Apr 21, 2011

North American Film Festivals and the Fate of Animators

I've been to the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival twice now, and it's given me a tiny peek into how people find work and get noticed in the independent animation community. Cards are exchanged, demos are handed out, promotions are held and there are competitions even for high school and undergraduate students just starting out. It struck me as very healthy to the community of artists and filmmakers, to discuss eachother's films and get references, and learn a little more about what works and what doesn't in the film and television industries.

That being said, I can't properly express my mixed feelings and creeping nausea when I spot the Telétoon booth each year. Based out of Canada, it's become a rather formidable player in children and teen-aimed television and cartoons, mostly featured on the Canadian station, but over the past decade or so has begun leaking into popular United States' children's networks. This is sort of okay, but also sort of not-- the shows are largely produced in Flash and are easy and cheap to animate; the character designs are angular and gaudy, and the stories and writing are poor even for children's shows. They choose demographics easiest to exploit, and little care is put into their pilots and premises.

This is all my personal opinion, of course, but what else can it possibly mean for young North American animators? Telétoon is a large player in the industry, especially for novices just starting out, but little hand-drawn or stop-motion is practiced, and the shows are mainly produced in Flash. Now, Flash can be a wonderful program when used well (see Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) but experience shows that this is rare, as it is time-consuming and the purpose of using Flash in the first place, I imagine, is to save time and money. Young animators get lured in by the promise of steady income and a gateway into the market, and soon grow complacent. This doesn't mean it happens to everyone, but the thought of it makes me twitch.

It's so mind-boggling to me that each year at Ottawa, I am witness to scores of amazingly talented and hard-working North American animators, and yet the biggest thing out of Canadian television is cookie-cutter exploitative fodder. Some truly amazing artists make themselves known at festivals just like these-- it doesn't mean they absolutely have to go into children's entertainment, but can't I hope?

I'm also going to stop myself before I start spouting even more baseless nonsense and sounding like John K. But hey, what do you guys think?


1 comment:

  1. I don't think you realize that ultimately, television animation is a market, and to the networks, its main purpose is to make money. However, there are plenty shows that cater to the initial vision of the creator: Flapjack, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Chowder, Superjail. I also wouldn't look at "Teletoon" as being a definitive model of the Animation industry. The only reason why Teletoon gets so much love at Ottawa is because it's a Canadian network and Ottawa is a Canadian event. Sure, a few shows have been transferred to American networks, but usually only to fill a timeslot. Most of the talented artists in Canada come to America because of how much better the pay is anyways. I also wouldn't look at Flash as being only a "fast, cheap alternative." I work at Titmouse Inc. in Hollywood and am an old SMFA-er. We work traditionally in Flash and almost everything is drawn frame by frame. Superjail is done entirely in Flash and how natural does that look? I understand what you are saying about these crappy looking shows that give Flash a bad name, but you wouldn't realize how many good shows are actually being made at the same time. Given my experience, those shitty flash shows are usually worked on by the least talented people in the industry. They usually pay well, but are really horrible to work on. And while independent animation is necessary to the growth of the medium, it doesn't represent the animation community as a whole. It would be great if it did, but most independent animation doesn't appeal to the masses. While there are a ton of shitty shows out there, there are also some great ones. If you are talented enough, you can work wherever you want.