A video being considered “for kids” on YouTube has a few ramifications for creators. It keeps these videos from being recommended to people with standard accounts who might be interested in them, removes comment functionality, and tanks their viewership across the board. While this has also affected official Sonic videos, such as trailers for the live-action sequel, the issue has become especially prevalent for Sonic fan creators, as this flag is being added to videos without consistency or communication. Even when the content is distinctly not kid-friendly.
Steven Page, an animator behind several Sonic videos at Balena Productions, has had two videos labeled as for kids. This has included the teaser for an upcoming video, Sonic in Scared Stupid: The Final Chapter Teaser Trailer, and it’s thrown a wrench into the channel’s pipeline.
“Their main reason for my case in particular was ‘whether the video includes characters, celebrities, or toys that appeal to children, including animated characters or cartoon figures,'” Page tells Fanbyte. “That is a very broad statement and implies that ‘cartoons’ are only made for kids. Animation is a medium, not a genre. None of my videos are aimed at children.”
While the broad reasoning was given for why Balena Productions’ videos were flagged as for kids, Page says YouTube has been otherwise non-communicative on specifics on how the situation can be resolved.
“I knew this was going to be another nightmare on my hands dealing with a faceless corporation,” Page says. “YouTube never gives you clear answers. ‘This video is made for kids,’ you ask ‘why?’ and they just give you a list of things that are so broad anything could be made for kids. ‘This video is inappropriate for our advertisers,’ you ask, ‘okay, which parts so I can edit it out,” they won’t tell you. The stress from all of this has actually made me physically develop a mild cold due to my entire body just shutting down out of anxiety.”
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Within the first day, Page says views for the affected videos dropped 70%, and revenue has gone with it. Page primarily works in voice acting, but has come to lean on YouTube as a source of reliable income, and that’s now in jeopardy.
“I never intended for my channel to be a full time job,” he says. “However, over time my channel just became so big that it was hard not to. The income was steady, it beats hustling around Hollywood for gigs, and I loved the community I made. My fans are the greatest gift in all of this. This hitch severely affects me and my collaborators. This entire debacle has basically wiped a third of my revenue. Without revenue I cannot afford to make more animations and commission my collaborators for assets.”
Cameron “Hypo” Turner has a day job working in animation at Gears for Breakfast, but brings in some YouTube money through animation work on his channel. This included a remake of a confrontation scene from Sonic Adventure 2 between Sonic and Shadow. The video is coming up on eight years old, but is far and away the most popular video on Turner’s profile and has maintained a steady viewership since it was published in 2014.
“My favorite result of the video were the semi-regular comments from people who were children when I released it, coming back and describing their nostalgia for something of mine that still feels fresh in my memory,” Turner tells Fanbyte. “It may be one of the most significant pieces of art I’ve made for that reason. I’m humbled to have been a part of a positive core memory for those people.”
But all of that has been put in danger thanks to the video being flagged as “for kids.” While Turner’s job has been his primary source of income, he says YouTube has been nice to have in his back pocket, with the Sonic Adventure 2 scene recreation being the most popular, thus most profitable. But now that it’s not being recommended to general Sonic fans, Turner expects his money flow from YouTube to “take a big hit.”
Prior to this, Turner lost his entire channel due to what he describes as a “mistake” on YouTube’s end. As such, he tells Fanbyte he already knew to expect the appeal process to be time-consuming. But as of this writing, he’s been waiting seven days for a response from YouTube support he was told would arrive within 24 hours. Views of the Sonic Adventure 2 scene dipped after the initial flag, but Turner says he’s seen another spike in people watching the clip as word of the flag has spread. Between this and his losing an account entirely, Turner says he doesn’t feel YouTube handles the power it holds over creators’ livelihoods responsibly, and blanket rulings like what’s happening to Sonic content embody why.
“YouTube has, for years, encouraged constant video creation to stay afloat in their algorithms, which means a lot of people sacrifice other avenues in their lives to pursue video creation as a career or at least as a primary source of income,” Turner says. “But then YouTube routinely uses haphazard and reckless, sweeping flags or bans to creators, ultimately punishing anyone who put all their eggs in YouTube’s basket.”
In response to the entire situation, Page has cancelled a lighter Sonic fan animation series called Sonic Warriors, as he doesn’t feel YouTube is a viable platform for his work anymore.
“Knowing that Scared Stupid was hit, I knew Sonic Warriors would never survive,” he says. “With how things are currently at YouTube I cannot waste my time, effort, and money on something that will be rendered useless.”
Turner worries that YouTube’s inaction on this could lead to further content being deemed “for kids” down the road, and further devastation for creators who work in animation on the platform.
“I just want to be safe from any more unfair sweeping decisions made on YouTube’s behalf, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Turner says. “I’ve been on YouTube long enough to know that you shouldn’t put your faith in it. […] Because I can see this inevitably evolving into a scenario where anything related to cartoons or even video games, comics, and animation being considered ‘made for kids,’ despite the actual written descriptions of ‘general audience media’ implying otherwise. I’m hoping that this is just a brief misstep and will be eventually corrected.”
We reached out to YouTube for comment on the situation, and will update the story if we hear back.