Saturday, February 25, 2006

Interviewed by News Hounds And Zoning Out

Here and there Kevin and I get called by reporters because we're officers in The Animation Guild and the reporters need a quote. For instance, when the Disney-Pixar merger went down, we both got peppered by phone interviews because A) we were representatives of the labor union with "animation" in its name and the story was about animation, B) we were happy to talk, and C) we knew almost nothing about the merger but had lots or opinions we were happy to share. The funny thing about doing interviews is you blab away, then hang up the phone, then have somebody come up to you a week later saying: "Hey. I read your quote in the L.A. TIMES" or "I heard you talking on KPPC." Usually, you know what the person is referring to because the interview (all four minutes of it) happened a day or two before. But then sometimes something like this Feb. 13th LA TIMES article happens: ...three Disney computer-animated movie projects became collateral damage as part of Disney's Pixar purchase. While the three -- Disney-made sequels to Pixar's "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc." -- might still become movies, Disney says the sequels will be produced by Pixar. What is less clear is whether any of the early production or scripts for the films, particularly after a year of creative labor on "Toy Story 3," will be folded into a future Pixar production or pitched on the scrap heap. Last year, when it looked as if Disney and animation giant Pixar were going to part ways, then-Disney Chairman Michael Eisner authorized his studio to start work on the sequels. Eisner had feuded with Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs over extending Pixar's production and distribution deal, with Disney claiming it alone had the rights to make Pixar sequels. Operating largely in secret under the code name Circle 7, Disney hired some 150 computer animators to start work on the sequels, and "Toy Story 3" had both a script by "Meet the Parents" co-screenwriter Jim Herzfeld and a director in Bradley Raymond, who made Disney's direct-to-video "Lion King 1 1/2 ." A 2008 release date for "Toy Story 3" was penciled in. Disney's "Toy Story 3" filmmakers were far enough along that they completed a test where Woody (the character voiced by Tom Hanks in the first two movies) was made to look like the Pixar creation. But when Disney announced its Pixar acquisition in late January, Jobs and new Disney head Robert Iger made it clear that when the deal closes, Buzz and Woody would be moving from Burbank's Circle 7 to Pixar's campus in Emeryville. Steve Hulett, a business representative for the Animation Guild, a union for television and movie animators, says he is hopeful that the Circle 7 animators -- a number of whom are foreigners working under visas -- will soon find new jobs. Disney "will try to find them something else to do," Hulett said of the animators, especially the foreigners. "Because it costs a lot of money to get them over here, and it costs a lot of money to send them home."... Now. When Hulett saw this piece a few days ago, he stood there goggling at it, trying to remember having said those things directly above, and when he could have said them. After his small brain rattled around in his head awhile, he vaguely remembered talking to somebody weeks previously. And now here was the result, hopefully accurate, popping up in print. Was it accurate? Don't ask Hulett. He'd long-since forgotten whatever pearl had come out of his mouth on that particular day. Usually I worry that I've said something stupid (and I've done that often enough.) But it's truly pathetic when I can't remember having said anything at all.


Kevin Koch said...

Wow, nobody can ever accuse Steve of not being frank and open. ;)

One thing I've learned is that the writer usually has the story already written. News stories usually have a theme -- they're not just a straight compilation of facts. And the writer may have crafted that theme based on faulty assumptions. You give your quotes, and the writer chooses some to support the story they already had. Your quotes show up in slightly (or dramatically!) different contexts than you gave them, and you end up looking like you meant something completely different.

Reminds of the animation articles in 'Wired' magazine this month. I only scanned them at the newstand, but the writers of those two articles were so off base in a lot of their basic assumptions that what I read was mostly nonsense.

Not that any of that will keep Steve and I from trying to give the real story of animation, such as we understand it, when reporters call. Just please read our quotes with the realization that you're reading a sentence or three out of many that we actually said, and sometimes in a different context that we said them.

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