Re: Chitown

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Posted by McClenahan on May 29, 1999 at 23:10:45:

In Reply to: Chitown posted by Charles on May 29, 1999 at 01:40:32:


Thanks for your nice comments about our website, and our town.

You talk about the developing animation culture in LA, and I'm not sure if you're referring especially to the second "Golden Age" or the first. LA is where it all got started, way back when. Then the economic reality set in; MGM and Lantz and Disney and eventually WB stopped making theatrical shorts, and a lot of animators were "out on the streets" ... a few of them started their own small studios and hired some of their friends, and some of those studios survived. Hanna and Barbera figured out how to save the industry, though. They didn't whine (well, maybe for a while) but then figured a way to make entertaining cartoon shows cheap. They launched the much maligned Age of Limited Animation. Sure it wasn't what the guys were used to doing. The Flintstones and Yogi Bear were a far cry from The Roadrunner and Tom & Jerry. But it meant jobs.

It almost lasted long enough, but eventually in the 70's all the work began to be drained off to Asian studios, and the industry was faced with ANOTHER economic crisis. Frankly, it became cheaper for the execs to break an existing contract with the MPSCG, pay them AN ENORMOUS penalty, and send the stuff overseas. And then they didn't renew the contract. And as far as I know, there has been virtually NOTHING happening in LA - aside from pre-production - from 1975 til now. Today's LA artists have been deprived of the experience of actually making the cartoons. They have to throw together some boards and notes and model sheets, send it to the other side of the planet, and hope the translators get it right. And most of you, subconsciously if not consciously, RESENT that. As well you should. Between you and me, I'd rather shoot myself than do what you guys have to do. Some day, if StarToons doesn't make it, I may have to do one or the other. But I love my craft. And I think a lot of you LA guys would love to love it too. I doubt if there are many of you - besides StarToons alumni - who know how to set up a compensating pan, or a diagonal pan, or give instructions for use of north-south pegs, or know a registration line from a welfare office. Not that you couldn't learn that stuff - and brilliantly. LA has a wealth of artistic talent - all going to waste.

I am well aware that our studio is practically another overseas studio, based in the distant land of Chicago. Whereas it is frustrating for us to be virtually ignored: we can't make as much money as our Asian - or even Canadian - competitors; and we can't get an audience with the LA execs. But we can operate in an atmosphere of artistic freedom (if there IS such a thing), devoid of the kind of politics and bureaucracy you guys have to deal with. I wouldn't trade our position for anything.

Let me further elaborate on my "LA-bashing." StarToons has already been stung - HARD - by LA studios. After we finished 10 episodes of Animaniacs, WB cut us off. We had to lay off artists, because we had no work. And ALL of the people we laid off ended up getting jobs - paying way more than we had paid - right there in LA. Look around, and you'll find ex-Chicago-StarToonies all over the place: Spike Brandt, Jeff Siergey, Tony Cervone, Kirk Tingblad, James Tucker, Mary Hanley, T.J. House, Celia Kendrick ... not to mention Genndy Tartakovsky and Rob Renzetti, who actually weren't cutting the mustard at StarToons the time (they're cutting it now). We hire 'em, familiarize 'em with production techniques, then lose 'em and train some more. They went to LA and became a part of the big problem you have over there. See, this is what drives me nuts - you guys hold the key to the future, but you think it has something to do with getting money. It doesn't. It means sacrificing, working your little fingers to the bone, getting out of the damned meetings and back to the drawing board - and you can't because you're enslaved by the execs you hate!

I LOVE that union horse with the beret, warning all the animators about how those bad independent studios in San Francisco & Chicago are going to screw the artists unless they sign up with the MPSCG ... thus ensuring that there will be NO hard work, NO sacrifice, and NO solution to the freakin problem!!! You guys are getting your chain yanked in a major way!

You guys have had the power to do something great for a long time, including putting an end to StarToons if you wanted to. I don't underestimate your power; you are the quintessential sleeping giant, sleeping with chains on. If you want to wake up and kill StarToons, you guys could do it easily. Just figure out what it takes to make the cartoon industry LIVE again! It takes more than artistic skill. It takes business savvy. You shouldn't put down the suits - you should learn their language. And if you get it together, call me, and I'd probably be happy to move to LA. Right now, StarToons is all we got, you OR me.

Most of the answers to your questions are on our web site, so I'll direct you to "Stuff We've Done."

I feel for you, brother.

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