Popular YouTubers Mark Cope and Carlo Moss never expected anyone to even see their videos.
“It started out as us just wanting to make a stop-motion video for fun,” Cope said when we recently met at YouTube’s hi-tech studio space in Los Angeles. “Carlo was in an improv group with people who did voices, so we made this video of three girls arguing over who was more popular.”
In a stroke of genius, the pair decided to have Barbies play the parts of the popular girls. Cope bought three Barbies for $US3 and then spent several months teaching himself stop-motion animation skills.
“The first video was just pictures pasted together, and it sucked,” Cope said. “But Carlo took it and put it on YouTube, and thank god he did. We got 100,000 views in just a week.”
They decided to make an entire season’s worth of stop-motion videos, titling their YouTube channel “The Most Popular Girls in School.”
After about a year of making the videos, a Tumblr user found a GIF of the show and reblogged it. That GIF has since been reblogged about 35,000 times, and Cope and Moss noticed that people had started binge-watching their show.
“Once Tumblr got a hold of it, our audience became younger, mostly girls,” Cope said. “We didn’t really know what our show was until we found an audience. After Tumblr our followers quickly went from around 4,000 to 100,000.”
They describe their channel as “‘Mean Girls’ with Barbies,” or a “dirty soap opera with lots of plot twists.” The Barbie characters have hilarious stories, from wannabe pop star Deandra recording her first music video to burgeoning entrepreneur Trisha planning an appearance on “Shark Tank.”
When they went to VidCon, an annual convention for YouTube creators, one fan who had traveled from Argentina was hyperventilating at the sight of their Brittnay doll.
“We were able to really make the characters happen,” Moss said.
With production stages, green screens, cameras, electrical and grip equipment, and workshops the Space is a valuable resource for YouTubers looking to improve the quality and reach of their videos. There are also Spaces in New York City, London, and Tokyo.
“The Spaces around the world serve as incubators that accelerate what can happen when you bring creative people together and offer production and educational resources that best meet their needs,” Liam Collins, head of the YouTube Space LA, said to Business Insider.
Using the studios’ equipment proved to be crucial for Cope and Moss. They were able to produce the fourth season of “The Most Popular Girls in School” three times faster than past seasons, and the studio helped them bring on professional animators, who can work on two different episodes at once.
“It really worked amazingly. It’s the first time on this show that I’m working 9-5 instead of 80 hours a week,” Cope said.
Still, putting together an entire show with props, actors, animation, and editing is hard work, and the channel costs more than it makes. Cope and Moss have turned to Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns to raise the funds that make the show possible, and their fans have responded generously.
“Every season besides the first one has been funded by fans,” Cope said.
Moss added, “We try to keep a 100% transparency about what we do, and our fans feel like they’re part of the family.”
Watch one of the show’s episodes here (Warning: some NSFW language).
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.