On the right: directing tyros John Musker and Ron Clements.
Will was talking about the creation of a key scene in Aladdin, and the pushing and pulling that went on getting it made. Fascinating, behind the scenes stuff. But this bit from Will about him (the animator) not liking the directorial changes that Ron Clements and John Musker (the directors) were making to the storyboards caught my eye:
I immediately started protesting when I got the layout (frame by frame printouts of the rotaing BG with stand-ins for the characters). Doesn't it say somewhere in one of Frank & Ollie's bibles that you should never be in motion while a character is changing expression? Or even worse, be on their backs instead of their faces? Here we had an integral moment when the guy's whole personality is going to change and I kept saying it wouldn't work, it was technically impossible. I wanted to stick with the simpler composition. I must have bellyached for the better part of a week about it and was going to the mat. Finally Musker looked me in the eye and said: "Just try it this way and if it doesn't work we can do it over." He said it quietly, he said it diplomatically, but something in his tone made me hear what I think he really meant:
"Quit being a diva and do it the way we told you or we'll give it to someone else."
The above is a neat little example of how artists -- or corporate employees generally -- can louse up their careers.
The boss, after long (or maybe short) thought, decides how he/she wants something done. He goes to the subordinate that he wants to execute the decision and says: "I need you to do this." It might be animating a scene. It might be writing a script. It might be repairing the muffler on a car. Doesn't matter what the task is. All the boss wants to hear is:
"Yeah! Great! I'll get right on it!"
Now, why do they want to hear this? Simple. Because somebody with more power, a higher salary and a way bigger office is on their tail to move the project along, and they have a couple hundred other decisions to make. And the last thing they want, the event their supervisory hearts least desire , is a long argument over how the task at hand should be done.
This doesn't mean, by the way, that the boss person is right. It only means that the boss person is going to hold it against the subordinate if he gets a lot of lip over the way he wants something completed.
It's not fair, it's not right, it's not equitable.
It's just the way it is.
I've got lots of anecdotal evidence to back up this theory. I was pretty argumentative at Disney (ask Ron Clements). I believed it a moral duty to fight for the "right" artistic vision. By and by I ended up unemployed. Two years later, I was the picture of happy cooperation at Filmation, and I stayed aboard the company ship until it slid beneath the waves.
A long stretch of unemployment in-between those two studios was a strong motivator in getting me to reevaluate my earlier position.
Over the years, I've seen lots of talented artists who've prided themselves on their contentiousness. There's no issue too small for them to fight over. They're usually more unemployed than their more cooperative brethren. Just last week, I was sitting with an artist in his office talking about a designer we both know. The designer argues and defends every drawing, in every situation. And he argues in a loud voice.
I don't know what's with Harry," the artist said. "When the A. D. wopuld swing by to say he needed a character's eyes redrawn so he's looking more to the left, Harry'd get defensive about it. 'They're looking left, I already drew them looking left, what's wrong with them?...' And on and on. It gets tiresome. I wasn't surprised he was the first of the crew to get laid off."
Harry's currently looking for a job.
Moral of the story: Pick your fights. Learn to say "yes" more. And smile when you do it.