A new, healthy beginning
This year I consider that primetime animation has been kinda like a rock star or movie star that has hit super stardom and then doesnt quite know how to handle it, resulting in a fiery crash to rock bottom. Animation became red hot, and in all the craziness that ensuedwe went down in a fiery crash. (How else can you explain cancellations almost before the shows even aired?) Now, like the big bang theory the explosion is coming back down, and I think this will lead to a more stable industry, if it doesnt completely implode! Rather than having two or three high profile shows on the major networks, Id rather see the industry have four or five shows on smaller networks continuing at a steady pace, building a following and audience for the networks. If animation can help build a market for burgeoning networks as Gerard Raiti suggests in his article "Primetime Animation Fills Growing Niche TV," then that will only help animated programming expand and in turn provide jobs.
Animation producers are always complaining about "suits" that dont understand animation and make their lives hell by poking their noses into the shows they are producing. Well, I think after this past television year, a lot of network suits have definitely learned their lesson. Animation is its own special breed and to capture and use it like Cartoon Network and Foxwell, it takes focus and commitment. Unfortunately, now many have been burned and wont be coming back to animation anytime soon. Moreover, as Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman explains in "Boom and Doom," it takes more than a dog and pony show to produce animation. Experience is vital and several of this past seasons shows have proven that you are asking for trouble when you have an animated show that isnt backed by industry veterans. Hopefully, if networks have learned anything this past year, it is to look before they leap. There is still more animation being produced for primetime than ever before and with shows like The PJs and Home Movies finding new network homes after being cancelled proves that it isnt "our" animation that failed, it was the placing and approach.
When I was in college two events influenced me to go into animation. The first was a "Writing for Animation" course I took with Ernie Pintoff. For a bunch of kids raised on Saturday morning cartoons, Ernies selection of art films with favorites from UPA and the NFB blew us away. We were wowed. And I was impressed. The second event was my experience over the course of one summer regarding two separate internships. The first one was at a very high profile ultra-cool live-action feature company run by a very talented writer/director/producer team. They were very nice to me. I really cant complain. Other classmates had terrible internships where all they learned was exactly how certain executives liked their tuna sandwiches (think Swimming with Sharks), and one poor soul even had to bail out a convertible that had been left open in a rainstorm! No one ever yelled at me because I forgot mustard. In fact, they even bought me some trail mix because I wouldnt take lunch and they felt sorry for me. In Hollywood, thats true concern. I did coverage, filed, entered info into the database and was encouraged to ask a lot of questions. The other internship was at Turner Feature Animation (TFA) and the project that was in production was Cats Dont Dance. After completing my coverage, I would get to look at artwork, sit in on story meetings, and on really great days, Id go over to the main TFA building and follow around the key players, one of whom was Mark Dindal. I had no idea how lucky I was at the time. If I had some questions about character design, the next week theyd organize a chat with character designer and CalArts instructor Robert Lence. The next week I had questions about acting and animating, so in Id go to Lennie Graves who was Sawyers lead animator. How do you put the whole thing together though? I pondered. Well, what I didnt glean while being a fly on the wall of the conference room from Mark and the Turner executives, I could get by asking a few questions of art director Brian McEntee. What a summer! It was then I decided that I wanted to go into animation because the folks were so friendly and interesting. Forget a snooty commissary and assigned parking depending on your rank and file...lets walk across the street together to the Crest market and get a sandwich. Id tag along listening and absorbing and loving it! I can really say that the people of Turner Feature turned me onto one of animations greatest facets -- its people.
Finally, we all had a great time up at the Ottawa International Animation Festival from September 19 - 24, 2000. Four AWN staff members traveled up north, which was a delicious preview of fall weather and had us all bundled up. My only regret is that I didnt realize there were marshmallows to roast at the picnic until it was almost too lateand everyone knows one roasted marshmallow is far too few. Gary Schwartz was also in attendance and snapping away photos with wild abandon. But not just any photos mind you -- 3D photos! I do hope you can see the stereoscopic effect and take full advantage of "The Ottawa 2000 Scrapbook: Featuring the 3D Photographs of Gary Schwartz." Enjoy!
Until Next Time,
P.S. Oh, and in addition to a blender, DreamWorks new straight-to-video production Joseph: King of Dreams is on my holiday wish list. Check out co-director Robert Ramirez article "Out of Character: The Making of Joseph," because in my opinion this production is quite special.