Aging in the Cartoon Business

It doesn’t seem that long ago when we walked into a large conference room filled with season cartoon veterans and a handful of studio executives. You can imagine how we felt. We were kids. Newbies to the animation business with only a few years under our belt. Now, here we were with these animation geezers who had seen more and done more in the past few years than we had in our entire, lackluster career. How do you pitch to a group like that? You’re totally intimidated the moment you walk in the door and you expect the old codgers to toss you out on your ear for wasting their valuable time. I honestly can’t remember all the pitches we made to these animation senior citizens back in the day. Yet, that’s the way it was. The animation industry was run by pudgy, bald old men, and they were probably the younger ones. There were also a handful that could boast working for Disney in the forties and “Termite Terrace” in the fifties. There weren’t a lot of young people in the cartoon business back then. Perhaps that was because the work could hardly be considered a career. Only goofy, naive kids like myself would aspire to such a wacky, pointless job.

Imagine how I feel today. Either I’ve entered BizarroWorld or life has taken a complete, unexpected flip-flop. When I enter a conference room filled with artists, managers and executives I feel like I’ve made an accidental turn into a daycare center. Dare I say the staffers are young? Let’s just say most are probably the age of my grandchildren. So, it’s intimidation all over again - except this time around the players have all switched places. Clearly, all the bright young people starring at me are talented, educated and filled with enthusiasm for the business. As I look out upon the sea of innocent, smiling young faces with their clear complexions and perfect teeth, I’m filled with a sense of dread. I’m no longer the green, stupid young kid with no experience under his belt hoping eagerly for approval. Now, I’m the old grandpa. The codger who worked in the business back when people drew on paper. As you can imagine, I’m waiting for the kids to grab my walker or my cane and kick my tired old ass out of the room.

It would appear I’ve been the wrong age all my life. It’s not a total downer, however. Back in the sixties I managed to work with a bunch of “old men.” Actually, I believe there were nine. Fast forward to the nineties where I worked with a bunch of kids at a new studio called, Pixar. So, on occasion I did manage to fit right in. It’s all very amusing, of course. That’s the way life is. Whatever goes around eventually comes back again. Only, not quite the way expected. It’s the wacky circle of life, and I’m the one running in circles. I’ve made a decision never to pitch again. My ideas were initially too brash, controversal and irreverent. Now, my ideas are not brash, controversal and irreverent enough. I failed to impress the codgers back in the old days and I can’t seem to wow the kids today. Please don’t get me wrong. This is not a rant and it’s hardly a complaint. Simply an observation as I walk down the hallway of a studio where the senior management appear to be high school seniors.

Enough meetings like these and you realize how old you've suddenly become.

Enough meetings like these and you realize how old you've suddenly become.