NFT collections like Cool Cats and Bored Apes Yacht Club have essentially become media franchises. The digital artworks are showing up as members of music groups, characters in comic books and stars of movies and TV series.
So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a tried-and-true idea in franchise making: bring these disparate characters together in one show, much like an Avengers-style movie. That was the beginning of a brainstorm that led animation startup Invisible Universe to create its new series, “The R3al Metaverse,” which launched Tuesday. (Disclosure: dot.LA co-founder and executive chairman Spencer Rascoff is an investor in Invisible Universe)
“We at first were joking and saying, ‘Yeah, put them in a reality show, like all of [the NFT avatars] move into a house,’” Invisible Universe CEO Tricia Biggio recounted. “All of a sudden we were like, ‘Wait, is that a great idea?’”
“The R3al Metaverse” is an animated parody that follows five NFT characters who move in together and experience life in Los Angeles. Cast members are inspired by five major NFT collections: Bored Ape Yacht Club, World of Women, Doodles, Cool Cats and Robotos.
The short-form comedy, released as one- to two-minute episodes on social media, pokes fun at reality TV tropes and the debate over NFTs. In one episode, the characters stare at a painting and are confused by its lack of “real-world application” besides being a wall decoration.
Unlike traditional media franchises, NFT collections aren’t completely controlled by a single company. Each project has thousands of individual NFT holders who often have their own commercialization rights over their artworks. Invisible Universe bought three NFTs and secured licenses for two more to get characters that fit well with “The R3al Metaverse” story, Biggio previously told dot.LA.
In keeping with the decentralized ethos of blockchain technology, the Los Angeles-based startup plans to sell 7,200 “Producer Pass” NFTs that will let holders influence the show’s direction and give them a chance to bring their avatars onto the show. Invisible Universe, which recently raised $12 million in Series A funding, hasn’t yet decided how much these NFTs will cost when they drop next month, but Biggio said they’d likely be within the range of $150 to $200 each.
A crop of NFT media projects have similarly given individual holders creative input, from a community-driven novel project called Jenkins the Valet to an upcoming horror flick by filmmaker Kevin Smith. As it happens, the production company behind a reality TV show that Invisible Universe is parodying—“The Real World”—has its own plans to create NFT-backed programming.
It’s too early to know if such projects will appeal to a wide audience beyond early NFT adopters. Another looming question is whether giving fans input will help or harm the creative quality of such works. Biggio acknowledged that balancing act, saying her company has set “creative guardrails” such as the traits and motivations of main characters.
“But within those bounds, there's tons of room for collaboration,” Biggio added. For example, NFT holders will help write characters’ “confessional interviews,” a common reality TV device in which cast members speak directly to the camera.
Invisible Universe will release the first six episodes over the next two weeks on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. Fan contributions will start to show up within the first 10 episodes, Biggio said. The startup plans for at least 34 episodes.
“There’s an opportunity to poke fun at reality TV, as well as to poke fun at the kind of absurdity of the metaverse,” she said. “People struggle to define the metaverse or define Web3, and we think that there's a lot of comedy in that.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated how many "Producer Pass" NFTs Invisible Universe is creating.
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