Monday, June 2, 2008

What Do We Want?

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally figured out what everybody in animation wants. Consider this our ultimate wish list! Forgive me if this seems extreme, but it is based on years of reading comments posted at several popular animation web sites. The following represents the thinking of too many of us in the animation community. Who am I to stand in the way?

1- We wish the right to impose our taste in animation upon others, holding it up as the one true type of animation worthy of praise, study, and continuation, while scorning all else.
2- We wish the right to perpetuate inaccurate history and keep the petty grudges and arguments of yesterday, alive today (such as between Jones vs. Clampett or UPA vs. the traditionalists.)
3- We wish the right to be forever disappointed in anything being done in modern day animation today while indiscriminately praising all that was done in the past.
4- We wish the right to only recognize good work only once it becomes old and never to recognize it in its time.
5- We wish to be entitled to high pay on satisfying and creative work all year round– despite the limitations of our own energy, enthusiasm, ambition, or talent.
6- We wish the right to share our irrational, misguided, and fear-based opinions anonymously as fact, posting them as comments on various blogs.
7- We wish the right to blame the “industry” for our lack of ambition or success.
8- We wish that animation was still the exclusive domain of trained professionals, and that we could close the door on the unwashed masses entering our field through programs such as Flash.
9- We wish the right to believe our industry is so fragile that we are all doomed if the latest animated feature should fail to break 200 million at the box office.
10- We wish the right to believe that ALL animation artists are infallible heroes and all producers, movie moguls; network presidents and executives are idiots or worse.

These Ten Commandments are each fun in their own way, allowing their beholders to vent their frustrations. Believe me, I fall prey to some shades of these myself. The problem is, this doesn’t get us anywhere. To hold these beliefs or dwell on them is to give all your power away to mystical forces. It takes a lot more courage to turn the mirror on ourselves and figure out how we might make the best possible contribution to this industry, however flawed it might be. There are a lot of good excuses out there, each one offering us an easy way out. Hopefully the ten above might snap some people into action to better tap into their own potential.


Tim Rauch said...

This post got a few laughs out of me! But, right on ofcourse. Sometimes the wailing and gnashing of teeth I see on blogs strikes me as funny, sometimes as just sad. The problem I see with stridently negative commentary is that it seems to only dampen the spirit of the speaker and listener. If you hate something, why talk about it? I think it's an unfortunate temptation that we get trapped into thinking we must comment on EVERYTHING that passes into the vast sea of All Things Animated, and therefore when we see something we don't like we feel the need to say "Get out before you pollute the place!" I'd rather focus on the things that interest me than the things that disinterest me. Still... when I see all that money go to waste... haha, right back to hating! Good post Dave.

George said...

I think that these are commandments of not just animators, but all people who call themselves artists (with the relevant words changed for the different arts). The problem that I see with most people who call themselves artists is that they don't realize that any art market is just like any other market, and as such don't realize that they have to market and sell their art in a way not dissimilar to the way someone tries to sell insurance, cars, bubble gum, and any number of things. All artists through history had to follow these rules, but somehow some people think that they are above that.

David B. Levy said...

hi Tim,
Glad you enjoyed the post. I get your point about stridently negative commentary, but for me it's more about being realistic than either postive or negative. I appreciate reasonable criticism but, too many in our community base their findings on fear-based knee jerk reactions. Others are just bitter as if something has been done to them. The reality is what we do to ourselves is much worse than anything the industry deals us. There's so much fear out there. Fear that leaves people immoblized. Not the good kind of fear that I spoke about in my last post.

I agree. We, as animation artists, struggle with the art/commerce equation. When you put the two together you get, "craft." Good craftmanship is our marketable skill and what keeps us earning a living in this field. In our jobs, we sell our services. How well we balance art/commerce in our lives is another matter and up to each individual. Too many never develop their own artistic identity. I feel like I'm just making strides on this now and I'm in year 13 of my career. Oy!

Emmett said...

Comandments 1 through 3 seem to strike me the most. I sometimes get the feeling that some are trying to impose their opinions on another. I get the feeling I may be doing that without knowing it. I appreciate hearing people say if they like things that are incompatible with one another (to me, it shows that their tastes are open to exploration).

I will have to keep these commandments in mind. It's easy to be discriminating about something. I have missed out on certain things in their time (which I am concsiously trying to avoid). But we still have a right to freedom of speech. We just have limits on how we can act on that freedom.

Anonymous said...

I really REALLY enjoyed this post, David! Unfortunately, I've been caught in more of these traps than I care to say. Thankfully, I'm growing out of it progressively. A lot of our anger seems to stem from frustration and jealousy (at least that's the way it is with me). When you look at the industry in the most unbiased way possible, our commercial industry is a lot more beautiful and glorious than we make it out to be. Recently, I took a look at a new animated program that I was a bit hesitant about . . . . and surely enough, I ended up actually enjoying it. One of my closest animation buddies seemed to agree with me on this as well. :)

I gotta say, #10 got to me quite a bit. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed because I used to be the type of person who went against everyone who wasn't an actual artist. I used to say to myself, "What do they know?" Although SOME executives may not know much about the field or about the art form (and I've noticed that most of them really DO KNOW), why should we bash them? They're human too and I'm sure they look at us artists the same way (ex: why don't they understand that we have a budget?, etc. etc.). Besides, after meeting some of the producers and creative consultants you brought to our class, my ENTIRE view changed completely. It also made me think twice about what I MAY personally want for myself in the future. Helping other people create MAY be just as nice. Who knows? :)

After reading this list, I'll perhaps try to be more careful about how I judge certain people and certain aspects of the industry. Shame on me. :/
Thanks for the enlightening post!

Amid said...

Which ones are Cartoon Brew? :)

stephen said...

everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

-mark twain

David B. Levy said...

hi all,

just to clarify, I really don't mind what anybody posts as commentary on the various sites. Everybody should have the right to that expression, even in an anonymous way. Why not?
My point is that "to hold these beliefs" and to use them as a excuse list is not going to get you anywhere. It gives all your power away and lets you off the hook.

Amid, I think I've seen each of these commandments show up as either brew posts or commentary. And, I think that's unavoidable. I don't say, "let's stop the conversation." But, I'm trying to be an advocate of self-action to help people realize that they can do a lot in this industry regardless of its flaws.

Param said...

Hey David! Good to hang with you last night!

As far as this top ten list goes, I have two questions.

1. While these are things that we all do, the real question for me is WHY do we do them?

2. As far as breaking out of this top ten list, instead of bitching, we can make our films. We make things the way we think they should be.

Anonymous said...

hey david this is janella:)

I agree with the commandments, they were quite funny . I've seen some pretty wild aniamtion blogs out there s far I like cartoon brew, it's fun blogging here too.

Elliot Cowan said...

I love it when you get all fired up, Dave.
More please.