While wandering the hallways of the large entertainment company located in the San Fernando Valley this morning I happened across an old friend and decided to catch up on things. It seems work has been slow and after a very busy two years things have suddenly slowed to a crawl. This is hardly anything new for this old timer who has grown use to the roller coaster ride we call the animation business. From the moment I entered this magical and goofy business many years ago, nothing has ever been stable. Should you be looking for a stable career I would recommend you choose something other than the cartoon business. We run hot and cold, fast and slow and I honestly can’t recall a time when our zany business has been anything other than this. Whether you’re employed by a huge studio or a teeny tiny start up, I can guarantee your life and career will never be stable. But, that’s why we do this, right?
While speaking of the things we do, the subject of traditional hand drawn animation came up again. We spoke of the talented animators who have been lecturing in an attempt to bring a hand drawn sensibility to the CGI animated motion pictures now in production. We spoke of the simple charm of a hand drawn sketch and the wonder of seeing a drawing come to life. We believe that audiences still marvel at the magic of a moving sketch even though producers would have us believe that nothing less than a photo real digital animated movie can make money today. And, don’t even get me started on the old canard that hand drawn motion pictures are inherently more expensive than CGI with its massive infrastructure and the expense that comes with it. Were I ever to be blessed with sufficient funds to make an animated film I could have a studio up and running in a matter of weeks. The facility would be as simple as a rented warehouse with rows of drawing tables loaded with pencils and paper. Start up costs would be next to nothing and what little computer equipment needed would be used for post production which is mainly a mechanical process anyway. Plus, I doubt dedicated staffers would be difficult to find. Eager young students ready to bring back a lost art along with a host of marginalized veteran animation professionals who have been waiting on the sidelines for something great to come along.
While it’s true I’ve often been accused of bashing CGI filmmaking the charge is hardly legitimate. I’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology and I’ve owned more computers and drawing tablets than most people would ever have a need for. However, I will confess that I’m growing weary of digital films even though the images sent to the screen are often dazzling. However, this animation veteran is getting a little tired of being dazzled and would like the joy of seeing a simple drawing on screen again. That’s correct kids. A simple drawing sketched to brilliant life by an artist we call, an animator. Guys who create magic using nothing less than pencil and paper and carry on in the tradition of Art Babbitt, Milt Kahl and Freddy Moore. That’s what I call animation, my friends and that’s what I sorely miss today.