Friday, October 30, 2009

What I'm dressing up as for Halloween

No, not a zombie this year. Zombies are easy - I just go as I am. No, I need a different attitude. So how about some ass-kicking demon thing?

From the bowels of Hell itself... well, maybe not the bowels. Bowels aren't somewhere you want to spend much time in, although I guess that gives me a good reason to leave Hell. I mean, coming from bowels makes just about everywhere a step up. Okay, so I'll go with bowels.

From the bowels of Hell itself, the dreaded demon Bittoriad rises to wreak havoc upon the world. Destroying the very values that hold society together, the evil Bittoriad spreads such insidious notions as the idea that children's shows should actually be pretty good for children and entertain and work with parents rather than serving as toy advertisments. The nefarious Bittoriad can't even get through a blog post without preaching his twisted views. That's just how evil he is.

Oh yes, that is evil.

And then, once he has preached his way out of a job by refusing to work on crap, he sits in front of the television watching Dr.Phil and drinking beer...

Hang on, somewhere in here, Bittoriad lost his way. He was supposed to kick ass. Gah, even huge devil wings and an angry look can't alter my destiny - towards the television with a beer.

Well, I'll kick ass next year.

Hope everyone has a very happy Halloween! If you're dressing up, make it something horrific. No fairies or princesses - that's cheating! Make it scary! Whatever you do, I hope you have fun...

...or the evil Bittoriad will eat your brains while you sleep.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The realities of a production schedule

I actually know nothing of the realities of a production schedule because I have not yet come across one that had any place in the real world. Schedules are made, usually missing some keys stages, then blissfully ignored.

And then a show is made from start to finish in total chaos.

Right now, I'm feeling that. I'm actually feeling rather unsupported. Like I'm a one-man army trying to pull a whole show together. And pulling an entire show together is too big for any one person. So I can only prioritise what I can and hope that everything else falls into place.

Just like I hope someone comes to my door and delivers a whole truck of money. Actually, that's probably more likely.

I do wonder - is it like this on all shows? Is a state of utter chaos totally normal? Do all shows run this fine line where they're in danger of completely falling apart at any moment?

Does anyone know?

On an unrelated note, John K made his blog private for a while. It's public again now but it sounds like he may not be continuing it or may consider other plans for his blog. That would be a massive loss to the animation world. We're in a place now where skills are being lost, mostly due to the massive changes in the animation systems. John K's blog is in incredible resource for animators and should be regular reading, especially for newer, younger animators being born into a world of Flash studios. Mr.K would be the first to say that his way is just one way of doing things (I certainly don't always agree with some things, though I never doubt the man's talent) and he encourages people to find their own 'voice' in their artwork but his lessons, stories and (usually pretty funny) rants are really important for people to have access to. He has a point of view that is uniquely his. So I hope he keeps his blog open.

But, just in case, it would be an idea to read all you can from his blog and take something away from it. And maybe show him a little support too - he has earned it.

From me personally, I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to Mr.K for everything he has contributed to animation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dark mornings

Getting up while it's dark is just not right. It's against all laws of nature. Well, except for nocturnal animals like owls or vampires or whatever. But, for we dayturnal creatures, night is for sleep.

So why does my alarm clock go off when it's still night?

It's just not right.

It's around this time of year that I propose my hibernation plan. Every human on the nothern hemisphere should hibernate from the months of October to March. Or perhaps beginning in November, just to give time for people to get things ready.

We'd stock up on food, DVDs, games and so on and then just lock ourselves away for those months. Nobody would go anywhere. Nobody would do any work. And then, in the spring time, we'd all get back to it totally refreshed and ready for anything.

Don't worry about the world during those unproductive months. We'd adjust. In fact, it may turn out we never needed them at all. In animation, it is the norm to work stupid hours and have no life coming up to deadlines. When I first got into a position where I could call the shots, I put an end to that where I was. I actively forced people out of the building to go home. And, once people realised that they only had a certain amount of hours to get their work done, they adjusted, worked harder and smarter and got the same amount of work done in fewer hours.

I suspect that could work on a far larger scale.

And we'd always have the southern hemispherers to keep things going, just like we northerners would when they get their hibernation.

If I ever run for Ruler Of The Known Universe, that will be one of my core policies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Well, I'm better now

Man, that was not a fun week at all. I was really badly ill and it has taken quite a while for me to feel human again.

So I'm back to my tired weary self, which is nice.

I'm totally out of touch with the world, and have a ridiculous backlog of work to do. What's going on in the world (bearing in mind I only want to hear nice things)?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's up?

Apologies for slow updates right now. I was inundated with work and then, if that wasn't enough of a challenge, I contracted some really nasty bug and ended up taking a trip in an ambulance. I've never been in an ambulance before so that was exciting. But I'm taking a bit of recovery time and normal services will be resumed shortly!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are the right people in control?

I mentioned this in a comment over at John K's blog and thought it worth a mention here too.

I've been reading David B. Levy's book, 'Animation Development'. All about, well, animation development. There's a chapter on the executive side of things. All about the gatekeepers of the industry. Those who decide what makes it to pilot stage and what makes it to air.

And, in it, Linda Simensky says this - "Most do not have backgrounds in animation but have a genuine interest in storytelling or humour or other creative areas."

Is a' genuine interest' enough?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The value of your work...

Oh they love stirring the shit over at Cartoon Brew. Recently, Amid posted his thoughts on Frederator finally paying for animation videos to be shown online (or indeed anywhere else they choose, such are the terms). Kudos to both Cartoon Brew and Frederator for paying at all.

Because, for the most part, our work is worth nothing. Not a thing.

Short films don't make money. $50 can at least buy a few beers to make up for that year of hard labour. People say they bring exposure, and that can be true, but then what?

One major thing people don't seem to realise is just how little broadcast television makes. Let's say you got a show off the ground and made it entirely yourself. What is the value of your work?


Or, quite possibly, somewhere in the negative.

It's different for every channel of course. I've seen some broadcasters in the world pay around $500 for a 26+ episode series. Sometimes, it may go into 4-figures. That's pretty cool, eh? You could sell it to almost every territory on the planet at that price and not make back the production costs. But that's at least some value.

Some channels pay nothing.

If I remember correctly, Treehouse usually pay nothing for show and expect to share in merchandise rights. Recently some UK satellite dedicated children's channels have been offered money to air shows. I don't know yet if any have been aired on that basis but I imagine it's not an uncommon scenario.

So the distributors of the show actually pay the broadcasters, who are swimming in ad revenue. It's a win-win situation for the broadcaster.

But is it a win for anyone else?

It puts the value of series work in the negative.

It also reinforces, as you can see from that Treehouse deal, that the only way to actually make money from broadcast children's shows is in the merchandising. Which means that the shows are, in effect, advertisements. Just like advertisements, broadcasters are paid to air them and they are designed with a single purpose in mind - to sell products. To you and your children.

This is nothing new, of course. We grew up with glorified ads like He-Man and the like. It wasn't so bad in the preschool end back then. Now, the youngest of children, right down to babies, are being targeted. Oh, and it's worth a mention that every study on the planet shows that television viewing under the age of two has a detrimental effect on the child's development. Nevertheless, there are dedicated producers of content for babies. Trying to sell product, like everyone else.

I've just started David B. Levy's book, Animation Development, From Pitch to Production. So far, it seems really good. But it seems to take 193 pages, whereas I can give you the best pitch advice in one sentence - create toys and give the broadcasters your merchandising rights.

That's what it comes down to.

So the value of actual show creation? Providing entertainment that is good for children? Well, that's worth nothing. Sometimes less than nothing. But create a good toy line and extended ads? That's where the money the is.

Something doesn't quite sit right with me about that. I think it comes down to what I said a long time ago on this blog and it seems appropriate once more -

If you do not have the best interests of children at heart, you should not be in this business.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Maybe it sounded like a good idea at some point

Many called it brave. Others will likely go on to call it offensive.

Yes, featuring a child with a disability as a main character can be a brave move. And quite admirable. It has been done before if I remember correctly, though the name of the show I'm thinking of escapes me.

But cartoons, by their very nature, are caricatures.

And, when you go about caricaturing people with disabilities and then throw in a whole lack of understanding on top of that because not one person involved even knows someone with a disability, well, that's just asking for trouble.

I do remember one guy I worked for, many years ago (not the producer depicted above), telling me that he envied people in wheelchairs. Yes, envied them, because their disability gave them a keen mind. That's why Stephen Hawking is so smart, according to him. Man, what he would give to be run over by a bus...

I integrated that into the panel above of course. My producer isn't actually that insensitive. Not by a long shot actually - he is cursed with a heart of gold, bless his little cotton socks. But he sometimes doesn't quite see how some things that sound like a good idea might actually not be, even though he has the best of intentions. And I just play that up because the pic (and the words with it) is a caricature, see?

Just like making a cartoon show.

Cartoons are caricatures and, while many can argue a good case against pre-emtive self-censorship, some things just don't seem like a good idea to me.