dearsesamestreet dearsesamestreet

Dear Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Dear Sesame Street,

We, the undersigned, would like to register our concern over the contest you are now conducting with Aniboom. We are concerned that your contest includes a solicitation of original design concepts, characters and content to be produced on a speculative basis by cartoonists, artists, motion designers and animators.

This approach, requesting new and original work to be created in competition, is one that we believe seriously compromises the quality of work that is entered into “competition” and is questionable, at best, for a reputable organization to request.

Sesame Street has long been a highly esteemed provider of educational programming for children. From its inception, it has shown respect and support for the independent animation, film, and design communities. Artists have responded by creating lasting work — that is as valuable for children and adults today as when it was first created. We applaud that work, and hope that Sesame Street will continue to push the fields of animation and film-making. As such, we also think that Sesame Street should uphold the ethics and professional behavior we’d like our own children to grow up with. Is the education we want to pass on to them that artists’ and animators’ work is not valuable? That the only way to ‘make it’ is through winning a contest?

There is a more appropriate way to explore the work of various artists. A more effective and ethical approach to commission new work is to ask a pool of talent to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project. You can then judge the quality of the artist’s previous work and her way of thinking about your project. The artist you select can then begin to work on your project by designing an original solution to your criteria while under contract to you, without having to work on speculation up front.

Design should not be a one-way street, with artists creating work in a vacuum. We believe the best design, art and content comes at the request of a specific brief, mission or client. Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.

There are few professions where all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to compensate for their efforts. (Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay!) We realize that there are some creative professions with a different set of standards, such as advertising and architecture, for which billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In those cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving an original film or character design.

There are many artists, animators and cartoonists who can provide you with original and highly creative new work that will far exceed your expectations, with respect for an appropriate budget and schedule. We can think of dozens off of the tops of our heads who we’re sure would love to work with Sesame Street. And we’d would love to point you in their direction.

We believe that “leveraging the power of the web” is an exciting prospect and casting a wide net can quickly provide many interesting results. But we think that more considered curation and the selection of applicants whose goals may be more closely aligned with your own can provide better results.

It’s your contest, though and you are free run it as you wish. But you will do so without our participation.

Your consideration of these professional issues is greatly appreciated.

Cartoon Brew

See the full list of document signers and how to put your name on the list after the jump. (UPDATE: Over 200 people have now signed the letter.)

Bran Dougherty-Johnson
Amid Amidi
Jerry Beck
Justin Cone
Ryan Rothermel
Lilian Darmono
Caroline Attia Lariviere
Michael Uman
Aaron Stewart
David Ahuja
Matt Owens
Joe Vaccarino
Thiago Maia
Arlan Smith
David OReilly
Steve Scott
Jonathan Notaro
Saiman Chow
Cassiano Prado
Daniel Piwowarczyk
Fernando Del Reginato
Liam O’Connor
Sean Pecknold
Guilherme Marcondes
Wes Duvall
Ira Lederer
Mario de Toledo-Sader
Adam Wentworth
Salvatore Dell’Aquila
Marck Al
Andy Kennedy
Michael Langan
Tatia Rosenthal
Will Krause
John Canemaker
Ralph Pinel
Fx Goby
Christopher Abbey
Jim Le Fevre
Hazel Baird
Matt Hunter Ross
James Houston
See No Evil
Fabricio Lima
Syed A. Meer
Gabe Swarr
Emily Hubley
Celia Bullwinkel
Chris McDonnell
Dylan White
Christian Bevilacqua
Fons Schiedon
Ryan Uhrich
Ryan Hooks
Simon Robson
J Baab
Boca Ceravolo
Igor Sordokhonov
Howard Beckerman
Tim Finn
Julie Zammarchi
Gina Kamentsky
JJ Sedelmaier
Fran Krause
Jason McDonald
Colin Sebestyen
Doug Wilson
Adam Templeton
Aras Darmawan
Stephen Kelleher
Lauren Indovina
Stephen Fitzgerald
Aleksandar Vujovic
Mike Rauch
Jon Gorman
Jessica Plummer
Charles Brubaker
Elliot Cowan
Eric Del Greco
Sarah Ramert
Tavo Ponce
Joe Lea
Dexton Deboree
Dimitri Luedemann
Ayhan Cebe
Greg Herman
Carlo Vega
Cameron Archer
Sean Callinan
Nick Cross
Andrew Kaiko
Rachel Yonda
Carlos Florez
Rex Crowle
Chad Colby
John Lane
Raf Schoenmaekers
Ash Edwards
Paul Nicholson
John Marshall
Giovanni Bucci
Tim Lovett
Lance Agena
Dax Norman
David Nethery
Jyoteen Majmudar
Bob Flynn
David Van Allen
Janet Perlman
Chuck Wilson
Igor Choromanski
John Eickholt
Jeremiah Morehead
Brent Altomare
Pasquale Ricotta
Charles Lee
Tommy Wooh
Paola Rocchetti
Marcos Guevara
Clem Stamation
Javan Ivey
Rogier Hendriks
Kasper Verweij
Harm van Zon
Reinier Flaes
Alex Ahumada
Emma Lidgey
Stuart Langfield
Joris Bergmans
Luciano A. Muñoz Sessarego
Nigel McGrath
Eoghan Kidney
Daily Dolores
Aleix Pitarch
Quba Michalski
Joel Duggan
Michael Sporn
Casey LaLonde
Jake Mathew
Adam Gault
Pablo Mateo Lobo
Melinda Rainsberger
Carole Guevin
Matt Lambert
Joe Clay
Joe Mercer
Joseph Heraghty
Douglas Filiak
Tim Rauch
Derek Kinsman
Steve May
Collin McCormack
John Grimaldi Jr.
Hannah O’Neal
Sergio Jimenez
Greg Babiuk
Jim Read
Hussain Currimbhoy
Nelson Diaz
Darren Rawlings
Jeremiah Dickey
Rusty Mills
Gavin Freitas
John Ryan
Chris Hoffman
Andy Hall
Greg Taylor
Brian Donovan
Michael Sutton-Long
Harry J Frank
Angus Wall
Steph Thirion
Fran Trachta
Wojtek Wojtulewicz
Alfredo Lopez
Greg Duffell
Tuesday McGowan
Mike Fallows
Ryan McGrath
Filipe Carvalho
Bob Kurtz
Paulo de Almada
Colin Bridges
MWCC Animation
Andy McNally
Cameron Linderman
Betsy de Fries
Jordan Montreuil
Caleb Halter
Ben Nicholson
Scott Denton
Lisa Crafts
Kevin Peleschak
Matt Hanson
Scott Schroeder
Craig Shaloiko
David Edelstein
Sara Franks-Allen
Rodrigo Redondo
Sérgio Duque
Matt Ciaglia
Jen Brogle Jones
Patrick Osborne
Steve Weinshel
Brandon Lori
Jonathan Lemon
Adam Patch
Nathan Rittenhouse
Derek Landers
David Lightfoot
Mustashrik Mahbub
Jonny Munévar
Miguel Rodriguez
Matthew Encina
Marcos Silva
Patrick Bonsu
James Coulson
Max Ulichney
Pablo Gonzalez
Eric Miller
Matt Mattson
Omar Muhammad
Francis Vallejo
Verónica Navarro
Linas Jodwalis
Janet Benn
Terry Ibele
William Joyce
Brandon Oldenburg
Adam Volker
Joe Bluhm
Jeremy William Martin

Portions of this letter have been adapted from the the AIGA’s position on spec work. We believe it is high time that Motion Designers and Animators took such a principled stance on the issue of producing effective and original work for their clients. We also stand with the Belgian advertising agencies, whose recent virtual strike protesting the pitching process in their country should be applauded.

Please contact Bran Dougherty-Johnson if you would like to become a signatory on this letter.

  • Hallelujah, someone finally officially said something. Artists get the least amount of recognition for how hard they work and what a risk it is to pitch something and get drowned in a sea of hungry artists who slave away for hours on end to try to pitch something and fail.

    And to the lucky few who managed to top the survival of the fittest, or at least the most marketable, live on and teach your skills to others.

    Thank you Brewmasters.

  • Scarabim

    Well, after all, Sesame Street is used to getting freebies and handouts. It rakes in tons of loot from commercials (PBS hasn’t been “commercial-free” for years now) AND merchandising, PLUS it gets government money. Name me one other media company that gets gov’t (taxpayer) money. And as we know, any group that gets gov’t money comes to believe that it’s entitled to it. So I’m betting that Sesame, the Henson Co., et al, believe that any artist should be HONORED to fork over their creativity for free, because it’s for the company behind Big Bird. Woo hoo! Let the cynical exploitation begin.

  • I find it curious that their full terms and conditions aren’t available yet for this contest (or at least not where I could find them – it says to check back later). It’s one thing to host a cute little fan art gallery or contest for one drawing, but for companies to continue to solicit entire animations – with sound, proper message, all fully comped – that’s a whole other ball park…even if there is “possible” reward (out of X many submitters).

    Also, Aniboom needs to monitor the comments on their blog a wee bit better. The spamming on there is embarrassing.

  • Bravo.

    The trend to run “contests” for completed work in the place of soliciting pitches, is disturbing. There needs to be pushback. Thanks, Brew.

  • Karl Hungus

    It would be nice to see Linda Simensky’s name on that list. She is a big wig at PBS and a contributer to the brew no?

  • Jay Sabicer

    Frankly, I’m surprised. We all know “everybody poops”, but only if “everybody is able to eat, first”.
    Sesame Workshop should be able to pony up a little cash for good work like they’ve done over the past 40 years. If not, they should admit the dream is over, get venture capital and become a legitimate media company like everyone else.
    It’s sad that a show that made fun of advertisers by having numbers and letters sponsor the show may actually HAVE to get sponsors to keep it alive. As the economic stasis continues with government (and the public, thru PBS) cutting back on funding, perhaps getting into bed with the nasty ol’ capitalists may be the only way for good work to continue.

  • Please added me!

  • squirrel

    This post is unexpected! … and here I didn’t have ANY problem with this content with the exception of their video formatting requirements more rigid than the government!

    “Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.”

    Does that mean you hated Aniboom’s previous contests too?

  • I created six animated shorts for Sesame Street in the early 90’s, and I would say bravo for this post!

    The budgets for the shorts were minimal, however working with Sesame Street was a joy. The freedom to create a lesson based loosely around a single or set of concepts, and the freedom to visually do almost whatever style you proposed was truly unique.

    Having these “contests” for content are a bad road to go down, and I hope one that Sesame Workshop doesn’t continue!

  • Add me too, please.

  • I second Aleksandar Vujovic, well written!
    It is very important to raise consciousness about artists’ rights, and about work ethics within the business.

  • It’s going to be hard to stop such contests if even the NEA is sponsoring one for their new logo. Even the Savannah College of Art and Design is promoting these contests for their students. College ought to be the first place that professionals are taught not to work on spec. Can we get an ad campaign going for this?

  • everyone is at it… I saw lately a request for artists to donate ‘money’ to working artists with a significant level of success/ advanced product… free work… now free money… now sesame street throws away its ethics… the problem is these kids will do it for nothing not thinking about how the situation will only get worse…. I’ve just about had enough.

  • amid

    Meredith: You are absolutely right. Teachers have a big responsibility to educate their students about why spec is wrong. I’m happy to say that many of the people who have signed this document are teachers so there is awareness about this in the educational community.

    Also, a note to students: if your teacher brings this up in class as a good idea, you should direct them and your classmates to Motionographer or the Brew to read this.

  • There are all sorts of interesting questions that contests such as this raises. For instance-why now?

    If this is a good idea why weren’t there “contests”/animation lotteries for material-for-broadcast in the high flying heyday of CTW-instead of the animation that was exclusively done by professionals? Why do I have a sinking feeling that this seems more like a way to exploit the bully pulpit of the internet to lower production costs while still obtaining presentable material with little outlay of time and money?

    I have no issue with contests as such, no more than I do internships, working for school credit, and other like arrangements that have long existed in entertainment production. But the demaractions for those are usually made crystal clear and both parties understand the agreement, what they are expected to provide and what it means. I would think at the very least any contest winners’ work should be kept entirely separate from work that is professionally comissioned and done in the regular course of production.

    When a contest bleeds over its boundaries into an apparent work-on-spec situation it makes me very uncomfortable.

  • “Design should not be a one-way street, with artists creating work in a vacuum. We believe the best design, art and content comes at the request of a specific brief, mission or client. Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.”

    Boy, do I ever agree with that! I did an internship for an art gallery last year, designing adverts with cartoony designs. And those were collaborations where my ideas melded with my go-to. A valuable lesson in not only teamwork, but also in how artists have to know the business side of things. It was a great experience, by the way.

    The quote also means alot when it comes to creating your own work, on your own time. Copying other creations, rather than creating imagry and characters that speak from you, is the same as art in a vaccum. It’s just there, rather than being able to stay and develop healthily.

    Great post, guys.

  • As someone who has entered way more of these contests than I would like to admit, no job offers or commissioned projects have resulted from the work I did.

  • Ian Copeland

    Didn’t you do something similar with you David Scheve Caricature Contest? As I recall, everyone was “invited to draw their interpretation of David Scheve.” Amid said he’d choose an image that he liked “and send the winner a signed copy of one of (his) books.” Is this not the same thing on a different scale? You asking for spec work in exchange for the opportunity to win a book?

  • elle

    Film/video contests have been run this way for years, soliciting spec commercials and so forth to generate product interest and advertising that can be bought on the cheap. Online contests have only made it worse; one only has to visit the YouTube contest channel to discover tens of thousands of man hours wasted on spec Heinz and Microsoft adverts which will never amount to anything.

    Many filmmakers & artists unfortunately are more than willing to throw their time (and intellectual property) out the window for an express pass to success & recognition. Especially in the US, where there are very few grants awarded for artistic pursuits (and most of those are done via universities) it can be very difficult to fund work as an up-and-comer, let alone to support yourself financially as an artist, so people will do whatever they can in the hopes of standing out amongst the competition.

    The film industry is, from what I’ve seen, the number one abuser of desperate artists, to the point where there are virtually no entry-level creative positions available. Even the most reputable companies expect creatives of any sort to work low/no/deferred pay just because there will always be someone out there willing to work for free “for the experience” just to get their name out there. So it’s sad, but utterly unsurprising that Sesame Street would solicit content in this way.

    I think it’s wonderful that you all have spoken up about this particular competition, and I absolutely agree with you on principal, but pragmatically speaking, I wonder what purpose it will serve. The cost-effectiveness of these contests means companies won’t be abandoning this strategy any time soon, and they’ve become so widespread I don’t know that the tide can be turned. I’d like to be wrong, but I can’t see companies commissioning work from unknowns when they can cherry pick finished work for a fraction of the cost.

    It seems much more practical to focus on educating young artists on the best ways to get their work recognized in a substantial way. Nobody WANTS to funnel their time and talents into the ether on a whim. But until the people who submit to these contests feel that they have other legitimate options to showcase their work, eager unknowns are going to continue to gamble on these competitions.

  • I don’t know why when I see these contests I get the urge to create the worst most tasteless ugly darn entry … but who has the time?

  • Bob Harper

    Actually, I’m going to enter. I’ve tried getting an audience with Sesame Workshop to only be told they weren’t accepting animated submissions. Plus I wanted a short demo piece for ad agencies and this would cater to my style and story length.

    So far this isn’t work for hire. They haven’t even posted the Submission Guidelines and Official Rules as to claiming ownership of the submissions. If they do, then that will be a different story.

    This is like entering a film festival except you don’t have to pay a submission fee with the hope it will be shown. This will be seen by the powers that be.

    I have no problem with a talent search, such as this, as long as they don’t claim ownership of the non winning submissions, and so far they haven’t. Many folks aren’t in places to give pitches nor have agents to submit for them, so this could be a great opportunity.

    Nowadays most places that you pitch to want to see actual animation before green lighting a project. So, again, if you win this contest you actually get money and airtime and a development deal, which is more than the other studios are willing to offer. If you don’t, then you have a Festival piece or fodder for your demo reel. I see so many people just putting shorts online for anyone to view for free so do a good one and promote yourself. But again be sure to read the fine print and know what you are getting into.

    Students will get as much mileage out of doing a project like this than their graduation piece at their college, and who knows, maybe win some cash and get a deal to boot.

    Hell even Nina Paley has given away the rights to her film and art to Sita for anyone to exploit, this isn’t too different.

  • Andrew Leal

    I confess to being a little floored by this, though looking at the contest website, it’s at least slightly better than some (though I’m trying to find fine print; no mention of who owns the characters, and *particularly* what happens to submissions which don’t win, which I honestly think is the worst part of these contests). On the whole, though, I side with the majority, and seeing names on the petition like John Canemaker, Emily Hubley, and Elliot Cowan, who have all worked for either Sesame Street or Sesame Workshop/CTW programs shows where the community stands. I’d still like to hear a response from Sesame Workshop on this, though (and though folks like Edith Zornow and Arlene Sherman who coordinated Sesame’s animated and live action film portions for years and fostered relationships with great artists that benefited both parties immeasurably and resulted in the likes of the Hubley “Sesame” shorts and even Pixar’s Luxo Jr., and in another realm William Weghman’s dog films, have sadly passed on, one would help their spirit and approach would still be recognized). Language like this is also bothersome, since there is a cash prize but beyond that winners will be “eligible for development deals valued at $20,000.” So yeah, that definitely sounds like it could turn into work on spec.

    However, on the other end, I’d like to clarify some points of confusion Scarabim brought up, common assumptions which are both unfair and provably incorrect. First, minor point of clarification is the Jim Henson Company. They have nothing to do with this matter. In December 2000, Sesame Workshop *bought* the Sesame Street Muppets from Henson (the company was at the time itself owned by German company EMTV). Since that time in fact, they’ve had to pay off the debt incurred by that purchase (apparently they only owe one million now), and a further complication occurred when Disney bought the non-Sesame Muppets from Henson (the company itself is now owned only by the Hensons, but its assets are by now limited to mostly Creature Shop stuff, a few specials, Fraggle Rock, and newer things like “Sid the Science Kid”). So the result is that “Sesame” now has added annual Muppet copyright costs to its budgets. How can that be? Well, Disney even bought the word, so they have to note “Sesame Street Muppets ™,” and also pay for any and all uses of Kermit the Frog (including on the website, in old sketches, in any DVDs, and in dubbed footage on international programs, to say nothing of new appearances, which is why that’s been limited to a single cameo in this season’s “Elmo’s World”). The Jim Henson Company has by now kind of become a minor work for hire outfit, though, so they do still maintain a workshop in NY (funded pretty much by the Sesame people) to see that the Sesame Mupps are maintained and build new characters and such, but they’re otherwise out of the picture now.

    Second, there’s this claim, “that “Sesame Street is used to getting freebies and handouts. It rakes in tons of loot from commercials (PBS hasn’t been “commercial-free” for years now) AND merchandising, PLUS it gets government money. Name me one other media company that gets gov’t (taxpayer) money.” Well, there’s a lot of problems with that (and it conflates Sesame Workshop with PBS as well; I’ll get into exactly how much Sesame gets from PBS in a bit). First, Sesame Workshop operates as a non-profit. One can be cynical or skeptical about that, but in order to do so, that means they are audited every year and everything is accounted for. Here’s some details from their 2008 fiscal year report (the 2009 one hasn’t been published yet; you can see 2008 and others as far back as 2002 at this link:; older ones were online but I can’t find them now, but the Workshop does try to maintain what I suppose one could term transparent accounting.)

    How much actually comes from the government? Well, let me break things down (and keep in mind, this encompasses *all* the international co-productions, “Plaza Sesamo,” “Sesamstraat” in the Netherlands, recent attempts in Ireland and Israel and Palestine to help promote peace and understanding, things like “Sesame English” which are used by Berlitz to teach English to non-native speakers, Spanish to English speakers, and basically whatever language over the world, by combining English portions with a Muppet whose asides to the viewer can be dubbed into whatever language desired, plus non-Muppet series and countless projects which aren’t actually televised, outreach and so on). Sesame’s accounting puts that under “Program Support,” and this includes a combination of what comes from the US Department of Education (and that’s shrunk over the years), the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, and “private financing,” which is why the likes of Wal-Mart and American Greetings are filling the gaps. Also, the Ad Council/Department of Homeland Security helped (but did not wholly) fund an ongoing series, “Talk, Listen, Connect,” programs addressing specific issues related to military families (parents being deployed, parents returning disabled, relatives dying in military service, etc.), which incorprates videos, books, etc. which are available free to military families and in fact not sold in any form (these and other resource videos, non-military, dealing with issues like healthy eating or literacy, can be downloaded for free from iTunes) so there’s no profit to be made, plus other programs, and even then the funding doesn’t cover the full expenses by any means, even when they air some of the specials (and thus get Corporation of Public Broadcasting) involved and American Greetings, so these projects ultimately operate at a loss, as in fact do most of their programs. So what is the total? Again this is combining both government money (which has steadily decreased and is less than most people seem to assume) with folks like the greeting card and Wal-Mart people (and at one point, Merrill Lynch was funding a “global citizenship initiative”, and PNC Bank was another partner; I think it’s safe to say that in the 2009 report, there’ll be some loss as far as Merrill Lynch is concerned). The total is 8 percent of their operating budget, which was 40,474 million dollars. Is that peanuts? No, but less than half of that is really from the government (far less I suspect, but Sesame Workshop’s report doesn’t break down how much came from each individual source, and this explains why you get Pampers bringing you Sesame Street along with the Letters C and H and the Number 20, to make up the difference). In fact, I did some closer reading, and as far as government goes, it breaks down to one million each from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (so that’s from PBS), National Science Foundation, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (for the health initiatives, material which again is given out for free, and which over the past two decades have ranged from eating habits to being lead free to asthma to overcoming fears of the doctor or even helping kids with serious or terminal diseases cope), USAID, and the US Department of Education (plus an additional million from PBS in the form of non-government pledge drive money from the collective stations). So that’s a total of five million from government coffers for a variety of purposes, and how much of that is from taxpayers directly, I’m not sure, but I think one will admit that’s a lot less than one assumes. All the rest of that 8 percent is the corporate sponsors or even international sources like South African Broadcasting Corporation (for the South African Sesame) and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for Sesamstraat, the Dutch show). By the way, show creator (no, it wasn’t Jim Henson) and original CTW founder Joan Ganz Cooney, who is still chair of the board of trustees but no longer involved with the corporate end or the show itself, donated one million dollars herself.

    The rest of their revenue? 20 percent is institutional (non government) and private donations, 36 percent is distribution and royalty fees (and this is globally), and 36 percent is product licensing. That’s the toys and Tickle Me Elmos and whatnot, which people assume is making Sesame Workshop rich. Trust me, it isn’t. Net revenue last year? 145,226. Expenses? 141,383 million. Why so many expenses? Exec salaries? Well, no a total of 18,850 million covers *all* general and administrative support expenses (which in fact they deliberately cut down by two percent from the previous year). More than 116,000 million is program expenses, including roughly 40 million for content distribution (this includes PBS, DVDs, cable channel Sprout, global channels, free stuff on iTunes and Hulu and YouTube, and especially their massive website reorganization with tons of clips, special “lessons of the day,” activities, parent teacher support and all that rot) and 39 million for production (of “Sesame Street,” the new “Electric Company,” and “Dragon Tales,” plus ancillary teaching materials, books, etc., not merchandise).

    So that leaves an operating income of 3,843 million to carry over into the next year. Not a big profit. But wait, there’s also “investment income.” All non-profits (including health organizations, Salvation Army, big charities and churches etc.) have them, but as a sign of the times, there’s a huge jump, from an actual profit of 22,721 in 2007 to a deficit of 9,270 million. So quite literally, they are indeed a non-profit that *is* non-profit (to be fair, their listed total assets was still 300 million dollars worth as assessed [including investments, inventory, and the assessed worth of the programs and properties in themselves were they to sell, and increased receivables from the home video end], but the Muppet copyright issue has led to a decrease in assets [from a 27 million gain in 2007 to a six million net decrease, and liabilities increased]).

    One can still criticize Sesame Workshop of course, from the approach of this contest to whether they should be doing so much work overseas with well-meaning projects (some of which have paid off, some like the late 90s attempt at an Israeli-Palestinian joint show to bring peace to the Middle East were abandoned as failures), and there’s still a problem in the government itself (including the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation) seemingly using Sesame Workshop and Sesame Street less as a supplement then in fact to compensate for the schools and for almost any problem (kids too fat? Get Sesame Workshop to put a program together. Can’t read? Ditto? Emotional trauma from the wars? Familied need to be prepared for disasters post Katrina? Kids need to understand basic anatomy and astronomy? Sesame!) But it’s definitely a false assumption to see Sesame Workshop as a “media company” that is just sitting back and getting fat on government subsidies as well as merchandise.

  • I worked for Sesame Street and produced two films as student just for them. They liked my work while I was interning last summer, but could not accept my films due to legal issues. Sesame Street is too poor to grant royalties to filmmakers and the show has suffered from a lack of new animated programming because of this fact. Sesame Street is not rich. All those consumer products with Elmo plastered on them BARELY keeps the show alive.

    Sesame and PBS have no money. Jesse Helms and his ilk saw to that in the 90’s. Therefore, if you have produced a film that you don’t mind DONATING to Sesame Street, then by all means, please submit. However, if you’re into animation just for the money. Go work on Family Guy.

  • Diz Gruntled

    Holding a lot of “contests” to solicit unpaid development goes hand in hand with all the “testing” that big companies do when hiring artists these days. In many cases the “tests” are actually used in production without the consent or knowledge of the artist that took the test. A sister practice to these contests and tests are the thousands of unpaid overtime hours that artists are pressured to contribute in order to meet the tight deadlines of today’s productions. A top animator at Disney was let go with very little notice after putting 70 to 80 hour weeks into the feature production for months! Another practice coming into use is to offer the animators a percentage of the “profits” of a picture if they will work for very low rates or for free. Just try and COLLECT those percentages if you can even PROVE profit!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Well thanks for that very lengthly piece of info Andrew Leal, I think we all learned a good deal out of that.

  • Ashanti’s take on it as donating animation to Sesame Street is interesting. If it’s a worthy project and funding can’t come any other way, then I can understand that.

    But that isn’t what this is. This is a competition. Do the work and you might be able to donate it or it could be completely discarded. That’s not the same as donating your work to Sesame Workshop.

    And I do find it hard to believe that Sesame Workshop aren’t making a huge amount of money from all those consumer products worldwide. Or indeed their sponsorship, like McDonalds (questionable given the best interests of children). It may well be true but, if it is, something seems to have gone horribly wrong.

    If they can pay at all… actually regardless of whether they can pay or not, they should be either seeking out artists, or requesting showreels or bare bones pitches so that the artists they do choose won’t be putting their heart and soul into something for nothing.

    One of the most damaging things to the creative side of animation is actually that most of us are willing to do what we do for free. We love it. Want to do it. It means some people may get a break but it’s damaging to everyone in the creative end of the industry. Devalues your skills, your time, your passion and everyone elses along with it.

    And while you may not care when you’re in your late teens/early twenties, you’ll certainly feel the repurcussions as you get older. It’s self-defeating.

    I’m a huge Sesame Street fan for so many reasons. I likely always will be. I want to see them do well.

    But I’m very glad to see this post on the Brew.

  • @Bob: Hell even Nina Paley has given away the rights to her film and art to Sita for anyone to exploit, this isn’t too different.

    It’s quite different. I made Sita for myself and my Muse, and shared it directly with the audience. Corporate contests solicit works made for the corporation, and any results are controlled by the corporation.

    Sesame Street/CPB controls gobs of copyrighted and trademarked material. If they free that up for anyone to use however they wish, some really good work could organically grow out of that, which they could then broadcast (even while it’s freely shared elsewhere). But Sesame Street/CPB wasn’t doing that, last I checked. The imbalance of legal control over culture makes contests like these unacceptably one-sided. The corporation has all the power; the contributors have none.

    Can you make a film that incorporates Big Bird(tm) and Oscar the Grouch(tm) and the word Sesame Street(tm) and share it as you wish? Can you use a song © Sesame Street/CPB in your film? No, you cannot, without risking lawsuits, fines, and even jail. If they want random contributions from the audience, they need to share with the audience. And by “audience” I mean everyone, including artists. “Audience” doesn’t mean a bunch of dumb passive consumers. It’s you and me; it’s creative people too.

    And if they don’t want just random contributions from the audience, but rather want specific things, and aren’t willing to just wait around for these specific things to magically appear, then they can hire professionals to make exactly what they want.

    Fortunately, everyone is free to NOT enter such contests, which is why I don’t mind the contests existing. The more corporations disrespect their audiences, the sooner audiences will seek alternatives to corporate-controlled culture. So if they want to shoot themselves in the foot this way, along with all the other ways they’re shooting themselves in the foot, fine with me.

  • @Ashanti – good point! Sesame Street is more than welcome to use any of my films. They just can’t prevent anyone else from using them too. I don’t consider that a “donation”; I just include Sesame Street in the greater audience I share all my work with.

  • David Breneman

    Sesame Street killed local childrens’ programming. Not as an unintended consequence, but through direct lobbying of government. As far as I’m concerned, they’re a racket of greedy, ruthless, self-serving b*st*rds. Always have been, always will be.

    • This ‘local children’s programming’ wouldn’t be all of those afternoon & morning shows that were all mostly called ‘Captain….’, showed Warner Bros./Terrytoon animated shorts as well as Our Gang shorts and had ads during the show that were put out of business by Peggy Charren and ACT, I presume?

  • While I agree with this letter for the most part, and it is well written, I also feel that there is a line that needs to be drawn. First off if you disagree with these contests or with the requirements don’t participate.

    My main issue with Aniboom is they usually look for fully animated pilots rather than just spec work. I participated in a spec work project at Nickelodeon and all they wanted was a one sheet, I think thats more than reasonable. Of course this was because the terms were so favorable, if the project was declined on then Nick allowed us to shop around as we had fulfilled our obligatory ‘first right of refusal’.

    That said if the ‘spec work’ falls more inline with a pitchbook then I think its reasonable, so long as after the competition all rights to the work are assigned back to the artist.

  • @ Ashanti – Working with people who have worked for them (sesame street) they do have money. The fact that Sesame has no money is the greatest farce.

    While Sesame Street is considered a non-profit they have an international arm which controls prolific amounts of intellectual property. While Sesame Street US can’t sell stuff the international arm can and does and then donates the profits to the non-profit arm. Its a schisty move, but trust me when Sesame Street claims no money they are full of shit.

  • Giovanni Jones

    Why can’t Sesame Workshop simply show all the submissions on the air or online? Remember the PBS series INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION with Jean Marsh and Grover? The same kind of show can be done online with a modest budget.

    Perhaps part of the issue is that great work might be discarded and unseen. There could be winners, but why not share and give exposure to as many submissions as possible?

  • Some organizations run better online contests than others, and there is some benefit to drawing attention to yourself in this way, particularly for students.

    On the other hand, if talent is reduced to a popularity contest in this way the playing field isn’t leveled… its turned into something else entirely where rather than selecting from the best of people in a particular field, selection is made from the least mediocre entry. I suspect this is “American Idol”‘s fault.

  • Scarabim

    Wow, so Sesame Street can’t survive without gov’t money despite its massive marketing income? It can’t survive when most of its episodes are made up of decades-old clips that are presumably ALREADY PAID FOR? What an organization! Maybe the facts Andrew Leal provided give us even better reasons why entering this contest would be a very bad idea. Sesame Street sounds like it’s barely solvent. Aside from the warm fuzzy feelings, why would anyone want to give away their art and talent to such a frail, and probably unnecessary, enterprise? There are other educational shows out there in cable land that probably do a better job than Sesame and which DON’T receive government support. Exploiting the naive is a vile practice. Even Sesame Street shouldn’t get away with that.

  • FP

    It seems definitely not intended for working pros with experience. I can’t afford to enter “contests”, because no money comes in when doing spec work. A modest regular payday doing obscure video service work is worth more than a million sucker-bait “chances to showcase”.

    And SESAME STREET sucks anyway for de-balling Cookie Monster.

  • @ Nina

    the point I was making was the Choice you made with your inteelectual property was Your choice. My muse is Sesame Street and TV animation-so My choice is to showcase my intellectual property to Sesame Street. There still isn’t anything written as to ownership of the non winning entries- so I’ll wait to get all the facts before deciding whether or not this is spec work.

  • Bob Harper

    Nina Quoted
    “Can you make a film that incorporates Big Bird(tm) and Oscar the Grouch(tm) and the word Sesame Street(tm) and share it as you wish? Can you use a song © Sesame Street/CPB in your film? No, you cannot, without risking lawsuits, fines, and even jail.”

    Sorry for the double post – I hit Go on the Iphone before addressing this point.

    They do not want material based on their characters or branding and said that your submission will be disqualified if it had them – they want to see original content. This is why I’m leaning to the idea that this is not spec work.

  • Sally D.

    My assumption has been that these Aniboom contests are mostly conceived, facilitated, and are ultimately for the primary benefit of Aniboom.

    It seems like Aniboom wants to find ways to acquire ownership of as much random seed content and ideas as they can muster for as little payout as possible, and that they enlist the large figurhead entities (like FOX, MARVEL, Sesame Street, etc.) as passive partners in a “win-win” venture. (i.e. as bait for the hook.) ~~~ (?)

    If that’s the case, then the supreme Sesame Street creative forces might have very little (or no) involvement with this contest & may never even see anything from it. It might all be handled through the marketing department.

    That’s just speculation based on appearances, though.

  • Andrew Leal

    “Wow, so Sesame Street can’t survive without gov’t money despite its massive marketing income? It can’t survive when most of its episodes are made up of decades-old clips that are presumably ALREADY PAID FOR?”

    Read some of those facts again, please. The majority of the government money isn’t about surviving, it’s for programs which, in effect, the US government turns over to Sesame Workshop, that is expecting them to do certain jobs as far as public education and information: preparing multimedia campaigns to teach about childhood obesity (and McDonalds is no longer a sponsor, by the way; many folks agree with Bitter Animator that that one was both questionable and possibly downright contradictory when they had a “healthy eating” method), addressing prepardeness in the face of disaster, a special even on economic hard times, this very extensive project dealing with returning soldiers and the effects on families( So it’s not like the government is just “supporting” the show so much as partially paying for Sesame Street to do these tasks (which, in my own opinion, in some cases are questionable, and in others, I feel like if the government is looking to Sesame Street to fix these things, that clearly shows a larger issue).

    And no, most of its episodes are not made up of decade old clips (they’ve pulled a majority of those, and show those online instead) and again, the biggest issue is that the projects go beyond “Sesame Street.” And there’s no shifty accounting either. It’s just that Sesame Workshop puts the money back into programs and projects, here and abroad (including an animated reading series I’d forgotten, Jim Jnkins’ “Pinky Dinky Doo.”) So definitely one can feel free to question their overextending themselves and whether some of the projects (like trying to bring a spirit of cooperation and diversity to Northern Ireland) are more naive than practical, in the same way Disney has been criticized on these boards. I don’t want to sound too defensive (apart from having spent the last four years extensively studying and researching these areas), I just think there’s still some getting the wrong end of the stick (and if one really hates the idea of the government either funding programs which it expects Sesame Workshop to handle to compensate for events like Katrina and the recession after the fact or dealing with illiteracy, plus whatever else they may get for their general education goals which is basically less than two million, feel free to write to one’s elected representatives).

    And as for cable, a) even with the digital switch, not all US household get cable and b) it may seem astonishing, but there are *still* no other series which cover the basic alphabet and numbers curriculum, relational/spatial concepts, preschool nature and geography curriculums, logic, planning and organization, etc. “Dora the Explorer” is probably the closest, with its bilingual focus, some math, and apart from that, just encouraging kids to be active. But you bring up an interesting scenario, Scarabim. Perhaps one of the reasons for that lack is simply because there *is* Sesame Street which covers all that stuff, so nobody else bothers or feels a need. If the show were to end (and if they cutback on the “Electric Company” and other stuff, they wouldn’t reach that point, one hopes), would others fill the gap? When the show went on the air, in fact, a hope was that it would encourage commercial television to include better educational programming, and the closest to a response was Chuck Jones “Curiosity Shop” (which I’d like to see). If someone else were to launch a show or series of shows to fill that gap, would they feel there’s enough profit in it? Would they be as willing to work with educators or other entities to fit needs? Would the simple removal of the international equation in fact make all the difference financially? And creatively, what would it be like and who would do it? Or, even in an ever increasing media society, is it in fact time to stop expecting TV (any kind of TV) to help teach and prepare kids for school and get parents to take the time? Would that even be possible? So a lot of possibilities (and sorry if this is drifting off topic; the contest is a related but largely distinct matter to me, I just wanted to respond to what felt like some easy jabs at Sesame Workshop).

  • If an individual animator chooses to “donate” their work to Sesame Workshop that’s fine I guess. (who has time to do that ?) But the idea is being floated : “Pity poor Sesame Workshop. They don’t have money to pay for new animated segments.”

    A few simple questions: Do the writers who write Sesame Street get paid ? do the actors in the live-action segments of Sesame Street get paid ? Do the musicians who write songs for Sesame Street get paid ? Does the behind-the-camera crew that shoots Sesame Street get paid ?

    Yes ? Ok, where does Sesame Workshop get that money to pay for the talent that makes their shows ? If the other talent who contribute to making Sesame Street get paid then the animators should be paid for their work , too.

    All of these “contests” come down to this: “Work for free and IF we choose your piece then you’ll get some great exposure for your work.”

    But the answer to that is: I’ll get great exposure for my work either way if you broadcast it, but in one case I get paid for my work and in the other case I don’t get paid.

  • amid

    Andrew et al: This topic is not about Sesame Street’s funding sources. Further off-topic messages will be removed.

  • Mr. Kohr,
    It seems that Sesame has a lot of money for overhead, but it doesn’t. There are only TWO year round artist there and the producers wear their budget worries on their sleeves. It was a very disheartening summer there in ’09. New York as a whole was in the dumps.
    There are complaints about “where does the money go?”, among contract artists, but we always complain about that. The whole situation reminds me of the predicament of some of my wealthy friends; they may have fancy things and appear to be doing well, but the have few liquid assets and they’re just one to two bad business deals away from ruin.
    Anyhoo, I’m glad that Sesame has this contest. I made a film just for them that I want to donate it. It was turned down due to liable issues they were wary about when I presented it to them over last summer. It was explained to me that they had problems with royalties in the past. However, now the door is open, Soleil Rocketship may have found her home at last.
    For me, this contest is a goddesssend.

  • Peter Gagnon

    Well, as the VFX Lead for The Electric Company @ Sesame Workshop I have to say a couple of things:

    1.) Sesame Workshop takes very good care of its artists, collaborators and contractors, everyone is dealt with more than fairly and with a lot of, for lack of a better word, ‘love’.

    2.) While I do agree with the “No spec -work” ideology… I also have to call Motionographer out on this one… you promote contests for Music Videos and other things but now you raise hackles at Sesame Workshop… one of the most benevolent Non Profits in America? Really?

    3.) This contest is not for nothing… it is a contest, exactly the same thing that can be seen on CGsociety, and hundreds of other artist sites.

    4.) I don’t think that Sesame shouldbe your scapegoat especially so soon after Lee Stranahan’s great letter about VFX to James Cameron… I think some might confuse the abuses and lump them together

    5.) ON the flip side… Sesame has a duty to step into the 21st Century, they still have a 60’s mentality about animation, VFX and art that is something that they can and should change… and this contest could have been handled with a little more tact.

    6.) I have been burned by doing spec work before… we also have a duty as artists to read the fine print… companies are in the business of making money, they are going to try and take advantage of you… that is why as artists we need to be better business people.

    All of these things being said, I love the Motionographer community and I don’t believe that it is a ‘gang’ of aritsts promoting their own work… I have found several jobs, ideas, friends and contacts through Motionographer and for that I thank you…. This is a good debate, we should keep it going and come together with solutions in a truthful and constructive manner.

  • Peter Gagnon

    My above comments I posted originally to Motionographer… I thought that Cartoon Brew should hear them as well.

  • Peter Gagnon

    I have to reiterate… everyone realizes that there is a cash prize, right? It’s not for nothing.

    And that all of this is directed at Sesame Workshop, a non-profit organization… one that is educating children all around the world… stepping in when countries fail at educating their kids. We have a literacy epidemic in this country and Sesame is trying to fill that gap. This anger is completely misplaced.

    Sesame pays it’s artists well, better than 75% of the agencies in New York. Why are you not railing against any of the agencies, that have a track record of hiring freelancers, or small companies, using them for a few weeks to do work and then saying oops, the job went away, sorry we can’t pay you for your time and work. Or like Nickelodeon, that pays 25% of the going dayrate to awesome artists?

  • Thanks for stepping in, Mr. Gagnon.

  • I must admit, this contest is not financially suitable for people who don’t have a pre-existing film in this genre under their belt. However, I understand Sesame’s motivation behind this contest.
    Just to clear things up, Sesame Workshop is not Disney, Warner Bros. or Fox. So, my comments regarding budgets was made to illustrate the DIFFERENCE between a Hollywood studio with more creative and financial resources and a non-profit that must be VERY CAREFUL with it’s coffers like Sesame. The prospect that Sesame’s new properties will make any money is more limited than commercial studios. If Fox wants more money, they can just produce a show that is certain to get ratings with total disregard for social responsiblity. Disney and can pull a bread and butter princess theme from their bag of tricks and Warner Bros. can revitialize Looney Tunes for quick cash.
    Sesame has a different challenge: their non-established characters are not guaranteed money makers. Furthermore, they can’t use any of the usual tricks to win an audience. Sesame characters are wholesome and charming without being offensive or wealthy. That’s a very tough property to sell! Parents may complain about the lack of congenial charcters for their kids to watch, however, as well all know, many a company has lost money producing politically correct properties. Kids change to the channel to, “Sick, Sad World”, as soon as mom’s back is turned! Sex and Violence sells, and that mantra is the antithesis of Sesame’s creative direction.
    Sure, Sesame Workshop can update it’s business model towards artists. However, slinging mud at a non-profit that has tried so hard and succeeded to good in this world is very misguided.

  • Omigoddess! FP I just watched the second half of my Sesame Street 40th Anniversay boxed set and you’re right, they turned Cookie into a FRUIT MONSTER.
    The hoooorrrooor!

  • Scarabim

    “Sesame has a different challenge: their non-established characters are not guaranteed money makers.”

    So that’s why Sesame is apparently seeking new ones, using this contest? (And anyway, what does “non-established” mean, exactly? Big Bird’s not an established character, or Bert or Ernie or Grover?)

    If Sesame’s characters don’t make money how come I see Elmo/Abby Cadabby merchanding all over the place? Why would stores carry stuff they can’t sell?

    I still think this contest is a bad idea for “non-established” artists. If an artist has what he or she thinks is a good idea, giving it away in hopes of being the one lucky duck who wins some cash is insane. Once you give an idea away in one of these contests, you’ll never get it back and it isn’t yours anymore. That IMO is unwise and unprofessional. This contest still seems like a cynical way to take advantage of eager young artists. I’m with the Brewsters on this one.

  • Martin

    I got some Flash animation work through Aniboom late last year – “simple Flash animation” they said they wanted. And simple it was, but the shots were so badly conceived they were damn-near impossible to animate well. There were enormous 3000% zooms, which is terribly awkward to do in Flash, and the characters were awfully drawn and not set up to be animated. I worked out that from the price of the job, I could afford to spend about 7-10 hours on each shot, which looked like it should have been enough. After signing the contract I was then told on the second shot they wanted smoke animation “like this:“. Simple Flash animation, they’d said! The shots were so ugly I couldn’t even dream of including them on my showreel.

    In short, I agree that Aniboom contests – and spec work even, if my experiences are anything to go by – are rather exploitative. I’m with you guys. Avoid.

  • @Scarabim

    I apppreciate the position everyone has towards spec work and agree. I guess my question is “Where does it state anywhere that you are giving your idea away?”

    I read the rules for the Aniboom Fox contest, since the Sesame Street ones aren’t posted. That contest clearly expresses that the creator retains all rights and is only “giving” away rights for the duration of the contest. Sort of allowing Sundance exclusivity to your premiere but having to pay a submission fee.

    I’m still waiting to see anywhere in the verbiage that creators are expected to give up all rights to their film for no compensation.

  • amid

    Bob Harper: You didn’t read the contract correctly. For the Fox competition that Aniboom did, they take the rights to any entry FOREVER. That’s standard in these contests, which is why it’s mindboggling that anybody would be naive enough to enter. It’s non-exclusive, but nothing prevents them from using your work however they want, including the “option to further develop the Content in and for any and all media.” The agreement is here:

    Here’s the relevant excerpt. The last sentence which I’ve bolded is important:

    Subject always to Section 1 hereof, I hereby retain all rights to and in my Content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, commencing upon my submission of Content and continuing during the Contest Term, I hereby grant Aniboom and Fox an exclusive, irrevocable, sublicenseable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, distribute, edit, reproduce, display, perform, transmit, publish, store and encode, and the option to further develop the Content in and for any and all media and channels of distribution now known or hereafter devised including without limitation all forms of television and all forms of internet and wireless protocol, and to exercise the foregoing rights in the Content, and to further make excerpts and derivative works thereof, as well as my name, likeness, quotes and biography, to promote the Content, Contest and Website in any and all media and channels of distribution. During the Contest Term, the Contest Entities shall have the exclusive right to enter into negotiations with any Contestant to further develop the Content or other projects created by such Contestant, and in this regard, such period may be extended for up to 60 additional days to complete such negotiations. Following the Contest Term, such license shall become perpetual and non-exclusive.

    If people were better educated about how to read contracts, companies like Aniboom couldn’t get away with running contests with such lopsided, unfair rules.

  • I still retain all my rigghts and grant Aniboom nonexclusive usage to said content. I can still resell and exploit my content. This is pretty common for things like this. They want to continue airing the pieces – big deal.

  • Footagehead

    I agree with all 6 points that Peter Gagnon has laid out. And I mean all six, that there is prize money, that this is a contest, that if you want to participate, do so, and if not, don’t. Also, noone wants spec work, we all know the dangers there. I don’t think this is spec work, as Bob Harper says. And yes, Peter and Ashanti is correct, Sesame does take care of their artists, as much as they can (love can sometimes outweigh the amount of money paid, I can attest to that). They don’t have much, and as everyone knows, 2009 was very difficult in that they laid off 20% of their workforce and cut off many projects. but with what they do have, they try to use and distribute as fairly as possible.
    I’ve made a couple films for Sesame, and even though the payout was not much, it was worth it, and they give alot of respect in terms of artist’s rights. I very much doubt that non winning entries into the aniboom contest will be kept by Sesame. That would highway robbery and the community would not sit idle if that was the case. But again, as animators/artists/musicians, ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT. If you don’t like what you see, then don’t participate.
    Another note: Not only are they doing the contest to meet new upcoming artists (students and pros alike), but they are still going through the bare bones pitch process with their pool of artists that they already work with. It is not fair to make accusations when one does not know the full details of the processes that goes on. It just sounds like people are angry that they don’t even have an “in” to pitch, and now they have to make work for free in hopes of winning.
    I also want to note that I agree with Peter’s comment, that Sesame needs to up their game in terms of animation and art on their show, it’s lacking greatly. And they are aware of this, btw, hence the contest!
    To Sesame Workshop: I also agree that the contest could definitely be handled with much more tact though. For instance, PUBLISH THE FINE PRINT ALREADY! You can’t push a contest without it’s legal notes and expect people to just go by blind faith and enter. Of course you are going to get this much uprising. No fine print is the fuel of this debate.

  • Footagehead

    True, like anything else, the winning entries will be owned by Sesame Street, and those winners will be paid out in prize money. Let’s wait for the fine print to discuss whether Sesame retains rights on all non winning entries. If they do, then there’s a problem.

  • withheld

    I actually did some freelancing for Aniboom, and have to say that they’re not the easiest company to work for, nor are they the best at compensating their talent. I’m not a hugely experienced professional, but I usually make around 13 dollars an hour, before taxes. They pay you per second, at about ten dollars a second of animation. Regardless of how much effort or work you put into it. The scenes they may give you might only take a couple hours for twenty seconds of easy cut-out animation, or you may end up having to slave over two or three seconds for a week. That’s just animation, but I am used to being compensated for amount of effort, and compensated well. I went to school for this – I don’t expect to work for 30 cents an hour. They aren’t my friends asking me to work on a piece of animation we all really care about in my spare time; they seem to be a bunch of dudes in Israel out for a quick buck.

  • Scarabim, a studio needs to chronically create NEW properties. Note how Lilo and Stitch got Disney out of a scrape years ago. Congenial characters are difficult to create and you have to search hi and low for inspiration. Studios like Fox have it easy creating their offensive characters. If they run out of material, all they have to do is spend a day at a local Walmart.

    • This assumes that all of the characters on Fox’s animation block are offensive (Homer Simpson is a pussycat compared to Hank Hill, Peter Griffin, and the main character on American Dad.)

  • If Sesame Workshop is having such a hard time, how about looking for volunteers/interns? Plenty of people would fall all over themselves to work there for nothing or next to nothing (self included- educational art/animation is my area of interest). They should use a portfolio/reel submission rather than a contest. As it stands, I’m much better off preparing something for my portfolio or something to pitch than giving away free content.

    There’s also the other possibility that they might not find anything submitted to the contest that they like. Some of the sketchier logo contests don’t guarantee a winner and quietly have the contest “go away” if they don’t like the entries. I hope they post the terms soon to end all of this speculation.

  • amid

    Bob Harper wrote, “I still retain all my rigghts and grant Aniboom nonexclusive usage to said content. I can still resell and exploit my content. This is pretty common for things like this. They want to continue airing the pieces – big deal.”

    Except that’s not what the contract says. You’re granting them a far more extensive set of rights than simply the ability to continue airing and making money from your content. You’re also granting them to ability to develop new content based on your ideas without having to provide any compensation.

  • Bob Harper

    True Amid – but like I compaired to Nina’s endeavor – it’s the same. She granted the world Non Exclusive Rights to her project which was applauded here. So grant these guys non exclusive rights, you keep the rights to develop and exploit it as well.

    I don’t know of any losing submissions from any contest that have been developed into shows without the creators being involved. Maybe someone has some actual case studies.

    It’s a matter of what could happen or what really happens with things like this. I’ll take the odds that I would continue to develop my property with more zest and zeal than the companies involved in these contests.

    To put it bluntly – they wouldn’t want to spend devlelopment time and money to derive from my work, especially if it’s a losing submission.

  • amid

    Bob – Aniboom’s contests prohibit you from submitting a project with non-exclusive rights like Nina. The rules for the Fox contest clearly state: “During the Contest Term (as defined in Section 8 of the Official Rules, and as may be extended in Section 3 below) I am prohibited from exploiting in any way (including without limitation any use, sale, license or distribution), or allowing others to exploit, the Content or any part thereof, without obtaining the prior written approval of Aniboom, and during which time Aniboom and Fox shall have an exclusive license to the Content.”

    And while there is no record of any contest exploiting a losing submission yet, rest assured that down the line, if your idea becomes the next Simpsons, they’re going to take advantage of the clause that gives them non-exclusive rights to your work. Their contract, whether standard contest legalese or not, is harmful to artists.

  • Bob Harper

    “During the Contest Term” – that is the part that is prohibitive.

    I didn’t propose submitting a non exclusive piece of work. I proposed giving up non-exclusivity while still retaining your overall rights.

  • Hi Meredith,
    I interned for Sesame Workship last summer and they said they couldn’t accept my film submission for legal reasons. I have a feeling that this was a admin problem: no one has set up a system for submissions for a new generation complete with new guidelines. There needs to be a new precedence for independent film makers.
    I don’t think Animboom is the perfect way to go. I whole-heartledly agree with the opposition in this board in that respect. I’m just excited that the door has reopened, so my judgment is clouded. However, I stand by my argument to not write Sesame off as a bad guy. Give constructive criticism to the institution not bile laced scorn. If anyone knows a way around the Aniboom solution– let the Sesame Workshop know about it. They are perfectly nice people who are very approachable and open to alternate methods.

  • What difference does it make to you, the opposition, if people want to participate in contests like these? For all the so-called fair and liberal attitudes toward creating art, I am surprised that anyone feels it their duty to trample opportunities for others. Whether or not you like Children’s Television Workshop, or Aniboom, or sellouts like me in general, it really isn’t your responsibility to squash chances for amateurs to make a little cash by making short contest entries.

    If this is a question of ethics, I gotta know why you feel it’s your responsibility to intervene on the behalf of all of us silly, naive, amateur animators. Who gave you the right to force us into operating from Cartoon Brew’s predetermined code of ethics?! If Sesame Street, or Aniboom, or Aniboom’s contributors want to participate, whether or not it is the biggest single mistake of their animating lives, it isn’t necessarily up to Cartoon Brew to refuse them that chance. Let a sellout make a buck, whether or not you agree with it! Shee-eesh!

  • amid

    Chandra – Your comment puts words in our mouths and completely misrepresent the issue. Nobody is trampling your opportunity, squashing dreams, or refusing you a chance to be a part of Aniboom’s contest. If you want to enter, be our guest. This post was intended for artists who want to understand more about the contest and its ethical ramifications. If you’re not interested, there’s no need for rudeness.

  • Bob Harper

    I didn’t read this topic as an attempt to trample on dreams, and feel that this has been a positive and informative exchange of ideas and opinions. Amid and Cartoon Brew are passionate about animation and artists. I feel they were informing artists of the pitfalls that exist in these kinds of endeavors. And there are plenty of pitfalls. Artists should be informed of what’s going on and be left to make their own decisions. Cartoon Brew provides a good service.

    On that note, however, I feel that this petition should’ve waited until the terms and conditions came out before declaring it spec work.

    Spec work is when you create work specific to a brand or client with the hopes of getting paid if the client likes the work. the problem with spec work, which I am opposed to, is that it usually means that you are creating work so specific that you couldn’t exploit it in other markets, and many times clients will demand ownership of the work, even if they don’t use it. This is a practice that I think needs to end.

    I don’t see this contest as spec work, since arteists aren’t asked to do brand specific work, although after rereading the categories the pinball recreation would be something specific that you couldn’t exploit somehwere else. Otherwise the categories are wide open and artists are asked not to do Sesame Street branded characters or items. If they are to claim full ownership of all entries, then it would be very much spec work.

    Hopefully they have read the petition and this exhange here and will adjust their terms accordingly.

  • Chandra

    @ Amid

    It sounds as though the petition is trying to discourage anyone from taking part, implying that it is a mistake on both ethical and legal terms. Suggesting that the quality of the submissions is going to be compromised just because there are parameters and prizes involved is INSULTING and HURTFUL. It’s a chance for freelance animators to make a buck and grab some exposure. If you’re a Sesame kid like me, it’s also satisfying on a creative level as you get to tip your hat to some of the geniuses who made children’s media possible in the first place. I understand the concern for the future development potential (or lack thereof) for these entries, but Cartoon Brew seems to be assuming that EVERYONE is in this contest for the future development deal. But we’re not – some of us are in it for the experience, the fun, the cash prize, who knows…?

    But it also sounds like this petition is intent on getting Sesame Street to reconsider not only its contest terms, but its involvement altogether. It sounds like Cartoon Brew is trying to put a stop to the contest. If the petition was really intended to look out for fellow artists as you assert, perhaps it shouldn’t have been formatted as an open letter to Sesame Workshop with signatures on the bottom. Am I really to believe that those names are all people looking out for me? I’d love for that to be true. But could it also be that the names on the bottom have signed to protect and preserve their spots as animators in an otherwise hard-to-break-into, slightly elite field? Why must all opportunities be offered to only the upper echelons? Why not break off a chance for us here below, who have yet to break thru? Just askin’…

  • The submission agreement and rules have now been posted:

  • footagehead

    So now that the rules are published, what do you all think? It’s pretty obvious to me that it’s not spec work.

  • footagehead

    winners announced. please check it out. opinions?