People I Respect: Fred Seibert

This is the fifth and last in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

 Via: Flickr

Four years ago, if you asked me who Fred Seibert was, I would have given you the blankest look in the world. Of course, that was before I moved to the States and had the time/energy to actually indulge my passion for animation.

If you were to look back at the animated TV landscape of the last thirty years, a few names are apt to stand out: John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening and Klasky-Csupo are just a few. These, however, are the exception and even then, only one could legitimately claim to not owe his success in any way to Fred.

How so, well, Fred is often cited as the first employee hired by MTV. His experiences from that time make for good reading as he was right smack in the middle of a developing cable media revolution in America. After his stint there, he partnered with Alan Goodman to form Fred/Alan and in so doing, was promptly hired to lead the re-branding for Nickelodeon. The results of said assignment was the beloved “splat” logo that lived for 25 years before being replaced.

After that he headed west and took charge of the venerable Hanna-Barbera studio in Hollywood. There, Fred began steering the studio more towards creator-driven shows and the use of the cartoon short as a medium for discovering and developing popular series. Such instincts served him so well that they were repeated in the Oh Yeah! and Random! cartoon series that Fred produced as part of his independent studio, Frederator and resulted in at least 5 shows getting picked up. The latest being the gobsmackingly good Adventure Time.

On top of this, Fred has been at the forefront of the current media revolution, partnering with Tim Shey and others to create Next New Networks. An organisation that has spearheaded the creation of original content specifically for the web. With more than a few solid hits under their belt, the outfit was acquired by YouTube as part of that company’s drive into the original content business.

With more careers than I can ever hope to have, for being someone who is consistently looking forward, for loving cartoons and for being an avowed fan of jazz, Fred Seibert is someone I respect.

People I Respect: David B. Levy

This is the fourth in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

 Via: the ASIFA-East aNYmator

A long time ago (OK, not that long ago) I met David B. Levy. I’d never heard of him before, I wasn’t aware of any of his work and I certainly was aware that he was the President of ASIFA-East. Suffice to say, after that evening I was!

David is one the finest ambassadors that the New York animation scene has today and is absolutely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Such praise is not faint. Who in their right mind would give an Irish civil engineer the time of day let alone many opportunities to liaise with people inside the industry?

Being a New Yorker, David is immensely proud to be part of the local animation scene and can often be seen cheer leading for the cause over on his blog, Animondays.

It could be argued that he does this only in his capacity as President, but such an argument would be a very shallow one. David truly believes in the creative skill of the local animation community and will often champion the many success it has had and the numerous contributions it has made to animation in general over the years.

Besides all of this, David is also a bestselling author of three books that have won praise from all over the industry for their well-written and personal approach to working in the industry.

For all of this and much, much more that I am far to tired to write about (it;s 8:25 p.m. here at the moment and I have a midnight Harry Potter screening to go to), David B. Levy is someone I respect.

People I Respect: The Irish Guys

This is the second in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

Paul Young and Tomm Moore Via: IMDB

Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell Via: Brown Bag Films

Yup, I’m shoehorning four lads into this post, but with good reason, for without them, the Irish animation scene would look quite different than it does today.

The name Cathal Gaffney may not ring much of a bell with you but he is someone I have a lot of respect for. Together with Darragh O’Connell, Cathal founded Brown Bag Films, based in Dublin and has had tremendous success over the last 14 years including not one but two Academy Award nominations. Both men have worked hard to promote the indigenous industry within Ireland as one that has a lot of potential for long-lasting prosperity.

Tomm Moore and Paul Young started Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny back in 1999 and since then, they too have found tremendous success with the crowning achievement being the Academy Award nomination for their feature, The Secret of Kells, which itself was a remarkable achievement considering that it was only shown in one cinema prior to nomination!

Why do I respect these four guys? For one, they helped start animation studios in Ireland when the industry was next to non-existent and have grown them into internationally-recognised companies that work with such large global players as Nickelodeon/Viacom and Disney.

Even more admirably, all four have managed to grow businesses at a time when Ireland has seen one of the worst recessions in the Eurozone, which is no mean feat! All four are also as ambassadors for Irish animation around the world and is continually promoting the industry at home and abroad.

For this and more, Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell, Tomm Moore and Paul Young are four guys I respect.

People I Respect: Hayao Miyazaki

This is the second in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

Hayao Miyazaki imageDo you really need me to explain why I respect the greatest animation director alive today?

How about a long and varied history of making animated films of the best quality? How about being the single biggest force in helping anime films attain popularity in the US? (Yeah, Akira helped too but Hayao’s films appeal to everyone).

Hayao Miyazaki’s output at Studio Ghibli has mesmerized the world for over 25 years and shows no sign of stopping. That is not why I respect the man though.

No, I respect him for his devotion to animation as a storytelling medium. Much more than that is his devotion to traditional animation as a storytelling medium. In an age when the computer has conquered production, he remains lovingly committed to the paper and pencil.

Besides that, Miyazaki’s films remain fascinating studies in character. Yes, the animation is superb, but that is always a sideshow to the characters and their story, on whose level we always see the film.

Hayao Miyazki is more than worthy to be included on the list of people I respect.

People I Respect: Jeffrey Katzenberg

This is the first in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

Via: Talking Movies (click through for a great interview by Fergal Casey)

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the fact that even thinking about American, theatrical, animation from the last 30 years will bring his name to mind.

While it can be said that Jeffrey Katzenberg is a bit of a bully, such a description could also be used for Walt Disney. Both men are/were not afraid to provoke strong emotions from their staff if he thought it would get the best from them.

Katzenberg’s influence over the Disney animation unit from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s is stupendous. The period, colloquially called the ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’ period saw a resurgence of the theatrical animated film after hitting rock bottom in the 1970s.

Why do I respect him? He’s focused, he knows what he wants and he is good at getting people to create his vision. Too often we see a film that was created with a vision in the mind of the director but who clearly could not communicate that to his crew.

Katzenberg can pick out good stories not just ideas. Look at the Disney renaissance films, no two are alike. They shoot off in all directions and hit a bullseye every time. John Lasseter and the guys at Pixar were clearly paying attention as they followed a similar path until the late-2000s.

Since leaving Disney, he has moulded DreamWorks Animation into a formidable competitor to Pixar. While the films are slightly less polished compared to the Apple guys in Emeryville, they are undoubtedly successful and last year’s How To Train Your Dragon was a sure sign that Katzenberg is narrowing the gap with the industry leader.

For his track record, his ability to inspire and his ability to manage artists on a par with Walt Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg is someone I respect in the animation industry. His placing in the list reflects his penchant for [multiple] sequels.