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Editor's Notebook

Frustrations abound!

Heather Kenyon

Without realizing it, this month we have hit upon two very frustrating issues in animation. One is the state of independent animation and the other is the status of jobs and recruiting.

There seems to be a general confusion as to the definition of independent animation today. No one quite knows just what `independent' means anymore. As John Schnall and Steven Dovas discuss in "The Vague Rumor of Independence in New York Animation," independent can be defined in many ways and those who use the term can place the fence between independent and commercial wherever they please. I would say this issue contains over a dozen different definitions; from the lone animator who completes a film in his garage, to the guy that runs his own studio and completes any and all animation work for hire that comes his way. While no one can define it, one thing is clear. The expansion of animation is making it easier for artists to work at a studio during the day, part-time or on a job-by-job basis, and then complete their own projects on their own time. While many artists say this approach keeps them fresh and happy in their other paid pursuits, frustration runs close to the surface as many believe that studio `suits' are not allowing artists to have freedom, or giving the art form a chance to grow.

Surprisingly, this line of thinking led right into this month's sub-theme of Jobs and Recruiting. It was a hard winter here in Los Angeles job wise, which prompted the first meeting of the Great Alliance, a movement stressing artists' rights. Charles Zembillas (pronounced zem-BIL-us) held the meeting to discuss rampant studio mismanagement, unemployment, the Union and other issues facing the professional artistic animation community -- which brings us back to the fence so to speak between commercial and independent projects and artists. One of the suggestions raised so far is for the Union to create some sort of organization to promote independent filmmaking in animation.

Many people this issue have pointed hopefully at the Internet as a place where artists will be able to spread their wings. As new media avenues open, animation artists will have more paths in order to create their own vision and product for the viewing public. As Mike Smith says in "Winners and Losers," "I believe the public's perception of animation to be of an art form that is always inventive and full of surprise...However, Hollywood's perception of what the public will accept is tainted and under constant pressure from the major studios and governing bodies of filming."

It is a shame if, at this time, the animation community has been given a willing public and slews, upon slews, of talented artists, only to find they are not given the opportunity to take risks and perform. In "What Price, Independence?" Paul Fierlinger comments that, "What I always admired about Americans, especially the business world, is they had guts, and they were not afraid to try something new. I find that attitude has disappeared. Today, everybody is afraid." Now, by no means am I solely blaming executives. Indeed I think executives are needed to bring together all of a company's resources from marketing and licensing to theme parks and beyond to create a über-successful product. However, some space in this time of blurring between the independent and the commercial worlds needs to be saved for experimentation, chance, luck and unbridled risk-taking. Harvey Deneroff profiles several champions of the `little guy' in his "Supporting Independents: Five Champions." One of his stars, Linda Simensky, says, "The philosophy here [at Cartoon Network] has been, `You don't know where you're going to find a good idea.'" Here's to more open times.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome David Kilmer as our new Associate Editor here at Animation World Magazine. As author of The Animated Film Collector's Guide: Worldwide Sources for Cartoons on Videotape and Laserdisc (1997, John Libbey & Co.), and currently working on The Do-It-Yourself Cartoon I.D. Kit, the companion volume to his earlier book, David is an asset to our operation and we are proud to have him join us.

Until Next Time, Heather