Real Talent

At the risk of being considered a grumpy old timer, I have a need to air a few gripes from time to time. Plus, my sixty or so years in the cartoon business has earned me the right to be critical on occasion. I'll say upfront that I have no personal ax to grind. I've been treated extraordinarily well during my years in animation and my personal complaints are few. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case for my colleagues.

I've watched this same scenario played out dozens of times during my career. A struggling young studio is working hard to make it's mark and talent is a serious need. The call goes out to all willing to be a part of this team effort. Top talents are often reluctant to throw in their lot with an unproven start up and they pass on the invitation. Eventually, a rag tag group pulls together and creates the impossible. The little start up attains eventual success while the “outsiders” look on in amazement. That's the way it works in this crazy business and I've been around long enough to see it happen more than once.

Of course, no one reaches the top by themselves. This is especially true in the business of entertainment. Although there may be a few arrogant enough to think this is possible. No, success comes from a team pulling together to do the impossible. That includes a captain on the bridge as well as a hard working crew “pulling the oars” down below. The team makes the miracle happen and those who believe otherwise are clearly delusional.

Sadly, here's what often happens once the scrappy little upstart has achieved success astounding their colleagues and competitors. Clearly forgetting how they got there - the company brass begins to scrutinize their staffers to see who might be expendable. Having clearly achieved success the once unknown company could now attract top talent and they were more than eager to do so. Management began to play their usual deceptive game by asking employees who had worked with the company for several years to suddenly, “bring in a portfolio.” I remember one understandably upset artist having an answer for a bone-headed executive. “My portfolio is up there on the screen!”

Of course, none of this is new for this animation veteran. It's a game that will continue to be played out again and again. Back then there was an advantage in getting in on the “ground floor.” Even if you failed to excel in the company and climb the heights to becoming a producer or a director you would at least have been guaranteed a job based on your company contribution. In the old days of the animation business we called it employee loyalty. Sadly, it's old fashioned notion that is clearly out of style today.