The Development Artist

When you’ve been in this business for as long as I have you’ve probably seen your fair share of awesome visual development art. One of the joys of visiting various studios back in the day was getting a look at the awesome work lining the walls of the studio hallway. Unlike today, where animated projects are regarded as top secret projects worthy of Pentagon-like security, studios were once proud to show off their work. They were almost eager to invite artists from rival production companies into their facility. The artwork wasn’t meant to be hidden. The production bosses actually wanted to show it off.

I can’t begin to list the awesome development artists whose work has impressed me over the years. From Disney to Pixar. From Sony to DreamWorks, these amazing artists continue to knock me out with their inspired sketches and paintings. It sometimes makes me long for an animated art museum where these amazing pieces could be on display and available to students and professionals alike. Of course, we do have the occasional Making Of book, and that provides a showcase for some of the art. Unfortunately, it’s usually only a taste, and there’s a still a good deal of inspired art that goes unseen. Of course, we’ve all experienced the disappointment of seeing the completed motion picture where much of the inspired art appears to have been left behind. Moving into production, the once extraordinary work is processed and watered down to meet the needs of the film’s production pipeline. There are exceptions, of course. There have been a number of recent films where the beautiful development work is actually in evidence on the big screen. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often enough.

Finally, I applaud the amazing work of animation’s talented development artists. They provide the inspiration, the starting point that moves the movie from rough idea to the completed motion picture. Every step of the production process is informed by the development artists and they make an enormous contribution to the finish film. Now, that we have this amazing development art … let’s see if we can get this darn story to work.