Pop-up Fandom ‘Creates’ New Anime

Via: Geekosystem
Via: Geekosystem

Fans are known for being a bit, well, fanatical about their chosen shows but what happens when the show in question doesn’t even exist? Well, they make it up as they go along instead! A short commercial released by Kyoto Animation managed to inadvertently spark some reactions among tumblr members that could only be considered explosive:

The fandom that popped-up in a matter of hours consequently went to town fleshing out the characters and the story. As the Daily Dot reports:

 In the 2 days since the 30-second spot landed on YouTube, Tumblr has been in a frenzy of yearning for what it has dubbed “the swimming anime.”  Tumblr fans have given the nameless boys in the videos character identities and backstories, they’ve picked favorite relationship pairings, drawn fanart, made GIFs, created character roleplaying blogs, confessionals, and Texts from Last Night parodies. They’ve written fanfic.

Want more swimming anime? Here’s a Tumblr theme. Want your swimmers genderswapped? Got that too. There’s also swimming anime cosplay in the works. This parody of the “swimming anime” has over 11,000 notes, while this PowerPoint slide deck on how to ship characters of a nonexistent anime has over 22,000 and counting.

What has prevented the entire saga from being swept under the carpet has been the decision by the studio to announce an official series based on the short to be called Free.

Is This Good Or Bad?

Ultimately, there is nothing necessarily good or bad about something like this. Sure Tumblr has a reputation for juvenile stunts such as this, but its harmless for the most part and at least spurs some creativity on the part of the users rather than keeping them in the passive state.

The notion of pop-up fandoms is nothing new since the internet has attained widespread usage. PBS’ (quite excellent and highly recommended) Off Book took a look at whether fandom can change society and concluded that it could; citing numerous (including one infamous) cases where fandoms appeared out of thin air after major events and noted that they can create both good and bad results.

The case of swimming anime is fairly benign although one has to wonder why people would even devote such effort to something that doesn’t even exist?

Short Term Effects and Pitfalls

Swimming anime/Free highlights a number of issues with its rapid rise to public consciousness. Firstly is the fact that it became so widespread so quickly; 48 hours after its release and the internet had proliferated with creativity. Secondly is the fact that such a rapid rise could harm it in the long term.

Starting with its rise, social media, YouTube, frictionless sharing and so forth all contributed to getting the show as much coverage as possible. Long gone are the days when you maybe had to search out something on the internet after the fact. Tumblr’s dashboard means that you are likely to see the same thing pop up over a prolonged period of time as people you follow gradually reblog it. (The service also encourages, and has, a high percentage of daily users.)

The second issue is much more troubling. A rapid rise is great, sure, but we all know that animation is not a race. Shows take time to develop, create and distribute. Six months for a decent half hour is the norm so even if the show was begun today, we wouldn’t see any completed episodes until the leaves have fallen from the trees (see below). That in and of itself is not what’s problematic though, that lies with the very fans that made it a success in the first place.

You see, as rapidly as fans attached themselves to this show they will also attach themselves to the next one that comes along. The initial explosion of interest will naturally fade as those on the periphery fall away, but even the core will shrink until new content is available when it will increase again. The issue, and question, is how big will it expand again?

Shows with large following such as The Legend of Korra have relatively stable fandoms but still see rises and falls in their activity between seasons. Those shows though, have devoted followings that have built up over time. Swimming anime/Free is starting from scratch, and the possibility that fans who came for the fun of creating something won’t stick around forever (see below) and may never return once they leave. That’s a major pitfall and is something that studios need to anticipate and mitigate.

Shifting Development Efforts to the Fandom?

Another question this raises is whether or not studios will consider the benefits of essentially having fans develop the show for them. The benefits would certainly be there:

  • vastly reduced costs to the studio
  • content that is proven to resonate with fans
  • may be much faster than undertaking it in-house given larger numbers contributing
  • Promotes greater interaction and communication between the studio and fans

The disadvantages though, are equally obvious:

  • Copyright issues and the legal thicket large-scale creativity can create
  • Compensation-related issues (who did what) and how much they should receive
  • Rebellion of fanbase to studio-issued ideas, even if they are best
  • Loss of structure that in-house development provides

While many studios would love to shift the costs of development away from themselves, the reality is that the current business model prohibits it due to the many legal constraints surrounding creativity and artistic creations. Identifying and compensating every creator would be a nightmare and once you factor the cross-border nature of the internet, you’re in for an impossible task.

That means that as much as the fandom would like to see their ideas incorporated into Free, the reality will preclude it.

A Model To Follow?

While its certainly likely that Kyoto Animation considered the possibility that viewers would overreact, it’s interesting to note that they made an official announcement quite soon after the initial release. Five characters now have names and traits that have been disseminated throughout the fandom and the official launch date is in July; an indication that the studio has had this in the works for a while and completely negating the notion that fan efforts caused an official pickup. Given such circumstances this model isn’t really one to be followed.

Current internet rumblings consider Little Witch Academia as a prime target for similar moves given that it is already a fully-fledged 23 minute short with fully developed characters.

As desirable as it is to see that short receive a more substantial treatment, Kyoto Animation clearly sees a profitable opportunity in what it has, whether Trigger sees the same in their property is something that only the studio can decide. Simple outpouring from fans is not match for the numbers that studios will run, and you can be sure they all do, not matter what fans think of their efforts.

Week Links 16-2013

More week links!

Make Art, Not Law

Nina Paley has posted an interview she did recently where she discusses how she came to be a free culture advocate and why the concept plays an important role in our lives. She also touches on how some of the issues she faced while making her feature film Sita Sings the Blues forced her to make tough decisions.

Animation Sketchbooks

Via: Parka Blogs
Via: Parka Blogs

Parka Blogs has a review of an intriguing book that offers an insight into something that isn’t normally on display for all to see; namely animator’s sketchbooks. The list of contributors is long and features many noted artists and at 320 pages is quite a substantial tome.

 

Fran Krause's page via Parka Blogs
Fran Krause’s page via Parka Blogs

Why For does Disney think that “No Nudes is Good News”

Jim Hill delves into the delightful history behind the practice of slipping cels into animated films that would, well, not be considered appropriate. A must-read.

Tweets of the Week!

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/fredseibert/status/325627451575246849″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/aalong64/status/326082947696427009″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jwtierney/status/327182347474722816″]

 

25 Animation Questions That Need Answering

The Animation Anomaly is a forward-thinking blog if anything, but of all the animation questions that it attempts to answer, there are plenty more that will never be discussed. Here’s a sampling. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Could Futurama even be allowed to continue as a web series?

Are features only the pinnacle of animated entertainment because of how long they take to make?

Why isn’t their more collaborations between animators and musicians? I mean, Skrillex in Wreck-It-Ralph is a prototype, but why doesn’t every show and short film have a proper soundtrack as a co-pro?

How long ago would Walt have canned his 2-D animators?

Could you make a realistic model for finding potential animated content simply by prospecting at comic conventions?

Will Monsters University stumble in foreign markets where they don’t know what a Greek society is?

It’s interesting how few animated films need a remake isn’t it?

Further exploration on the idea of apprenticeships in animation as opposed to contemporary academic models of education

How many references and in-jokes can you squeeze into an 9 minute short?

Could you theoretically create an animated feature film from animated GIF?

Will I see you at CTN-X in November?

What will come after Adobe Flash finally bites the dust?

Will animated series’ (especially pre-school) require a mobile app before they’re even considered for pickup?

Relatedly, how will studios make dough across borders once licensing fees are obliterated from the media landscape? Will MICPOM even continue to exist?

How long until cinemas are the final destination for new animated films?

What’s the mathematical model for measuring fan excitement?

The next great animation studio doesn’t even exist yet. Why not?

Will independents find ways of competing without requiring subsidies?

With the return of shorts, will Avery-esque comedic slapstick be ripe for a comeback?

On-demand animation merchandise: where’s the comprehensive OEM we need?

Just how will Pixar handle their inevitable fall from grace?

Why won’t there be a ‘next’ Walt Disney?

What will happen to animation funded by state broadcasters in the future?

When will we see a successful animation series originate in Africa?

Is animation on FOX doomed?

 

Will Web Series’ Never Die; Just Fade Away Instead?

animated web series

It’s fascinating to think that just 7 short years ago, YouTube barely existed. If you wanted online video, you either had to download it over [snicker] dial-up or your new-fangled DSL line. Nowadays, online video is ubiquitous in the US and is rapidly growing elsewhere as site like YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Hulu continually push the notion that content is always on-demand and always available. The scenario is, non-web original content plays by a different set of rules to original web content. The former is cancelled after poor ratings, but what about original web series? Do they linger forever until someone forgets to pay the hosting bill, or are they left to fade away into the internet’s ether?

The Difference With The Old Way

In times gone past, shows were cancelled if they failed to garner enough viewers. It was a simple situation and once vanished from the airwaves, they were left to gather dust in studio archives or until cable arrived and reruns were born. The fact that shows simply vanished from the airwaves was important; it didn’t matter if it was your absolute favourite or the worst thing in the world. Once it was cancelled (or ended), it was generally gone for good.

Those were simple times though. Today, the internet and its vast array of choices (and data-generating systems) means that viewing numbers alone cannot indicate whether a web series gets canned or not and when it does, their futures are not as clear cut either.

The New Way

So with the likes of YouTube being the dominant player in the arena, what kind of rules/procedures will be in place for web series that don’t hit the mark? Animation as we all know and love, is a time-consuming process and even shorts like Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover take many months to develop. The inherent risk is that no matter the performance of the series, it will be made and uploaded regardless.

What happens then though? If a web series ‘gets the axe’ so to speak, will it remain on YouTube? Will it be pulled entirely? The former is much more likely as anyone whose stumbled across a long-dead channel will tell you. With that in mind, is it fair to say that web series’ will never really die, they’ll just be allowed to sort of fade away into the background?

No-one has a set policy in this area and plenty of great content has already disappeared from the internet already thanks to the basis of hosting and its associated costs. The aforementioned Geocities is reminiscent of contemporary sites like Blogger, WordPress.com and Tumblr; superb, ‘permanent’ services while active, but unable continue perpetually.

Another Plausible Web Series Possibility

What if an ancient web series is rediscovered and become a hit; what happens then? Will the original creators be around to benefit from it? It might be years, even decades later and if the show wasn’t produced with the correct credits, it might be impossible for the proper owners to take credit for their work. Orphan works are already a problem with physical media covered by copyright; what will the online version be like? All indications point to a potential creative time bomb.

Given that the web can act as a sort of virtual time capsule (the original Space Jam website from 1996 is still online), web series should probably be created in such a way as to anticipate rediscovery many years later and should follow the following criteria:

  • Have a designated ‘maintainer’ who can react to changes in the series’ state/popularity
  • Be readily accessible to the public i.e. no paywalls, etc.
  • Have proper credits that are noted in physical media as opposed to on a computer somewhere (remember, Yahoo, Google and others still delete your email accounts with them if you don’t access them)

With these steps in mind, even a web series that bites the bullet can benefit from a belated boost in popularity.

How do you perceive web series surviving after they end? How would you prepare for such a scenario? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

Are Realistic Characters Endangered in Animation?

King of the Kill case
For all the inherent silliness that went on in King of the Hill, the characters wer very much grounded in reality and could exist in any neighbourhood.

The impetus for this post comes from (of all places) The Onion, who’s recent piece entitled ‘TV Viewer Relates To Totally Unbelievable Character That Could Never Exist In Reality‘ highlights the fact that some characters in entertainment have become quite far removed from reality and yet are presented as being supposedly realistic characters.

Characters are meant to be somewhat unrealistic; we’ve been accustomed to that for years thanks to many an anvil being dropped on a Looney Tunes character. And before that, Davy Crockett, a completely unrealistic character and yet a hero for millions of kids despite the fact that his fictional depictions took huge liberties with the true American hero.

What the Onion piece should contemplate is how characters, by their vary nature, evoke reactions and emotions among the audience; that’s their purpose. You know how there’s that one person you know who’s really boring? Well they’re realistic but could never be portrayed on screen because they would not elicit anything from the audience.

Cartoons feature many wild and zany characters for the simple reason that kids respond better to visual and aural stimulae than adults do. If you’ve ever watched the Simpsons with kids, you’ll know that while kids and adults will laugh at a visual gag, only the adults will get the innuendo or pun. The same goes for Pixar films and their dual-appeal.

The problem of the unbelievable character occurs when they are made to seem completely believable. Shows like Dexter, Mad Men and anything on MTV, all purport to portray realistic, believable characters even though many such characters could not exist as-is in reality.

This blogger’s concern is when will we begin to see such characters infiltrating into animated circles? OK so animated drama is a bit scarce, but it is increasing. Fortunately, the comedic slant of many animated shows give them enough leeway to create unrealistic characters because they can. The problem is when an animated TV show stops being comedic and instead attempts a serious tone.

Arguably, the Simpsons was the pioneer in the regard with its veil of comedy masking a complex family drama. Such a situation persisted because of the unspoken rule that the Simpsons couldn’t do anything that a normal family couldn’t do. Once that rule went out the window (and when that was depends on who you ask), we started to see Homer become more overtly unrealistic and his character suffered as a result.

The point to all of this is that as animation develops in popularity, we are going to see a broader range of characters, and it is preferable to see ones that could exist in real life as opposed to those that are portrayed as being real when they could never be.

What do you think? Will animated characters go to far? Have they gone too far? Let us know with a comment!

Releasing Soundtracks of Animated Films Using SoundCloud

Soundcloud 800x500_orange

The ongoing media revolution remains a fascinating thing to watch as it unfolds. Not only have we seen revolutions in video (YouTube), but also books (Amazon), shopping (eBay) and even shoes (Zappos)! Today though, we’re going to focus in on music, and specifically soundtracks to animated films and how SoundCloud could be a valuable tool for distributing them.

The Current Situation

Audio and music has been one of the areas that has undergone more upheaval than most. First Napster illustrated that tracks were preferable to albums (for most acts) and secondly the iPod illustrated that people wanted to take a lot of music with them, or at least have access to their entire collection. Lately, the shift has been towards streaming services; essentially ones where instead of buying the music, you subscribe to a service which lets you access it.

Both Spotify and Rdio provide streaming access to their vast libraries (this blogger has opted for the latter given its album-oriented approach as opposed to Spotify’s mass track listings) for about $5/month. Other services such as iTunes and Amazon allow you to buy tracks or albums rather than stream them, although Amazon is facing competition from Google in that regard.

Why Soundtracks Are Important

Soundtracks and scores are enjoyed by many animation fans. Indeed they have formed a significant part of many anime series and films for decades, with a pop song seemingly mandatory for any series or OVA.

Here in the west, that isn’t really the case, Sure, we’ve all seen the novelty albums put out (The Simpsons Sing the Blues seems to come immediately to mind) but actual soundtracks albums and scores seem to be the preserve of feature films only.

That’s unfortunate, because as the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series indicate, animated TV shows are perfectly capable of containing significant soundtracks and scores that are enjoyed by fans. The various petitions for an official release of both, perfectly illustrate that demand is out there.

Where SoundCloud Comes In

What is essentially the bone of contention, is that studios often don’t see the benefit to releasing an animated soundtrack officially. Even in Korra’s case, the cost of an official release could be well above what they could ever hope to make back in profit. Distribution isn’t necessarily the problem either. Disney have their soundtracks on both Spotify and Rdio.

SoundCloud is a similar service in so far as it allows listeners to stream music, but where it excels over Spotify and Rdio is in its social features. It permits embedding, sharing and following on a near-seamless level. The key here is that not only can users easily listen to music, they can discover new stuff too!

Not only that, SoundCloud promotes a collaborative community that encourages creators to release their material on the site and to remix others’ work. Even legendary producer Giorgio Moroder has a SoundCloud page where he has posted a sample of Donna Summers’ seminal song “I Need Love” for others to use.

A Theoretical Scenario

The distribution benefits are easy to see, but how could the other benefits play into an animated series or film? Well, simply posting tracks would allow fans to share the ones they like with their friends and followers; that’s simple exposure. That could easily draw in fans who hear the music before they see the animation. Although some would argue that that could never happen, consider the fact that people listen to far more media than watch during the average day; the reason being, naturally enough, that they are working or travelling when viewing isn’t possible.

So exposure is a plus. What else? Well, if you encourage remixing, then that opens up a whole host of new avenues. Theme tunes are an evergreen source of remixes that continually pop up despite most TV shows never releasing tracks at all! There are even remixes of remixes out there, proving that music is not a once-and-done form of artwork. SoundCloud doesn’t discriminate between tracks either, so it’s possible to put things like sound effects and voice tracks up as well. Just imagine if the legendary Hanna-Barbera library was available for all to listen to and play with!

Exposure? Great! Remixes? Superb. Now what? Well, it’s what underpins everything, that is, the connection with fans! The ability to directly communicate and interact with fans will be the engine that drives future content. Until now, it has been a one-way relationship. Sites like YouTube are instigating a two-way model, but too often, studios simply post the content and let the fans discuss it amongst themselves.

For a site like SoundCloud to work properly, interaction between the studio and fans will be necessary. Consider a fan who’s made a kick-ass remix of a track from a studio’s animated show or movie. The studio could easily endorse it somehow or even utilise it in a future episode. The goodwill cost to them would be nothing, but the payoff would do wonders for the creator and other fans.

Its Already In Practice!

cartoon hangover soundcloud

As usual, Frederator is ahead of the pack. Their Cartoon Hangover channel already has a SoundCloud page where lots of music has already been posted. Theme tunes, FX tracks and instrumentals are all available for SoundCloud users to listen to, remix and share as they please.

In the non-musical sense, both Skwigly and Cartoon Brew upload podcasts for the animation community to enjoy and share.

Conclusion

Soundtracks unfortunately occupy the fringes of animation production in terms of revenue. They’re a necessary part of production but far too often cannot be officially sold in a profitable manner (unless of course it’s a large Hollywood production). Lots of TV shows and smaller films have had their soundtracks languish in obscurity when they could be proliferating creativity.

Week Links 15-2013

Some week links for your perusal!

CinemaCon: The End of Film Distribution in North America Is Almost Here

Not strictly animation-related but certainly having an impact on the wider industry. Sadly, film appears to have run its course despite still being superior in many ways.

Laputa – Castle in the Sky: Animating Weight

Via: Colourful Animation Expressions
Via: Colourful Animation Expressions

Oswald Iten’s excellent Colourful Animation Expressions blog features this post regarding weight in animation utilising a scene from Laputa: Castle in the Sky:

Since flying, floating and thus overcoming gravitation is such an integral part of Miyazaki’s films, indicating the weight of characters is of paramount importance to the success of those fantasy worlds. In yet another scene from LAPUTA – CASTLE IN THE SKY I am looking at the transition from weightlessness to gravity

A fascinating post that’s well worth your time.

PXL CON

Via: Jimmy Something
Via: Jimmy Something

Artist ‘Jimmy Something’ created this massive pixel art piece featuring just about every single comic book/animation/pop culture character you can think of. Bravo sir! Click through to view extra large.

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jessiesarah/status/323990657301622784″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/POO_HAT/status/324051266001063936″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ollymoss/status/324957362035249152″]

Animation Skills: Supply and Demand

Mark Mayerson recently published a blog post entitled ‘The Don’t Want You’. A short but compelling declaration that studios see aniamtors and artists as more a tool than at any time in the past. The paragraph below is the kicker:

They don’t want you.  They want your skills because they can profit from them.  But if they can get your skills from software or find somebody with your skills (or almost your skills) who will work cheaper, they’d prefer that.

That’s the absolute truth. Animators are expensive to hire, maintain and run. They’re also cranky, have off days and are not near 100% productive like they could be. That said, they’re also people, and people tend to be like that no matter where you go or what you do.

What Mark touches on is the fact that animators aren’t hired because they are people, they’re hired because they have skills, valuable skills. The relative scarcity of such skills, and the fact that they are not easily replicable on an computer means that real people continue to produce animation.

The Supply of Animators

People are a finite resource. There are only so many animators out there and only so many new ones coming into the field every year. However, if more enter than leave, then that creates a larger supply of talent from which to pull from, and the result is that studios can (and do) pay lower prices than they would have to if supply was tight.

Consider Brown Bag Films; they consistently have to look overseas to find artists with the skillsets required, and the result is that they have to pay more than if they could source local talent in Ireland.

A topic that is brought up in the comments is the fact that new animators are being produced at a high rate; more so than what the industry is increasing by every year. This is a problem that stems from a couple of reasons but the main ones are the fact that tuition = money and universities always want more of that. Secondly, there is no (or very little) co-ordination between studios and schools in regards to training, skills and potential demand.

If both camps co-ordinated, then students with the correct skills would be graduating and prepared for future careers. As it stands, plenty of 2D animation is being taught despite the fact that CGI has rapidly rendered (no pun intended) the style obsolete as far as mainstream productions go.

The Animation Skills Needed

The key here are skills. Creativity is a small aspect of labour, and studios, while ostensibly looking for creative minds, are also looking for skills. Skills drive their businesses; the very entity that animators and artists depend on for a livelihood.

As with any industry, more does not necessarily equal better. Specialisation does not necessarily equal higher pay. Rather on both counts, variety and scarcity matter more than anything.

Put simply, the greater variety of animation skills you can have, the better your chances are. The downside is that you may be a jack of all trades but a master of none.

If you are a specialist, you will be scarce, and companies like to (and have to) pay more. The risk is that you may be specialised in the one area that may be scarce, but for which their is no demand; e.g. 2D animators in southern California.

So what’s the secret to skills? Well, the secret is to specialise, but to constantly and continually improve and develop them. Always be hungry to learn something new. You may not be a specialist immediately, but you can at least put those skills on your resume in the meantime.

The Determining Factors Are Far Outside Your Control

What angers a lot of people is that they see jobs going abroad when there are perfectly capable people available locally. While this is an understandable situation, you, the person reading this, have to realise that globalisation has enabled not only work to go abroad easily, but also vastly increased the number of people you must compete with for jobs. You cannot control it and more importantly, you cannot stop it.

If an Indian animator can produce the same work as you can for a tenth of the price, there is little you can do about it save bringing him to the States. What you can do, is be a better animator than him, be a faster animator than him or produce animation that he can’t. Those are the kinds of aspects that you can (and should) do something about.

The Life Lesson

The takeaway lesson is that there is no such thing as a job for life any more. Similarly lifelong learning is now a mandatory part of any career, animated or not. Only by staying one step ahead of the competition can you hope for steady employment.

A Theory on Government Subsidies For Animation

It’s currently a hot topic among animation circles, and especially their cousins in the VFX industry. Yes, government subsidies are contentious no matter what side of the debate you’re on. Those for, argue that they retain jobs and industries in countries (or regions) that would otherwise lose them to cheaper competition. Those against, argue that they entice companies to slide from country to country and region to region as subsidies are created and retracted. Subsidies are a form of support from government, but today, I’m proposing support of a particular kind.

Little Witch Academia

Via: Random Curiosity
Via: Random Curiosity

This past weekend, I watched the short film Little Witch Academia, which I enjoyed immensely. (It’s stunning to think that it packs more action and character into the same amount of time as an episode of any TV show.) What piqued my interest in the short in addition to the animation was how it was funded.

Yes, Little Witch Academia was created by a studio called Trigger and although a group of ex-Gainax animators were involved, the short itself was the product of many young animators who were the recipients of a grant from the Japanese government.

The grant itself is entitled ‘Young Animator Training Project‘ [link]. Essentially, the Japanese government endows a certain amount; in this case 214.5 million yen (about US$2.27 million), which is distributed among four studios. These studios in turn create projects such as Little Witch Academia with a staff of young animators who essentially learn on the job. The goal of the project is that training as Japan has seen an increase in animation being sent overseas.

Why Not Direct Government Subsidies?

Many people see direct government subsidies in the form of tax relief as a great tool for creating demand. While that is certainly true (one need only look at Ireland to see an industry grown from scratch thanks to a healthy subsidy), subsidies themselves can only go so far. They can lower production costs, but they do not address the causes for them to be so high in the first place (that’s usually a macroeconomic concern.)

Moreover, direct subsidies are inherently risky because they are susceptible to undermining. Don’t believe it? Look at British Columbia, a state that had generous government subsidies for VFX and animation but is now seeing such work leave thanks to a larger subsidy being offered in Ontario and other jurisdictions.

Direct subsidies also do not, on their own, either increase work or skills. The rise in work they bring in certainly do, but tax relief itself does not spur creativity or the desire to create new content.

Why Indirect Government Subsidies Are Better

Indirect subsidies are essentially efforts like the Young Animator Training Project. They are governments putting money into animation, but rather than attempting to ‘pull’ demand, they ‘push’ it. Consider the following points:

They Can Focus On the Problem

Indirect subsidies can be meted out in a specific manner. They can be targeted at specific areas or problems that direct subsidies are only so good at accomplishing. They can focus on specific skills, ages, genders and regions. Once a problem is identified, an indirect subsidy can be created and applied quickly. In Japan’s case, work was going abroad and young animators were getting neither the training or employment they needed.

For many in animation, cost is a considerably concern. However, costs are only relative insofar that they are related to supply. It’s a complicated issue, but generally, clients will pay for skills they can’t find anywhere else. Indirect subsides can improve skills and mitigate this concern.

They Can Fund Things That Otherwise Would Never Be Made

Unfortunately, commercial studios are notoriously risk averse; hence the reason we had so many Shrek movies long past the series’ use-by date. With studios unwilling (or unable) to take risks with creating content, governments can step in to fill the void. Practically every country in the world has some sort of commission or council that funds film projects. While many of their projects live up to the stereotype of permitting artsy fartsy content to come to fruition, they can also give more mainstream content the extra helping hand it needs.

The Secret of Kells was one such project that, while not overtly art house in nature, it did receive assistance from both Bord Scannán na hÉireann (the Irish Film Board) and the state broadcaster, RTÉ. Both entities receive their funding through public sources but they utilise it in order to create the best content possible. No-one, of course, would argue that the world (and animation in general) is worse-off because the Secret of Kells was released.

They Don’t Bet On Horses

In line with the point above is that indirect subsidies do not bet on horses so to speak. Direct subsidies anticipate a certain level of investment but they also cannot control who undertakes such activities. In that respect, they tend to be bets placed with public money. Just look at what happened in Florida with Digital Domain. It was a successful company that whittled funds from the State of Florida to build a studio with the promise of jobs. Said facility was built and jobs were created, but when everything went south, the results were catastrophic.

Indirect subsidies mitigate such risks by simply ignoring them. Instead of backing ventures that potentially turn a profit, indirect subsidies instead anticipate no profit being made; in other words, they eliminate the risks associated with the production costs. The difference is significant because production costs are the risk that studios undertake when producing animation. The reason is simple, they must carry their burden before earning them back through box office sales and so on. If grants can reduce or eliminate production costs, then studios have no reason not to produce!

This reduction in risk permits studios who receive them to be a bit more daring in their offerings; another reason why films from the National Film Board of Canada are so widely regarded.

Their Films Act As A Calling Card

To come back to Kells for a second, that film was utterly and unashamedly Irish in all aspects. It was rightfully recognised as being the ideal siren film for Irish animation which was only amplified by its Academy Award nomination. Films sponsored through indirect subsidies can accomplish this on a successful scale. As you might expect, such films generally tend to champion the source of their funding; Kells with Ireland, Little Witch Academia with Japanese animation.

They Can Incite Creativity

Direct government subsidies for animation bring in a lot of work, but do they necessarily incite creativity among the artists who work on them? Sure, American shows are popular abroad as well as at home, but The Simpsons has been animated in South Korea for over 20 years, and I have yet to see anything emanate from that country resembling Springfield’s first family.

Yes, cultural differences can be a sticking point for direct subsidies. What good does it do to local talent if the work all day on something they may not necessarily relate to? Would it not perhaps be better to have them work on something they identify with culturally and socially? Perhaps even something that could improve their cultural identity?

Working on something you identify with is much more likely to spur you to create something yourself. If you work on a film that permits you to put a bit of yourself into it and learn from it, you’re more likely to perhaps take on an independent film, right?

Conclusion

All the above isn’t to say the direct subsidies do not have their benefits, they certainly do. In Ireland’s case, an industry has been built up from near nothing! However, indirect subsidies can accomplish much more, in both the financial and creative sense. They are better for the industry on a range of levels and should be utilised more.

Let’s hear your thoughts on government support for animation! Do you favour one form over another? Should they be abolished entirely? Leave a comment below!

A Monster in Paris Review

Amazon_A Monster in Paris BR cover
Via: Shout! Factory

Finally! After only more than a year did I finally get the chance to watch this film. Long did it tease me with its development, release in Europe and sneak peeks in Canada. There’s even been a guest review featured on this blog! Today though, I can finally post my own thoughts having seen the film thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory. So without further adieu, here’s the A Monster in Paris review from the Animation Anomaly.

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The Animation

The quality of the animation seriously belies the film’s modest budget ($28 million). Given that we are used to being blinded by the dazzling efforts of both Disney and Pixar, one would expect that a film made for much (much) less would suffer from the smaller budget but thankfully that is no true. Early 20th century Paris is rendered as beautifully as any Pixar film and the love that has gone into making it look as good as it does ensures that stylistically, it is superior to much of what the large American studios put out.

Think about it. Pixar threw around $350 million at Toy Story 3 but did they honestly need to spend that much for a film that essentially takes place in the real world? If A Monster in Paris can replicate the glory of a past city so beautifully, why are Pixar and Dreamworks apparently so shackled visually?

The character animation is a bit jerky, but given the film’s comedic undertones, it is certainly understandable. Wackiness isn’t as outlandish as you might expect but it’s all in the classic Looney Tunes vibe of only noticeable when necessary.

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The Story

A Monster in Paris tells a fairly simple story; a giant flea escapes a laboratory and supposedly terrorises Paris until a singer discovers his hidden talent. While that does not sound like much, A Monster in Paris manages to weave it into the characters so much so that thei involvement seems quite natural.

There are jokes aplenty and although it’s nice to hear lots of jokes, it’s fun to see them too. Thankfully A Monster in Paris has plenty of both.

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The Characters

A Monster in Paris brims with many of the characters that you would expect the Paris of old to have. Our heroes, Emile and Raoul are truly the odd couple, differing, bickering and making up again. Their chemistry is balances by the cast of characters who they interact with. While Emile tries to woo Maude, Raoul has nothing but disdain for our heroine Lucille. These two relationships are played against the larger problem of a giant singing flea complicating their lives thanks to being wanted by the police.

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Summation

Overall, A Monster in Paris is an enjoyable film. It’s distinct European flavour give the impression that it skips to a different beat than many American films and that would be correct. It eschews the pretensions of contemporary Hollywood films in favour of pure entertainment of the kind not seen much any more.

While the voice-acting (at least for the English dub) is a bit over the top, it is more than balanced by the music and original songs (written by Julian Lennon). The DVD is also a bit bare but given that the film never received the theatrical release it deserved in the States, it’s understandable that the home video release can’t be too lavish.

Delighting in its beauty, A Monster in Paris is highly recommended.

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Week Links 14-2013

Your regular dose of week links for April 7th to the 13th!

Animation Scoop

You’ve probably already heard by now, but if not, Jerry Beck’s new blog Animation Scoop is up and running. Differing from Cartoon Research, it covers animation news and current affairs and is written by himself and a group of contributors.

In Kids’ Rooms, Pink Is for Girls, Blue Is for Boys

Via: Slate
Via: Slate

Coming via Slate is this interesting project by Korean artist JeongMee Yoon entitled “The Pink and Blue Project” that illustrates the level at which both pink and blue have been genderised as well as how marketing departments have overwhelmingly dominated their use.

Chris Ledesma Lists His Favourite Simpsons Songs

The Simpsons’ music editor lists his favourite original songs from the series and you can be sure they’re all great 🙂

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SandraDRivas/status/319227925444575232″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/CookingUpComics/status/319518827622846464″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/MingjueChen/status/321673381055438850″]

Just a short time ago we discussed how the big players in the animation game could abuse Kickstarter and it already seems like that’s the case thanks to Peter Gutierrez:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Peter_Gutierrez/status/322427815989501952″]

This blog should be one to keep an eye on:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/le_bibo/status/322618442865848320″]

An interesting theory, discuss:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Shaggyshan/status/322739565662195713″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/amymebberson/status/322830255771508737″]