Re: A Professionals' response

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Posted by Brian Mitchell on June 23, 1999 at 10:58:13:

In Reply to: A student's outlook. posted by Geoff on June 23, 1999 at 08:02:19:


I think a good amount of your comments are in good spirit and I would like to respond to them one by one. I don't think you're wrong about the problems in our business, but I don't think that the artists are the problem. Read on....

: I've been reading a number of the postings on this site, and just thought I'd pass along some of my impressions.

: I am starting my first year at Sheridan this fall, and I do believe that the future of animation is pretty bright...but I'd still like to see some changes.

I think we all see the future in a positive fashion and I think that change is great, If only others would think so too!

: I like some of the things that Charles has to say. I really like his focus on the enpowerment of the animation artist.

That's a factor that will bring about that change we talked about.

: I am really concerned with what I see in the way of animation being produced. There really is a lot of crap that is being developed out there. It seems to me that as long as this continues...the animation industry will only wind up shooting itself in the foot.

Agreed. It's been done it before and it'll happen again. There is a lot of junk out there on airwaves. There's also great stuff waiting in the wings. Too bad we'll probably never see it.

: It seems to me that so many companies out there are churning out animated program after animated program that never make it past pilot stages. Companies want to all have their own sucess stories like the Simpsons or Batman, but they seem to act as though these shows came to be through some kind of fluke. It seems that the current trend is to have cartoons that are completely story driven and go cheap on the visuals...only to have them wind up discontinued after a few months.

Unfortunately, networks want proven product. They want a built in market for their shows. Why do you think Men In Black, Pokemon, Batman, Spiderman, The Mask among others have made it to air? They are pre-sold product. Some are well made, others are not. To make animation, you have to sell the shows. If you can't sell them then they don't get made. Case in point, Even the Simpsons came from a popular segment from The Tracey Ullman Show and backdoored this problem. So, there you have it. Fortunately, some cable networks are looking for original programs, like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Now as for limited visuals and lots of dialogue, well, that's a staple of T.V. animation.

You don't have lots of money to play with in T.V.

There are shows still being produced under

$ 200,000! Unless you get big bucks from a network, we'll continue with our limited animation for limited dollars, But I never said that Limited animation has to look bad. One other thing, concept is everything. Good Concept plus funny scripts equals great show. Look at South Park. Primitive animation but a funny concept got Comedy Central a hit show and a movie. What about Space Ghost: Coast To Coast? another fine example. That's the great thing about shows and movies. If you're creative enough, you can make a pile of dog food into a funny show, with little or no money.

Gee, I hope that made sense.

: It's true that public acceptance of animation is probably at an all time high over the past decade, but it seems that the decision makers are trying to milk it for all it's worth by thinking that people are going to eat up anything that comes along.

The unfortunate part of this problem is that although artists help develop these shows, most of the time, we're told what to develop. Noticed all the Simpsons and Rugrats lookalikes? The almighty executives look at these successes and come to a conclusion, "MORE RUGRATS AND SIMPSONS CLONES!!!'

It's absolutely insane. Forget about concept, if it looks just like The Simpsons, South Park and Rugrats, the thinking is that the public is going to eat it up! 'WELL FRED, IT LOOKS LIKE WE'VE GOT ANOTHER BOFFO HIT HERE!' Then as executive thinking normally goes, 'we'll produce it for half of what Rugrats is produced for and when it hits big, we'll make even more money!' Of course, most of these so called money makers tank after about two or three shows, never to be heard of again.

Welcome to the glamorous cartoon business!

: It's no secret as to why shows like the Simpsons and Batman are so's because every aspect of the show is well crafted.

That's true, but both shows had top creative teams behind them. Batman was already a successful franchise and it was important to make sure that show succeeded. Simpsons had a great team from Tracey Ullman and was already proving to be a contender. Fox put real money behind it to make it better.

: I'd really like to see the animation industry take the time it puts into making 5 or 6 shows that never make it past a year on television, and spend that time making 1 or 2 shows that are very well crafted.

Ah.....the dreams of the young! Of course, our work force would be mostly on the streets if we did that. Not every show is going to be a hit, even if it is finely crafted. The networks take chances on a bunch of different shows with the intention of having at least a few hitting it off with viewers, but sometimes these executives have problems with understanding what a good show is and what isn't. Sometimes, I can't tell what's going to be big with viewers. Pokemon boggles my mind.

: I realize that if this were to happen, that every show would not be a hit...but it would serve the industry a lot better by not chopping away at the public's confidence and acceptance of animated programs.

Artists don't control the industry. That's what this web site is all about.

: I realize that in the history of animation there have been a number of up and down cycles of public acceptance, but I do believe that we are at a point now where there are no more cycles...that an animated show or movie is going to be accepted not because of some current trend of people liking animation, but because it is a really good show or a really good movie...period.

Really, there were never any CYCLES. If a movie was good, people went to see it. If a show was good, people watched it. Why has Flintstones been a continual favorite since 1960? Answer, it's good. It captures the publics imagination. Where's the cycle there? How about Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Daffy Duck? They were good cartoons. And all have been continually popular since their inceptions in the 40's. There is no such thing as cycles. Just bad movies.

: What I am afraid of, is that the industry continues to generate tons of animation that is created not in the hopes of creating a well crafted show...but rather to take advantage of the publics desire for animated programs. If this trend contiues, I predict that in 5 years or so...there will be a real slump in the public's acceptance of animated programming.

Don't be so bleak! Lighten up. We have more hit movies and television shows than ever before in the history of the medium. If you don't like a show, don't watch it. That'll send a message to the producers and executives. Hey look, we're gonna produce some duds, and we're gonna hit home runs. We're only human.

We're not a perfect industry. Does that mean we stop trying to do better?

: I am all for the idea of enpowering the animation artist. I love seeing things like Glen Keane getting as much publicity as the voice actors for Tarzan...I'd like to see more of that, and I think the public wants to see more of that too. If the animation artist is capable of having more say and having more of a sense of ownership of the final product...I think that it can only help to improve the quality of the product being developed.

Look, that's the whole purpose of this forum. We want things to get better. We'd like to own our own characters. We'd like to produce great movies all the time! Glen Keane is a great talent and deserves the attention, but there are others too who deserve the spotlight. We are trying to change this business and balance the scales more. Really it's an up hill battle and the forces are on the ready. Will you join us?

: I'm not sure how my thoughts come across to professionals who are in the industry. I am certainly a person who is on the outside looking in. I just see so many incredibly talented people working in the industry and see no reason why it shouldn't continue to grow and continue to flourish.

Thank you. It's people like you that we need more of in the animation biz. Good luck on your career path and hope you succeed with your goals. Oh, and keep your standards high!

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