Saturday, November 10, 2007

From the eyes of a newbie...Small talk about the biz

The world of Animation is so vast and limitless, and it's becoming even broader as time goes by. But one of the key things is the market at which is aimed at. When trying to make a living out of animation, I always think about the word "business", and this fundamental triangle comes up in my mind:

(sorry for the crappy image, it was a quick photoshop job :P)

I have to thank mr. Paul Peppiatte, creative director of VTR North ( and lecturer at the University of Bradford (UK), who taught this concept in more extension during my final year. As far as my understanding goes, the key is to keep the balance within this triangle to obtain best results, since every element compliments each other:

- If you pursue money, you will need time and a good skill set to produce something decent and consistent.
- If you want a long piece, you will need a big budget, and good quality on your work (by quality I'm not necessarily limiting the possibilities to the technical side of things, but also to its efficiency towards the market that's aimed at).
- If you are aiming to produce good quality work, resources and time are essential.

You can have a high profile film made, with outstanding quality and lots of time to spend, but you will surely need a massive budget for it. Similarly, if you were already provided with the budget, you could surely hire a lot of talented artists to make it splendid, but your deadlines will need to be tighter. Usually in this kind of cases I think you would pay the artists based on either the man hours invested to produce the work, or the amount of work itself being produced (for animators, measured in "animation seconds"). Otherwise you will need a hell of a lot of time to finish. On the other hand, your schedule could be very short and the payment could be very tempting, but most likely the quality won't be great, since animating (or any other task) in a rush most of the time has a negative effect on the end result (I say "most of the time" cause I'm no one to fully confirm it as a fact, and there are always exceptions to the rules), the word "rush" being very relative, as you may observe by reading this old post from Keith Lango's blog: .

These are just a few possibilities I came up with from my own experience, but obviously there are lots that could illustrate it better.

Some examples of "commercially" successful animation projects where this triangle has been kept balanced:
- The Incredibles: A high profile movie with ground breaking visuals, 3 to 4 years of production and massive budget, but nevertheless ended up with a worldwide gross of more than $630M...
- The Simpsons: Tonnes of episodes and entertaining stories with lots of following. As the series started to gain popularity, a growth in quality could be seen with an evolution on the drawing style and a debut on prime time TV, with a consequent increase in budget that allowed production subcontract to several studios to create most of the animation.
- Pocoyo: Visual quality and assets are simplified, saving time and money to make the series quickly but yet keeping a consistent and marvellous style.

However, when we talk about "business" we obviously talk about the stuff that makes money, and when we talk about "good animation", making money is not always present. Which is a real shame because there are so many great works out there deserving attention and remuneration (Iron Giant, Gruesomestein's monsters, Grave of the Fireflies...).

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves"...a Shakespearean quote I read in a post of by "stingicide". People here have discussed a lot about cartoons on TV nowadays and how is all, like artist Elliot Cowan has put it, "a f*%$&·* cacophony". Society is like a modern day, consumerist, unfit and spoiled person who always wants easy fast food that, although it might taste good, it destroys your health slowly.

I better get back to work, since I´m still a newbie doing just "small talk"!!

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