Rather amusingly, the question of whether Disney is running out of new ideas popsupmoreregularly than you might think. In the latest version, Maya Phillips points out the discrepancy in the variety of content the company used to put out even twenty years ago, and what it puts out today. The reasons aren’t mysterious or secreted away in the vault, they’re much more straightforward. Yet they are indicative of a corporation with an allergy to new ideas and their rewarding results.
Everyone can create, but should everyone create? Plenty of great ideas never get off the drawing board, and seemingly terrible ones manage to make it all the way to YouTube. Everybody is different of course, but before they even start creating, here’s six questions every creator needs to ask of themselves.
Animation has always had a strong creative streak with plenty of variety to it. If you didn’t like that Walt Disney was chasing realism, all you had to do was look across town to the Warner guys on Termite Terrace and see cutting edge character comedy in full flow. Today is no different; while major studios have become increasingly bland in their offerings, there are plenty of others taking up the creative mantle. Is what they’re doing worth the effort and risk involved?
All-round nice chap Elliot Cowan, known to his legions of fans around the world as the creator of Boxhead and Roundhead, has embarked on the formidable task of creating a feature film featuring the quirk duo.
Below is the video he recently posted detailing how exactly he manages to squeeze making a film into his already hectic day. Besides making us all appear instantly lazy, it’s all done in Elliot’s very affable Australian way.
Yesterday, Mr. Warburton (you read his blog, right) posted a post about resumes in which he absolutely nails the fact that some creative types have a very boring, traditional resume. He proclaims the need for a creative resume, and you know something? He’s right!
If you work in the creative arts, you would expect a portfolio/demo reel to do the hard work of showing off your creative talents, but why should you rely on just that? If you’re looking for a job, you should be using every single opportunity you have to try and grab that reviewers attention.
The resume is one area that is often forgotten about or neglected. Plenty of people think that it is simply a synopsis of your skills and nothing more and that’s the problem. The average resume gets a 10 second slot in which to impress the reviewer. A mediocre design will be glanced over and forgotten. One that stands out is more likely to be read which improves the chances of employment by a lot.
For starters, Resources has 70 creative resumes that you can use for inspiration. Sure, some are better than others but they are all much more than the minimum. Animators, you have some drawing skills, why not put them on your resume and let your reel do the heavy lifting for the actual animation.
Having a unique resume also does much more than make you stand out from the crowd, it also showcases your independent capabilities as well as a willingness and passion for your work. Which are all good signs potential employers like to see.
Creating a nice resume may take a little time, but won’t that be time well spent if you land a job?
It’s a tough question that’s not too easy to answer straight off the bat. So let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages and compare them at the end, OK?
Having you own particular style of animation can have many advantages. Although it may sound tough to be unique in a market filled to the brim with creativity, there are always ways to make your own mark. A unique style can serve as a fantastic calling card. For example, look at the picture below. Can you tell who drew it? I bet you can.
Besides being instantly recogniseable, a particular style can serve you well in your films as well. Arguably Bruce Timm’s style of hard edges and stylized characters and backgrounds served the original Batman: The Animated Series very well and played a significant role in that TV show’s success.
The same goes for the likes of South Park. Yes, it is incredibly crude, but it suits the incredibly crude nature of the show and after so many seasons, it is impossible to imagine it any other way.
Is there anything else a certain style can help you out with? How about merchandising? It’s something that is not necessarily at the forefront of your mind when you create a TV show is it? Or is it? Did you know that Chowder creator C. H. Greenblatt supposedly designed Chowder with a plush toy in mind?
Forget the fact that Cartoon Network never took up the opportunity but think about how easy it would be to turn the round little guy into a toy. Chowder is not a toyetic show in the traditional sense, but it style does lend itself quite well to marketing.
Now the bad news. Can a style hurt your career? Sure, it is easy to become typecast into a particular style although a lot of the time, this could be due to a multitude of other reasons besides the style of your work alone.
In fact, if you think about all the poor animated films out there, the style normally doesn’t even factor into it. Why? Well for one, a lot of poor films attempt to copy successful styles and appear as such, and secondly there are usually even bigger problems with the likes of the story or script that overshadow the style.
As an animator, it is these problems that will be the ones you will have to watch more so than your style. Having said that, there are still plenty of opportunities to go wrong, especially in the are of character design. An area where many non-Disney animated films seemed to fall short (at least according to my mother).
The second danger with having a strong style is that it may go out of fashion. A great example are the fantastic Cartoon Modern TV shows and films put out in the 1950s and early 60s. As fantastic looking as these shorts are now, they apparently could not stay in style forever and by the end of the 1960s, it was extinct in the mainstream.
This is not fault of its own, just the whims of consumer taste. Just bear in mind that if you have a very strong, contemporary feel to your style, you should be prepared to adapt a new one at some point.
Overall, the reasons for adopting your own style far outweigh the disadvantages. Signs of uniqueness and individualism can go a long way in the creative arts (just ask Andy Warhol or Georgia O’Keefe). In animation, developing a particular style should be a priority when it comes to your personal films or indeed your creative pitches to others.
What are your thoughts on a unique animation style?
Animation is kind of a funny industry in that a vast majority of its ultimate customers have no idea about the nuts and bolts of the products or even the industry behind it. OK, granted, that could be true about any industry, for instance, do you know how roads are designed? Perhaps, but could you tell me how to lay out a road profile, complete with PVC, PVT, K, SSD, HSD and e values? You could! Oh I see, you were pulling my leg, well, shame on me.
One difference is that adults can generally go and read about how to do it but the real difference is that adults have a choice about whether they go and read about it. Kids (for the most part) do not care.
This morning as I sat down to write this post, it occurred to me that the path to my current career was pretty much laid out in advance, school-wise at least. I mean, civil engineering isn’t a spectacularly complex career; it’s not like we’re competing with the medical or law colleges for the best minds in the nation so planning for a career as one was fairly simple.
Which got me thinking, how would you encourage a child that seems hell-bent on doing animation? It’s a bit of a tricky one because plenty of kids love animation but only a select few can understand it and reproduce it.
The first way would be to find the signs. Do they enjoy watching cartoons? Do they doodle all the time? Do they make rudimentary comics? Have they created a universe for their comic/characters? These are all traits of a creative mind at work. I distinctly remember the kids at school who were always drawing or doodling. During the intensely competitive newsletter market in 5th class, there were one or two comics floating around trying to lighten the atmosphere a bit.
Now that you’ve noticed the talent, how do you go about building the foundation for a career? It can vary, but most animators I am aware of (and have talked to) strongly hint that their parents had a fairly large bearing in their early days. This ranges from buying the necessary supplies to, in Brad Bird’s case, driving two and a half hours to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a hokey-poke cinema in Oregon. So the answer would seem to be to encourage creativity and to ensure that the kid has plenty or opportunities to experience the artform.
The third and I suppose final way would be to ensure that the kid receives some sort of formal education in the field. I mean, it is one thing to have natural talent but more often than not, such a skill can run wild and some instruction can go a long way to channeling that energy into something truly creative. There are plenty of good schools out there, both expensive and not so expensive. What matters is that the child at least has the option of going to one.
The ultimate point of this post is that you sometimes hear the stories out there of how parents almost admonish a kid for drawing or doodling in the false belief that they could never earn a living from animation or the creative arts. Such a mindset is defeatist and such discouragement is a sign of ignorance on the part of the parent.
I kinda feel like I’m preaching to the choir on this one, but as a non-animator, this is the kind of stuff I see animators complaining about or regaling in stories about themselves or people they knew. There is no excuse for it so hopefully this post will serve as a bit of a reminder to everyone that we should be encouraging kids to take up the skills if they have an interest in it.
Don’t ask me! Hahaha. No seriously, not today anyway, I’m coming up short!
While this morning might be a tough one for me to write a post, that’s just because I don’t have the time to spend hunting around for the necessary spark that will ignite the fire under my butt and get me to write something. The good news is, if you do have the time, inspiration can come from just about anywhere.
Thanks to the internet, there are literally millions of places you can go for inspiring ideas or topics without leaving your desk (or lap). I follow (literally) hundreds of blogs and they are always a source of thought. Be it straight out ideas or discussions on a topic that can lead me in another direction.
If you’re not too much into that, how about a book? If that doesn’t work, why not head to the mall, or down to the local park or whatever. I find that people watching can be a fascinating hobby. With so many people in the world, it can be fun to try and think up exciting stories for the stranger who walks past you (just don’t think aloud as they pass, they might start to form their own opinions).
Creativity is a skill that sometimes has to be honed. for me, I sometimes need to see what else is out there before I can get myself going, other times I already have something ready to go. You may have a totally different way of getting up and running and that’s fine, as long as you don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re doing good and you actually aren’t.
The point is, when people say they can’t find inspiration, that is often a way of saying that they haven’t really tried, or if they have, been looking in the wrong place. You can avoid this mistake by finding what it is that inspires you on a consistent basis and utilising it to the max.
Not to turn this place into a quote blog, but I think David OReilly makes a great case for moving in new creative directions:
when you’re making an animated short, it’s pretty much your duty to try out new territory. When something’s gonna take over a year of your life, fill you with paralyzing self-doubt, destroy whatever social life you have and empty your bank account, what’s the point on re-doing what you’ve done before?
It is interesting to compare his reasons against any of the larger, corporate players. They do the same thing over again because they’ve found a winning formula and will drive it into the ground in the search for revenue.
David on the other hand, is more concerned about the psychological reasons, and he’s right too. Why put yourself through a whole bunch of pressure and stress just to do the same thing you did before? It doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense, and it can apply to other things besides films too. How about art, music, your job, the list goes on and on.
As great as Please Say Something is, I’m glad that David has gone in a new direction, it’s proof that he is much more than a one-trick pony (although we sort of knew that anyway) and it gives us plenty of opportunities to guess about his next short, which he has yet to announce.
A short post today, and that’s because you’ll want to head on over to the downright fantastic Scribble Junkies blog, which, in case you didn’t know, is the collaborative spawn of indie king Bill Plympton and Patrick Smith, who happens to be a man of many, many hats within the animation community.
Long story short, on Friday, Patrick posted the aforementioned 7 principles and they are well worth reading, understanding and learning as they represent the driving force behind the most successful animation studio of the last 20 years. They’re a good lesson for anyone really, as they can apply to any project your working on, not just an animated film.
It’s absolutely true, so head on over to see what John says about it and the rest of the principles, you will not regret it.
For me, the pick of the bunch is number 3:
Quality is a great business plan. Period.
He’s bang on the button with that one and it’s paid off handsomely for him thus far.
We’re all familiar with writer’s block, that agonizing thing when it feels like you can write nothing. But what about creator’s block? I certainly got it today with this blog! This is the third attempt at a post and yet I am somehow getting it together piece by piece.
One thing I’ve learned from the readings and teachings of Mr. David Levy, is that opportunity is always knocking, even when you think it isn’t. Case in point, today’s post. I thought about recommending a book, commenting on cel-shaded animation, even about posting about the Fleischer Brothers move to Florida! Could I get past the first paragraph on any of them? Not a chance 🙁
Yet here I am, posting about a subject that should have stopped me from writing about it in the first place!
What is it about creative block? Why is it that we feel we are simply unable to write or draw or paint or whatever it is we do? It’s a mystery to me, although I would like to blame the fact that is is still very early in the week and the joys of the weekend are still a long ways off.
Nevertheless, animators continue to amaze me in their prolific output. Of the many blogs I follow, there are naturally the few that update maybe only a few times a year, but others have new stuff up every week! Does this mean that the latter are better than the former? Nonsense, some of the slackers simply don’t have the time (or at least that’s the excuse the present whenever they post).
If you’re an animator working on a personal project, creator’s block can be your worst nightmare. Luckily, you can find inspiration from anywhere! Either on TV, radio, outside, your favourite movie, you name it. That’s what’s so nice about being in a creative industry, you can take inspiration from anywhere. Unlike myself, who is normally limited to the AASHTO Green Book, where the numbers are a bit more preceise.
My point is, creator’s block affects all of us at some point. We all hate it, but before you know it, an idea will pop into your head and away you go like it never even happened.
Hey look at that, I wrote an entire post after all those false starts 🙂