Pop Culture


Well, a very clear hit has been the game "Angry Birds" game. The company behind it, Rovio, says it is the number one paid app of all time. It's been downloaded 1.7 billion times. And starting tomorrow, the company that created "Angry Birds" is releasing a cartoon series directly through its games. That series will also be shown on international TV channels, though in the U.S. the main way to see it will be inside the mobile game.

As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, Rovio is sidestepping traditional distribution deals with major Hollywood players.


MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: "Angry Birds" is just so simple, says Rovio's Andrew Stalbow.

ANDREW STALBOW: They're very unique birds, with each with very special powers that each of which get very upset and aggravated by the very rascal-ish pigs who've stolen their eggs.

BARCO: In the game, players use slingshots to catapult the colorful birds, who don't fly, to destroy structures hiding the green pigs.


BARCO: The new "Angry Birds" cartoons go one step farther.

STALBOW: There's a whole infrastructure to the pigs' world. They live on an island that has some amazing stories to tell.

BARCO: Stalbow, who's in charge of Rovio's strategic partnerships, is only a little ambitious about how far his birds and pigs can fly.

STALBOW: I would describe them as most closely aligned to, say, "Tom 'N Jerry." And I we're thinking about really Looney Tunes for the mobile generation.


BARCO: New three minute episodes will be revealed every week when players push a button on the 99 cent game app.

KIRK HAMILTON: At its heart, you know, it's just fun to play, it's just basically sling-shotting birds. So anyone can understand it.

BARCO: Kirk Hamilton is a features editor for Gawker Media's gaming website. He says the startup Rovio has already thrown the video gaming industry for a loop, and could do the same for TV.

HAMILTON: I think that's the thing that makes this really interesting, is that they have this huge embedded audience who all have a way to just give them money already. So they're just giving them more stuff to spend money on.

BARCO: Four years after the small Finnish company launched its digital game, Rovio has become a major player in the entertainment world.


BARCO: Rovio joined forces with Lucasfilm to come up with a "Star Wars Angry Birds" cartoons, games and merchandise. They've partnered with 20th Century Fox, National Geographic and even NASA. There are now "Angry Birds" plush toys, lunchboxes and T-shirts, books; and "Angry Birds" theme parks in Europe and China. The company makes most of its money from merchandise and advertisers on its games and YouTube channel, with more than a billion views.


BARCO: With its new cartoon series, Rovio is betting on new media to directly collect more revenue from its fans and advertising partners like Paramount Pictures, and Sony Pictures and BlackBerry.

Executive vice president Stalbow says that puts Rovio in a unique position.

STALBOW: The world's changing, where a really small company of 12 people in Helsinki can compete with the big media company who has significantly more resources, because the platforms are more accessible to everybody. So it's an exciting time for any startup out there because the playing field just got leveled.

BARCO: In three years, "Angry Birds" is set to be a feature length film. Where will it end? How long will the birds be angry? And when will those pigs stop stealing their eggs? Stalbow says there are generations of bad blood between them, so many more stories to tell on many different devices.


BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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