Historians naturally have a difficult time discovering the past for several reasons. Human nature, politics and, of course, the all-mighty dollar play a role. Finding animation's history might even be a little more difficult because opposed to an event that many people witnessed or were involved in, the early years of animation came and went with little documentation.
It is human nature to want to say positive things about people we admire. However, we run into trouble when the people documenting history only record what their subjects want to have remembered and not what is the truth. People writing books and articles really have to do their research in order to guarantee delivery of the full story. Another facet of human nature, is, as Andrew Lederer points out in "Mae Questel: A Reminiscence, History and Perspective," sometimes when folks age, so too do their memories. One can misleadingly think they are getting information from `the source' in personal interviews.
The two other elements that lead to historical twisting are politics and money. Often the truth cannot come out because a person, with no malicious intent, does not want to go on record with their statements, their true feelings. On a much larger scale, in today's world of super-huge corporate news, headlines tend to get pre-fabricated and he who yells the loudest, wins. While fluff is hyped, the real stories can go unnoticed. There is another trend that is occurring in print publications as well that is disturbing. Magazines are going to great lengths in order to secure certain stars or properties for their covers. For instance, in an attempt to get a mega-star on the cover, a magazine will let the star pick their interviewer, the subject matter to be discussed, etc. While this is so far only happening in the more fluffy entertainment magazines and on the magazine type news shows, it is a trend to watch as the line between reporting and entertainment blurs.
This leads us to the thing that has been called the root of all evil, money. Sure magazines with a catchy cover sell. No one can blame the publisher. If a publisher wants, for example, a coffee table book of art work by a certain studio, but not a detailed text of the production, fine. It is his dime and the writer will adhere.
Again, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people with stories to document them. We are also interested in hearing stories from the past and would like to encourage people to contact us if they would like to have their memoirs published in the form of an article. The work of many museums, archives, ASIFA chapters and organizations like Women In Animation are helping with this drive to preserve history and deserve our support. If we do not take the time now to document bravely the truth, then we will have a more difficult time remembering and piecing together our animation heritage tomorrow.
On a completely different note, I hope you enjoy this March issue of Animation World Magazine with its spotlight on the art of pre-production. A solid pre-production process is growing more important as production work on a single show is being completed more and more frequently by a collection of studios. Having a solid foundation certainly helps a project make it through cultural boundaries, communication difficulties caused by distance (is a fax really as good as a one-on-one meeting?), and a large number of international cooks without it losing its flavor and strength. Television has long been shipped overseas in the United States and Europe. Plus, now with the help of CARTOON, projects are being shipped in-between a number of European studios. Even on the feature front, The Lion King, for example, was animated in both the Florida and California studios. The importance of pre-production is paramount when it comes to leading a solid, on time, on-budget show. All our experts agree, a little more time up front can save a lot of grief in the end.
Until next time... Heather