You know when someone tells you they have a million dollar idea... and you're all like, "That sounds amazing!" but you're really rolling your eyes and thinking, "Good luck, buddy!" Those ideas aren't even half as weird as the one Dane Boedigheimer came up with in 2009. And yet, this North Dakota raised, LA-based actor/writer/filmmaker is the mind behind one of the most successful channels on YouTube. Since launching the first Annoying Orange video, Daneboe has scored a TV series, video game, a line of toys, t-shirts, costumes and over two billion (!) views on YouTube. So how did he have the guts to dedicate his life to creating an irritating, talking orange? He explains.
Dane. An anthropomorphic orange that says annoying things. How did you come up with this idea? Do you do a lot of drugs?
Haha, no. No drugs. Just a weird imagination. I’ve always loved bringing inanimate objects to life and toying with how these things would react in a human world. Food is a perfect example of that because there’s always the constant threat of being sliced, chopped, stabbed, ground up, and eaten. Right from the get-go you’ve got an external conflict that characters have to worry about and deal with.
I heard through the grapevine (puns!) that you quit a perfectly fine job to pursue your dream to make your own videos. What was taking that leap of faith like? I think I would’ve thrown up at least once.
I did quit a perfectly fine job to pursue my dream to make my own videos! I was working for a newspaper (The Bakersfield Californian) as a videographer, making videos for their website. It was a lot of fun and the people I worked with were awesome. It was one of those jobs I look back at very fondly. But, at the same time, I was doing content that didn’t fulfill me completely. I wanted to take that leap and try doing things on my own. Yeah, it was extremely scary never knowing where and when the next paycheck was going to come. I was constantly scrounging the internet for new ways to make money doing videos, whether it be video contests, contract work for promo videos, online video sites that paid for content, etc. I just dedicated myself to always looking for new ways to make it work.
How’d creating that first Annoying Orange video go? Do you ever revisit the first episode just to be like, “Wow! I’ve come a long way!”?
Yup! Absolutely. It’s surreal to look at that first video and how it laid the groundwork for everything after it. A simple minute and a half video of an orange annoying an apple became the foundation for a huge brand. Still blows my mind. Creating it was just like creating any of my other videos. I came up with the idea, wrote it, filmed it, and posted it all in a few days. I never expected anything to come of it...it was just another video. People loved the character though and wanted more, and pretty soon it took on a life of it’s own.
When did you realize you’d created something.... big?
The 4th episode. At that point, I uploaded the video and it had a million views by the next day. Back in 2009 that was HUGE. It was at that point I decided to go full YouTube. I quit all my contract work, and concentrated on just making the Annoying Orange series.
Your videos are only a few minutes long, but I suspect they take quite some time to make. What’s the process like & how long does it take? Who’s helping you?
It started off with just me and my writing partner and best bud, Spencer Grove. He’s been helping write the series since episode three. The process used to take about a week. He would write the episode in a couple days, I would then film and animate for about three days, and then edit and post the video. It was an insane, intense process, but it was extremely rewarding. We worked so hard to make sure there was a new Annoying Orange video every week. Slowly after that, I had more and more people helping me create the content, and now I’ve got a whole team of really talented, fun people helping to make the series. But even though I’ve got a whole team of about 10 people helping, it’s still an insane, intense process!
For a lot of people, landing a television show or movie is the big time. However, many of your minutes-long videos get more views than Hollywood blockbusters. How has the definition of “success” in the film industry changed in the last five years?
It’s funny. It goes both ways for me now. Before Orange, I thought success could only come from being a big time director, or a well-known actor. It wasn’t until Orange took off that I realized that you could even be successful doing web video. I was learning that first hand. At the same time, I learned that my initial idea of success was flawed. Just because you have a TV show, that doesn’t make you successful. Success is in the eye of beholder. It sounds extremely cliché to say, but it took me a long time to realize that as long as you enjoy what you do, you’re successful. It has nothing to do with money, fame, etc. At the end of the day if you can say to yourself that you enjoy what you do, then you’re successful.
What’s the weirdest thing about being Internet famous? Best?
The weirdest is probably just having people randomly recognize me in public. It doesn’t happen a ton, but when it does, it still surprises me. The best thing is probably just getting to know all of the people I’ve gotten to know. Via the web show and TV show I’ve been able to meet some amazing people, and I’ll definitely treasure those moments for the rest of my life.
I personally find bananas to be the most annoying food (they bruise so easily!), followed by chicken wings (so gross to eat in public, yet so delicious!). What do you think is the most annoying food in real life?
Freaking shrimp sushi. I have never, not once had shrimp sushi that is good. I love sushi. I could eat it every day. I also love shrimp. But for the love of everything that is holy, can we stop trying to put shrimp on sushi? Every single time I’ve had it, it’s rubbery and gross. I’ve been to some amazing sushi places, and every time the shrimp sushi is disgusting. I may be alone here, but I’d love it if this was not a thing anymore.
I completely agree. Shrimp and sushi do not mix. So, I have maybe six subscribers to my YouTube channel. What’s the key to making impactful videos on the Internet?
Ummm...play video games? Scream and yell while playing Minecraft. Guaranteed views right there. Haha. I kid, but not really. YouTube goes through a lot of trends. What worked a few years ago won’t necessarily work right now, so you kind of have to ride the wave and make sure to keep with the trends. Right now gaming on YouTube is huge. So, to stay relevant, it’s a good idea to remember that. Maybe start a cooking show where you make a meal while playing video games. Bam! You can have that idea for free. But seriously...make videos that make you happy first. If you try to chase trends and just try to get popular that way, it’s going to be a much harder road. Keep trends in mind, but don’t let them dictate you.
Any advice for the person who’s terrified of leaving their current job in order to pursue their passion? (PS we know you’re out there and are secretly reading this at your boring desk!)
Don’t be terrified. Start making moves right now. Do it while you’re young. When you’re younger, you can afford to jump in and experiment. You can try new things. The older you get, the harder it becomes. Think about the worst possible thing that could happen if you decided to quit your job to pursue your passion. For most, that would be failing and having to return to what they’re doing now. To me, that’s not that horrible. Trying and failing is much better than not trying at all. Sure, you’re going to hit a lot of speed bumps, but the journey is a learning experience in of itself. I feel like I’ve learned more about life in the last three years than I did in my entire life previous. For that it was worth the journey alone.
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Follow Daneboe & the Annoying Orange on YouTube. Of course, you can subscribe to my YouTube page, too (and to save you time, this is probably the best video there). Only 999,970 more followers to go until I reach one million!
I want to hear your Everyday Eleanor story. Email me at heyeleanorproject [at] gmail.com.