If you can dream it, you can do it. -Walt Disney
Quality is a great business plan. -John Lasseter
Let's make some funny pictures. -Tex Avery
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. -Howard Zinn
When critics sit in judgment it is hard to tell where justice leaves off and vengeance begins. -Chuck Jones
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? -Jesus
A man should never neglect his family for business. -Walt Disney
What's most important in animation is the emotions and the ideas being portrayed. -Ralph Bakshi
Once you have heard a strange audience burst into laughter at a film you directed, you realize what the word joy is all about. -Chuck Jones
Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. -Buddhist Proverb
Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.
The cycle seems broken. I honestly believe we NEED that structure. It seems to me, nothing else can fix the problem. If anyone knows of any studio in animation that has a business model built around the master/apprentice or incorporating it in any way, I'd love to know...
Other than hiring new employees as an apprentice category under the union pay scale I don't know of any studio offhand that has an apprentice program.
I think the term for it today is perhaps a mentorship as opposed to a master, or perhaps a masterclass in an educational program. Apprentices have become interns. Whereas apprentices were paid, by today's standards, most apprentices are now interns and usually work for free.
There's nothing much that can be done about it on the studio side of things. As long as interns are willing to work for free and mentors are anyone who is willing to offer some guidance, master level or not, that's the way of the modern industry.
Make the best of it.
On the flip side, now anyone can produce animation and create their own franchise. Some are having great success. Whereas before the model of the successful independent was hard to find, now there's so many individuals and groups who are operating this way it's vastly expanded what animation is and who can access it. A very positive development considering that in the old days it was a very prohibitive and exclusive club. The art and the medium for producing it has become greatly democratized and that helps balance things out.
Thanks for the response sir! It has become clear to me that the professional "studio" side of the field is working on a damaged model... but it feels like it was built on a properly working one. I LOVE the recognition and exposure the new medias bring to the artists, as well as the potential for earning a living, a thriving living of abundance at that. The freedom it brings to express oneself purely is great... but there is a flipside. Wisdom seems to be lacking... There's a reason why doctors don't start practicing right out of school, why they choose fields to specialize in, and serve their internships under the tutleage of a mast.. er .. mentor. During those years of study, they learn not only the tools of the trade, and techniques... but also receive exposure to the decision making processes of their mentor. The human side. The empowering side. The side that teaches how to live in that world. Our industry has the technical side completely covered.. it's the human side that's lacking. They say to lead by example... and very few actually do. You sir, are amongst the exceptions. Our industry does not seem to see the value in forming crews and working and training as crews as an asset... There is shorthand learned by working side by side with each other, that can create growth and improve quality and speed. Our field is similar to the medical industry... we are always on call, and our hours are overloaded... and the job seldom cares for your personal life. how hard would it be.. to restructure ourselves?... to re-organize ourselves. The medical field would be a perfect model of how to go about it, it compensates both the executive branches and the talent branches,and the work is everywhere.... as is the need for art. To organize through our union it would need to wish to demolish all it has known, and rebuild fresh... humans tend to not dig that change thing much though, so I'm not optomistic... Also, people would have to TEST or get CERTIFIED to practice, and an ethics code would need be created...Crowdfunding can cover the costs, if artists pull together... selfless or selfish... do we believe in the all, or do we empower the individuals... I honestly don't know which is the wisest strategy... I see the one we are in failing, I know united humans can move mountains, divided, just hills....
Your comments are right on Marius.
My contribution to your insights would be along the lines of forget about the studios and their systems for an effective / efficient model. They're about work for hire employment and everything that goes along with it. Some good and some not as good as it should be. I do appreciate the content they create. They have the money to throw at ambitious projects but the resources that creatively empower independents are getting better. Much better!
My years in the industry along with my experiences with the studio system side of things has underscored the dysfunction. I wish there was a different word for it but that's the one I feel is best suited to describe how it works. There's little within the studios or the union or anything that involves them that would translate to any kind of meaningful and positive reform for artists and creative individuals and groups in general other than those that are entrenched there. Look at what the VFX industry is going through. There's a lot of instability in the status quo system.
When I got into the biz you were young if you were in your mid 30s. These were the days of the masters. Today you're considered past your prime at that age as more and more 20 somethings with only a few years of work behind them become mentors. Very little regard is given to a master status.
There's always the exception of course and I do see it from time to time but the real growth is in what's happening with independent projects and operations.
You are at a distinct disadvantage if you're a studio artist and are not preparing in some way for the independent market.
Salvation is not necessarily within the established studio system although they won't have you believe it. Some studio artists have never heard of Kickstarter and crowdfunding and are really out of touch with what's happening in the outside world. Sooner or later they're going to be facing it and unless they're prepared they'll have a difficult time when that moment comes.
The future for all of us is in our fan base. Even if you work in a studio you should be using your experience there to develop a fan base. A few thousand fans could translate into mega bucks! Even just a few hundred can keep you going with a relatively comfortable lifestyle and will provide more stability than studio employment can offer.
Salvation lies with your fanbase, not with a system that becomes more dysfunctional every day.
If I spent my time focusing on their world I wouldn't be here. It's not a world that appeals to me any longer aside from what's happening creatively. I'm much more intrigued by the prospects of doing my own thing and developing a community of artistic love and enthusiasm. I enjoy exploring independent projects and endeavors and leave the studio scene to corrupted bloggers and union reps instead.
Keep Creating and you'll find happiness in your art!
I guess I'm not really looking at studios for the answer... but just noticed a structure exists. Was curious if it was the humans behind the system... or the system... if it's the system at fault, I completely think it should be abandoned... if it's the people... I think responsibly, ... well.. in my head... a grown up cleans a mess when they enter a room, a child leaves a mess behind... I fear the guilt of leaving a mess behind.. will haunt me... so I need to keep on trying to find a way to clean the mess. I just wonder.. what if.. everyone cleans their own mess... then things.. might get done. Instead... many studio execs have fancy drinks, and many studio artists... play with toys... and the mess keeps on growing... I have this nagging suspicion, there's a way for all to win... Anyways. Thanks for your insight Charles... As a 35 year old trying to learn how to be a proper human.. I'm having a hard time finding role models I can follow... my desire for money is non-existant... i simply long for purpose. Your dedication, commitment and hard work is commendable and has been an example to me. Thanks sir, for being a hero. They aren't always liked, or right, or perfect... but they keep on fighting for what they believe to be true. Thanks sir! I'll retire to my daydreams of artist doctors, and what a world that would be... medical doctors can cure physical ailments, we can cure... soul ones....
Thanks Marius, for your supportive words. It's odd to actually get a positive remark from someone. I'm long accustomed to this biz not giving a damn.
I think you really nailed it with that analysis. That's the way I see the animation industry in LA and their system as a whole. Very childish and lacking the professional maturity to grow, adapt and evolve for the betterment of all. I see it in the union. I see it in the studios. I see it with animation media and industry bloggers. I really see it in the artists I'm sorry to say.
That's another reason why I'm attracted to and intrigued by what's happening with creative individuals and groups outside of this crowd. It's a much more interesting and dynamic world than the studio scene and it becomes more appealing all the time. The studio scene and their systems are finite. The emerging landscape that we're seeing with all this independent activity is boundless! What's more, I'm seeing huge success with many of the projects and properties arising from this new world! It's an occasion to rejoice with something new to celebrate every day! The studio scene doesn't compare to the new dynamic that's happening! At least for me it doesn't. I'm much more intrigued by the success of independents.
I teach my students that as well. I teach them to prepare for the future by developing their content and fan base.
You've got the right attitude Marius. Focus on your creativity and in ways to give to the world. When you do the world will give back to you especially now with crowdfunding as a proven medium. Don't concern yourself with fixing the status quo. If you really want to make a statement about changing things then do it through the example of your creative productivity and in making the most of the NEW system.
Sir, I completely understand what you are saying about independence.. I HONESTLY do... I LIVE in that world presently. It's filled with the same, unknowing wisdom lacking humans of the world... permission to speak candidly sir?
My old life was about working with my peers, sacrificing for the team and finding they'd easily sacrifice me so they can continue, forgetting what I contributed and actually bad mouthing my name to make sure they cover their tracks.
It was fcking surreal.
But I was lucky I had mentors in my life who exposed me to alternatives. Although mentors can end up just being about themselves. The dynamic of master and apprentice is still stronger then any corporate gig out there. Best believe.
What I DID learn though is you can't unify unless you are a strong individual first. With a moral compass and a basic understanding of fundamentals with the will to invest hours to become a master yourself. One can achieve anything!
When did we lose our home? Animation.. started different... dream based, hard work driven, and very passionate industry... became... lazy, sloppy, abusive, and over all.. just ugly. How did we lose it? When did adults, stop being adults and embrace being children instead? I watch in disbelief as 40 year olds and even 50 year olds... walk around happily trying to wear a role of man-child. That is SOOO dangerous for us all...and it seems it became the animation stereotype... where are all the adults?...
Snakebite, I ABSOLUTELY can relate to your statement. I stopped worrying about anyone liking me, or giving me a fair listen. I ask EVERYONE to work very hard, and sacrafice play... nobody wants to hear that. But in my head, play.. is for children. I've spent so many years doing things wrong.. and everyone telling me.. that's animation. I just feel.. like our industry could be MANAGED by adults better. Saddly, I'm not seeing adults at the helm.. and it's not just in our biz... one only has to glance at congress to see a prime example of children in adult suits. We used to serve gourmet meals... and we've let ourselves become fast food... we need to do the hard work, to become healthy or we are destined to live in this cycle.. til our children or their children find the strength to break it. It sucks... because it wasn't broken to begin with... it was broke by humans, and can be fixed by humans...
By the way, Snakebite and Charles, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts, and letting me express mine freely... Charles I've always looked up to you, and snakebite life had to punch me in the face a few times before I understood you. When I first joined AN many years ago, I didn't understand why you seemed so upset.I watched that VFX video you put out recently though, and was blown away by your honesty, integrity, and with the respectful tone of love you had... reminded me of how a good father should be. You both have had a positive impact on my life, and for that, thank you sincerely.
Thanks for reconnecting with us Marius. It's great to have you back and I appreciate that you have the wisdom and vision to see what's been going on in the animation biz and that you have the courage to address it.
There's no question as to the immaturity of the animation community. I've experienced it for myself intensely as a direct result of AN.
Know what it was 3 days ago?
The day I was fighting for and promoting all those years so we could have an official holiday in animation to honor artists. Think it was picked up by anyone in this biz? Not a chance.
I learned a lot of very harsh and sobering lessons as a result of AN. It really hit home on October 21 2011 at the fiasco of a debate with the Animation Guild in Burbank.
By the way, take a look at the childishness we experienced that night from one of our community's leading bloggers, author and historian...
That says it all when it comes to what the status quo animation business is all about. These guys actually think of us as an enemy.
Since then I've stopped wasting time and life energy on these people. They're a hopeless cause.
Do you really want to make an impact in animation? I'll tell you what will do it.
Become successful at your art.
Are you looking for maturity, integrity, love and support?
You'll find it with your fans.
That's what I've discovered over the past year. That's why crowdfunding is becoming such a potent force in our business. Your fans will show you love and support. The animation community in LA will shove a knife in your back. They'll discredit you, slander your name, behave like immature idiots, and huddle in their cubicles and gossip like school kids.
If anyone doubts what I'm saying consider how many artists in the Guild bothered to vote on their own 3 year union contract last year. Just 1 in 5. Case closed.
Don't look to these people for anything other than creative inspiration. Most of them are incapable of anything else.
Look at what's happening outside of the animation labor oriented work for hire community. Look at how successful independents are becoming.
This is the future! This is where it's heading.
Stay positive. Maintain a good attitude. Don't get caught up in industry soap operas. It's a distraction.
Focus on your art and your creative productivity. Your fans will love you for it.
Let your light shine in the darkness!
I hear you loud and clear sir. Honestly, it feels like this independent cycle hit before, with the internet boom, lots of artist run studios were born out of it, only to transform into the thing they were born against ... I'm hoping this time we'll do it right... I have this nagging worry though... i fear we are simply re-inventing the wheel and will follow a similar cycle to what we've seen...
Wow, thanks man, I appreciate the good word. I was reading your post and thinking, man, sounds like some of my old posts. hahahaha But hey, even my closest friends didnt get me and I had to cut them loose.
I will say, don't lose the play. We can still be adults and responsible and play with what we do! have fun at the end of the day.
But again, what you said to me means a lot. I want to participate with people. I don't want to alienate myself, but I feel strongly about my perspectives and want to express myself as much as possible.
Evolution aint gonna happen from us being quite. And I appreciate your perspective as well. Passion like that will turn s*** around. It did for me. Its still a hard road, but one with much focus. Sometimes the truth can sting and people don't want to hear. Which I'm sure you can understand oh too well.
Thanks for the respectful tone while we shift all this out and make a new dynamic in our industries!
The boom of Y2K time was a false start Marius. People foresaw this time and jumped into it before the technology was ready and business models had developed.
Today it's a completely different story.
Back then you still needed investment bankers and investors and capital from institutional sources.
Not any more!
In fact these sources have literally become obsolete in the new emerging system. There is nobody between you the content creator and your end user. It's as smooth and wide a path as anyone could hope for or imagine. The old system of working at the studios and master / apprentices and interns and work for hire employment - all that is going to change at some level. How so we'll see but the change is coming none the less. You see it in the troubles and cutbacks that Hollywood studios are experiencing compared to the obvious and growing success of crowdfunded campaigns and projects THAT THE CAMPAIGNERS OWN!
The dynamics are very powerful.
It's an irresistible force moving upon an immovable object.
The irresistible force always prevails!
A great thing that is happening brothers and sisters!
yah but sir, i see it kinda as surfing.... in my analogy, money is water. in the old boom a wave came, and those that caught the wave, were poised on money's front.. the wave came,. they rode it best they could, and it passed.. new swqell is coming in... artists are poised to catch the wave.. do they KNOW how to RIDE the wave?.. not without EXPERIENCe.... in my head... I fear the worst, and hope for the best... I've talked to artists though.... :/
This is about a new system where access to the resources one would need to further their creative endeavors becomes more directly available to us. If you compare what's happening now to the boom of the early last decade the difference is glaring.
First off, the boom is not reliant on traditional capital investment as before. And if you're waiting for this boom to bust your wait will be in vain. If anything, studios are going bust. Not crowdfunding as a resource.
Secondly, the record of successfully funded projects is obvious. You're not dealing with capital in the same way. It's much more about marketing and pre-selling and ownership and appealing to / interacting directly with your audience and customers and fans.
This is a paradigm shift that's been in the works for a long time. It's being manifested as power to the artists and to creatively motivated people.
We have control. Not investment bankers or corporate executives.
Use the system that's emerging to your advantage to affect others in a positive way with what you have to say.
I agree with you on the differences sir, as they do exist. And I really hope I'm not coming across negative, because I'm not. I'm actually a very positive person, who is looking forward past this moment into the future to see what could be the negative flip side to this crowd-funding boom.I merely present the best/worse case scenarios based on my experiences that pop into my head: i worked for young money people as an animator at the tail end of the original internet boom, I worked for a bigger studio after, and I now work for three crowd-funded projects... and I've learned humans are humans, artist or executive. There's a complete lack of WISDOM at the top. Crowd funding will keep going, but the indie person, unless they wisen up and learn responsibility, will become an unreliable source, and I suspect NEW studio systems based upon the crowd-sourcing model, with track records will come to dominate the field again. The good news is crowd funding opens doors to the future for our beautiful art-form... whether the artists and executives will walk through together or seperate, I've no clue. Everyone seems so EAGER to stay divisive...it's like watching a beatuiful tree, but up close the branches (executives), and fruits(creatives) are fighting about who is the more important bit... while completely ignoring the leaves(the labor industry sheltering all), meanwhile the trunk is busy hoarding and enjoying all the water by itself. ARTISTS do not necessarily make good executives, and vice versa, but for either side to think that we don't need the other side... well.. seems foolish to me. I can tell you from experience animating for the studios the weekly demand was 30-45 seconds per week of animation... as a crowd-source studio animator... it's seeming to live in the 50 seconds to a minute a week mark... that, to me, does not feel like a positive change. It's a complete producer error, but I'm used to those. I want to believe hard that artists can make a change, and they can.. if they choose selfless over selfish. But they aren't... they see crowd-sourcing.. as their own personal get out of struggle free card, instead of using it to unify and unite our industry... selfish over selfless. Artists and execs are both equally guilty of choosing the first over the latter more often than not. Until the adult generations choose responsibility over fun... we're doomed to repeat the pattern. This is not me raining on a parade.. just me pointing out what I see as the problem... The only solution I can think of involves all of us uniting together. The systems aren't broken, how we use them is. We NEED to unite, all of us. There's no way all executive branches will die out, and there's no reason for them to either. They just need to do THEIR job, and not the job of creatives. It will happen eventually, the younger generations see it more clearly than the older ones. Whether we live to see it is entirely in each and EVERY one of our hands, we can make the difference.. or we can be a footnote in history. UNIFY. That's not done by dividing (artists choice), or being subservient(executives choice). That's my worse case scenario fear (which seems very likely). Best case scenario, artists grow and take responsibility for their lives, put in the appropriate time to develop out what they really wish the crowd to fund, help others of experience execute their own crowd funded projects to gain the wisdom, and when the time is right (when the artist knows all the aspects of the thing they wish to fund) they branch out and repeat the cycle... with new younger artists helping them. Eventually studio systems will grow from this, and executives and others will have their jobs again, with the bottom line not being the dollar, but the art... it can be good for EVERYONE, including the masses...It's the whole master/apprentice selfless thing. I would LOVE this system... sadly, I see more evidence for the worse case scenario playing out than the best...point is... in the end it'll all be ok.. how bumpy of a ride it will be for all of us is in all of our hands.
Hey Marius I appreciate this great topic that you started and I understand where you're coming from with your comments.
This is the best advice I can offer at this point. Based upon my many years of fighting for the very things you're talking about.
I spent a lot of time and effort and a lot of money sponsoring industry events with food and drink for the animation community. I spent years sponsoring the AN Forums and I was at the vanguard shouting from the mountain top about what was happening in animation and passionately attempting to do something for the betterment of our community. I've been publicly calling for unity among artists since February 1999 and extolling that message since 1985 when I gave my first speech about launching an artists' revolution while teaching at the California Art Institute in Calabasas, California in December of that year.
Do you think anything I've said, written or sponsored has sunk in or has even been remembered by my peers and colleagues?
Check this out...
THE ARTICLES THAT STARTED THE ANIMATION NATION MOVEMENT
This is what I've learned my friend.
The animation community of artists are an absolutely hopeless cause. They couldn't unify if their lives depended upon it. Look at the VFX industry and the calamity that artists are experiencing there. With all of that turmoil they still can't get it together.
Look at the Animation Guild. Nearly 80% of its active membership didn't bother to vote on the ratification of their own union contract in August of last year.
Look at the corruption of the Guild's leadership.
Look at animation media and their failure to seriously address the very real problems that face this community especially when it comes to its chronic dysfunction about doing anything positive for itself.
Look at how many artists coming out of school are willing to work for free.
Look at how many masterful artists are being laid off at the studios.
Look at how much money is being siphoned off by studios executives to support their uselessness.
There is no hope for change from this community and the system it's embracing.
You must be the change.
Look at what's happening with independents.
Look at what's happening with crowdfunding. Consider how many artists all over the country are living happier lives creating for themselves and connecting with their fan base.
If you want to lead a crusade to unify animation artists then more power to you. I hope you're successful. If I were you I would focus on this...
Your quality of life. Your happiness. Your creative productivity. Your personal growth. Your friends and fans and those who will support what you do.
Life is short and you don't want to waste your years on a futile campaign for people who will not appreciate your message nor your efforts. If you really want to make a statement to the animation community, one that will really resonate with them, then become successful with your art. That's the only thing they understand and care about. That's the only way of getting through to them and frankly I don't think it's worth it. Focus on yourself and find happiness in what you do.
Your peers will hate you. Your fans will love you. Go with the love.
Maybe I'm wrong about your peers. In any case, go with the love.
I completely understand sir.. I guess I'm bored by the soul-less finished product that the studios produce, and am UNDERWHELmed by the indie projects that have soul... and little finish... it's all so frustrating.. i got no answers, and will have to go with the just do my thing... oh the well...