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Author Topic: The Animation Curse
Greg B
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I just visited the biography.com website and got a chance to watch the full episode biographies of the great studio heads and directors like Cecil B. DeMille and Louis Meyer. Once you get an idea of what these men were like you understand why Hollywood is the way it is as well as the rest of the media.

Sometimes we get the Alpha Male who benefits the pack and in other times we get one that destroys the pack.

The issue of art/finance is so well covered in the DeMille biography that it just says what it's all about and how DeMille conquered that problem simply early in his illustrious career.

Knowing the history of cinema gives you an idea as to the mentality of those behind the scenes. What immense struggles people went through to stay alive, keep their integrity etc.

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Greg B
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Charles is right about video games. They're so more entertaining than just sitting there watching everyone else have action that soon we'll have wii theatres where everyone jumps up with one of them wii gizmos and commences to battle the villains in the movie. That'd burn up some calories I'd bet, six gun wii's and having a wii gunfight that determines the action in the movie.

Anyhow, You can spend the same amount of money on two tickets on one video game and take months to play the first time ( Half Life 2, Bioshock, GTA ) and the game you can play on and on and then modify them.

Nowadays it takes direction and writing and acting like in the old days that rivets one to the screen. I can't watch the CG special effects movies anymore. Gimme some old time Ray Harryhausen, it's good enough for me.

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pud
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Snakebite:
quote:
I hope Don isn't one of those dudes who drops grenades and watches from a distance as it explodes. lol, meaning, I hope he comes back and participates in the carnage,lol
Lol ... great line Snakey!
Made my morning.... [funny]

...and yes, Don has been know to drop grenades and watch from a distance.... be it this forum or acting classes { land Before Time ... great memories of those classes ... } ...
..But from experience, he will always come back when things get out of hand. And believe me, they usually always do ... lol.

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bigshot
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quote:
Is it a dreadful, harmful thing to produce children's entertainment, or family centric entertainment, and is it bad if animation is seen as the ideal medium for that market?
It's bad if the medium is seen as a genre by the filmmakers responsible for making the film. And it's a problem when market concerns dictate what artists should say with their medium.

The problem is when *expectations* begin defining what goes into a film. I see WAY too many films recycling concepts from older films and burying any glimmer of originality under a mountain of stock formulas, There's nothing wrong with big studios and commercialism as long as it furthers the art. But that isn't happening right now. The main studios have become as adventurous as Filmation and Hanna Barbera in the dark ages of animation, and the "creative producers" are just as bad as the worst noodling network executive in Saturday morning.

If the studios won't support and develop the medium, it's up to the artists to take their artform back for themselves. That will require taking a chance and creating new models of doing business, but it's most likely the only way we'll see an original mainstream animated feature again.

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SNAKEBITE
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Bigshot is talking like a revolutionary....easy there. [Wink]

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Don Bluth Productions
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Thank you for all your contributions to the animation challenge. Some of you have expressed some very thought provoking ideas.

In the Disney history, I think a low spot both artistically and financially was a movie called The Black Cauldron (forgive me if I step on any toes). It was during this period that I and my peers felt the frustration of wanting to express our artistic feelings, but being governed by non-artistic business leaders, were unable to do so. The reason that we left Disney Studio in 1979 was to revive that euphoric feeling of creation that comes from making a product that would somehow both entertain and edify audiences.

We very badly need the support of the business people if there's to be a revival of 2D animation. So I believe the answer to our dilemma is to inspire the business man to take a chance. Complaining will not solve it. In a word, the key to the revival of 2D animation will be ourselves. How can we inspire with our drawings, our scripts and our knowledge of entertainment? How can we inspire the business man to take a chance?

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SNAKEBITE
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Hang him by the ankles over a really tall building??

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SNAKEBITE
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all kidding aside, the business man loves models.Preferably models already established and that were successful. In this case I would think that that model would have to be established by a pioneer. The rest can use that model to INSPIRE.

Iron Giant could of been that model. But the promotional aspect of that movie was squashed and I would guess because certain executives were threatened by said model...why? well maybe Mr Bird could join in the fun.

I could argue that these business types would need vision in order to inspire them if you don't have a model....so good luck.

So, how do you inspire these business people, Mr Bluth?

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bigshot
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The way most folks inspire the suits is to show them over rendered concept art that bears no relation to the way the film will actually look. Tricking them peels the greenbacks out of them pronto!
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Charles
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That's why I personally subscribe to the approach of produce first then pitch.

Man, it's great to have Don Bluth here!

Speaking of producing first, there was a trailer I saw in early 1985 that blew me away. It was produced by Phil Mendez and animated by Don Bluth Studios, the project was called 'Jawbreaker'. Phil showed it to a small group of us at DIC and it really got me excited. He explained he had some funding and commissioned Bluth Studios to create a short trailer for his concept so he could use it as a pitch to investors. I think Mendez had some success with it, at least he went on to have his own Saturday morning cartoon series on NBC in 'Kissyfur'.

I never saw the Jawbreaker promo again after that, it was just this brief moment of this super amazing Bluth animation that very few people were privy to and then never seeing it again.

The experience became a model for me. Having the project idea actually animated and the approach that Phil Mendez created through the skills of the Bluth team very much impressed upon me the importance of and logic in producing for the pitch. I might add that others were as influenced as I was in Jawbreaker, and they went out and created pilots and trailers of their own projects and they became successful. Either in getting the project picked up or in getting other projects to come their way.

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rocktoonz
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Please allow me to re-introduce myself. I'm Craig Clark, 30 year animation vet, and wearer of many hats, and sometimes poster on this forum. Yes, it is great to have Mr. Bluth here on this site. I have great respect for his artistry and enterprise. I also had the pleasure of working with his brother Toby in the 70's at Duck Soup Produckions.

Produce first seems to be the way to go indeed... produce first, then distribute, for a feature. Seems like when it's in the can you have leverage.

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toonedbob
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Dov Simens endorses the produce first method. Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith were able to produce first and it landed them big deals with execs that had to see it before they believed it.

We are in an exciting time in that, as Ralph Bakshi pointed out, we have the means of production at our fingertips.

Plus, I find that looking for funds outside of the industry is a better way of going and what better way to win such investors than having a product or as much of it as possible.

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Mr. Fun
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I was at Disney in the seventies before Don Bluth and his crew left to do their own thing.

I remember Don had a piano in his office over in A-Wing. I couldn’t help but think -- “Boy, that’s cool. Kinda Old School Disney.”

Even today, we still have a piano in our offices here at Disney. Old School lives.

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tstevens
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There are either large productions or small productions with very little in the middle. As I noted in a post on one of Snakebites threads, I would hate to be in the position of the medium sized studio making a long form production. The small two or three man productions will probably work on thier project after hours and can put it aside if times get rough. The large studio hopefully has a large amount of money to fall back on in case of production delays and can usually make thier payroll. The middle guy - they usually have to sacrifice paying productions to work on an in studio production plus they have to about staff and overhead.

For the individual it is probably more appropriate to go commando and produce first. For the mid sized studio funding would be the smart thing to do before production.

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Mister Niacin
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Good to know I'm not alone. I myself feel that there are way too many anime, animated features and games that are way too formulaic and unoriginal. As a result I can't watch most anime or cartoons and I will tend to buy a video game solely based on how good the gameplay is (even though I know the story will be likely be the sort of thing I've seen a 100 times).

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Metsys
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Speaking about anime, I used to regularly watch Naruto and Bleach. After a while I started getting tired of both of those because the pacing was slow and had a lot of similarities that were too obvious to ignore (the main characters both had a demon inside of them that they were channeling powers from), but I'd still watch a new episode from time to time even though I was very much behind. Not too long ago I started watching Soul Eater by recommendation of a fried because of the interesting setting. It pulled me in at first, but again I started seeing those shonen anime similarities.

And then I watched Death Note; absolutely amazing. Very cool concept, awesome, interesting and very intelligent characters trying to outwit each other, and the pacing was good; it actually felt like the story was going somewhere.

Last month while talking with a friend of mine I realized that I stopped watching anime after I finished Death Note, probably because I don't want to watch any more anime until there's something released that beats Death Note, or is at least unique and doesn't follow the shonen formula and clichés.

So that's my comment on anime. And I'll also add that because anime is so popular in the US that I don't think we have to worry about animation being just for kids in this country. And besides, look at what's on the internet.

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Regarding the original question about "How did traditional animation come to be viewed by almost every American household as children's entertainment?" Here's what my observation has been regarding animated family films.

I think there may be a general confusion over what kids actually like about a movie and what's put into movies with the intention of getting kids to like it, things like wacky spastic humor, butt jokes, bright colors, lots of movement, visually appealing (marketable?) characters, simplified rendering, simple stories that are easy to understand, etc. I personally believe that kids actually like are the colors, the fantasy world and appealing characters (both of which are things that are very useful material for imagining and day dreaming about).

Also, all of the movies that I watched a ton as a kid, and later watched as an adult, my reaction was usually "why did I even like this movie?" and/or "oh, that's what the story was really about?" And looking at how other kids react during movies I wonder if there's things about the movie that they really don't care about, like a well crafted plot, but things like that don't hurt the experience for the kid, they just over look it. However, if it's missing the adults will hate it.

And then there's the things that kids probably don't care about but damage the adult's experience as they watch the movie with their kids. I know that some feel that a children's film (or even a book), because it's for kids, means that they can get away with cheap laughs (e.g. butt jokes) and poor craft. In addition I think there's some principles found in childrens marketing that are inappropriately injected into animation, in particular those things that increases the "nag factor" in TV spots (the spastic high-motion wackiness).

[The preceding is something that I'd love to have a deeper discussion about. We could have a great discussion about child psychology in story telling.]

So why is animation generally perceived as only for kids in the US? Probably because traditional animation is so good at creating things that children respond so well too: the bright colors, the appealing characters, and the fantasy worlds. People naturally picked up on that, and started stuffing it with other junk that is calculated to get kids to go crazy over it, things that also turn off adults. After a decade or so of that cycle the public perception of the medium was pretty well enforced.

Films like The Incredibles have shown that a movie can respond well to both kids and adults, and not be mutually exclusive, and I hope we can see more of that in the future. And again, I would like to have a deeper discussion on how that can be achieved.

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rocktoonz
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Another question is why do studio filmmakers choose live-action for comicbook properties such as Watchmen, Batman, Hellboy, etc. They come from a graphic handrawn medium and should be suited for the next step; animation. Or worse yet, previously animated properties turned into Live-action films like Underdog, Scooby Doo, The Flinstones, Popeye, etc. I’d like to see more fully animated features instead.

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SNAKEBITE
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Cuz most people outside of comic geeks want to see real Jessica Alba ass and not hand drawn....lol

maybe theres some truth in that joke. but I think
you also make a strong point. why aren't more big budgets going to animation based off comics?

...But they do. they go straight to DVD and most of them don't look so hot. its a weird production mentality.

They should be producing them at the level and quality of a Pixar flick...I mean hell, Pixar already established theres a market for super hero animated flicks.

It always come down to management...now I don;t want to get on my rant about anti monkey boy. been there, maybe again but not today, but the people calling the shots need to call new ones.


But there's a lot of inspiring stuff out there.
it doesn't always get the attention because of
the monkey see monkey do mentality....man, see, I couldnt help myself, had to make a monkey reference...sorry.lol


back to the point, I think the point, to point it out, is to point your own point and point that other peoples point don't necessarily point you in the right direction... get my point?

I mean, be the change. if you see the problem, be the solution. thats what we do, right? Creators are problems solvers, not just problem pointer-outers...lol

hows that Obi Bluth Kanobi? did I get the point? or did I miss it?

probably a combo.lol

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Don Bluth Productions
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quote:

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Icon 1 posted March 19, 2009 02:12 PM Profile for SNAKEBITE Author's Homepage Edit/Delete Post all kidding aside, the business man loves models.Preferably models already established and that were successful. In this case I would think that that model would have to be established by a pioneer. The rest can use that model to INSPIRE.

Iron Giant could of been that model. But the promotional aspect of that movie was squashed and I would guess because certain executives were threatened by said model...why? well maybe Mr Bird could join in the fun.

I could argue that these business types would need vision in order to inspire them if you don't have a model....so good luck.

So, how do you inspire these business people, Mr Bluth?

Snakebite,
Inspiring a business person requires talking in a language that he/she can understand. The reason Fox animation existed in Phoenix is because Bill Mechanic, President of Fox and ex-Disney executive, loved animation and knew its potential to generate money. It didn't do the studio any harm knowing that Rupert Murdock's wife (now ex-wife) also loved animation. The way to a business man's heart would probably be through his wife, his children or his wallet. Great drawings that inspire during the pitching of a project are very important. You also have to be able to pitch the movie concept in 2 minutes - So make it good!

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SNAKEBITE
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I'm good with the ladies.

I think I have an advantage. I'm inspired.

lol,
all kidding aside, I get it. its about the human element. the ability to connect with people.AND, Know your content
inside and out.

At The Animation Academy I learned under Philip J Felix that if you can't tell someone what your story is in two sentences, you don't know your story.

What you're saying is some solid advice...but then again I think your answered you own question as to why animation is known to be only for kids.... if you're catering to investors wives and kids chances are your producing cutesy stuff...unless the kids are hip...but then the wife has to be hip...but most of the time, they are not.lol

hmmmmm, more good stuff to chew on.

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SNAKEBITE
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O
I for got to say that I also get that one has to be able to know the business side of investing. People think its just about having a cool idea, but its also about being able to make everything connect from a budget to a return on investment perspective.

right?

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pud
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It certainly isn't an easy gig being able to sell your idea, pitch it within the 2 minutes to the investor.

Having the ability or talents to talk the talk, and also have hands on experience to show the needed confidence to the audience so that they can tell that you know what you are talking about.

Both Don Bluth and Gary Goldman are such a great team at making anyone feel comfortable with them.
They have always come across with a warmth and charm and also with a very serious dedicated passion for the art.

This may seem like an obvious way to sell yourself, but I'm sure as many artists have known from their own personal moments in front of investors, this juggling act of both business person and artist isn't always the most 'natural' characteristic for people.

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Don Bluth Productions
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quote:
I never saw the Jawbreaker promo again after that, it was just this brief moment of this super amazing Bluth animation that very few people were privy to and then never seeing it again.

Charles, the promo can be found on the other site,
donbluth.com

Here's another link to JawBreaker on Youtube. JawBreaker Clip

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Plai
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Hey i have a question Mr. Bluth [Smile]

With today's technology, how much time would you save on a project that would've taken you about 4 years to complete around 30 years ago?

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dermot
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I think you got the curse nailed in your original articles on the pseudo producers Charles.

the model for production changed with Hanna Barbera.....and worsened under DIC . Miyazaki could never have thrived in such an environment....but I'm guessing his magic was that he somehow got the money and creative freedom way back when.

The book starting point:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Starting-Point/Hayao-Miyazaki/e/9781421505947

explains a lot more about his situation and his continuing struggles.

For anyone in America to come close they'll have to find funding and not try to match Disney shot-for-shot.....but rather direct an appealing project that is refreshing......forget princess romances etc


[fixed link]

[ January 18, 2010, 01:12 PM: Message edited by: Charles ]

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Charles
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Thanks for kicking this topic back up Dermot. I'd like to mention that this was the #1 topic of the year for 2009. It really resonated with alot of people and I'm happy to see that it continues to do so in 2010.

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