers into action. They are going to have to be active in tracing down some of this information and making their way as we call through the OpenSea to find out what may lie ahead.
As they solve these clues, what you will see is there is going to be some greater reward for them. It will be both digital rewards as well as IRL. We do plan to have a real engagement with our audience too. Part of what they can win is engaging with us in our process. We like to invite them into the process of building our story, our characters, and some of the key elements. This is another difference in Hollywood. Rather than keeping them out and building the wall, we want to knock the wall down and bring them in.
We think that would be a lot of fun. These NFTs, each drop will have a lot of special qualities to them, and ultimately there is going to be a grand prize winner who figures it all out. We should have a big prize at the end for that person. I get excited because it has taken all the great qualities of the story, design, gaming, and the internet. We are putting them all together in a way that is super accessible for the community, our fans, and ourselves. It allows us to get to our creation point a lot faster.
One of the interesting things about Web3 is the ability to define contributions in a way that goes beyond the credits. How are you thinking about the contributional component tree that leads up to the productions that you do in the ownership of the pieces and the entirety of the project both internally and was related to the fan? There are many different ways to look at IP in a Web3 world. I am curious what your perspective is there.
My perspective has changed, to be honest with you, because I came from the old world where rights are a sacred thing. I have let go of that stepping into the new world. From an external standpoint, I would like our content to be fully accessible for the people who hold it. I liked the idea of people building off of it, spreading it out there in the world, and making it more successful. I think that that is a good thing.
WEB3 Studio: We like to invite the audience into the process of building our story.
Internally, we have an equity-based model, and this is one of the things also that we want to push for our contributors. It is to have them truly contribute to the success of our project. If we do well, they will do well. This is unlike the traditional media companies, where you get paid a fee, you will get paid your salary, you will have a job, you will be okay, but you are not going to make it big if the project makes it big, and that is messed up the tell you the truth.
There are some amazing people that we all have heard of and they do not see any of this contingent compensation in success. The studios usually end up taking almost all of it legitimately, but they do game it. They take most of it, and we would like to construct it. There is a spreading of the wealth concept, and people can share in this success.
It is hard to say whether it is one character or one moment in the movie that makes all the difference so why not reward everyone that is involved in the project and look at it as a team effort?
It is because, like any project, there are the people that are in front of the camera and the stars that get to shine. Some names show up in the credits, but there are many hands that are behind the scenes that make this thing work. There is oftentimes one key idea that makes a project seen. Maybe they wanted the director, the producer, or the composer, but they were a key artist and had a big say in it. Everybody who participates is given the option to say, “Do you want to be part of us and share our success?”
A quick kickback to that music topic there. Are there any particular music personalities that you can say you are incorporating into these projects?
We like the Web3 EDM vibe. I can’t say yet because we are signing now our deals but soon enough, we will be out there with names.
What happens after the drop, and how can our readers participate in it?
After the drop, the readers are playing at participation in terms of the gaming aspect of it. They can find us now on Twitter @VirtueAnimation. We have our website, VirtueAnimation.io, and our Super Friends website and Discord will be coming out soon. For our drop, this should be coming out probably mid-June of 2022.
One last question here for this segment. What we like to ask folks are their inspirations. We talked about some of it already, but at this moment, where are you getting your greatest inspiration from in the world of NFTs and Web3?
Because of my sports background, I am not an athlete, but I have played my whole life and love it, I got my inspiration from NBA Top Shot. It was my first NFT. I still have a pretty big collection. I am in it every day and following the NBA action. It inspires me to a degree because of that connection to my love of sports and the fact that I started as a collectible with it. It has grown in utility aspects, which I like that keeps me engaged.
One of my favorite projects was the Invisible Friends Project. I thought it had a cool vibe. It starts to speak to what we are talking about in terms of seeing these walk cycles and a little bit of animation, something more than a static picture. I liked what they did with it, in general. Those are two things that stand out for me that I like.
A big inspiration is understandable, but we appreciate you sharing all this info with us and our readers. It is an exciting time. I can’t wait to see how this journey turns out for you. We want to shift gears a little bit now and know your personal take on some questions we like to call Edge Quick Hitters. It is a fun, quick way to get to know you a little better. We are looking for short, single word, or few word responses, but feel free to expand if you get the urge. Are you ready to dive in on these? Question number one, what is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
Besides the top trading cards from the ice cream man, it was a Schwinn bicycle when I was seven years old.
Question number two. What is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
My 1968 Camaro. The only car I ever made money on. I wish I did not sell it because it would be worth ten times now.
Question number three. What is the most recent thing you purchased?
Question number four. What is the most recent thing you sold?
I sold an NFT, one of my Top Shot.
He is bringing liquidity to the NBA Top Shots pool there.
Question five. What is your most prized possession?
I am not going to say my kids because I do not think I possess them, but they would be. I have a very special text that was sent to me by Kobe Bryant on New Year’s Eve. I am never going to lose that. It is special to me.
Question number six. If you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service, or experience that is for sale, what would it be? What do you have your eye on?
That ship to space sounds interesting. Maybe a ride on SpaceX or something.
WEB3 Studio: Using the BitTorrent cross-chain gives developers access to both the Ethereum, Tron, and BNB smart chain right off the bat.
Question number seven. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would it be?
I am most proud of my curiosity. I would say be curious. That is a good thing.
Question eight. If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
It is a big one for everybody, but general fear of the unknown. Whenever we can eliminate those things, take our worst fears away from us and allow us to move forward with confidence and gratitude. That is a good thing. That is something I work on every day.
Question nine. It is a little bit easier. What did you do before joining us on the show?
I was working on Super Friends.
Question ten. What are you going to do next after the show?
I am going to take my dog for a walk after this.
That is Edge Quick Hitters. Thanks so much for sharing with us. We do appreciate it.
It is time for our featured hot topic here. We are going to bring on Dave. You are a knack. He is going to talk to us about the APENFT Marketplace. We are excited about that. Dave, do you want to come on and say hi to our super friends here?
It is good to have you here. For the readers who are unaware, Dave was kicking us some pretty cool follow-up questions in the chat while we were recording with Bob. Thanks for those. We are going to talk about TRON Network here, and you are the Director of Blockchain Strategy at TRON Dao. Tell us about what you are up to, and let’s have a nice chat about it.
We have had a busy spring. Not only did we launch the APENFT Marketplace, but we are launching a new stable coin on May 5th, 2022. That will get underway, and it is going to make a significant impact.
Why do we need a new stable coin, Dave? There has to be a good reason.
I do not want to get off on another non-NFT topic, but this is interesting because it is much more decentralized. While it is pegged to the dollar, initially, it will be backed by the TRON reserve fund at $10 billion. Over time, there are going to be multiple organizations coming in to also support it. It is going to be decentralized versus others that are backed by one group or do not have a reserve.
This is different. The way that ensures the peg is dynamic in terms of real-time adjustments to undervalued or overvalued relative to the dollar. That helps to separate it as well. Those are a couple of things that I think are pretty unique about it, and that is what is going to, in my opinion, drive much broader adoption.
To go back because I do not want to gloss over it, this new APENFT Marketplace is a big deal. Why did you guys create a new marketplace, and what is distinctive about it?
We thought the world needed another NFT marketplace, and we wanted to make our contribution. We started the APENFT gallery in 2021. This was a natural evolution of that. What is unique about this is that developing on this platform and using the BitTorrent cross-chain gives developers access to both the Ethereum, TRON, and BNB Smart Chain right off the bat.
Instead of being limited to only Ethereum, BNB Smart Chain, or wherever you might be, you have that broad market right away. You increase the range of potential buyers and sellers for your products. Additionally, for the first few months, there are no commissions that will be taken on any sales, and we do not charge any listing fees. Bob, you can list all your NFTs in there and retain all the money that you deserve. That is most of it.
I imagine trading fees are standard when folks are trading thereafter.
Are you generating revenue?
For the first few months, I do not believe there are any commissions. Eventually, it will come in on the buying and selling fees, but for now, no.
It is a trial period to attract people. That is why NFT in these trading platforms is necessary. The idea of trying to hook up with a friend who has an NFT that you want to exchange is an overwhelming thing to try to consider and make that transaction work. The NFT marketplaces are facilitating that. We have seen a lot of different marketplaces come up, specifically for Solana and the Magic Eden.
WEB3 Studio: We’re broadening the awareness into North America and South America.
It is interesting to see a marketplace that is focused on a specific chain. There is a lot of space for NFT marketplaces, and I have even heard the conjecture that NFT marketplaces could be as plentiful as websites are now. There is a specific marketplace for a specific thing. Think about Bob trading NBA Top Shots. He does that through the NBA trading platform.
You are starting to see some of that now. You are seeing there are general NFT platforms or marketplaces. There are specialized, more niche-focused platforms as well. That is the thing about APENFT Marketplace. It is not for digital art or things like that. You can put Sports NFTs, music, and all kinds of different things on there, which is interesting too. We are talking to a variety of groups around the world to potentially become their NFT provider. It is possible that you will see some of those types of announcements.
Anything to make it easy to be able to trade on ETH, Binance Smart Chain, and TRON under one roof gives us a step forward in the OpenSea for the longest time. It did not have full chain functionality for a lot of reasons, but there is something to like about that when you think about that adoption curve and trying to influence it, that has got to be part of any marketplace’s roadmap.
We have viewed the world as multiple chains or multi-chain. It is key that all these chains be able to interact with each other, even when you look at guidance coming from, or not even guidance, but when the OCC and the regulators talk about what their concerns are about the stable coin market. Interoperability of blockchains and stable coins is key among them.
Even outside of the regulatory environment, when you look at the different metaverses that are popping up and everything, it would be cool to be able to be in one metaverse but somehow move over to another and be able to participate in different ones without concern about what the chain is. That is where we are trying to take it, and that is where it needs to go. Hopefully, for crypto adoption, that is the case.
Bob, how are you thinking about interoperability and that whole world because you want your community to have the most access it can participate in whatever way makes sense. Different chains are more popular in different communities. TRON has popularity across the globe, certainly in Asia. Everyone knows TRON.
TRON is huge in Asia. Part of the reason I came on board was to broaden the awareness of TRON and make our push into North America and South America.
It depends. You might end up with some consolidation downstream. A few big distributors like we are seen in other media, but the idea of making it easy for the average consumer and having wider adoption is key. It is still confusing for most people. I spend a lot of time, for people who are outside of Web3, NFT and crypto, trying to explain how this works, and people still do not get it. When we can start to adopt the masses, it becomes easy and understandable for them. The sky is the limit probably.
That is great stuff, Dave. I appreciate you coming on and sharing with us. It is a hot topic and news to share here with the world. Before we let you go, where should folks go to keep track of what is happening in the world of the NFT marketplace as well as the various projects you are working on?
Twitter is fairly active with our updates. You can go to APENFT.io. Other than that, we will be reaching out and making it known. We have announcements coming up that will be widely publicized. Certainly, the stablecoin USDD will be well-publicized.
Thanks again, Dave. We appreciate it. We will be keeping in close touch.
It is great to meet you guys.
We were talking about our fan reader’s shoutout for now. We are always looking to elevate awareness about people that are active in our community and contributors. I do not think you could find a bigger or more important contributor to the Edge of NFT ecosystem that we have got now.
We are fans of this particular community member. This is Gail. Probably folks do not know who Gail is, but she has touched your life in many ways. She is our way more than social media manager extraordinaire. She has been working with us since we hit the ground running. She does everything from soup to nuts, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. She took on the newsletter where we started the newsletter. She updates our pitch decks to investors. She even does some accounting and admin stuff.
Gail has been integral to the growth of Edge of NFT at every turn, and it happens that she is going to be taking a breather from everything we have been putting her through. She is going to spend some time traveling. She is originally from the Philippines and has some family in London. She is going to go out on a little tour of the world. Maybe make a stop back in the Philippines and introduce her boyfriend to her family. I do not know if that is too personal to share, but that sounds fun. There is so much appreciation to Gail. If you give us a shoutout on the socials, feel free to mention Gail. I am sure she will see it and be happy for that appreciation and love.
Gail, thank you so much. Safe travels, for sure. We will see you on your return.
Thanks, Gail. This journey would not have been the same without you, and you have added so much richness to our community. We appreciate all of the efforts you have put in. All the long days, long nights, and weekend calls to get us where we are now. Thank you.
Bob, back to you, amazing show. We appreciate everything that you have shared, and we want to make sure that we and our readers can continue to follow your journey and everything that you are producing and creating for the world. Where should they go to keep tabs on what you have?
They can follow us on Twitter @VirtueAnimation. We also have our website, VirtueAnimation.io, and we will be launching our Discord and website for Super Friends. You will be able to jump on that momentarily.
I think we got some giveaways.
We do like to give some giveaways. We have two giveaways to offer your readers as well as some white list spots that we like to offer your guests as well at Super Friends.
We will share the details over Twitter. Stay tuned for that exciting news, and it is hard not to be excited, Bob, about what you are doing when you look at all the things you have done in the past. I am sure I am not the only one that feels that way, and it is going to be great to see what your new studio is able to produce for the world.
We have a great team. We are excited to put our stuff out there, have our fans react, and see what we do. Thanks for having us and hosting me. I appreciate it. You have a great show. It was a lot of fun.
It is a great time with you, Bob. We have reached the outer limit of the show for now. Thanks for exploring with us. We have got space for more adventures on this starship. Invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey also much better. How? Go to Spotify or iTunes now, rate us, say something awesome, and go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- APENFT Marketplace
- Virtue Animation
- @VirtueAnimation – Twitter
- NBA Top Shot
- Invisible Friends Project
- TRON Network
- BNB Smart Chain
- Magic Eden
- Twitter – APENFT
- Twitter – Edge of NFT
- Facebook – Edge of NFT
- YouTube – Edge of NFT
- Spotify – Edge of NFT
- iTunes – Edge of NFT
About Bob Bacon
Bob Bacon is a senior studio executive with a demonstrated record of leading animation companies and producing large-scale feature animation for some of the top studios in the industry. Bob has a diversified background with deep, hands-on experience in concept creation, script development, deal negotiation, budgeting, production, and strategic planning. Bob believes in a collaborative, team-based approach and offers a talent-friendly leadership style. His unique understanding of animation production has enabled Bob to value the creative process and form wide and long-lasting relationships with all levels in the animation industry to help artists and filmmakers bring their vision from concept to market helping to produce over 20 award-winning films grossing over $6B in global box office.
Bob was recently EVP at Granity Studios, the Academy Award-winning, multi-media content company, where he led the animation division under founder and late NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, focusing on creating new ways to animate stories around sports by bringing education and inspiration together.
Prior to joining Granity, Bob was the CEO of Alpha Animation, a subsidiary of Alpha Group, one of China’s leading entertainment and consumer product companies, where he led all aspects of the company for the creation of global animated features from 2016 to 2017.
In 2011 Bob was named EVP of Production heading Paramount Animation where he built the animation studio from the ground up working with some of the industry’s top creative talent. He developed and oversaw production on a slate of projects including the 2015 smash, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water, which opened #1 at the box office.
Bob was Production Executive for Miramax Film from 2008-2010 overseeing international animation production on Gnomeo and Juliet. Working with the illustrious Sir Elton John, the surprise 2011 hit grossed nearly $200M for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures.
Bob began his distinguished career in animation in 1991 at the fabled Disney Animation Studios holding numerous key executive positions during his tenure and supporting the studio on many classic films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, Tarzan, and Lilo & Stitch. In 2001 he was named SVP of Production and in 2003 was later upped to EVP running all studio productions for a crew of over 600 artists, technicians and production staff.
About David Uhryniak
Continually standing on the leading edge of innovation throughout my career, I am a digital transformation and blockchain technology expert well-regarded in the industry.
Following early work in equity research and analysis, I have since focused on emerging blockchain markets as a management consultant and senior practice leader. My ability to leverage emerging technologies to create customer-focused solutions is proven, and I am always seeking out new means of minimizing risks and capitalizing on emerging opportunities.
My reputation as a subject matter is expert is also backed by an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship as well as credentials as a Certified Blockchain Solution Architect.