written by Rick DeMott
Now in its third year, CTN Expo has gotten over some of its growing pains. Gone was the hectic chaos that was last year's event, replaced with the efficiency that so impressed in its inaugural year. Los Angeles has been in need of a quality animation gathering and this fills the bill nicely.
For me, a longtime animation journalist, it was a time to catch up. Whether it was colleagues that I no longer get face time with in our virtual work world or pros that I haven't seen since, well, the last CTN Expo, the event really has become an event that can be customized to meet your needs.
With the show floor and panels clearly separated, there was less fighting crowds to find what you wanted. From my vantage point, the event seemed geared toward students and up and coming pros. The floor was filled with reps from various schools giving attendees a chance to have their portfolio reviewed by the likes of Walt Disney and Sony Pictures Animation or chat with working artists showing off their work. The workshops covered all aspects of the biz and the model-sketching sessions were as popular as ever.
As for panels I had a chance to check out two. "The Upside of Uploads – YouTube Animation Success" was led by Aaron Simpson, VP of Animation Development at Mondo Media. He talked with some independents that have found big success online. The panel featured Arin "Egoraptor" Hanson, DICK FIGURES' Ed Skudder and Zack Keller and CYANIDE & HAPPINESS' Rob DenBleyker and Dave McElfatrick. The top advice the collective group said for finding success on the Web was consistency. If one doesn't keep producing new content on a regular basis then the audience will evaporate quickly. To make a living on the Net, videos need to either go viral or lead back to a store that sells products. On YouTube, CPMs are between $1-2 per 1,000 clicks. Do the math and you'll see how many millions of views are needed just to pay one person a living wage. The advantage though is independence. No one is telling these creators what they can and can't do. The other advice they gave was to trust your instinct and if it is funny to you it might be funny to someone else. When asked how one can break into the online world, the group agreed that humor is key, because it works best in the short medium and doesn't need to have a continuing narrative that needs to be followed. Fart jokes are universal as well.
The other panel I caught was Sony Pictures Animation where artists talked about the process from pitch to screen. The panel included: Michael Lachance, SVP creative development; Marcelo Vignali, visual development; Troy Quane, THE SMURFS: A CHRISTMAS CAROL director, Fergal Reilly, THE FAMILIARS director, and Doug Sweetland, THE FAMILIARS director. Lachance emphasized that because Sony doesn't have a house style they are freed up to make each film look unique. For instance, Vignali talked about designing the world of the upcoming CG POPEYE. He feels he needs to walk the line between what people expect and something they haven't seen before. His inspiration was birdhouses. Even Quane admitted at first everyone Vignali pitched the idea too was skeptical, but once they saw his drawings they were impressed. Vignali credits the studio's freedom for even allowing him to experiment in this way. In addition to discussion on how the studio decides to do a project in animation or a live-action/animation hybrid, the audience has treated to clips from THE SMURFS: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which will be featured on THE SMURFS Blu-ray, and a funny test that was made to prove they could bring the Smurfs into CG in a real environment.
From the edition of the annual event, I can say I hope its one to stay.