By Melissa Shaw
YouTube gaming superstar Dan Middleton, known to millions worldwide as DanTDM, is pulling triple duty these days: crisscrossing the U.S. on his first North American tour, producing videos for his 14-million-subscriber-strong YouTube channel, and debuting a new live action/animated show for families on YouTube Red: DanTDM Creates a Big Scene.
The six-episode series, debuting today on YouTube and the YouTube Kids app for YouTube Red subscribers, follows the fictional behind-the-scenes of Middleton's tour. Each episode follows Dan and friends as they pull together to face challenges that threaten to jeopardize his touring show. The series combines live action with animated characters from his massively popular Minecraft videos and includes real footage from his world tour intermixed with the chaotic behind-the-scenes storylines.
"It's a great opportunity to take the characters out of the video games I play and stories I tell in those and put them into their own world inside the tour," Middleton said from Los Angeles, where he was recording videos for his DanTDM channel at YouTube's LA Space production studios. "We can take them into the real world outside of the show to go on their own adventures; it was really cool. I'm excited for that, and I felt like it really combined the show and the characters perfectly. I think it will be really interesting to see them outside of the game in real world adventures and carrying out their own stories."
Middleton, 25, said his cast of characters from his Minecraft videos have been developed much more for the new show and hopes fans enjoy that, as well as the mix of live action and animation.
"It's been a super fun project I'm really proud of," he said. "I also hope that they get an idea of the tour because only a small percentage of my fan base gets to see the live shows. It's going to be cool to have them experience a little bit of the live show, too."
While Middleton has previously toured throughout the U.K. and Australia, his current U.S. tour, DanTDM On Tour, which started in Boston in March, is his first "full-on tour," he says. "Before the tour started I'd only been to Orlando and New York City. This is a great opportunity to explore new places."
Constant travel, via his rock-star-level tour bus, has been split up with flights to YouTube Space studios on both coasts to continue producing gaming videos for his channel. "It can be difficult because I'm doing the tour, but that's almost weirdly a side project because I'm doing my main channel at the same time," he explained. "I've been spending a lot of time in the YouTube Space, which is cool because I can focus on that for hours and record as much as I can."
And, like any performer who tours and travels extensively, sleep can be a precious commodity: "Going state to state, show to show, it's been a massive learning curve for me. What I'm learning very quickly is we don't know what day it is a lot."
[caption id="attachment_6062" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] A shot from Episode 1 of "DanTDM Creates a Big Scene"[/caption]
The first half of the U.S. tour will take Middleton to 17 states, ending May 7 in San Francisco. "After the first leg of the tour, I'll get about four weeks at home where I'll enjoy going back to normal for a bit, and then we're out for another six weeks for the second leg of the U.S. tour," he said. "I'm away from home, different country, and we're traveling a lot. It's crazy hectic, but it's tons of fun as well."
The 90-minute live show takes Middleton's online life and brings it into the real world, featuring characters from his channel, games, and adventures to explore. Whether they're in the U.K., Australia, or the U.S., Middleton said audiences are similar in that they're different every night because every show is unique.
"They respond differently to certain parts of the show, which has been really interesting to learn about and experience," he added. "It's a really cool thing because each show is different and that makes it even more fun."
Middleton said the live shows, many of which have been selling out, have also been "really rewarding" as he gets to see thousands of his fans at once, a novelty as main interactions are traditionally online.
"When I wasn't doing the tour, I can spend long periods of times between events not meeting fans often, maybe once a month or so," he said. "Whereas now, every weekend I'm meeting fans and getting feedback instantly on the stuff we're doing. I really enjoy it."