Discovery: We Can Do it!

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Posted by Jon McClenahan on May 30, 1999 at 14:10:45:

After building a message chain with a guy named Dave, I thought it might be cool to start a brand new one. This has to do with a recent discovery we've made here.

We at StarToons have been hit hard with this work slowdown too. So to keep people employed through as much of this drought as possible, we have been doing digital ink & paint in-house. We figured it might cost more in the longrun, but it would be worth hanging on to people.

Let me back up a minute. You guys may or may not be aware that our animators (and everybody who works on production) is paid a wage plus a production bonus. It's the only way to keep costs under control, and the MPSCG's aversion to it (a piecework bonus system) is why TV animation isn't being done by LA animators. Otherwise it's too easy for a $300,000 budget to turn into a $3,000,000 financial disaster. Asian studios produce cartoons at an agreed price, and a union studio, by definition in their contract, can't.

OK, so normally the few lingering projects we have in house would be sent OS for finishing, but to keep our guys busy, we're doing it ourselves, using the Toon-Boom/US Animation system (the only way to fly, by the way. This is grunt-work, guys. Anybody and his little sister can do this stuff. It's point-and-click. 12 year old kids can do digital ink & paint, OK? Most of them can do it better than you and me, truth be known. In other words, this work COULD be done ON AMERICAN soil by kids who would otherwise be working for McDonald's for $300.00 a week. Would they rather be doing this? You can bet on it.

But can they do enough cels (images) per hour to make it worth the studio's time? Or is it still better to send that stuff overseas?


Combine the MONUMENTAL savings in digital ink & paint and compositing, over Asian ink & paint and camera, and then consider the fact that assistant animation can and should be a learning phase. I can take kids with drawing aptitude, straight out of high school and turn them into animators after two years (or less) as an assistant. And then figure that many of our animators are making as much as or more than union animators.

The conclusion is that we can MATCH overseas costs, paying animators a good wage (by American standards). Yeah, you say, but that's working in a sweatbox, right?

Animation is fun! We're not talking long hours in coal mines! This is an animator alone with his light-box and his pencil. The fact that our animators do a LOT of it each week only means they're having more fun. They operate under the whip of their own motivation, and when you're animating fun, wacky cartoons, the whip has no sting anyway.

Keep in mind, once we've PROVEN we can do it cheaper, the Asian Fat Cats will drop their prices. But if nobody calls their bluff, they will continue to get STINKING RICH on their contracts.

See guys, YOU have the power to make a difference, but not if your productivity is held back by contract stipulations designed for factory workers. I.e. your union horse.

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