Since last Friday’s news that you’re leaving Disney, you’ve launched a new parlour game What Will Glen Keane Do? Everyone is wondering: Will he jump to another studio? Will he work on his personal artwork? Will he attempt to create a feature film independently as Richard Williams is currently doing? This letter humbly offers my suggestion for what you should consider doing.
If the outpouring of sentiment surrounding your departure is any indication, you’re one of the few verifiable superstars in animation. Over five thousand people reblogged the news of your resignation on Tumblr alone. You’re riding a wave of decades of built-up goodwill, and fans are invested in your career as they are in the work of few other animators.
Animation and Disney lovers are clamoring to see what you do next, and more than anything, it seems they want to see you make a personal animated film. It doesn’t seem to matter what that film is, or whether it’s a feature or short subject–just so long as you’re directing it. This is your moment to blow our minds. You can reset the animation world with the most stunning animated film we’ve ever seen, a no-holds-barred work of pure artistry without restrictions or interference.
The timing could not be more ripe. Right now we are witnessing a paradigm shift in which artists increasingly receive their funding directly from fans, not business investors and corporations. Crowdfunding has taken off in the last year in all areas of creative culture. Video game designer Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango) recently concluded a Kickstarter campaign to fund a “point-and-click” graphic adventure game. He aimed to raise $400,000 and ended up with $3.3 million. Comic artist Rich Burlew raised $1.25 million on Kickstarter to reprint his webcomic Order of the Stick. Comedian Louis CK self-produced his latest special and sold it online, reaping over $1 million in just a couple weeks. He ended up donating more than a quarter-million dollars to charity.
No animator has yet to pull in the kind of crowd-funding numbers as the examples above, but then again, no animator with your name recognition has attempted the feat. By forming a direct relationship with your fans, it’s a virtual guarantee that you can do whatever you want. That includes raising the money you need to create a personal animated film, and more than enough to pay for a healthy crew of assistants, clean-up artists, and others. And, if like, Louis CK, you already have enough money to produce the work independently, just know that there are many fans waiting to see your work.
Few Disney animation superstars, past or present, have created personal animation projects. Among the Nine Old Men, only Ward Kimball ever created an animated short on his own time, and that film was only a few minutes long. You have the unique opportunity to change that history. In your resignation letter, you wrote that, “I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”
Everyone supports you in your desire to discover the art form’s new vistas. I sincerely feel that your best opportunity for exploring that creative vision is to do it independently–with the backing of your thousands of fans and admirers.
Best of luck,