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Now w/Update: I Think We Can Safely Say…

July 16, 2008

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….That musicals are no longer “dead.” Especially if Joss Whedon is involved and they’re available for free via the ‘net.

The LA Times has the scoop. And here’s the actual link where, if things go right, you’ll be able to watch the first installment of  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (and, later, the other two) for free. You can also buy them for $1.99 each if you have iTunes and really want to give the Whedon family your money. (A DVD — with a singing commentary track — is promised later on.)

This apparent smash success puts me in mind of back when I was fixated on Whedon’s big screen directorial debut, Serenity (it’s a long story). Universal tried “viral promotional” largely through some atmospheric/creepy viral clips featuring Summer Glau (currently on the “Terminator” TV series), and sort of assumed that message boards and blogs would do the rest. Of course, the movie was well below expectations at the box-office and the consensus was that, if anything could have helped that notoriously hard to pitch film (which has nevertheless enjoyed the predictable success on DVD), it would have been more traditional promotion, and a lot of it.

Is the lesson here that promoting something exclusively on the Internet really can work if you’re product is mainly available on the ‘net? Or has the Whedon fanbase simply grown that much larger — perhaps hitting a kind of critical mass where the fanatics influence the less fanatical to take a look? (Being free certainly can’t hurt that.)Well, since I don’t even time right now to watch the first 15 minute installment (but “Fresh Air” TV critic and Whedon fan David Bianculli says it’s good), I’m certainly not going to risk an answer, but I’m sure it’s something marketing people might be thinking about.

More later, I’m sure. And if you want more now, there’s tons  of stuff up about “Dr. Horrible,” among other matters, at Whedonesque if you go as of right now.

UPDATE: I’ve now seen the first two parts (the third part goes live Friday, 7/19) and I really, really like it. (Note to my friends: Yes, I know that’s quite a shock.) I will say that a big, big part of the credit goes to the three leads. Neil Patrick Harris as the nice-guy villian Dr. Horrible and Nathan Fillion as the noxious superhero Captain Hammer are similar performers in that each settles so nicely into a role that you’re tempted to think that’s all they can do — until you see them fit just as nicely, if not better, into some other role. I already knew that Harris could sing really well, but Fillion proves a worthy enough vocal foe as well. Also,  playing straightwoman with two super lunatics, Felicia Day does a wonderful job of playing and singing that most thankless of roles, the nice, normal person.

Definitely worth a look for anyone to whom the words “supervillain musical” have any interest whatsoever. Catch while it’s still free.

Also, those interested in Dr. Horrible‘s web success might want to take a gander at this. (H/t Whedonesque, of course.)

The show creators said at peak, the site was getting 200,000 hits per hour. In fact, a representative from their web hosting company, Vireo Verio.com, called to tell them the site had crashed when, at one point, 1,000 people tried to access it in one second.

I don’t usually follow this stuff, but it sure sounds like a lot to me, even considering the rabidity of the Whedonites. If anyone reading can come up with comparison between this and other big web events, I’d be curious to see how (un?)precedented this is.

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