Adult Swim Fest thrives, blurring the line between virtual and reality

Gillian King, senior vice president of marketing and partnerships for Adult Swim, tries not to use the term “IRL” these days. “I deliberately said ‘the physical world,’” she says, explaining how a young colleague recently pointed out that the once clear boundaries between the virtual world and reality are forever blurring. “Your real life is your digital, social and physical life, ”King said.

That consideration might help explain why, with nearly every other major festival calling for a return to face-to-face, this year’s two-day Adult Swimming Festival on Friday and Saturday remains virtual – at least for now.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year, most of the festivals were quickly canceled or, like the annual Adult Swim music and comedy festival, converted to fully virtual ones (“My team would be unhappy with me if I said it was easy.” King said with a laugh: “It was not”). The decision to move to a virtual environment was unexpected, but ultimately a winning one. In accordance with Animation magazineThe first ever virtual Adult Swim festival, which aired on the network’s YouTube channel, has amassed over 10 million views, many of which have been broadcast from around the world. So when it came time to decide whether or not to return to the “physical,” as King put it, the choice was simple.

“We made the decision to continue virtual play because we’re learning a lot,” King says, adding that Adult Swim will return to personal play in 2022 while retaining many of its virtual experiences. For example, King refers to last year’s interactive “clock parties,” where fans can virtually get together with the actors on Adult Swim and hear the actors’ reactions in real time. “More than 60% of the people who came to watch the party with the clock came from international markets.” Other television events, such as the annual ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, have also seized the opportunity to grow by giving fans the opportunity to enjoy interactive content from the comfort of their couches.

Adventurer rides a giant mechanical hot dog at Adult Swim Fest 2018

The adventurer rides a mechanical hot dog at the 2018 Adult Swim Fest.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times) #

Ahead of the pandemic, Adult Swim launched its first festival in the Los Angeles arts district with a powerful music program that included sets from noisy musicians such as Flying Lotus and Thundercat, as well as food, merchandise, screenings and presentations. In Phase Two, Adult Swim expanded to Banc of California, near the University of Southern California, creating an amusement park ambience, complemented by a four-story Rick and Morty-themed mega slide.

But it was perhaps only after the festival was forced to go virtual that Adult Swim really began to attract fans around the world. Spencer Grammatick, who voices Summer in Rick and Morty, says that now the global audience for her show means the program has been dubbed in multiple languages. “What will be unique about this particular sailing for adults? [Festival] That is, people who voice voices in other countries are also interviewed at the same time, ”says Grammar. “Which we would never have been able to do if we didn’t do it virtually. I’ll meet another Summer who does it in Italian. “

King also notes the network’s creator-friendly mindset, which she says was critical to the success of last year’s virtual festival. “We want to make sure that we are here as support to bring [artists’] vision of life, ”she says. “Many of our artists perform unconventional performances because they are not performed on the big festival stage. They were able to get creative and express themselves and their show in a different way. “

Rick sits unconscious while Morty calls his smartphone as the space cruiser engulfs in flames.

Still from season 5 “Rick and Morty”.

(Swimming for adults)

Much of the format change is in the DNA of Adult Swim. Launched in the early 2000s by Cartoon Network, Adult Swim was originally a nightly block of animation programs designed to appeal to teens and young adults. Early shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, Home Movies, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Cowboy Bebop, and Sealab 2021 quickly became iconic and critically acclaimed. network for its absurd TV ban trick.

In recent years, Adult Swim has expanded its presence in the music industry by teaming up with artists to release Swim Singles, one-off adult singles. Alt-R&B artist Don Richard, who is also the network’s creative consultant, is a frequent contributor to Singles and has performed at the Adult Swim Fest each year since its launch. Richard believes the overall success of the festival stems from organizers ‘cheering for the losers’ and prioritizing the ‘unusual, the amazing’, as opposed to more mainstream festivals like Coachella, where ticket sales are a net profit. “You get a few highlights, but for the most part, you get people you’ve never heard of before,” Richards says. “[You’re getting] a festival experience that is completely unique to what the formula has become. “

Ultimately, however, Richard attributes Adult Swim’s virtual success to a unique formula for reaching a diverse audience with matching interests. “Every year, women rappers and alternative black artists appear at the festival. You are starting to see this lovely array of traditional and independent women of color, ”she says. “The fans love the music, but they also have Rick and Morty fans as well as Bob’s Burger fans. You get a tangible experience in the virtual world, but you also have the gaming, animation and television experience that you get from this festival, which I think cannot be obtained at any other festival. “

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