Friday, July 25, 2014

Animation Panel at the Con

I was privileged to participate in TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito's Comic-Con panel, which was good fun.

Tom (as I'm guessing he usually does) drew a packed house. Tom's panelists were Danny Young, yours truly, Brooke Keesling, Raul Garcia, and Miguel Jiron.

Here's a short thumbnail of the topics covered by the panelists and moderator:

* The animation industry is currently robust. L.A. animation work is at record highs (with 3340 artists, writers and technicians working under Guild jurisdiction).

* There were 22 animated features released last year. In the 1970s, there were usually two or less: whatever Disney did and one other independent feature.

* Cartoon Network has doubled the number of shows in work that it had four years ago. The studio is constantly on the lookout for new, young talent. CN is focused on hand-drawn animation.

* The gaming industry (a branch of modern animation) is doing gangbuster business. And it's possible for young game creators to create their game with a small crew, and own and market it themselves, since there are a variety of digital platforms from which to sell it.

* Many young animators are breaking in to the business through their personal shorts displayed on YouTube or Vimeo. Vimeo, in particular is pretty egalitarian in giving newcomers a viable platform to showcase their work.

* The recent layoffs at DreamWorks Animation came about because the company was going to reduce the humber of produced features going forward and needed to reduce staff that was not assigned to a feature or not under a loner term contract. The layoffs were done without prior notice, but companies have a way of being abrupt when it suits them. Companies, despite what the Supreme Court says, are not people.

* The visual effects business has taken a hit in Southern California. Sony Imageworks has moved its business to Vancouver, where the Canadians are given away free money. Montreal and Toronto also have large subsidy programs and now do work previously done in L.A. There are a number of boutique visual effects studios operating in Los Angeles, where work is being done on various television shows and some limited feature work. But big players like Digital Domain and Rhythm and Hues are kaput.

* Wage suppression/control is something that has gone on in the animation industry for some time. (It was represented that Cartoon Network doesn't participate in any "wage cartels").

Before the panel, I walked around on the main floor. It was a zoo, and somewhat bigger and gaudier than the last time I visited in 1977. (What the hell happened?)

One thing that struck me: the movie displays and exhibits were roaring, with costumed super heroes everywhere; the areas that were selling old comics were relatively quiet and sleepy. (And comics were the reason the con got started.)

And here's Danny Young, yours truly, Tom Sito, Brooke Keesling, Raul Garcia, and Miguel Jiron right after the panel's conclusion, when Comic-Con staff was saying, "Okay, we got the picture! Now get off the stage! There's another panel coming in!"

(I swiped Tom's photo(s) of the event from his Facebook page. Mea culpa.)


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