Sunday, January 4, 2009
Your Legacy and Mine
In trying to unlock what it is that makes the New York animation scene so special, it occurred to me that this city (both today and in its checkered past) happens to house most of my animation heroes. Starting out, my animation heroes were as generically typical as anybody else's. It started and ended with Disney, the original self-made man of animation.
Each year I tell my SVA career class that they will soon be meeting the true heroes of their career. These will be the individuals that act as mentors, guides, and sources of boundless inspiration. Most importantly, these are the people that may give you your first breaks and/or career expanding opportunities. The most important heroes are ones that become a part of your life.
This situation should not be any different whether you are based in Hollywood, San Francisco, or Toronto. However, there's a key difference that separates New York's animation heroes from other animation hub cities. In New York, there's a far greater chance you'll meet diverse heroes––distinguishing themselves in any number of creative areas. Take your pick. The tops in children's books? Mo Willems. Successful TV cartoon creator? Mr. Warburton. Giant CGI feature studio founder? Chris Wedge. Flash animation industry leader? Aaron Augenblick. Oscar winner? John Canemaker. World's most celebrated indie animator? Bill Plympton. Internet cartoon pioneer? Xeth Feinberg. Animation historian/author? Amid Amidi. Breakthrough indie animated stop/motion feature director? Tatia Rosenthal. The list goes on and on.
From the moment I graduated SVA, the culture of New York animation effected me in a profound way. I was as frightened as anyone who ever graduated from a four-year animation program. But, from the moment I got my first break (courtesy of Mr. Michael Sporn), I began to interact with people who were scoring Oscar nominations, making internationally recognized indie animated shorts, pitching shows, writing scripts, creating hit cartoon series, illustrating books, running their own studios, and traveling from festival to festival on the strength of their films or career achievements.
I can only imagine how different it might have felt if I had been in Hollywood. There, it seems the dream is to become as good as possible to secure a position on the best productions in town. The dream there is to be part of a history of craft where creating quality content is somebody else's job. In New York, we have the benefit of working on industry projects while keeping one foot in our own content creations. In Hollywood, this would be the exception to the rule. In New York, its in the oxygen.
How could that not influence me? How could I not dare to try making a few contributions myself? The opportunity is here, folks. Although I'm only 35 years old, I can look back and see heroes of a generation coming up behind me (The Rauch brothers, anyone?). While that can be a little unnerving, it also re-energizes me to continue onwards and upwards on my own projects. This weekend I just locked picture on my new six minute animated film, "Owl and Rabbit Play Checkers." I wouldn't have had the audacity to even pretend to be a filmmaker without the heroes of New York's animation past and present cheering me on. What company we keep. Sounds like a legacy to me.
Speaking of legacies, two of New York's animation's finest, J.J. Sedelmaier and Howard Beckerman (with support from Blue Sky Studios) have curated a very special exhibit on New York animation called "It All Started Here!" (see illustration/invite above) Start the year by taking a step into your own checkered history. And, its FREE!!! I hope you'll come down and show your support at the January 17, opening reception. I'll see you there!
Click below for more information on this special exhibit: