Jon and Dave discuss life in the big city.

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Posted by Dave on June 07, 1999 at 02:43:05:

: 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.

You might not that a lot of that animation was incredibly well done at times. The transition left some incredibly good shorts animators sitting at H&Bs desks. Irve Spence, Ed Barge, Ray Patterson etc, etc.

: 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.

Well, you could say that the execs discovered Asia and how cheap it was.

: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.

In TV maybe but not feature.

: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.

Anyone who resents it is still buying into the idea that they COULD have kept it here. As we know, nothing, not dancing naked on table tops could have stopped them from going to those cheaper markets. That myth is over.

: As well you should.

Should I ? Why, if they can do it as well for cheaper then they should. You see , that is the difference between us. You think that I or anyone cares if things get sent out that we could take no pride in . Exactly why would we ? Animation in TV isnít a steady job. Itís the entertainment business. Subject to every up and down wave that the economy can offer.

: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.

Sorry, we werent aware we stopped. Do you think actors stop loving acting even though they have to work as waiters to get by ? The idea that we swoon with desire for a job that competes with people making ten cents a day is a bit much though.

: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.

Oh, well you see we have schools like Cal Arts , Sheridan and such to hold our hands and guide us blindly to our desks. Now you can see it as a waste but do you think artists just stop being artists when hellish production series work stops ? If anyone doesnít practice compensating pans or north/south peg moves anymore itís because computers calculate the moves after the drawings are digitally scanned in feature. Trust me kids , learning how to calculate a compensating pan is a few hour affair that is simplistic at best. We taught kids to do it in the music room.

: 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.

Well, you are free to work. I think artistic freedom goes beyond that.

: 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.

Ok, now I get it.

: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.

Cheap labor doesnít stay that way for long Jonny. Look to Japan. Once they got their own animation market they became too expensive for those poor series execs. If you were the perfect answer to TV animations needs , why didnít they stay ? Wasnít the life you offered good enough ?

: 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.

Hey Jonny, itís the 90ís. Hell , itís nearly 2000. You are the one thatís hooked on the money not us. Nobody is asking for raises here ! Where do you get that ??????? Oh, I forgot, your trained animators running off to LA . Ya do these nobodys a favor and bam, they run off to the promised land. The entire premise of this site is to get the studios to stop wasting with micromanagement. It ruins the films and costs more. I can see you have a monkey on your back Jonny.

: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!

Yeah, you are right Jonny, we should talk less and work more. Stop this radical discussing our problems and make with the elbow grease. Keep your head down and ignore all you see. Think work, work, work. Ours is not to question why, ours is to take it up the butt. Dream on.

: 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!

Then let go of the chain. I see now why you are here. You have a gripe with the union and think this is your chance to air it. I never saw the cartoon but I do know this, what you are trying to tell us all is that YOU and yours are the only ones that work. That YOU and yours are the only ones that sacrifice. Pull your head out of the sand!!!!!!! There are people at DW who have been on a six day work week for almost a year !!!!!! Iím tired of you claiming YOU own dedication or YOU own enthusiasm or YOU own the only work ethic. You have been repeating this to yourself so long you have not been watching or listening.
Now get this Jonny, this unions mandate isnít to rule the world or make everything to expensive to do. The entire thing is to do the best for itís members. Signing a no strike clause was a pretty obvious sign it was interested in working, not whinning. Others see it as a mistake but you and I both know that it means way more.

: 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.

Why would they ? Do you think the union wants at this point to become the very thing they dislike ? A monster that kills jobs and puts Americans out of work. I think not. The retribution for that kind of damage would be far beyond any gain. The union may poke at you and knock at your door but that is their job.

:Just figure out what it takes to make the cartoon industry LIVE again! It takes more than artistic skill. It takes business savvy.

It takes striking down the myths. We have had enough business savy to this point. Tah, look what it took us to before. It takes the reality of exactly what business we are in. If you want to produce widgets, go ahead. Just dont get all misty eyed when others dont. To me it is more than just a living. The money will come and go as it has ,but never have I confused what I was being paid with what I do. I animated with ten dollars in the bank so Iím not quite afraid of how little I get paid in the future. Let go the stereotype. Stereotypes are for simplistic people who canít deal with individual personalities. I know your arent one of those.

: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.

Iím just as much against exec bashing as you. There are GREAT execs. People who know there job and do it well. But unfortunately there are the others as well, time wasters, money wasters, people whoís ideas and screw ups that put us all through hell. Who set us all back. Your studio included. It isnít LA animation this is about.

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

Sorry Jonny but you cant rewrite history. Iíve walked in the shoes of the people you have working for you. The real question is , have you ?

: I feel for you, brother.

Do you ? Do you really ? But you sound so much like you envy us ? You know, I feel for you. You cant train kids fast enough to use them until they leave. Again, if you are providing a good workplace, why do they leave ? Is it because your idea of what their lives should be dont quite match ? Perhaps you do need to walk in there shoes. Try this Jonny, if you had to work there, do you really think with your knowledge and training you would want to just produce widgets for the rest of your life? No , I donít think so. Hard being the head of your own studio , isnít it Jonny?

And now a last question for you. Why do you do it? Is it a job ? Or is it more than that ? Is it your love of that city and the people that are there or is it just a large enough city located in a labor pool no one has taken advantage of yet ? Iím interested.

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