A little rushed

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Posted by Dave Brewster on April 30, 2000 at 14:33:33:

In Reply to: Re: JAMES BATES:The LA Times article posted by A fly on the wall on April 30, 2000 at 01:48:14:

: : You cannot build company loyalty if the company is gone. Week to week contracts put the advantage on the animators side and make DWs the one having to live up to expectation. If an animator is worth it then the opportunity to move with short notice is golden. Myself I think it is the more desirable of all contracts

: Just so you know, the only ones with the week to week contracts were inbetweeners, breakdown artists, and rough inbetweeners. That is, the people with the fewest options to bail if something better comes along. So in a sense it was a value judgment; the more valuable an artist was, the more likely they would be locked up till the end of the picture.

Actually I know many animators that were offered that "week to week" option and it was before the crash . I don't know whether they executed those contracts but it wasn't my impression that there was any distinction other than keeping the core group on regular contract.

: : : The real solution, one which I'm not sure the powers that be can admit, is that real creative and artistic leadership needs to be nurtured, demanded, expected, and allowed to flourish. Filmmaking by committee, with the producer making the final decision on everything, is a recipe for trouble.

: : That depends on the producer. A producer is responsible to that film and takes just as many hits as the director so they have as much to lose. There are no books on what a producer does but I have seen some fine examples. Don Hahn or Harve Bennet. Both are story contributers but seem to be the objectiviy and will to push directors to execute. To set limits and close gaps. All this is wonderful but the one element these people seem to share is a degree of trust in the directors vision. A willingness to let that director fail a bit on their own terms. Who could blame anyone for being too controlling on any film that costs 100 million dollars. Staggering amounts of money. Staggering. The people who have that trust share the stage with saints and miracle workers. As artists we have a very myopic view of the production so things tend to be obvious and simple. The choices under pressure are not made in the blissful musings of fellowship. People will make mistakes so how we judge them should not be based on the mistakes they made but how they correct them.

: I think I was being to obtuse. We were talking about DW, and above when I referred to "the powers that be" I was really referring to JK. He's ultimately the real producer, and also the real director. Hence objectivity goes out the window. My impression is that a committee tries to figure out what will please him, meanwhile they compete among themselves for his favor. And Jeffrey isn't an artist or a writer, so he can't be too explicit about what he wants, giving rise to a lot of successive approximations in the development process. That gets expensive.

Jeffrey may not be an artist but I've seen him explain with clarity. He understands film cutting and staging as well as the animation process. The problem was not in the vagueness of the assembled sections but in the entire intent of the film. Coming on the film we were all expecting something radical to develope rather than everything get pulled back. Are we really PG or just skirting the edge of a G rating. Are we really going to kill off Miguel or bring him back like Baloo. The entire emotional basis of the film was what was in flux. With two other partners in this the also had influence. What may seem like indecision may be compromise to others vision. I know at one time Steven had a lot of notes and you can count on the fact Jeffrey listened.

: I agree that he has a trememdous amount to lose, and it's his division of the company, so he can do what he wants. But I notice in pro sports most owners don't call the plays.

He can lose a lot more games than a film studio can .

: : I really don't care if they can sell the film. That isn't my job at all. That is the marketing dept.

: I don't agree at all. If the film lacks widespread appeal, then it will tank, and the studio will be threatened, and an important crop of jobs with it.

What makes us think that after killing yourself to do the best job you can animating that it now becomes your responsabilty to do the work of the marketing department ? It is exactly why I don't tolerate marketing interference in my work. If what you say is the case they have the right to sit in my room and tell me what is appealing. If everything is that important than you should not trust anyone to do their job.

: Even the best marketing dept. in the world can't sell a film people don't want to see, no matter how beautiful that film is.


:There are some projects in production in town that are much more intrinsically interesting and appealing than others. Unfortunately, most of the more interesting ones seem to be at other studios.

I have seen beautiful work in all of the studios. I find all the projects I've seen very intersting.

: : As an artist all I can ask is if I really would enjoy watching it myself because if I don't, I know the audience wont.

: And you don't have to dig very deeply to find lots of people at DW who weren't very excited about the concept of El Dorado, and who are not excited about the concept of Spirit or Tusker (which have way too many similarities) or Sinbad.

To me ELD was a different film at the time I signed . I didn't want to do POE at all but after a while working on it actually really enjoyed it (go figure). Spirit was going to be such heavy drawing I knew I couldn't drive myself hard enough to do it with enthusiasm. Now looking at what James and Kristoff have done I get a little ache of regret. I know it was the right choice to go to OJ but Spirit looks so beautiful I think it will be a important film. I don't know much about Tusker. I just love PDI's work. Sinbad will be awesome by the way.

In the end you have to understand that I have known crew from so many productions. Success or failure, NONE of them were happy during production. None. Remember Lion King ? If there ever was a crew demoralized they were yet they found new drive despite.

:OTOH, Osmosis Jones and Treasure Planet and Atlantis and even Titan AE all sound like fun. The actual films may suck, but the basic concepts of all those films are great. They're naturals.

All I can say is the obvious is not always true (well, with the exception of OJones,you are totally correct , it rules) (how do ya like that , WBs taking risks, something new).I have no doubt Atlantis and Treasure Planet are superb but they are following in a tradition. DWs is creating a tradition.

: Explain them in two sentences to a casual film fan and chances are their eyes will light up. Now try to do the same with the DW slate of animation (excluding that coming from Ardman).

Change your voice, tell it in a hushed whisper and use only two words. Black Stallion. This film is so off by itself in animation it is not up for the tell it in two lines deal. You know what my sense of it is ? That it will be an experience. Like dropping into someone elses life and seeing things you weren't expecting. In that kind of film the rules change a bit.

: :That is what film is about. Sharing that enjoyment. Failing is far more common than succeeding in this business so one should not expect to be left virginal in that sense. And so your lack of faith is the safer bet. It took 15 years for WBs cartoon unit to really evolve to it's legendary unit and Disney had years in shorts long before Snow White. I wonder whether people had lack of faith in the future then ? Hmm , I'll bet you they did.

: Both Warners and Disney evolved and evolved and evolved, very quickly, until they became the benchmarks for the rest of the industry.

It took quite a time for Warners and quite a time for Disney.Ub Iwerks thought Disney was so on the way out he sold his Disney stock for a few bucks. Stock worth millions ten years later.

: Many more studios thought they knew what they were doing, had some success, but didn't evolve, and didn't last. I see no evidence of significant evolution at DW.

I see them trying to find their storytelling. Not Disney imitation storytelling but something they will be known by. Management structure has changed but nothing causes more evolution than a failure. Things may not be obvious.

: However, for me it's not lack of faith, but disappointment. There is SO much talent at DW, and I think much of it is being under used. We seem stuck in these complex PG historical costume dramas or over-serious animal pictures. And there is little breadth to the projects in development.

Suggest them. Submit. And if they aren't interested submit your ideas to other studios. Nothing peaks more interest than outside interest. What we all have to remember is that unless you do we are just talking. You cannot make the horse drink the water, if you get my drift. That in the end will always be the managements decision.

: All I'm saying is that it appears that the vision from the top of the company is a little restrictive. People come in, direct or produce on a single picture, then disappear. There is no legacy of creativity, no alternative power bases to nurture alternative visions. I think highly of the company and of Jeffrey's obvious abilities, so all that is a shame.

One of the things that shocked me was that after POE the entire production process was dumped. An entire new system came in. Rules were totally different and it was like starting all over again. I think it is still a search for what works . My hope is that Spirit does more than just become another film. That it will set the tone for the studio structure. Myself I think the films are already "alternative" even though it may not be in the cartoon direction people seem to desire. Who knows.

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