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Author Topic: An Odd Combination
Don Bluth Productions
IE # 89
Member # 2512

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Igor Stravinsky, the great musical composer, spoke of the poetics of music. Literally, I think he was talking about the writing of the music or how it is all created. But he also spoke of the fact that the making of music is not possible without the triggered factor of politics. That’s a very odd combination of words, don’t you think, poetry and politics? The actual making of music, he contended, was an immensely public activity. He could write and score a piece and then put it on a shelf; and there it would sit with little effect. “An ensemble of individuals (including performers, publishers, publicity agents and ticket sellers) and a collection of materials (including instruments, a concert hall, billboards, and programs) are required if a musical idea is to achieve public expression.”

As animators, are we not in the same predicament? Certainly the writing of an animation script can be compared to the conceptualization of an opera or ballet, as well as the writing of the music. Character designs follow suit in the same category; it’s about poetry. The politics of our business is the production and marketing, and therein lays the animator’s weakness.

What I read about Stravinsky is that he seemed to have a split personality. He was both poet and politician. I believe that an artist must learn to work with the field that regulates his chosen domain. While you are attending art school or trudging along in your professional career, maybe a few courses in business management along the way could benefit you. What do you think?

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SNAKEBITE
IE # 101
Member # 17

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I totally agree. I was challenged with this thinking early on by my original mentor Philip J Felix and then later by his mentor Charles Zembillas at The Animation Academy. The school brought in lawyers and business people to expose students to the flip side of making something happen.

Animation Nation was founded with this in mind. The artist are the new executives. I read a great book by Daniel Pink, A Whole NEw Mind Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future. Our future relies on this issue, Don. IMHO

Artists tend to fear that they will become what they hate. Well, at least at one point they did. But I see new generations getting the equation thats needed.

i tell young cats, don't get into debt to learn art. But expand your education. Learn business, learn law, learn negotiations, learn contracts, learn marketing. If you have a passion for art
it will come to you a lot more naturally than the business parts. I'm now at the part of my career, 17 years, where I'm starting to see those young cats grow up and how that thinking benefited them

I wish I had it when i first started, I think I would be further along. But whatever, could of would of should of...lol

But I'm glad your started this topic...hell, I'm glad you start any topic. its a lot of food for thought.

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Charles
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Great topic. Very well put Don, you nailed it on many levels.

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Charles
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Continuing upon your thoughts Don, I make it a point to work some business management facts and philosophies into my classes when I teach. Even a little info goes a long way towards getting students to start adding this element into the poetry mix.

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bigshot
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If the fundamentals were totally covered, it would be great to add some business classes to a student's education. But from what I see from the animation students that come into the archive, very few of them have even the most basic art skills. Many haven't even been told by the schools that they are even necessary. (Or the students have just ignored the advice and just trudged on from class assignment to class assignment without seeing the bigger picture.)

The people who made Snow White and Bugs Bunny cartoons didn't go to animation school and they never took a single course in business. They went to the Art Students' League and Chouinard and the National Academy. They learned to draw and paint and sculpt.

Read about the training of the golden age animator behind Mighty Mouse and Fred Flintstone

And read his class schedule and course of study at the National Academy of Design.

We need more classes teaching this sort of thing.

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bigshot
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Ward Kimball's advice to Will Finn on what sort of education he needed to be an animator.
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bigshot
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John K and Eddie Fitzgerald's advice to young artists.
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Charles
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I'm in total agreement with you on that Steve. Fundamentals is key. It's what I've based my method of teaching on and it's the foundation for my program.

Along the lines of what you posted, this is common at my place and a testament to how important fundamentals are. I have a student this semester with a Bachelors Degree from USC, enrolled with us to get the basics in an area they're interested in specializing in, and's they already signed up for next semester.

Also, another student with the same degree in animation from USC has signed up for next month. Plus, we're arranging for a student from College of the Canyons to attend this summer, and we were contacted today by a graduating student from the Art Institute of Orange County, and we're in contact with an artist serving in the Army in Iraq who wants to enroll in 2010 when they come home.

Basic fundamentals is fundamental with us and I can say with confidence that it makes all the difference in the world. That's a big reason why we attract students, even those with degrees. You should see how it's affecting Cal State Northridge, their students are coming along by leaps and bounds because of an emphasis on the fundamentals of animation, production design, story, etc.

Didn't mean to get too carried away with this post, but I'm a big supporter of the fundamental approach and apply it to a high degree in the disciplines that myself and others I'm associated with use for teaching.

Mixing some business fundamentals in that makes them even stronger.

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SNAKEBITE
IE # 101
Member # 17

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And these days business needs to be so much more creative in order to get out of the box we let the usual suspects fold around us.

Its no wonder we hear of so many success stories of individuals who did their own thing. that is success, no matter how you slice it or weigh it.
Being able to do your thing, is success and good living comes next.

Awareness is key. Leaderships like unions should spread awareness. We should expose each other to
the real deal. But it takes participation from everyone.

I can't tell you how many people I thrust my opinion on to see if they are aware. If someone
asks for a portfolio review I give them a business review as well. I don't come from a place where I know everything, just seeing if they are aware. Some appreciate it, some are hip and some resent...and some educate me..often actually. which isn't hard.
But I feel I must share whats been shared to me.


I most definitely think schools should incorporate this into their curriculum but I also think we need to spread it as individuals.

Places like this new AnimationNation monthly market and meet, share and greet thing is gonna
be a great platform to support that awareness.

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Graphiteman
IE # 218
Member # 2092

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Yes, I could stand to learn about business but I would like it to be an artist's perspective. I am pathetic at negotiating (I guess typical of artists getting caught up in the opportunity to do what they love) and am reluctant about freelance ( writing contracts; not quite sure how to handle when that "small" job spins out of control)and gravitate to the "security" of a corporation of one kind or another. I know this is wrong. While I pay my corporate tax(self- incorporation [not all that impressive, not all animation related]) , I don't have a clue what I'm doing so an accountant sorts it out for me at year's end. Same with investments.....it's in the hands of our broker. Thank God for my smarter spouse. I'd be living in a refrigerator box roasting pigeons if it weren't for her.

So Yes. I wish there had been a course at SHeridan in my day about this rather than some TV appreciation elective.

And yes we could all use more art classes but a business class does mot negate that and art education is for one's lifetime not just in tyhe classroom.

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ColorInAble
IE # 68
Member # 1444

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I've always appreciated the people "On the other side" of the production process who love and appreciate what the "Creatives" do. The reality of Show-Business is that there is no "Show" without the "Business".

It's one thing that should be taught earlier. In the mid 90's, when I taught cartooning to kids, there was the class (out of about 10 classes) where, as they sat and drew in a studio art class, we would discuss the other fields that related to and influenced cartooning. These kids, between 8 and 14 would be surprised that being a printer could involve you in cartoons (and truthfully, help you to cartoon better). And I would tell them the ongoing saga of how the Lawyers were saving the X-Men from Carl Icahn. Note how that story ended up dovetailing into how Toymakers are involved in comics. And even though they owned toys of the comics, they would still be surprised.

It's something that we don't teach nearly enough in general, how interconnected things are, and it's a lesson we're living out economically and environmentally right now....

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Greg B
IE # 118
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I may have been different from the norm because I started working for a large corporation just a year or so out of high school. I got the chance to see how huge corporations worked from the inside out. I did realize however how much American students don't know about the basics like business, home purchases, credit and debt, financing.

We live in a capitalistic system and the alst thing people know about is money, it's management, acquisitions, etc.. We are like directed toward lives of irresponsibility on these issues. If kids knew how to buy and manage homes, real estate, banking, etc., they wouldn't be in debt in and just out of college and in debt for 30 years. We're not supposed to be living in debt for decades on end. That's total inefficiency and nothing short of criminal. It's like those old days of the coal mines and "company stores" that kept people in debt six ways to Sunday.

Artists are in an even worse situation because once one rises above the level of amateur to professional that's when even bigger wolves show up. Being an artist is like having a bullseye painted on one's forehead. People treat you with awe or jealousy. Your fellow artists can be the worst of the bunch. Art is power and power controls money, not the other way around.

Knowing finance and business and management are survival tools every American should know and especially artists but it's the last thing you learn. If I knew in high school what I learned later about finance, credit, debt I would have been a millionaire in less than a year of graduating. Methinks we're shepherded by society to remain ignorant in these areas out of fear.

So for me, it's a mandatory survival strategy to study business, finance, and law as early as possible in one's education so it becomes second nature leaving one's power of self determinism stronger with a greater sense of personal and professsional responsibility.

Case-in-point, we're in the worse financial shape in 80 years and again, because of ignorance of finance and the workings therein. Tack on greed and irresponsibility and it messes up the hash of daily operating efficiency.

Here's a story. I run into guys who want to get jobs in comics. I would see them come to the offices and get their first job and then try to negotiate the most intolerable payment structures outside of Godly procedure you'ld ever hear. Guys would want someone to pay their cousin Ed so he could cash the check because their ex wife or 'baby mama' and the courts were after the guy's money. Or they had credit card companies after this or their bookie was after that and the variantions were comical. I literally don't talk to people with problems like that. Anyone that screwed up in life is someone I don't want around me.

If they allow problems like that in life, they'll bring those problems to the workplace. The minute you hire someone and here come the court papers taking everything you're paying them and then the employee works in a grind all depressed and inefficiently. It's ridiculous and we need to have mass education on finance and business management in this country. If the mainstream news spent as much time educating the public as they do focusing on Britney Spears and Hannah Montana we'd have economic geniuses in less than a year.

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knowledge
IE # 258
Member # 462

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I certainly wish CalArts had had a basic business class for us to attend back in the day. Tough having to play catch up 20 years later.
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Ganklin
IE # 14
Member # 1864

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i've often thought that perhaps one day i might go back to school, but not to get a master's in art or animation, but to pick up some classes in business or in psychology.

myself and a friend of mine once had a conversation about the notes we got on a show we were on. we thought that there wasn't much separating us from the "research department" other than a piece of paper. we felt that a lot of times the notes we got were arbitrary and had no founding on the show we were on. for example, we were once told not to use a typical, average mailbox because most people outside of the major metropolitan areas wouldn't know what it was...a mail box. as in the united states postal service. but what did we know? we just push the pencil/stylus around.

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Metsys
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Ooo, psychology. I'm glad someone brought that up. The other guy I'm trying to start a studio with is the art/business guy, and I'm the art/psychology guy. It's a little off topic, but psychology is another one of those fields that really informs art and also helps you on the business/marketing side of art. At the very least psychology is something that anyone who creates stories should know as much as they can about.

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dermotoconnor
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Hi everyone,

This is my first post here. Hi Don; I don't know if you remember me - I was one of the crew in Dublin, from 1988 to 1992. Finally scraped into the animation dept. on Thumbelina, and left following a lucky Green Card lottery win towards the end of "Pebble and the Penguin".

The Ward Kimball letter was great to read; I wrote something serendipitously similar on Saturday - spurred by a recent quote on John K's blog that really got on my nerves:

http://www.angryanimator.com/word/2009/04/25/john-k-wheat-from-chaff/

Don gets special mention in that piece, btw.

Anyway, suffice to say that animators should have a much broader education than just animation. I'll always regret not taking piano lessons more seriously when younger, as even a mediocre pianist is better than no pianist at all.

I've spent much of the last few years developing an interest in architecture, ecology, politics and history. Those were always of passing interest, but they have finally reached a critical mass - to the point where I'm confident enough to create my own films on those subject matters. There's enough material to keep one busy for a very long time.

Getting back to the subject of politics in art/opera, have you seen or heard "The Death of Klinghoffer" by American composer John Adams?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RAE3fsDz0I

In this case it's more overt than in the case of Stravinsky, but powerful nonetheless.

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