Who would have thought Jackie and Kelso from That 70s Show would be early adopters in pioneering an animated NFT show called Stoner Cats? Although the name does fit the roles they both played as actors back in 1998.
Despite Ashton’s involvement with cryptocurrencies for nearly a decade, it was Mila Kunis who originated the idea to create the animated NFT show Stoner Cats. Mila explains on their YouTube channel that while stuck in the same house with Ashton during covid, she overheard what others were saying about how digital art was being sold as NFTs. Mila finally asked her husband if she could create an animated show as an NFT, to which Kutcher replied “Well, yes you could!” Fast forward to yesterday’s complete sell-out of Stoner Cats NFTs in 35 minutes.
Stoner Cats Teaser:
Low-effort Celebrity NFT Cash Grab?
While some in the NFT community would view this as yet another celebrity cash grab, there is much more nuance to be understood here.
First of all, the project has an absolutely insane lineup of all-star talent voicing the characters of this adult cartoon including Jane Fonda, Seth MacFarlane, Chris Rock, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Vitalik Buterin himself.
The all-star lineup doesn’t end with the celebrity cast, former CryptoKitties creative director Mack Flavelle is leading the effort along with the animation team of Chris Cartagena, Sarah Cole, and Ash Brannon.
This breaks the low-effort celebrity cash grab narrative that in my opinion is really just rooted in a disguised form of jealousy amongst some of the louder voices in the space.
There is already a mockery NFT project looking to capitalize on all the buzz Stoner Cats is generating that I won’t even mention here. In my own view, I choose to celebrate the success of others instead of criticizing it, regardless of how successful they were previously. The last time I checked, it takes quite a bit of effort and work to become an accomplished celebrity and to deal with all the haters that inevitably come with it.
I spoke with a few other prominent NFT community members within the WTF Dao to get their opinions.
Bryan Brinkman had some insightful nuggets he shared with me.
“I may be an optimist, but as an animator who has worked in the industry, I’ve seen how hard it is to get a network to approve an idea that doesn’t fit into the mold they are looking for. This space is all about decentralizing and removing gatekeeping and this could prove to be a way for creators to do that.”
“I see this project as a rough roadmap for how creators can bankroll and build a community around their ideas in the same way Kickstarter and Patreon have. The difference here is that as an investor, you hold the value you invested in the Non-Fungible Token. As a supporter, you can help the project grow in value and increase the return on your investment. It’ll be interesting to see how the next wave of projects learn from what did and did not work in this one. I see future examples as having more utility and ownership of the content.”
“This project signals a new wave of “Celebrity NFTs”, prior to this we had some musicians, athletes, and actors joining the space, but none of them had the star power that this project brings. We are now going to see celebrities and influencers that have access to major networks late night and daytime talk shows being able to promote their NFT projects and that is going to onboard a massive wave of new interested collectors that I think will rival the boom we saw at the beginning of 2021.”
Bryan’s comments really just confirmed my own observations about what this project was really about. If you are a builder or creator in this space, the selling out of this Stoner Cats NFT project is likely to inject an enormous amount of interest in NFTs, which is a net positive for creators in this space over the long term.
Failure to Launch and Gas Problems
This project was not without its own set of challenges and problems, I was in the Stoner Cats discord when its failure to launch on the original drop date prompted a flurry of anger and frustration along with an overwhelming amount of keyboard warriors with no manners saying things they would not dare say to another human face to face.
The very next day after the team worked tirelessly to fix the issues with the smart contract, they launched on time, however, there was so much demand for these Stoner Cats that gas prices on the Etherum blockchain skyrocketed north of 500 Gwei from less than 30 prior to the launch.
I myself had a transaction that failed after 40 minutes of waiting.
According to data from Dune Analytics over $700,000 USD was lost in failed transactions.
As usual cats clogged #Ethereum pic.twitter.com/7sMchsZOxE
— defiprime (@defiprime) July 27, 2021
I also got to speak with another WTF Dao member, Kai Turner, founder of the Meebits Dao, Experience Designer at Netflix, and Product Content Innovation lead and Advisor to NFT42.
This is what he had to say:
“Funnily enough, I pitched a similar idea to the now-Dapper Labs CTO when I was at Sony Pictures Entertainment suggesting that CryptoKitties should do something exactly like this in 2017. So it’s notable that the former CryptoKitties Creative Director is leading the effort because maybe he saw similar potential in the space.”
“In terms of the creative concept, I think they could have set a higher bar. It does feel like someone has asked: What does the crypto community like? Cats and Weed! However, even though these are hackneyed themes within our niche, they might be slightly novel to the broader adult animation audience– so given the names, especially Seth McFarlane, attached — there is still a lot of potential for this to become a quality piece of entertainment.”
“Finally, with the NFT release, lots of complaints about the launch, but for us who have been in the space for a while, we’re used to the gas spikes. Although I think we do need a better model for oversubscribed drops than just pushing the contract and website live – Top Shot is pioneering models here out of necessity. So if it’s queues or tickets or waitlists
– just telling the community to pay a 200% premium on gas is not good enough anymore.
Gas isn’t my main concern though – I think the drop could have provided more variation than the same characters, the characters associated with characters in the show could have been the rarest ones, but why not build out a Stoner Cats universe of all the cats in the world? Even if they don’t make an appearance in the show in season 1 — there is future potential for them to! — maybe as a community reward/competition.”
“Overall, I’m enthusiastic about the project and the hope that it will set a new model for funding content – but like Kickstarter projects in the past, I’ll believe it when I see it … the execution of the final product is what matters most.” – Kai Turner
For me, the general takeaway is that despite all of the problems with the initial launch, the gas wars, lost funds, and the hate being hurled at celebrities for “daring” to use this nascent NFT technology; this project looks to be a major success in proving NFT’s are a better way forward for creatives in the entertainment industry.
The idea that celebrities and all of Hollywood would not eventually be beating down the door to enter into this space is a short-sighted sentiment. There is a tremendous opportunity for those who are open to seeing the importance of this very moment in history as the future infrastructure for nearly all forms of entertainment media, is being built now.
NFTs will continue to empower more creators and break down some of the very entrenched middlemen in the entertainment industry.
Studios and publishers have carved predominantly predatory relationships with creators, but this new model of funding creative works via NFTs will force them to innovate and alter the way they interact with the true creators of value behind all types of intellectual property.
I see a future world where the consumers of entertainment experiences will also be the stakeholders, contributors, and even the co-creators themselves, where the fans can have a more intimate connection and even ownership of the stories they love without all the bureaucratic bullshit, all brought to you by Non-fungible Tokens.
Featured image credit: Stonercats.com