A new JibJab video for STAR WARS DAY? Yes, 'May-the-4th be with you'
Gregg Spiridellis could be selling derivatives for Goldman Sachs right about now. Instead, as half of the humorous brother team that is JibJab, he's betting that throngs will derive pleasure from the latest video creation in his growing portfolio.
Starting today, "Star Wars" hordes can go to JibJab.com and insert themselves into the world of Ewoks, Wookiees and Obi-Wan.
With this one, the source of humor is strong.
To mark the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back" -- as well as today's unofficial Star Wars Day (get it? "May the 4th be with you"?) -- JibJab has teamed with Lucasfilm to offer three two-minute videos that viewers can customize with photos of themselves. The offerings created from the original Star Wars trilogy are the latest JibJab online "sendables" -- videos that feature JibJab's "StarringYou" technology.
"We were invited by Lucasfilm last fall and they asked if we wanted to work with them for the anniversary of 'Empire,' " Spiridellis, 39, tells Comic Riffs on Monday, noting that he thinks "Empire Strikes Back" is the first film he ever saw in the theater. "They had seen [JibJab's] 'Elf Yourself' and other work."
As they gained access to the Star War vaults, JibJab decided to go beyond the "Empire" video and do the first three movies. Only one of the Star Wars "sendables" is free -- to access the others, viewers must join JibJab (membership is $12 a year).
"We saw in 2007 that American Greetings was able to make money" by marketing sendable e-cards, says Spiridellis, a Wharton MBA grad who sold derivatives and junk bonds for Goldman Sachs and Bears Stearns ("two houses of ill repute," he quips) before forming the company JibJab in 1999 with his brother, Evan Spiridellis. Thus, JibJab's new business model was honed.
"We hope to be a profitable company next year," says Gregg Spiridellis. Aren't they profitable firm yet? "No, not quite yet," says Spiridellis, who writes much of JibJab's work in addition to handling the business side of things. (Evan, who studied at Parson's New School in New York, is the artist for JibJab, which now employs about three-dozen people.)
JibJab has grown since 2004, when the brothers all but anticipated the rise of YouTube with their viral political animation "This Land Is Your Land," spoofing the election of George Bush and John Kerry in song and 'toon. Their more recent creations include last year's "He's Barack Obama Released."
Star Wars is JibJab's first feature-film franchise -- and they certainly hope to do more of them. What would be their dream projects? "You can imagine -- the classic film franchises," Gregg says. " 'The Godfather.' 'Scarface' -- imagine how much fun you could have."
If today's Star Wars project goes well, perhaps Coppola or De Palma will make the Spiridellis brothers an offer they can't refuse. But that prompts the question: Did George Lucas himself bless JibJab's animations?
"If not Lucas himself, then people close to Lucas who know what he likes," Spiridellis tells 'Riffs with a verbal grin. "I admire Lucas -- they [at Skywalker Ranch] are at the forefront of fan-based content creation. Since the early 2000s, Lucas has been on the cutting edge of embracing fan-made media."
Gregg Spiridellis says JibJab has plenty of projects lined up as it marches toward eventual profitability. But where might Spiridellis be today, if he'd stayed on Wall Street instead of dealing humorous Star Wars "derivatives"?
"I'd probably have made a lot more money," Spiridellis says. "And having a lot less fun."
| May 4, 2010; 9:01 AM ET
Categories: Geek Buzz, The Animation, The Holly Word | Tags: George Lucas, Goldman Sachs, Gregg & Evan Spiridellis, JibJab, Lucasfilm, Star Wars, Star Wars Day, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, YouTube
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