‘By-products’ is a word that instantly conjurers up images of dodgy hotdogs and ‘mystery meat’. It’s got a bad rap alright, but the word’s actual/original meaning is used to describe things that were created during the production of other things and that turned out to be valuable. Hence a by-product of sugar refining gets turned into something useful like molasses. The point is that by-products can be useful and profitable, and present within the animation industry too. Here’s a few existing animation by-products and a few potential ones yet to come.
‘Art of’ books
Yes, ‘art of’ books are an animation by-product. Don’t believe me? Consider that they don’t actually form part of the animation itself at all. They are certainly useful to the production of animation, but as far as the animation on-screen goes, it is a by-product; something created in order to produce the animation, but essentially useless once it is.
For decades, all the art produced was considered generally worthless. Heck the cels were too, so much so that originals used to be sold at Disneyland. That all changed once studios began hunting around for additional revenue sources and discovered that consumers had a desire to see the artwork used to create the film.
Hence all the art was collected and published in a glossy coffee table book for everyone to admire. They’re profitable too! The art is going to be created anyway so all that’s really needed is the collation effort and some layout and voilà; something awesome that’s made from animation by-products.
Music & Scores
Yes, technically these are by-products too. Once the music and animation have been brought together, the music itself serves no useful purpose. Again, the reason music and scores are sold today is because they were a neglected part of the process until someone realised there was money in it.
Sheet music rights were originally sold off cheap to publishers. That is, until the songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs proved to be major hits. After that, rights were kept in-house and the studio produced and sold the records as part of the general merchandising operations.
Today, it’s pretty standard that feature scores are sold and TV and video game series are getting in on the act too. It’s just another by-product that can be prove useful after the fact.
So ‘art of’ books and music are existing by-products, but what could be potential ones?
3-D Character Rigs
Considering the sheer number of 3-D CGI content out there, there is a huge potential for the character rigs used to create them. No, I’m not simply talking about releasing the rigs themselves for others to use a la David OReilly. Nope, thinking strictly in terms of merchandise, how could character rigs be valuable as a by-product?
How about as toys? No?
Well, when you consider the fact that 3-D printing is on the cusp of taking off at the consumer level, what if, instead of having to manufacture toys, you simply sell the plans, a.k.a. rigs, of the characters and let people print them themselves at home.
The rigs themselves serve no useful purpose once the animation is complete, so why not sell them as 3-D printer plans? It’s possible to actually convert them from a by-product into an actual product by selling different poses, clothing, etc.
The relationship between storyboards and comics is well known. Could storyboards be turned into a comic relatively easily and sold as a by-product?
It’s speculative because storyboards contain explicit instructions for animators in addition to the visuals and writing. That said, if storyboards were created with a comic-as-product in mind, an individual or studio could take the necessary steps to splitting out what’s relevant to the animation and what is only of use for a comic.
Since storyboards are prepared in advance of the animation, they could be released before the final product is ready. Savv folks could also release the bulk of the film as a comic beforehand, witholding the climax and hopefully driving people to the actual animation for the conclusion.
Character Expression Sheets
While a model sheet presents a character in a stock pose and turnarounds simply convey what a character looks like from different angles, an expression sheet conveys how they should look for particular emotions or reactions. While the former two don’t serve too much purpose beyond simply conveying information, the latter could prove useful for fans.
The reason is simple, fan art.
Fans love to recreate their favourite characters and while many are amply skilled at reproducing what’s on-screen without aid, others are not. Character expression sheets could prove of benefit to them and they may be willing to pay for them. Going a step further, studios or individuals could charge for creating a particular expression or pose.
Can you think of any other potential animation by-products? Let us know with a comment!