Dangerous Opinions

The advent of blogging has added a new dimension to the discussion about animation, especially as it pertains to artists themselves talking about the industry. What can and can’t an artist working in animation say about the state of the industry? More importantly, what should and shouldn’t one say? Those are difficult questions and while there’s no definitive answer, CG animator Keith Lango has some interesting thoughts on the topic in this blog post entitled “Dangerous Opinions.” Well worth a read.


  • http://www.jeandenis.net Jean-Denis Haas

    Yeah, great read. You really have to be careful, especially with the mocap debate.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    This is exactly why animation is in such a sorry state. Everyone is afraid. I post on several forums around the web. I use my real name when I post, and my real photo (if the board supports an avatar). I do this for several reasons.

    1) It helps get my name out there. That may sound self serving (it is), but when I go to events, people recognize me either by the name on my badge or by seeing my face. It’s a great way to network, which is what the industry is all about.

    2) It keeps me level headed. If I know a post is going to have my name on it. I try to follow the “count to ten” rule before posting. Don’t post angry and you’ll save yourself many headaches.

    3) Many times I’ll post an opinion I have of a project when others won’t. I’m well beyond the point in my career where I worry about what XYZ animation exec or animator #128 will think about what I said about their project. I’ve gotten several direct emails from people as a result. Often these are people whom I would not have gotten emails from otherwise. The network grows larger.

    Overall, it’s amazing how cowardly the animation community is in general. There are far too many who are afraid to comment or say what everyone is thinking.

    Man up, Nancy. The industry is going to get worse and worse until people start being truthful with themselves and with the projects that are being done. Do you really want to work somewhere that is so petty that they would black list you because you said you didn’t like the specularity settings on their main character’s eyes? If there are studios like that, they’ll soon be filled with the spineless. The guys and gals who keep their heads down, their mouths shut, and wait for that dream job that’s never going to come along unless they start being truthful with themselves and the industry.

    Now if you are working on a film project, it is highly advisable to stay off the web in regards to that project. This is for legal reasons, as there are cleverly worded non disclosure agreements that are so vague, it would be easy to use an internet post as grounds for dismissal. That’s a totally different thing.

    I wish Cartoon Brew and other sites would disable anonymous posting. It would help separate the men from the boys so to speak.

  • Chuck R.

    Thanks, Amid and Keith. There are some excellent comments there as well.

    I’m amazed that Cartoon Brew always gets the rap as a negative blog. Regarding the Horton Trailer: no critique was made when it was posted here, and the comments were divided between scorn and praise, with many saying “let’s wait.” Other blogs have been nothing but derisive.

    What I appreciate about the Brew is the way it directs me to worthy projects I would never have known existed otherwise: Japanese, French, independents, commercials, and old stuff on video. It also gave nice plugs to Surf’s Up, Lilo and Stitch, El Tigre and just about anything Pixar.

  • Fred Sparrman

    Keith Lango is full of CRAP, and I don’t care who knows it!

    Tee hee…just kidding…

  • red pill junkie

    I believe we could sum this up by saying:

    1)Studios should follow the way of the times and accept crticism from even the lowest in their ranks. Anybody can have something important to say.

    2)You should be very careful if you decide to post something while you are angry, because you don’t know if your comment will come back to haunt you, and in which way.

    3) Attacks ad hominem are pointless. Doing them in anonimity is childish

    4) The Internet is STILL the Wild West.

    PS: the reason I use a nickname instead of my name is not because I’m afraid of not getting a studio job (Sadly ‘m not in the animation biz, I’m just a guy who LOOVES animation), it is because I fear I might get up in GUANTANAMO ;-)

    Red Pill Junkie
    a.k.a. Miguel Romero

  • Rodier

    I think it’s too easy to simply say “people are afraid”.

    There’s some truth to that, yes; but if you work for a large public entity-a studio-there’s also a certain kind of professionalism that doesn’t include very public gripes and slams on the employer. Even the most powerful directors and producers in live action tend NOT to tell any stories out of school or recount-in public-horror stories about their jobs of which they all have plenty.

    If I sound like an anti-unionist or a shill, I’m not. I’m a realist and frankly as an employee I have to think of the situation from the bosses’ side of things for my own good. Some criticisms may be healthy and utterly valid…but guess what? There are also plenty of gripes and opinions that are one guy’s opinion that are off the wall, pettty or just plain wrong at times, too. This is why it’s a very uneasy, grey area: if Joe Blow says negative things openly about a project or a place, etc. it’s only natural that, while an artist like me might agree with him, I’m also always going to wonder if he might think similar things were he to be on MY movie-and would I be happy then if he posted complaints about me, my choices or the project in public? No.

    It’s all subjective, not objective, and I have to be able to trust the people I work with not to air very intricate laundry in public forums where it won’t ever go away and I have no chance to rebut or respond.

    I would never tell my coworkers to drink the koolaid and never question anything, particularly corporate or management mistakes. Just do it privately and among people who are also there and can decide for themselves how valid the opinion is.

    On the other hand, if a professional has ideas about how things ought to be, how they can be better, what mistakes can be avoided, he can and should be encouraged to express those thoughts-but my advice would be to avoid specifics about places and people that might offend. Not everyone is able to form their thoughts in that way. Many bloggers, though, have done just that, very well. And they are all known by their real names.

  • fishmorg

    Well, remember “Anibation Fantasy”? The guy wrote “not-nice” things that dared to imply that everything wasn’t peachy, and so many reader wanted to saw off his head for writing such mean things.

  • http://anibationfantasy2.blogspot.com anibator

    And they still do.

  • http://pediatristsplayground.blogspot.com Kevin W. Martinez a.k.a. Leviathan

    Some very valid points are brought up here (for once on both sides of the debates), and I would think that the situation is similar is pretty much every sector of Big Entertainment, with the fear of repurcussions and blacklisting for expressing certain opinions looming over peoples’ heads.

    As yet another aspiring artist who is not in the business yet, but hopes to get in somehow someday, this is very enlightening to me

  • Robert Schaad

    These are all interesting comments. As someone who does not yet work in the biz, but has aspirations to, I can only offer my opinions regardless of other people’s agreement…and hope that others would share theirs as well. I’ll just say that the use of mo-cap is just like any technological advance…it’s what you do with it. Every advance has probably been slagged off…we’re just more exposed to instant opinions now. From the outside looking in, it seems that there will always have to be a relationship (healthy?) between those on the creative end and those on the business end…probably necessary for survival, eh? While I love the animation of the past (1930s-1960s), I remain an eternal optimist. There’s always something at an animation festival or on cable somewhere that not only catches me off guard, but reaffirms why I love animation in the first place. If you can’t channel your creativity into your animation job…make your own! There’s obviously a lot of sympathizers/encouragement.

  • alan

    I would love it if we lived in a world where you could voice your opinions without having to hide behind anonymity – but sometimes it’s just not practical.

    Animation is sick with many poisons – and the “tough love” it needs is more than most can take.

    Whether you’re dealing with writers, artists or executives, they all seem to have very fragile egos and most seem more than willing to wreak a horrible vengence on anyone who dares to suggest they’re anything less than brilliant.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    It’s not about slagging on your employer. No one wants to do that. It’s about sticking up for animation. You can state an opinion on mocap or TV animation or techniques and tools without insulting specific people and businesses. Too many people are afraid of their own shadow in this business. I’ve always spoken my mind and used my name on the internet, and I’ve never had any problem with it.

    As for publicly saying a particular movie stinks like a bucket of month old fish marinated in limburger, well that has a long and respected history going all the way back to the silent days. If people are getting their knickers in a twist because someone doesn’t like their film, they’re in the wrong business. I’m happy to tell you that I worked on some real stinkers in the first half of my career. The people I worked with were talented and wonderful, but I wouldn’t make my mom sit down and watch those cartoons.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    I’ll just say that the use of mo-cap is just like any technological advance…it’s what you do with it.

    Motion capture is rotoscoping. Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope back in the early 1920s. By the time Gulliver’s Travels was released, (with a rotoscoped lead character that looked strangely zombie-like) he realized that the rotoscope was no replacement for true animation. Walt Disney found out the same thing on his tests for Snow White.

    If Disney and Fleischer knew the limits of rotoscoping before 1940, why don’t CGI animation studios know the same thing today?

    I’ll answer that question… Because CGI animators don’t have a sense of the history and technique of their medium. They think like live action FX guys not like animators. They need to train themselves as animators. They need to think like animators. And they need to see themselves as animators. CGI needs to build on the past, not reinvent the wheel.

  • Chuck R.

    “If Disney and Fleischer knew the limits of rotoscoping before 1940, why don’t CGI animation studios know the same thing today?”

    I didn’t know Ralph Bakshi was a CGI animator.

    Seriously, I don’t agree with your bias against CGI animators. (The ones at Pixar at least, know a lot about caricature and emotion.) I do agree that Mocap is essentially rotoscoping when used straight. However, just like Disney animators learned to use live action as a valuable tool. (eg. Cruella deVil was first shot in live action and caricatured by Marc Davis) CGI animators are already learning to take what is valuable from Mocap and apply the necessary artistic license to get the right result.

  • alan

    Leave it to Stephen to turn this into yet another long-winded lecture about how all animation that he doesn’t personally enjoy is utterly void of merit.

  • Ian Copeland

    If you love animation, really love it, then get a regular job and animate nights and weekends. Because if you are looking to be artistically fulfilled by working in one of the Big Stores you are in for a let down.

    No one can speak their mind and expect to work. If you are an adult, you do the job and draw the paycheck. It’s the old joke about the guy who cleans up after the circus elephants: he thinks it’s a dirty, degrading job but he’s not about to quit show business.

    As for mo-cap: in the Eighties, the Linn drum didn’t make drummers obsolete and the Fairlight CMI sampler didn’t put orchestras out of work, although a shed load of musicians and performance societies bitched and sued. (Good) Animators will not be made redundant by mo-cap.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Chuck R, you mention two artists there who tried roto and ended up rejecting it. I worked very closely for Ralph and he told me that rotoscoping was a complete dead end for him. The only reason he used the technique was because the budgets were miniscule, the experienced animators had all retired and the young guys weren’t ready to animate on their own yet. None of those constraints exist today.

    I believe it was Marc Davis who said that roto was useful as reference as long as you threw it all out and animated it everything by hand. Blunt but true. Cruella DeVille was definitely not traced off live action of Mary Wickes. Davis just referred to the footage for ideas for gestures and expressions to use in his animation. That isn’t rotoscoping.

    I have no bias against CGI animators. My point is that CGI should be created by animators, not technicians tracing ping pong balls. CGI can create animation as rich and expressive as hand drawn animation if it builds on top of the solid animation principles developed over the past 100 years. Animation is not just an extention of live action special effects.

    Alan, if you would like to provide a link to your own work or share research that applies to this subject, that would be appreciated. Anonymous ad hominem attacks are what spoil honest discussion on the net. Don’t be part of the problem.

  • alan

    The subject of this post was about the dangers of being opinionated in the industry – a much more interesting discussion than the same old rhetoric about the merits or lack of merits of CGI.

  • Larn

    People are anonymous for a reason. I can think of at least a dozen different occasions off the top of my head where someone was kept from a job or released from one for opening their mouth and stating an opinion that went against the grain. Right or wrong, it happens. Sometimes you have to be and should be cautious.