Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wearing Two Hats: Artist and Businessman

Animation has always been a business, but that's not the reason most people get into it. Usually, it is because a young person wants to tell a story or because of the need/enjoyment of creating a world full of characters.

As an artist, I always wish for unlimited budgets and unlimited time to craft my work. But as a businessman I have to squeeze every dollar I get. You only have so much money in your budget. The funds have to be spread out. Where do you put your money?

For me the important elements are: story, design, and the planning of key animation scenes. So, I look at everything I do with an eye on getting the most out of every drawing I make.

This affects my decision regarding animation choices such as:
1) Putting an action on one frame exposure or two frames.
2) Do I level the body as a held cel or trace it continually for several drawings? Or do I run a cycle of three traced back bodies to maintain a flicker of "life"?
3) Can I reuse a strong action several times in different scenes by changing the fielding and/or flopping the drawings to move in the opposite direction? And so on.

It doesn't hurt the artist in me to be creative in searching for solutions that will help the businessman in me to pay the bills. In fact, I believe it forces the artist to focus on what is important in the scene.

The following is a short "Rant"

For me, creating an animated film is like baking a cake and icing it. There are so many elements that go into the process that, if the baker doesn't use the right ingredients and proportions, the cake can easily be ruined. For me, the most important part is the body of the cake, not the icing. A simple layer of icing on a tasty cake is a wonderful touch, but it isn't the most important element.

However, now that film producers have the computer technology to put up on the screen almost anything one can imagine, they spend fortunes on making beautiful icing, but insist on using it to cover very substandard cake.

In fact, for me the vast majority of today's animated features (and live action films) are all icing and no cake.


  1. That is so true! Thanks for summarize it!
    Great blog by the way!

  2. "In fact, for me the vast majority of today's animated features (and live action films) are all icing and no cake."

    Aye! I forget where I first saw the quote, but someone said everything coming out of Hollywood is "stunningly photographed crap".

  3. Very interesting! Those fighting elements of art and commerce have always interested me when it comes to animation art... but in the end, you're right! We all just want to tell stories, and we can be creative about how to tell stories without spending too much money! I would imagine having an unlimited budget to be the ultimate dream, but maybe you're right...with no restraint, we would lose sight of the big picture. Great post with lots to think about, however I love modern cinema so maybe I disagree with the end!

  4. Some where I read that an artist can not be a good business and a business can not be good artist at time. Artists are passionate people for art and business man balanced sheet for profit.

  5. animation jobs: That is an interesting statement to which I would like to reply in detail in a future post. But for now, I say that for an independent animator to make a living at producing films one must be both businessman and artist. Thus the wearing of two hats, but not at the same time.

  6. These are definitely some important things to consider, especially when you work independently, but in regards to that last statement, I can't help but wonder what are some examples of features that you consider "all icing and no cake".

    1. Landon, by "no cake" I mean movies with no depth of story or character development other than the most simplistic of formulaic "paint-by-numbers" and "connect-the-dots" stories. Examples are "Cars 2" and any of the Marvel superhero movies (now all owned by Disney).

      That's my opinion.