John Kricfalusi on Contemporary Animated Features

If I owned a printer, I’d print out this quote, and if I owned a bulletin board, I’d stick it onto that board:

“Modern animated movies are the products not of anyone’s individual vision, but rather a scattered accumulation of compromises made out of fear by members of large committees.” – John Kricfalusi

It doesn’t describe every mainstream studio feature, but it surely applies to a fair percentage of them.


  • http://MrFunsBlog Floyd Norman

    Of course, you mean the film marketing department.

    In many of today’s movies the tail wags the dog.

  • Paul Spector

    What else is new?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/william_joseph_dunn/ William Joseph Dunn

    Hiro Miyazaki?

  • http://dustooned.blogspot.com Dus T’

    We know already.

    Let’s just hope for the best…

  • John A

    That wasn’t the case with Finding Nemo. Aside from a few jettisoned ideas during production (which is common even in live action) the finished film was very close to how Andrew Stanton pitched it. The Incredibles stayed true to Brad Bird’s vision, even though he originally wrote it as a 2-D film.

    Compromise is the way things get done in this business. Some studios are more respectful of an artists original vision, (if there is one) but there have also been instances when the “People in Charge” aren’t happy with the results, and tough desicions have to be made, even if it leaves some people unhappy. A Feature is a Huge investment. Most cost about a million dollars a minute. If you don’t want to compromise at all, finance your own production.

  • http://chippyandloopus.com/ John S

    I care what John says. He has a lot of good things to say.
    Besides, his quote decribes the making of “Home on the Range” to a T.
    And I should know.

  • marc giddy up gordon

    Well i do care , fear and compromises are the worth things for all art forms, obviously you right nothing new. animation reminds me of a “bonzai” tree by all means. when i make love i don’t compromise so let animation be.

  • Rob

    he forgot the footnote.

    “*Well, except for Deglo.”

  • http://rsboingboingblog.blogspot.com Roberto Severino

    This is sadly true for the most part, but there’s honestly nothing new here.

    How about writing about how Brad Bird is directing Mission: Impossible IV for Paramount? It was announced about two weeks ago. Just wondering.

  • John A

    If the original ideas behind Sweating Bullets had been strong enough to sustain a feature, that’s the film you would have ended up with. Home on the Range was little more than damage control. Disney could have thrown away their entire investment, or they could have contined to throw good money after bad.

    Now Treasure Planet, THERE’s a film that was nitpicked into nothingness.

  • Brian O.

    John K. has referred to independent animation as “masterbation” yet Bill Plympton has all the freedom in the world to nuture his vision. Why doesn’t John just make his own short film himself and show us all what the world is missing?

    The 20th century unit system that developed for decades is in a coma. Post-Ren & Stimpy, it’s too bad John never re-infiltrated the “system” and corrupted it back to his ideals.

  • Robb S.

    I grew up with John K’s work, so it’s no surprise I can’t stomach most of today’s animated stuff.
    However, it was good to point out that quote can not really be applied to EVERY modern animated film (most Pixar, and almost any Miazaki stuff)

    It’s just few and far between. But it does make those special ones that much more special :D.

  • http://www.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

    OMG i love it!!

  • http://torontoanimation.blogspot.com TempleDog

    “Modern animated movies are the products not of anyone’s individual vision, but rather a scattered accumulation of compromises made out of fear by members of large committees.”

    Well, doi. Been sayin’ it fer years (not that I’m no John K. er nuthin’) that the films just cost too goddamn much to make. Investors want return on their money, hence the film rapidly degrades from cinema to amusement park ride. And now there’s this 3d nonsense to further phark up the works.

    So, every goddamn North American animated feature (hence) has to be a nice, safe family comedy, no risks get taken because the industry considers 80 freakin’ million dollars the ‘low end’ for a feature production budget.

    Meanwhile, Myazaki is doing his own thang-thang with 30 mil. and Wes Anderson puts together Fantastic Mr. Fox for 40. Smaller budgets means a film can shake a few trees and still have a good chance of making bank based on DVD and downloads.

    Smaller budgets, better films. Oh, and lose the celebrity voice talent and cast the right person for the role, fer corn’s sake…it’s freakin’ tacky.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/OriginalGagBonkers OriginalGagBonkers

    I grew up with John K’s works such as Ren and Stimpy, and heck sometimes I cant even stand most of the animated films that are out there as of 2010 that also includes tv cartoons. Most of them are not even the same as what they used to be, cartoons are not even made by actual cartoonists anymore who know how to make cartoons. But by people who do animation just for the big bags of cash perfect example is Seth of family guy fame.

    Most people should do the animated films by themselves and independently so they wouldnt have to deal with all the crap of people running the company just stepping in on the last second and change the original concept of that product to something thats already been done. Dont even get me started on Cool World, or even Chris Sander’s proposed film American Dog. John K has spoken the truth yet again, and he should tell all the people who dont even know how to make cartoons to get the heck out of the animation industry for making it worst.

  • http://mrscriblam.tumblr.com mrscriblam

    well technically the only true way to get a movie to be a genuine product of one individual’s vision is for them to make it entirely themselves but john makes a good point

    i sure as hell cant see one person creating a monstrosity as grand as the shrek franchise turned out to be

  • Thomas Hatch

    I can’t believe Amid doesn’t own a bulletin board. They’re awesome!

  • foxglove

    Shouldn’t someone actually work on animated features – at least ONE – before they school the rest of us on what the process is like?

  • http://cartoonsof1939.blogspot.com/ Ted

    “Why doesn’t John just make his own short film himself and show us all what the world is missing?”

    Because he wants his money up front…
    http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2010/05/revision-and-thanks.html

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

    One of my favorite quotes is by animation director, Chris Bailey…

    “I love cartoons, but I’m not so sure about animation.”

  • Rooniman

    John has a point here.

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    It’s pretty apt statement, though there are exceptions scattered around.

  • OtherDan

    Apparently, short films are the way to go if you want to tell your story. Now, how to market them? Amid???…I’ll give you my printer if you can pimp us out like that Animation Development Company guy does for his properties. Seriously, with the internet why can’t we get control of our content and make licensing deals for ourselves?

  • Marc Baker

    You make some good points about animation, Temple Dog. I agree with how studios are scared of losing all that money they’ve invested in animated features, and in a way, who could blame them? Your also right about how films with a smaller budget have a much better chance of making their money back than films with huge budgets. I also agree that the studios should stop relying on celebrity talent, and just hire the right people to voice the characters. I don’t care if you’ve got Robert DeNiro, or Frank Welker in your movie, if he’s got the right voice, by all means, hire him.

  • Tobias Lind

    And as Heinlein stated (via Lazarus Long):

    “A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain.”

  • http://www.totalmediabridge.com Kevin Johnson

    I would say blame (non-Miyazaki) anime for the lame angular designs today. Here’s a thought: if you wanna sells toys and crap, make better designed stuff. Who would buy a Johnny Test doll?

  • John A

    But then again Kevin J, why should buying a doll be the reason for making the cartoon? I understand the role that marketing plays in cartoon production, but it shouldn’t be the driving force. Making a good show should be the first priority (so, I guess I DO agree with your swipe at Johnny Test)

  • http://www.totalmediabridge.com Kevin Johnson

    Oh, I agree John. As far as I’m concerned, once you get your feet wet and delivery an entertaining and exciting show, all the merchandise and toys will just fall into place. It’s not exactly rocket science.

    Oh, and I shouldn’t hate on Johnny Test – but a friend of mine said it best: it’s a good show that should be on Saturday mornings ABC instead of prime time Cartoon Network.

  • http://seedlesschicken.com what in the cel?

    I’m still waiting for a good adult animated feature. Where’s the Bakshi of 3D?

  • Sprat

    This really isn’t such a ground-shaking quote. Guys like Plympton and Hertzfeldt have been saying this for years.

  • http://andothernonesuch.blogspot.com Lucky Jim

    The quote applies to all studio filmmaking really. Those guys making $200 million superhero movies don’t have much freedom either.

  • http://www.sexymecha.com Hal

    Last year we had the following features which were non-commercial creative visions by individual filmmakers:
    PONYO
    UP! (lets not let its success shadow the fact Disney stocks PLUMMETTED at the prospects of Geriatric and Asian protagonists)
    SECRET OF KELLS
    $9.99
    MARY AND MAX
    FANTASTIC MR. FOX
    CORALINE
    9
    A TOWN CALLED PANIC

    If he’s talking about Dreamworks, Disney (the usual whipping boys for blowhards in animation), Sony’s 2 features and ICE AGE 3 he can have them, but the major studios’ output COMBINED with ASTRO BOY is still less (7) than all the features I’ve listed above. Even IF all the independent movies I mentioned weren’t getting made, he’d still be spouting the same tired rhetoric in the face of studio films that buck the trend like PONYO, 9, CORALINE, FANTASTIC MR. FOX and UP!

    Even A CHRISTMAS CAROL and (since CB has made the idiotic argument relentlessly I’ll stick it to them) AVATAR are “animated features” that are products of singular creative visions. Once again John K. proves he’s not watching anything actually out there and becoming less and less of a relevant voice in the contemporary animation discussion.

  • Anon

    If anyone reads down this far, I just wanted to comment on something Hal said. Even if the major studios’ films combined are less than the 7 films mentioned, in the end, it’s those major companies who are driving the flow of money and investors. How many American 2-D films have you seen since Disney said “2-D is dead”? It’s important to not forget the power (and sometimes idiocy) of large companies.