Do Characters in Preschool Shows Need Character?

The emphatic answer is yes! Why wouldn’t you give your character, character? That’s how your audience relates to your show. Of course, preschool audiences are somewhat less demanding than older kids but that does not mean they do not perceive what they see on the screen any differently.

With the current regulations regulated to educational TV shows in the US, it would seem that some networks (PBS excepted) seem to throw the bare minimum at that sector of the market. Others fare slightly better. Disney for instance has Little Einsteins and its stable of Disney characters to boot because it’s never too early to familiarize children with your properties.

Someone once lamented that some of those shows basically educate kids, there is little or no attempt to try and create something richer. For example, some shows simply teach the kids their ABCs or 123s with perhaps a little plot mixed in for good measure. This is perhaps the minimum standard for a TV show and the vast majority of shows are much more than this.

However, what sets Little Einsteins apart from other shows? In terms of character, not very much. The kids are kids doing kid things and that is that. It’s a fine concept and it has worked quite well for Disney as well as PBS in the form of Barney the Dinosaur.

In stark contrast stands Sesame Street, the bastion of children’s television in the US. That show has some perhaps some of the greatest characters to ever grace a TV screen in the Muppets. Think about it. Every single one of them is different and has a distinct trait. Big Bird is big and tall but is very understanding and loved by all. Oscar the Grouch hates everyone but also has his sift spot, the Cookie Monster needs no introduction whatsoever, Elmo is actually 3 years old and the list goes on.

Each one of the Muppets has his or her own strengths and weaknesses that are played out every week on TV for the kids to see. They might not full understand it at the time, but they nonetheless interpret it and retain it. Why else would they market Oscar the Grouch T-shirts to people such as myself?

Another excellent series is WordGirl the PBS animated show about a super-heroine alien girl who lives on earth. The show aims to teach kids how to spell but also relies on a significant entertainment aspect that has proven popular with kids and adults alike.

The creators of preschool shows are in a special category of their own. Many of them have a deep passion for their chosen career and display a special talent for creativity that resonates with kids. Networks should allow such creators as much freedom as possible and be open to new ideas. Kids programming is a sensitive area of media that receives special attention from the government and parents groups alike, but that should not preclude the use of charters that are fun, complex and resonate with kids and adults.

Consolidation of Animation Studios

Animation, being an industry the same as all the other ones (per se), has gone through the usual rounds of consolidation over the years. Like most new technologies, it starts off with one or two guys in their basement or garage who then grow into small business who then either grow large, get bought by an established company attempting to cash in/expand into the market, or, they merge with competitors.

The established studios were (with the exception of Disney) at one time or another independent studios. Perhaps the most famous of all, Warner Bros, started off as Schlesinger Productions before being sold. The same goes for the Fleischer Brothers’ studio, although in contrast, they were eventually forced out by the management at Paramount. Interestingly, Walter Lantz was the exact opposite, having been established as Universal’s animation unit before being spun of by Lantz and going on to find fame with Woody Woodpecker.

Do such consolidations and acquisitions improve the industry as a whole? There are certainly economic benefits to be gained by merging or having a corporate parent. However, often once a studio is bought, creativity can become stifled and interference from above can lead to devastating results.

The overall health of the parent company can be an issue to. Mr. Warburton remarks in the book Animation Production: From Pitch to Production by Dave Levy (him again!) that at one point when he was pitching to Hanna-Barbera, the executive he was working with clearly had no idea what animation was, furthermore, he was part of a revolving door at what was Turner Networks but was being merged with Time to form the disaster that was to become Time Warner AOL. History is being repeated as we speak with Pixar. Even now, the influence of the folks in Burbank is being impressed upon the Emeryville studio in terms of what he next couple of features will be.

There is another option that is fortunately being quite successful and that is the independent studio paired with an established Hollywood one. Two great examples are Dreamworks and Blue Sky. The former has a deal with Paramount and has been very successful over the last decade or so even if they tend to squeeze every drop out of their properties. Blue Sky on the other hand, while similar, has a deal with FOX and while it has had slightly less success (relying quite heavily on their Ice Age series) it has released some decent movies such as Horton Hears a Who and the anticipated upcoming film, Despicable Me.

TV animation is somewhat more diverse as a result of lower budgets. Independent studios have had numerous successes over the years. be it A.K.A with Ed, Edd & Eddy or Marathon with Totally Spies. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the more interesting animation can be found on the small screen, where experimentation carries less risks and the audience is of a somewhat narrower demographic.

My point is that studios consolidating can be a good thing, especially if it is good for the industry as a whole. Poor management can devastate a studio and its output. As corporations continue to try and find their way in the new media age, animation may prove to be a key battleground that will be interesting to watch.

Eschewing Scriptwriting for Storyboards

Storyboard from “Ricardio the Heart Guy” episode of Pen Ward’s Adventure Time

The classic Warner shorts did it, John K. did it with Ren & Stimpy and SpongeBob Squarepants does it today. So just why might it be a god thing to eliminate the scriptwriting part of a cartoon? Well, today I thought I’d rummage around in the ol’ noggin and try and figure it out.

As we all know, scriptwriting is normally the first thing that is done on any TV show or movie. It forms the basis for the entire project and is normally the ultimate reference when it comes to plot, etc. For animation, a script sets out the dialogue and basic action for the episode or movie. However, with animation unlike live-action, the script may call for things that cannot easily be replicated, for example dropping an anvil on a characters head.

Animation is also timed to the frame, or 1/24th of a second if using 1s as opposed to 1/12th of a second if on 2s (thanks to Dave Levy for explaining that one to me). With that in mind, it is necessary for the director to plan every single scene and frame.

That’s where the storyboard comes in. It allows the director to see a (very) rough idea of what things will look like once the project is completed. Later on, an animatic may be made that is basically the storyboard in animated form with a soundtrack if one is available. Storyboarding is an art in and of itself because the artist must take the notes from the director and turn them into visual images. I highly recommend reading the awesome blog of the awesome Sherm Cohen who selflessly posts many how tos on the subject, often with video!

The storyboard can do other things too. Often a short storyboard can help you pitch your show, in fact, the good folks over at Frederator will only look at your idea if you have a storyboard prepared. In this instance, a board can help whoever you are pitching to to mentally visualize your idea. Seeing as you are developing a visual product, this is perhaps the best thing short of actual animation you can offer.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to TV shows, things can go either way. Many of the sitcom style of shows, like the Simpsons and Family Guy are probably better suited to having a script. Cartoons that rely on visual gags on the other hand are much better served by just a storyboard.

Animated sitcoms often rely on wordy jokes and slight visual jokes. For instance, the Simpsons made famous use of the background gag as well as the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scenes that often contained humours signs, etc. Family guy is much the same with its cutaways. Neither of these need a storyboard. A writer can easily insert a line in the script that says “put X on a sign in the background”. Boards are still needed for direction and timing. In fact I read recently (sorry, can’t find the link) where the discussion was about how some studios are eliminating the storyboarding phase entirely and skipping straight to animatics. This may make sense for certain projects as the animatic is often the storyboard on video anyway.

The pure cartoons like SpongeBob, a storyboard makes a lot of sense as both the verbal and visual gags are created at the same time by the same person with some guideline input by the director. The many artistic reaction shots in Ren & Stimpy are the result of storyboards and no doubt add to the random element of the show. You may also notice that cartoons tend to have faster pacing, less dialogue and odd shots. These are also the result of storyboarding the plot on the fly and reveal the storyboards relation to the comic strip, where similar scenes occur.

Does it really make a difference to a show’s quality whether you use a script or not? I don’t think so. Both methods have their advantages. The only thing that would differ is when you are operating in a closed shop. In that case, scriptwriters may fall under the Writers Guild of America, and not The Animation Guild. There was a bit of a dust up over just such a thing a few years ago with Sit Down, Shut Up, which was eventually settled but not after the show was delayed.

Let’s just say both methods have their respective advantages and that it’s good to aware of both.

The Toy Story 3 Soundtrack: Where Disney Pinches the Pennies and Leaves You Short Changed

I learned yesterday that Disney plans to release the soundtrack to Toy Story 3 as a digital download only. This is not a good development on a number of fronts. Although I’m risking turning this into a gripe blog (which it isn’t!) it is a shame that Disney have decided to go down this route for the sake of saving a few cents.

Admittedly, most music is consumed nowadays in the form of music files rather than physical media. This is fantastic as it cuts out a lot of the cost of producing a record. I have long maintained that mp3 was the best thing to ever happen to the music industry. It set the music free from the restrictive media that are CDs and tapes. Suddenly, you could put your music anywhere and copy and share it easily. No more high-speed dubbing cassettes over at your friends house!

The only downside to mp3 and other lossy formats is that they compromise the quality of the recording. You may not know it, but plenty of audiophiles scoff at the humble CD. The basic reason is that the sampling rate for a CD or any digital medial for that matter, results in a waveform that does not accurately reflect the original analogue wave. In order to do that, you’ll need to dig up some vinyl records, either at your parents house or the lone record shop in your area that’s still open. Despite the apparent shortcomings of the CD, it has proven over the last 30 years to be a suitable successor to the vinyl record for the masses.

As for soundtracks, well they’re normally contain a fair amount of orchestral music. That is, if it really is a soundtrack with actual music from the film and not just one with a bunch of songs relating to the film. I’m looking at you Space Jam!

With natural music, I feel that you can only get the best experience from the best recording. With a CD, our in good shape, unless you know where you can find prerecorded SACDs. By using mp3 files, you are getting shortchanged, even if the music costs less. Don’t even get me started on the DRM they slap on there to stop you doing stuff with the music you bought.

If, like me, you enjoy listening to your music pretty loud, on a nice hi-fi, then you are out of luck. Mp3 sound like shite when you crank the volume up. A CD isn’t nearly as bad. Something along the like of EVE Retrieve from Wall-E need the highest bitrates to sound good. Anything less is in danger of leaving the listener feeling disappointed.

Anomaly Approved: Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn is a great man. The reason? Not only is a gifted animator who has run his own, indpendent studio for well over 20 years, he also has a blog, affectionately known as his Splog, where he posts every single day.

To say that his knowledge of animation is extensive would almost be an insult. The man knows an awful lot about the artform and not-coincidentally also happens to know a heck of a lot of people in the industry. This is relevant for two reasons: lots of animation folks read his Splog and a few help contribute to it by way of personal collections and stuff kept from the old days.

In this, Michael’s posts fall into a few main categories:

  1. Mechanics posts
  2. Creative posts
  3. Event posts
  4. Review posts
  5. Photo posts

The mechanics posts are basically ones based on the nuts and bolts of animation. Timing, animating, characters, walk cycles, storyboards and so forth. These are really interesting to read as an outsider as the explanations and advice given is simple and straightforward. I may never use it, but you can never learn too much.

The creative posts look at animation design, things like backgrounds, layouts, character design (as opposed to drawing) etc. These posts are even better because they provide the reader with some fantastic art to look at. Michael doesn’t just stick to animation, he also posts about books, illustrations and the odd naughty cartoon thrown in for good measure.

The event posts are pretty straightforward. As a pillar within the animation community, Michael often attends events and he thankfully posts short recaps on most of them. Living in Baltimore, I really appreciate posts like this as I can find out what went on and how things went, even if I attend the event myself!

Michael’s review posts are often some of the best I can find for animated films. He is very objectionable and I highly commend him for this as it is so easy to become a cynical film critic. As an example, check out his reviews for Ponyo on the Cliffs by the Sea and The Secret of Kells (the same showing I went to).

Last but certainly not least, are his photo posts. Normally reserved for Sunday, these posts focus on life in New York city and the various eccentricities that one notices from living there. The photograph posts provide a break in the posting schedule and also mark the end of one week and the beginning of a new one.

With posts stretching back over 4 years (that’s every day for 4 years) the Splog itself is now a treasure-trove of information that can offer assistance even now. I have personally posted about stuff here on topics that Michael covered ages ago and who’s posts have been of enormous benefit to me.

With such an excellent repertoire of posts and his unique and thorough knowledge, I can safely say that Michael Sporn and his Splog are Anomaly Approved. 🙂

Animation Directors Moving to Live-Action: Jumping a (Sinking) Ship?

It has been a topic of debate for quite some time and even within the animation community, there is suspicion that many students who study the artform are really looking for an easy leg-up into the film industry. While this may be true for some, it does imply that animation really is a second-class citizen in Hollywood, despite the proven track record of box-office receipts.

Michael Barrier has an insightful post on the topic of animation directors and the opportunities open to them at the present time. I highly recommend you head over to his site and read it.

In the post, he singles out Brad Bird for not only being perhaps the greatest director of his generation, but also for moving onto live-action and the unliklihood that we will see another animated film from him in the foreseeable future.

In that he may be correct. Brad is no longer at Pixar, where he developed my favourite, The Incredibles, and the somewhat drama-strewn Ratatouille, but is in line to direct Mission Impossible IV. Michael Barrier speculates that Brad may have moved on for the simple reason that he is unable to find a studio that is willing to create his kind of film.

In this he may be right. I wrote on the topic previously and it is fair to say that of the main animation studios in Hollywood, none bar Pixar are suited to Brad Bird. Barrier hints that Brad did not figure in the long-term plans at Pixar, which may be true. In this I am reminded of one of David Ogilvy’s maxims:

If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.

Brad is one of the most creative guys in the industry and the reality is he has been left to fend for himself in a sea of sharks. Directing a live-action movie may well be putting bread on his table but it is a real loss to the industry as a whole when one of its best people ups and jumps ship.

Animation directors are a enthusiastic bunch. The vast majority have a genuine love for the artform, and Brad Bird is certainly no different. He has three films to his name and each one is superb. In a way, he’s the Quentin Tarantino of animation, putting out a film every couple of years that wows people every time. The fact that he has a fine attention to detail is secondary.

With just three main studios and smaller independents (although even Henry Selick, director of Coraline has joined Disney in order to develop projects for them) the source of jobs is scarce to say the least.

Live-action represents a bigger pool to swim in with more variety thrown in for good measure. Unless and animator goes the personal or independent route, they are unlikely to be able to create an adult-orientated (i.e. serious) animated film. This is a shame but we have only ourselves and the studios to blame. They will never take a risk with animation, even Pixars supposedly ‘brave’ and ‘experimental’ film Wall-E was still well within the unspoken walls that imprison animation in the family-friendly market segment.

Time will tell how this trend develops. In the meantime, I agree with Michael Barrier in that studio head must make a dilligent effort to retain and nurture key creative talent, not insulate their favourites into an old-boys club of sorts. Fresh faces, even those better than you, will only serve to increase the studio as a whole. Their loss only serves to decrease the gene pool, with a corresponding drop in quality.

Did the Shrek Series Outstay Its Welcome?

The original Shrek was a breath of fresh air in the otherwise rather rarefied world of feature animation. Besides Disney (and by extension, Pixar), no-one company seemed to be able to crack the whip when it came to attracting audiences. Enter Dreamworks with their debut CGI film about an big green ogre. Fairytales have, in this blogger’s opinion, been done to death in the animation world, but that is not what made Shrek bring in as much dough as he did.

Back in 2001 when Shrek first appeared, it was lauded as being every movie that Disney wasn’t. No song-and-dance numbers, no perfect princes and no sugar-coating on every corner of the screen. That was then, when such a thing was new and in style. Today, such films are commonplace, even expected. When was the last time you saw a CGI flick with some songs in it? Probably never.

Since the first movie was such a runaway success, we’ve had three more films and with each installment, the whole idea has gotten a little staler. The reason? Well, we’ve seen it all before haven’t we? The first film broke new ground in that it took a swipe at what was considered acceptable for a family film.

Since then the series has tried to outdo itself. I dare say that Shrek is somewhat of an over-saturated market.

My Tumblelog: Genuinely Imported

No, I’m not that vain or egotistical, but I do post a fair amount of stuff over on my Tumblelog. I’m just posting about it in case you didn’t know.

Tumblr by the way, is a pretty neat blogging platform that favours short posts at shroter intervals than a regular blog like this one does. I’ve been on there for nearly two years, so you already have your work cut out by having to visit my archive 🙂

As I’m heading to Milwaukee this evening for the weekend, don’t expect a new post until Sunday night, that’s not say I won’t have any surprises though 🙂

Looney Tunes: Why Are They Falling in Popularity and What Can Be Done to Stop It?

Word come through from Cartoon Brew about a feature in the New York Times about the new, upcoming Looney Tunes TV to be broadcast on Cartoon Network leter this year. There was plenty of consternation a while back after the upfront where the show was unveiled. The comments on the Brew then as well as now were pretty much about as big a backlash as you could expect from the animation community regarding classic characters such as Bugs and Daffy. (By the way, I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but this is more of a commentary/opinion post and not nearly as sarcastic as the last one).

The NYT piece made light of the fact that kids these days don’t seem to know much if anything about the Looney Tunes. Quote from the article:

Ask a first grader to identify Bugs Bunny and the response more likely than not will be a blank stare. Dora, sure. Mickey, alive and kicking. But Porky who?

Anyone over the age of 15 will give you a wry smile as all the memories come flooding back. the same can’t be said for youger folks, they may even look at you as if you had two head, or began speaking Japanese!

The distinction was made between the Looney Tunes and Winnie the Pooh in that the latter still pulls in close to $5 billion in contrast to the $1 billion for Bugs & Co. Such a comparison isn’t really fair though. Winnie the Pooh isn’t exactly aimed at the same market, skewing much younger. Additionally, Winnie the Pooh has been longer established and has a seperate set of books to his name, all of which continue to bring in merchandise dollars.

Another aspect that is important to mention, Disney continually markets Winnie the Pooh. In contrast, Warner Bros. (or Time-Warner for that matter) has done little over the last 10 years. Let’s examine it together. Long ago, the Looney Tunes/Merrie Medodie shorts reigned supreme. Not only were the extremely popular, they were broadcast almost continuously, either as shorts themselves or as part of a TV show, e.g. The Bugs Bunny Show.

That time seems like the land of milk and honey compared to now. Would you be able to tell me where I could see a Looney Tunes short on TV today, or even this month? There’s no very many places is there? Sure we’ve had the odd marathon on Cartoon Network, usually on holidays when most people are distracted by turkey or what Santa Claus brought them.

Which brings us back to the age-old problem of “if it’s not readily available, no-one’s going to watch”. A fate which has befallen many fine cartoons and TV shows. Only a fool would try to convince you that an entertainment product can maintain its popoularity without advertising. Now when I say advertising, I don’t mean actual commercials, I mean the shows themselves! If a Looney Tunes short is on TV, that acts like a seven minute commercial that can entice people to watch another short.

The usual plan is to create a “new” TV show, or “update” the characters to the contemporary era, which in itself is a waste of time because within 5 years, the show is outdated. Remeber Lunatics Unleashed? Yeah, yeah I know, it still sucked when it was dubbed into Irish. Well, do you see any shows out there being “anime-fied”, doesn’t that seem so early-2000s? Well that’s basically what happens when you “update” classic cartoon characters, they go stale and end up getting locked in the Warner Vault.

So hear me out. Why not broadcast some of the classic shorts? Instead of, say, starting a TV show on the hour, why not show a short first? Your audience is already there, why not give them something new, or rather not really seen before? They’re still going to stick around for the show they got comfy for, right? The proof is in the pudding, Looney Tunes receipts are higher abroad then in the US. I know myself that RTÉ 2 in Ireland still broadcasts shorts during prime-time children’s programming. Guess how many Irish kids a re growing up with Bugs Bunny in their lives?

In addition, according to the NYT piece, there may be some new theatrical shorts on the way, not unlike “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”, released in 2007. Well, that’s one thing, but why not plant the seed with some old favourites? Once you’ve guilt up a wee bit of an audience, you can then start throwing on some fertilizer in the form of new stuff. People are likely to be much more receptive to something fresh if they are more familiar with the old classics. Look at Tiny Toons, there was a TV show that gained a following all of it’s own. The classic crowd were mixed with newcomers, who eventually became popular in their own right, giving you a whole new property to exploit.

Personally, I think shorts should be filmed before every major feature film, not only does it increase my theatrical experience, I feel like I’m getting better value for money. That’s never a bad thing, eh?

While a new show is undoubtedly necessary to bring Bugs and Daffy in from the cold, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. Disney is the gold standard in this regard, Mickey Mouse is still as popular and well known as he has ever been, having said that, he as never exactly been out of the public’s attention either. Warner Bros. needs to do the same, starting with creeping the gang back onto screens slowly building their way up to the big stuff, i.e. films.

C’mon guys, Warner Brothers Animation is so much more than Detective Comics direct to DVD movies you still have plenty of fans out here.

Napoleon Dynamite, Animated

The original Napoleon Dyanamite was the sleeper movie of 2004. Besides being a pretty decent movie, it gave rise to a number of cultural phenomenons, namely “Vote for Pedro” T-shirts. In recent days, word has come through AWN that an animated series based on the film is in the works.

There are a number of curious aspects to this announcement. First of all, why now, more than 5 years after the fact? Surely it would have made more sense to strike while the iron is hot? Surely nothing indicates the dwindling public appetite more than the Napoleon Dynamite Festival, which was held for a few years after the film was released but was discontinued due to near non-existent attendance numbers, right?

The other question I’m asking myself is where will it be broadcast? As it turns out, FOX is the one who is hoping betting heavily that the series will take off. When it would be broadcast is another matter. Sunday is firmly the realm of Seth McFarlane and FOX has yet to find an animated hit for a weeknight outside of The Simpsons.

The overall idea could stand up as a series, but the characters will not. Back in 2004 they were fun for 90-odd minutes, but can you imagine them coming back every single week? Things could get very stale very quick. Past experience has shown us that even a show with a great plot, diverse characters and progressive animation can get tossed over the fence almost as soon as it hits the airwaves.

Personally, I wish the Hess brothers all the best with their endevours, just don’t expect me to be waiting with baited breath.

Crowdsourcing Animation – UPDATED

Animation is an expensive business, there’s no doubt about it. Besides being time-consuming (typically 6 months for a half-hour show) it also requires the talents of a vast number of people, from designers, writers, storyboard artists, animators, etc. etc. On the flipside, animation tends to have a very long life. For instance, we still watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs today, over 70 years after it was first released.

With such a large outlay of capital, animation has been scattered among various genres in the past. On the one hand, you had Disney with it’s big budget theatrical releases, on the other side, indie filmmakers were putting out shorts from the their bedrooms.

The arrival of the computer changed all that, and today, a film can literally be a one-man show made for a few thousand dollars. Having said that, a few thousand dollars is still a few thousand dollars and plenty of animators I know don’t happen to have that kind of money laying around to fund a film.

The historical (and risky) stratedgy is to make one film, shop it around and use it to get commissions and the like in order to fund a second. The cycle thus repeats giving the animator a somewhat healthy revenue stream that he or she can use to produce personal films on topics they enjoy. A great example of this is PES, who routinely undertakes commercials in order to put out such gems as Western Spaghetti.

The arrival of the internet changed everything. Besides changing distribution (YouTube) and the actual production itself (The Secret of Kells was put together in three very different continents), it has spurred the idea of “crowdsourcing”.

Crowdsourcing is a principle where many people doing a little piece of the work collectively contrbutes to a whole. The principle has been used in software for years. In fact the machine I’m typing this on right now runs on Linux, which has thousands of programmers actively contributing to its development.

With that in mind, the idea of crowdsourcing animation is that many people can donate to the capital funds needed to get a project off the ground. An excellent recent example is Joe Murray, creator of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. His wish to create a creator-driven vidoe streaming website (Kaboing TV), which he describes as

…an animation and Cartoon Web channel with content worthy of television if television had the space and the balls to do it.

While admirable, Kaboing TV is unlikely to attract investment unless Joe has some proof that the idea will be successful. Enter Frog in a Suit, desribed as being:

…our chance to “turn the engine over ,and get the car onto the track.

In other words, the short is the nectar that entices the bee to come over and get cozy with the flower. Joe is certain that there is a market for a cartoon channel on the interent. The likes of Channel Frederator and Cartoon Brew TV all of these offer animation podcasts or shorts with each having a dedicated following. With this in mind, he has decided to reach out to the community and fans alike for some help getting the project off the ground.

Using the website Kickstarter to handle the nuts and bolts, Joe is already well on his way to achieving his goal. The interesting thing is, he only has 176 backers! He’ll need a few more before he’s finished, but it is astonishing that he can get a few shorts made with as little people as this. In contrast, the Simpsons and other mainstream cartoons require audiences in the millions in order to make them cost effective.

The idea has worked before, Nina Paley asked fans to help out when she was unable to release her film “Sita Sings the Blues” without coughing up $50,000 to copyright owners. Having gone into debt just making the film, Nina asked for donations in order to ensure her film would be seen. She managed to achieve her goal and today, with her film released under a Creativ Commons license, you can download it for free and share it with as many people as you like.

Crowdsourcing is not the ideal funding source in my opinion but it is the best if you are an independent filmmaker. New York hero Bobby Miller has been using the idea to fund the DVD release of his film, Tub, which will help promote his film without the need for exepensive marketing.

Until now, there has been a wide gulf between animation that was produced by a mainstream media company and those by independents. Through crowdsourcing, we may see a narrowing of this gap with the rise of medium-cost, independently made films that are of high quality, medium cost and still achieve satisfactory market acceptance. Time will tell, but for now, things look good.

UPDATE: All-round nice guy Lee Rubenstein has decided to fund his series, Fred & Earl through Kickstarter. In return he’s offering some unique gifts to doners, including the chance to voice a character in a future episode! Click here to get involved.