Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Is It All Going ... Somewhere?

Pixar Canada releases its first short.

Air Mater falls short of the genius of other Pixar vignettes. A rather flat script about the tow truck with buck teeth becoming a formation flyer for an air show, Air Mater lacks the charm of Presto (about a magician) or the classic Luxo Jr, (the squeaky desk lamp saga). ...

I've no doubt that good work will be done at Pixar Canada. Just as good work is done in Australia, New Zealand, and France. And there is a probability that job shops in India will peel off more animation work, and that someday China will be a player.

But when all the chips clatter onto the table, it isn't the country, it's the talent pool.

Animation is globable. You can get it done at different price points in different corners of the world. This afternoon I was talking to a c.g. artist working on How To Train Your Dragon (the t.v. series) at a small boutique studio on Ventura Boulevard that is prepping DreamWorks' theatrical hit for its small-screen incarnation. He's a veteran industry, excellent at what he does, and he believes that India will ultimately take over. He's convinced that some of their studios with their lower costs will eat U.S. production's lunch. But I thought not.

"I've heard people say this for twenty-plus years. I've watched different production companies try it. They were trying with hand-drawn and now they try with computer generated images. Chris Meledandri and MacGuff Studios in Paris had a big hit, but who else? Paris, France isn't the low-cost provider. And that hit didn't come from India."

"You don't win by making a $30 or $40 million dollar animated feature that makes $25 million at the world box office."

Obviously, I could turn out be wrong. India is not ordained to make Roadside Romeo-quality films for the next thirty years. Maybe Mumbai will be the new Glendale-Burbank-Emeryville of 2055. But I continue to be skeptical. Good movies take more than hardware, software and artists working on a low weekly rate. It takes training, skill and talent.



Justin said...

Comparing Air Mater to Presto is just not fair. It should be compared to the other Cars Toons

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it isn't a fair comparison...because Doug Sweetland is not behind the new Pixar short.

Anonymous said...

"It should be compared to the other Cars Toons.."

I know what you're saying.... but I have to ask, "why?"

Why should one kind of animated short by Pixar be judged against a lower bar than the other?

"Well, these are kinda shitty little made-for-tv knockoffs... so by that measure, this one isn't really any worse than those...."

Once you start going down the path of "well, for what it is, it's not bad.." what you're really saying is that it's not good.

Dave Johnson said...

I too felt the comparison to "Presto" was a bit "apples v oranges" in this case, and the bottom line is that my 4-year-old loved it. When it comes to these budget releases, it isn't about mass appeal, but instead about turning a profit from a very specific target audience.

In regards to the second half of your article, the problem as I see it is that different countries have very different styles of animation, and these styles come about via engrained personality traits that don't always cross cultural regions. What I mean is that a person in China moves in a different manner than a person in India does, and in a different manner again from a person in the States. So when you animate, you animate what you're used to seeing. Speaking with people "in the know," it is my understanding that Dreamworks has had a tough battle to get their India wing in shape and animating in a way that Western audiences expect these established characters to move.

Working in the entertainment (games) industry, I'm told every 6 months that our jobs will probably be going out of country soon, and it still hasn't happened.

What I do wonder is if schools like Animation Mentor and iAnimate will quickly begin to close this cultural gap, as everyone learns a "global" way to animate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Dave Johnson about different nations animates differently. And I am not against outsourcing animation, it's a realistic part of this global market.
But I think it will be sad to see a "global" way to animate, because it's people capturing and interpreting a particular movement/acting/gesture that haven't been seen before are what makes the best animation.
I hope nations keep animating differently, and only learn the techniques instead of blindly reproducing western animation.

Steve Hulett said...

Working in the entertainment (games) industry, I'm told every 6 months that our jobs will probably be going out of country soon, and it still hasn't happened.

I've been waiting for it to happen for three decades.

While it's true that L.A. has a smaller slice of the entire animation cake than in, say, 1960, that cake is now WAY bigger. And there is more animation work in Southern California than ever before.

How is this possible? Because it isn't just a bottom-line game. Animation producers go where the talent is. It's why Electronic Arts has a big facility in Play Del Freaking Rey. Not a low-cost facility in a low-cost location by any stretch of the imagination, but it IS a studio with access to LOTS of animation talent.

Anonymous said...

The animation industry sure has changed more in the last 10 years than it did for decades prior. Features are being produced in various places around the country and the world. Certainly the push will continue and hopefully competition will drive greater creativity and ultimately more releases to choose from. Hopefully Sam the Eagle is right when he says... but mostly in America.

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