We’re so excited to finally be launching our new show, “The Partners Project”! We love the YouTube community and want to show you a behind the scenes look at the stars of YouTube to reveal who they really are, how they came to be, and what advice they can give others. Every Thursday, we’ll be releasing new episodes of the show, and every Tuesday we’ll be posting a “Partners Pro Tip”- where they can show their fans and viewers the tips and tricks of this new trade. Occasionally, we’ll even have some ridiculous outtakes to share like this one.
We couldn’t think of a better person to launch this series with than Daneboe, the genius behind this year’s most talked about YouTube channel, The Annoying Orange. The series has garnered over 1 million subscribers and over 380 million views in just one year! For those of you who want to dive deeper into The Partners Project and the stars we’re profiling, we will be including a transcript of every episode too.
In the meantime, enjoy the first episode, subscribe, and please(!) let us know what you think! Who should we talk to next? What questions do you have for our future interviews (iJustine next week)? What do you think of the show? Anything at all!
Thank you for watching, come back every Tuesday and Thursday for more!
Here is the transcript of Partners Project Ep. 1: The Annoying Orange:
Shira: Hey, everyone. I’m Shira Lazar. Welcome to the Partners Project. I’m right now with Daneboe. You might not know him or recognize him, but you might know him as the Annoying Orange. That’s right. This is the man behind it all. In less than a year, they built up a subscriber base of over 1.3 million people, 4.5 million on Facebook. And right now, we are coming to you from . . .
Daneboe: The garage.
Shira: The garage. Yes, this is where all the magic happens.
Daneboe: Yes. Whenever we shoot Leprechaun, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Grandpa Lemon, it all happens here.
Shira: Tell people how you got started, how this all developed.
Daneboe: I’ve actually been doing web video for a really long time. I started like five years ago. I’ve just been doing short viral style videos, uploading them to YouTube, Metacafe, all the video sites out there. I’ve had this thing with talking food. I don’t know what it is, but I love doing videos with talking food.
Shira: How was your childhood?
Daneboe: Very warped. No, no.
Shira: Your mom was like, “Eat this please.”
Daneboe: I hate broccoli. Yes. But it kind of started like I really love to make videos with kind of fantastical elements, talking food, talking whatever. Taking inanimate objects and bringing them to life. And so I’ve always kind of done that thing. Then over time, like I said, I’ve been doing talking food videos with JibJab. I’ve been doing them on My Channel. And then suddenly, I did this video back in October 2009, called the Annoying Orange. And I uploaded it, not even intending for it to be a series. It was just going to be another one-off, viral style video. But people just loved the character and it just took off. I got e-mails right after I released it saying, “Hey, you need to make more videos with this character because we love him.” So I was like, “Oh, all right. I’ll make another video with the guy.” And I did and that video did really well. Within a couple weeks, it got millions of hits and got more e-mails saying, “Hey, make more, make more, make more.” Then it just kind of snowballed from there. I just kept making more episodes, and the more I made, the better, the bigger it got. It was just crazy and it’s still growing today. It’s nuts
Shira: What do you think it is about this character that is drawing people in and making them want more?
Daneboe: It’s very relatable because everybody kind of knows that character. Everyone knows someone that’s kind of like that, that’s kind of fun but at the same time doesn’t listen to you at all. And on another end, people like to watch other people getting annoyed. I don’t know why that is but, you know, it’s . . .
Shira: Like a bittersweet relationship.
Daneboe: Exactly. You look at a ton of classic cartoon characters, like Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, things like that. It’s a proven comedy shtick, and it’s another angle with that. Those characters might not have been as annoying as Annoying Orange but . . .
Shira: You brought it to the extreme.
Daneboe: Exactly. Yes.
Shira: So tell me about the process, because there’s many different components to putting this together.
Daneboe: Basically, it first starts out with me contacting the actors and saying, “Hey, we’ve got this script. I want you to be in this role.” Usually, I send out the script and they shoot all of their stuff independently, unless I’m shooting stuff with Bobby and Kevin or whatever. But, usually, they can just use their own camera equipment, their own mikes and stuff like that. They shoot them themselves. They shoot just their mouths and one of their eyes, and then they send me . . .
Shira: Only one?
Daneboe: Yes. Only one.
Shira: Oh, so it’s not two eyes?
Shira: I thought it was maybe two eyes.
Daneboe: No. It’s the same eye. You want to know why?
Daneboe: Because it’s easier to post. That’s the whole reason. But they just shoot a mouth and an eye, send me the footage. I then take that footage. I shoot in my kitchen the fruit for that week, for that episode, and then just composite their mouth and their eyes onto the fruit and animate and explode fruit, or whatever is going to happen in that episode.
Shira: It started out just though as you pretty much in the episodes, right?
Daneboe: Yes. In the first six episodes, it was all me. All the characters were me. Then after that I was like, “I should probably have some other people because everyone’s going to be like, okay. This is just the same dude over and over and over again.”
Shira: But you somehow made it work because you played many different characters, right?
Daneboe: Yeah. And each time I’d do a different voice or speed up the footage or whatever.
Shira: Is there a way that you need to do the voice or the eyes, because they’re so expressive even though it’s on the fruit. How do you make it that expressive and what’s that process? You just have to make sure you’re just really over the top and exaggerated?
Daneboe: Yeah. It’s actually all acting with your mouth or your eyes. That’s the trick. When you sit down and you shoot these, you can’t move your head, because if you move your head . . .
Shira: Which might be a problem for me because I bop my head a lot.
Daneboe: It makes it really hard to actually composite the mouth and eyes onto the fruit. So it’s all in the mouth and the eyes, and you have to be very expressive and just use your eye muscles. It’s true.
Shira: That’s a skill.
Daneboe: Yeah, it is. It actually takes a little bit to learn. Usually when you act, it’s totally natural to move your head, to move your hands, and move around. But with this, you don’t want to move. The less you move the better.
Shira: So you have it all. You have the background in the kitchen with the fruits. You have the video of all the characters. Then you go into edit.
Shira: And what’s that process?
Daneboe: That’s the most time intensive process, because the actual filming literally takes maybe a couple hours. It’s sitting down and importing all the footage into After Effects, stabilizing all the footage, which is basically if you move your head around, I have to then stabilize the footage so then your mouth doesn’t move around. Then basically cut out the mouth, cut out the eyes, put it on the fruit, color correct the skin, make sure it’s the same color as the fruit. Like I said, it’s a time intensive process.
Shira: And you do this once a week.
Shira: So what was the decision in terms of the amount of times you post an episode, the timing of the week. What went into that?
Daneboe: It first started out as an episode once every two or three weeks. But YouTube has kind of changed in that to be able to succeed, you really have to have a schedule. You look at Mystery Guitar Man who does two episodes a week. You look at Dave Storm, he does the same kind of thing. Shane, everybody. You have to have a consistent schedule. So that very much came into play there. We figured, “Hey I’ve got to have at least an episode a week.” To do more than that is very hard for what I’m doing, because there’s a lot of animation and special effects involved. It’s kind of like Freddie Wong, because Freddie does a lot of special effects, and he does one episode a week. So that’s what went into that.
Shira: What about why Friday?
Daneboe: Why Friday? I like Fridays as the day to upload, because it’s the end of the week. You’re so tired of school, you’re so tired of work, you just get done, you want to have a laugh before you get going with the Friday night partying or relaxing on the weekend. And that seemed like a good time to do it.
Shira: It’s easy viewing.
Shira: At what point did you realize that this was really blowing up?
Daneboe: Christmas last year, 2009. I uploaded the Christmas episode. And up until that point, the first three episodes had done really well. They had each hit over a million hits, but it had taken them a couple weeks. But then I uploaded the Christmas episode, and within two days, it hit a million hits. I was like, “Wow.” Like I said, I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I had never seen velocity like that. As soon as that happened, I knew there was something big here.
Shira: You’re like, “I’m onto something.”
Daneboe: Yeah, there’s something going on.
Shira: What was it about the Christmas episode though?
Daneboe: I don’t think there was really anything to it. Actually, in my opinion, that Christmas episode was one of the weaker episodes that’s ever been done. In my opinion. A lot of people really like that episode, and I still like it. It’s just I thought it was one of the weaker ones. But to see the velocity that that had, even though it was a weaker episode, that’s really what hit me. I was like, “Holy crap.”
Shira: Let’s talk about how you engage with your community and how you keep that conversation going.
Daneboe: A lot of that is through Facebook, Twitter. Every day, Orange, he updates.
Shira: Not Dane.
Daneboe: No, I don’t do it. It’s all Orange. He uses his tongue. That’s how he types. He updates his Facebook, his Twitter with different puns. He uploads a fan photo. I very much encourage fans to take pictures of Orange and just make a funny picture with him. And if I see one that I like, I’ll feature it on the page and give them credit for it. I also at the end of every video, and it’s kind of become the standard on YouTube to ask the community questions and get them engaged. But there’s also that with the videos on the Annoying Orange, just asking them a silly question at the end of the video to get everybody engaged and talking and stuff like that.
Shira: Didn’t you have one photo contest where you asked people to send a photo and it was like a crazy amount of photos were sent?
Daneboe: Yes. Crazy, crazy. It was a week where I didn’t have a video to upload, but fans get a little upset if I don’t upload a video every Friday, which is understandable. So I came up with this idea like, “Hey, let’s have a photo contest.” Take an Orange picture. Make a funny picture with it. I said, “Upload it to the Facebook fan page,” and within six hours of releasing the video, there had been 25,000 submissions.
Dane: Which is crazy. But that also ended up being the limit of how many pictures you can upload to Facebook.
Shira: You broke Facebook.
Daneboe: I broke Facebook. Orange broke Facebook. It’s Orange’s fault. So then I ended up having to open up a new e-mail account so they can upload photos there. And after that, another 7,000 I think got uploaded. So it took a while to go through all those pictures, but there was some awesome, awesome stuff.
Shira: You must be so surprised in terms of that engagement.
Shira: There’s a difference between people just watching videos, but to go that extra length to be part of it in that way is huge.
Daneboe: Yeah. Look at that, look at that whole deal because it’s not one of these things where you say, “Hey, click on this link for me and do something.” It was like, “Hey, go open up Photoshop, create a picture, and upload that to Facebook.”
Shira: That’s a lot of work.
Daneboe: That’s a lot of work. Yeah, exactly. So that’s a huge level of engagement.
Shira: So the Annoying Orange has become such a movement. What is really behind this phenomenon? Why has it gotten so big? Besides we know the character and people are drawn to that and it kind of goes back to other cartoon characters we all love. But what is it about the Annoying Orange?
Daneboe: He’s a character. And I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over this last year is that characters rule. You can follow people, whatever, but there’s something about having a character that you follow every week and seeing what kind of crazy antics they get in and how much fun that can be. It’s not unlike having your favorite character on TV, whether it be Don Draper on “Mad Men.” You want to follow that character because you want to see what’s going to happen with him. So I think there’s some level of that. Previously, I don’t know many narrative shows that have been able to survive like this. And Orange kind of skirts that line. It’s a narrative, but at the same time, it’s kind of silly and fun and whatever. But I think at its core that’s what it is. It’s a character and people love characters.
Shira: Do you think it’s also the fact that maybe YouTube is being more legitimized?
Shira: It’s riding this new wave more than ever before?
Daneboe: Much more than before. Absolutely. It’s finally starting to see some legitimate feedback from professionals and things like that, because you’re seeing all kinds of things. Like look at Freddie Wong. He has like Kevin Pollack and the guy who plays Spartacus, Andy Whitfield. Things like that, where you’re seeing old media meet new media, it’s finally starting to get some legitimacy that way.
Shira: That’s why this is a new form of entertainment for everyone out there. For the kids, for the teens.
Shira: They aren’t watching TV. They’d rather just go and watch your show, sometimes.
Daneboe: Yeah, and I’m not going to argue.
Shira: What is the secret behind all of this? Is there a secret behind being a YouTube success?
Daneboe: Hard work. Absolutely. One of the things that people don’t understand is how much work goes into it. They think, “Oh, you’re just making a talking orange and that’s so easy.” No. I used to work on “Pimp My Ride” before I started doing the whole web video thing. And there I worked 14 hours a day doing PA work, things like that. It was a great experience, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t something that I loved doing. To spend 14 hours a day doing that, that’s a lot of time. And now, I would say I work just as much, if not more, a day doing just these Orange videos. But the difference is I love it. I actually love waking up, and I look forward to sitting in front of my computer all day and animating a talking orange. It’s ridiculous, I know.
It’s something that I’m happy, I’m very gracious for the opportunity. But that’s one of the things that people out there have to realize. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And a lot of these guys that I work with, everybody you see on YouTube, they’ve been doing it for a long time, for five years, whatever. Way longer than that. For me, it was kind of a perfect storm. For some reason everything came together. The talking food, the character, for some reason people just loved it and it took off. You have to remember to just keep working hard and keep practicing your craft is one of the things that you also have to remember, because you can’t get better if you just . . . you have to definitely work towards it. Watch your favorite programs, see what works on your favorite programs, and kind of emulate that. You don’t need to copy it, but just see what works and incorporate that into your own work.
Shira: What inspires you? Do you have any inspirations for Annoying Orange?
Daneboe: Annoying Orange in particular . . .
Shira: Or for your work in general?
Daneboe: Cheesy, special effects. I’ve always loved movies with special effects, particularly cheesy special effects. I love the old school horror movies like “The Blob”, “Frankenstein”, all that stuff. They’re just a lot of fun to watch now Back then, of course, they were actually scary. But you watch them now, they’re kind of cheesy.
Shira: They’re hokey.
Daneboe: Exactly. And I like to have that kind of element in my videos. But of course all kinds of stuff growing up. I talk about the fantastical elements like a never-ending story, legends, all those movies. Those are a huge influence on me.
Shira: Do people realize this is a full-time job for you? They’re still like, “Oh yeah, you do those YouTube videos.” But people need to realize it is a full-time job.
Daneboe: Yes, it absolutely is. It’s not for every YouTuber of course, but for some of us it is. Absolutely. Like I said, a lot of times it’s a 14, 16 hour a day job. And you don’t get weekends off.
Shira: Because you love it, it’s worth it.
Daneboe: Yeah. Absolutely.
Shira: What tips can you give to other YouTubers out there and all of your fans?
Daneboe: Going back to what I said, watch what you love and watch closely. Actually, just watch anything. Watch the news, watch anything and see why those things work.
Shira: Or don’t work, and then you’ll know what you want to do.
Daneboe: Or don’t work. Exactly.
Shira: What does the future of Annoying Orange hold? Where do you see this all going?
Daneboe: As of right now, we’re doing a lot of really exciting things actually. We’re working on a pilot, which is written by Tom Sheppard who wrote Pinky and the Brain, or wrote for Pinky and the Brain, Barnyard, a bunch of really well established kids programs. So we’re doing that. And then outside of that, we’re just doing a lot of cool things like iPhone apps and things of that sort. Other than that, it’s just keeping on with the web series. I love doing the web series and I don’t want to stop.
Shira: You’ll create a whole eco-system around the Annoying Orange.
Daneboe: Exactly. And eventually, that’s where I think everything needs to be going, because if you look at traditional media, they don’t have a large online presence. A lot of them don’t. I think if the Orange ever did become a TV show, it would have a huge, huge step up against the competition because it already has such a huge fan base online. I mean you look at the Fred, the Fred franchise, he took all of his fans and directed them towards the Fred movie, and it became the number one cable movie of the year. That’s huge. You can take that, you can take your online viewers and push them towards a TV show. You can take your TV show and push them towards online and you’re generating so much traffic.
Shira: That’s what the future holds really.
Daneboe: Absolutely. I think if you want to succeed, that’s where traditional media needs to start going.
Shira: All right. Should we close it up here? There’s going to be like a whole Annoying Orange network.
Daneboe: Yes. Well, actually, we’ve started doing a spin off channel. We’ve got the Leprechaun channel which is just YouTube.com/Leprechaun who is a prominent character on the Annoying Orange. That’s also another thing that I’d love to keep doing is have spin off channels. People love the Midget Apple character, the Marshmallow character. It would be great to do spin off channels for that as well. If I ever have time.
Shira: That’s where you guys need helpers.
Daneboe: Yes, exactly.
Shira: Well, that’s what is great. You’re also helping other YouTubers like they helped you as you built up your community. That’s what it’s all about.
Daneboe: Absolutely. And that’s a good tip for YouTubers that want to do well on YouTube is collaborate. Work with your friends, help each other out. It can only help you.
Shira: We are comparing Leprechaun right here. We were talking about how it’s really unique what’s going on in YouTube in terms of the collaboration in the community, not just of the people watching but of the creators. Do you think that’s a really big part of the success of all of you and the future success of creating content on that platform?
Daneboe: Yeah, absolutely. You look at all of the big YouTubers and they’re all in each other’s videos. And when you do that, you only help each other. You’re driving traffic from your video to their video, to their channel to your channel. All that stuff. So I think it’s absolutely imperative that you do stuff like that. It’s important and it’s smart.
Shira: It’s the culture around this whole thing.
Daneboe: Yes. It’s a culture of helping each other. And you don’t really see a whole lot of that. All of us YouTubers we know we each and want to help each other because we want to see other succeed. Like Bobby and Kevin, I love those guys. They’re fricking awesome and they’re hilarious and I want them to succeed, so I’m more than willing to help them out. I want them in my videos.
Shira: Cool. And you want me. I’m going to be in one of the videos too.
Daneboe: Exactly. Yes.
Shira: Well, thank you so much Dane.
Daneboe: Yes, thank you.
Shira: This has been a blast to hear your story and see what goes on behind the Annoying Orange. Thanks for making me into a character.
Shira: That’s definitely the highlight. And thank you all for watching. We’ll be back next week with another episode of the Partners Project. Bye.