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Posted by Charles on September 10, 1999 at 16:04:13:

People ask me why I'm so confident. Some of the animation artistic types I speak with seem uncomfortable about the concept of an animation industry controlled by artists. Not many, but there are some. It's as if the notion of collective self determination is too overwhelming to grasp. An impossible and impracticle dream. They'd rather leave their work, art and careers to the whims of a traditional bucket-head pseudo or psuedette than make the mental effort to envision and accept something new and far better.

I'm sure that much of their hesitance comes from fear. For those of you sitting on this fence, relax. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's a consequence of the current condition of this and related industries. It's a matter of natural selection. It's going to happen because it makes too much business sense.

Decreasing production budgets gives us a potential advantage. For one thing, it will eventually get to the point at many more studios where non-creative management cannot afford both itself and an in-house creative staff. Management isn't going to lay itself off. The solution for them is obvious. Send more of the production out of town. It may work fine in live action, but in animation, it's a different story altogether. It's an extremely inefficient method of producing animation, especially if the outgoing work is pre-production design and concept development. For all of the initial economic advantages that this may offer the pseudo-producing studio, it's overall disadvantages far outweigh any short term gain.

For example, three years ago I was called to art direct a direct-to-video production. The gig was only four weeks long, but it paid well and it was work between projects for me. This was the first time that I experienced a situation where virtually all pre-production design was being done in another country. In this case, Canada. This studio was increasingly outsourcing design while continuing to call itself an animation studio, having no in-house artists other than a small development crew which primarily produced artwork for pitches.

The design that the script called for could have easily been completed by a small in-house crew. Yet here I was, trying to art direct a crew in Canada. With all due respect to my Canadian friends and partners, the work I received from that studio was dreadful. With the exception of one or two artists who seemed to be on top of things, the rest of the artwork was of such poor quality it was obvious that it was assigned to a team of amatuers greatly in need of understanding the basic fundamentals of drawing, designing for animation and perspective.

Neither I nor the director could sit there and pretend that everything was ok like the so called producers were doing, so I vociferously brought the issue to their attention time after time. The results? Nothing. Since everything was done through a fax machine, my comments to the Canadian artists, which could in no way be taken as anything but professional remarks from an art director, were summarlily edited without my knowledge by a production assistant through the orders of her immediate superior. They didn't want the Canadian studio to be offended by having the production's art director tell them to make some changes and suggest ways of improving the quality of the work they were being paid to produce.

What should have taken four weeks to finish went on long after my four weeks were up. Pre-production turned out to be awkward and uninspired and the delays incurred were absorbed by the time originally alloted for animation. The resulting product didn't do nearly as well as it could have and should have. It was thoroughly forgettable and I was embarrassed to have my name on the credits.

Now I ask you, what kind of business sense did this approach make? It would have been so much easier and less expensive to spend a little more money for a key design staff than to send so much of the planning process out the door. Just three or four artists could have done it, while utilizing Canada as a back up and insisting on the studio's A team. How much more would it have cost? Artists can see the business sense in this. Why can't these business people see it?

Because they are greedy and they are lowsy at what they do, that's why. We are much better than we give ourselves credit for at planning and managing a production. We can certainly do better than them. These people and their system are nonsense. They are sitting ducks for that commando crew that can prove to the sources of animation capital that we are capable of a better job without them and that we can achieve a higher level of success when we control the system.

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