Mass Animation or Mass Exploitation?

Mass Animation

Animators beware! There’s a new collaborative animation project called Mass Animation that is asking animation artists (both pros and amateurs) to come together via a Facebook application to produce a 5-minute CG animated short destined for theatrical release. The project hasn’t launched yet, but the details that are available on the official website and in this Intel press release aren’t encouraging.

The program, which doesn’t compensate any of the animators who work on it, is being sponsored by Intel, Autodesk, Facebook, Aniboom and Reel FX. The film is being directed by former Sony Pictures Digital exec Yair Landau. He says, “Mass Animation combines original computer-generated animated storytelling with social networking in a powerful, new way…we will reach so many talented animators who might not otherwise have access to this community of imagination and artistry. This project is the future of creative collaboration.”

Apparently Landau believes that the future of creative collaboration on the Internet means getting lots and lots of different people to create free work for deep-pocketed corporate sponsors so that they can release your work theatrically. Unlike earlier technologies, the Internet empowers artists so that they can avoid being taken advantage of in this manner. Companies that are trying to facilitate the exploitation of artists via the Internet are truly living in the past. Perhaps this contest started with benevolent intentions, but the press release makes it sound super-exploitative, and the fact that a Hollywood exec is directing the project simply adds to the ick-factor. I’ll make an effort to stay on top of this story and find out how it turns out.

(Thanks to Chris Roman for bringing this to everybody’s attention on the Cartoon Brew Facebook group)


  • Manny

    And it’s not as if yair landau really knows much about producing animation. Effects, maybe, but it’s not the same as producing a feature animation film. Just because you can plug a computer in doesn’t mean you know how to wrangle and support creative people to create an animated feature.

    Yikes, talk about exploitation.

  • Nora

    As a recent grad with no job prospects on the horizon, it seems that I have no choice but to be exploited. To me it doesn’t seem that much different from an unpaid internship.

  • Baron Lego

    Sadly, this will still end up suckering a bunch of well-meaning artists all the same…

  • amid

    Nora: There is a significant difference between an unpaid internship and this program. An internship allows you to enter a company and work your way up the ladder into a paying position.

    There is no ladder to climb in this work-for-free opportunity. Nobody’s going to hire you no matter how well you do on this. This is merely a coalition of companies banding together to get free work from artists under the pretext of “creative collaboration”. Your time would be much more wisely spent at an internship or working on projects of your own.

  • http://mrk2165sketch.blogspot.com Mark

    Welcome to crowd sourcing and the general exploitive hell known as spec work. They try and tempt you with the possibility of exposure so they can get you to work for free. They tell you it can help with your portfolio blah, blah, blah. Well you can do that for free at home and get paid the same (nothing) just without the exploitation and still add it to your portfolio. As a creative never work for free unless it’s for charity and only then one you truly believe in.

  • http://dmgermain.blogspot.com David Germain

    At my animation school, one of my teachers told everyone “Never work for free”. He’d definitely advise everyone to stay away from this as well.

  • Victor H.

    Bad enough that the industry has been conning creatives into doing free development work for the better part of a decade now, under the table. Look where that has led.

  • http://jgchan.blogspot.com/ Jerry Chan

    Wow- I would have considered doing something for this if not for this post.

    +2 internets for you, Mr. Amidi and Mr. Roman (and a hearty thanks)

  • dan edwards

    What is the fuss about? It’s a 5 minute short cgi film and nobody is going to make money on this project. How much work do think the sponsored corps are going to put into this thing. The answer a lot in both time and money. The management of this thing alone is going to be costly.

    In the end you get some exposure on a global project. It’s not like those retards trying to get free animation work on Craigslist.

    I see this as another way to network or at least take part in an interesting project in distributed collaboration.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    As stated above, there is no reason to give rare free time to a project other than one’s own. Promised “exposure” counts for almost nothing, and those kinds of promises are too frequently made by parties with more than enough resources to offer, at the very least, minimal pay. It’s insulting.

  • Vernon

    DNA studio of Texas did years of free work for Paramount before breaking through to a steadily paying gig. Where is DNA now?

  • Reader

    “What is the fuss about? It’s a 5 minute short cgi film and nobody is going to make money on this project. How much work do think the sponsored corps are going to put into this thing. The answer a lot in both time and money. The management of this thing alone is going to be costly.”

    You believe that the “sponsored corps” are doing this for-what? Love of the artform? The artistic muse speaking to Them/it? Whimsy?

    You admit the management of this thing is going to be costly, but those philanthropic, altrusitic, devil-may-care CORPORATIONS that doubtless pay their executives very, very well are interested in fun little projects that cost them(and will cost the contributing artists in time and skills not put to actual paying use) but gives those corporations no payback whatsoever?

    Give me a freaking break!

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Re:
    –Where is DNA now?–

    Didn’t they shrivel up after ANT BULLY? I could look it up, but, ya know.

  • Manny

    “It’s a 5 minute short cgi film and nobody is going to make money on this project.”

    “Reader” nailed it on the head. landau really has zero experience in creating content. ZERO. He couldn’t tell a good story or character if his life depended on it (one of the reasons he was forced out of Sony animation).

  • http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com Imaginatoon

    I agree that no one should work for free.

    But what about someone who makes it as a hobby? It might be a great chance to get some exposure!

  • mantaray

    DNA never did “free” work for Nickelodeon or Paramount. Not sure where you got that information. I know this because I was there. They did shrivel up after “Ant Bully.”

  • http://asteriskpix.blogspot.com Richard O’Connor

    Doing work on spec is a decision that has to be carefully weighed. It’s a bit like going to Vegas and letting it all ride on black. The odds favor the house, but every once in while you hit the jackpot.

    We all know that nobody SHOULD gamble, but we do it all the time.

    You just have to measure out your odds of success.

    These types of things aren’t “spec” work -they’re Ponzi schemes. They don’t even offer the fair odds of a roulette table, they’re rigged so that you ALWAYS lose.

  • http://mfearing.wordpress.com/ Mark Fearing

    It’s not a good sign that a former industry exec. wants people of professional quality to work on something that would see theatrical distribution for NOTHING.

    If they get 300 people to do it, you would get exactly how much exposure? Do you think credits would be attached, legally attached to all presentations of this? Why would companies like Intel ETC. want to distribute an animated short that was made for free? Who controls the story? Who has final cut?

    The best exposure comes from you doing something you believe in and love, that shows what you are interested in, where your passion is. What you most enjoy.

    Doing production work on a group short will not buy you much exposure.

    Make your own film.

  • john

    has anyone read the description of the project? it says you will get paid if you are chosen, and a bunch of other free stuff like a new computer. i still think its a dumb project, but eveyone seems to think there will be no rewards.

  • Shaun

    This project is full of ‘what if’s’, like what if this works?, what if feature film projects can begin production using animators that work remotely, what if animators can make a living by working from home rather than in gloried sweatshops, what if this project is the beginning of a new production pipeline that creates projects (and jobs) that might never have the chance to get off the ground,

    Anyone who works in the industry knows that a large percentage of CG professionals already work for free when they work overtime ‘for the good of the project’ without compensation. It’s happened since Disney studios in the 30s and still goes on today.

    The CG industry is generally un-represented by unions and exploitation is already rampant and getting worse. What if this new production model someday becomes more attractive than being exploited at a workplace?

    Currently, thousands of CG professionals are out of work or ‘between jobs’, so what they have to lose might be less than they can might potentially gain if this project works.

    I’m not vouching for anything here, in fact, I think it would be an amazing accomplishment if this works. If it does work, then it’s a good thing in my opinion.

    What if somebody started a project similar to this and paid CG pros wages AND royalties, similar to what voice talent/actors receive?

  • Max

    What about the people who just want to do it for fun? Especially for those of us students who need all the experience they can get. I for one shall be doing this during my Thanksgiving break. For fun.

  • http://www.chriswoodsanimation.com Chris Woods

    I was involved in this project and it was a very positive experience. I had two shots included in the final film which I was compensated for. I saw the film on a Best of Siggraph reel, and there are more exciting opportunities coming down the pipe as a result of it. The timing of the project worked well for me because my contract had just wrapped and I wanted to do something productive and challenging with my time. No, not everyone who worked on the project was compensated because only those with shots included in the film were awarded. The way shots were picked was a bit skewed though. Since it was voter based, and since the voters had to be “friends” of the animators, people with much larger rosters of contacts had an obvious advantage. If they do launch another project it would be nice to see them revise this model.

    I don’t want to go on too long about it, but at the end of the day I enjoyed being involved with it. However I am aware of the fact that a lot of people worked on it without gaining a whole lot. Let’s see what happens further on down the road.

  • http://www.chriswoodsanimation.com Chris Woods

    Sorry, one more thing… yes, the film included a full list of credits.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Thanks for the follow-up, Chris. I worked on the back-end of this project, as a developer. I do not work for Intel – I work for a creative agency that worked on the ideation and execution of the project and FB application.

    To answer the question everyone seems to have “what would Intel get out of it”, the answer is simple. They wanted to work towards having professional animators think of Intel as a professional-level processor that can be used for heavy-duty animation and rendering. They didn’t make any money off this project, and spent quite a bit.

    Some of the skeptics have said that Intel couldn’t be doing it just for good will – and they weren’t. It was part of extending their brand identity – and believe it or not, the entire goal for the participants here was to give them a cool opportunity to do something fun.

    Not every single thing a corporation does has to be exploitative and evil, you know. Intel got what they wanted, the animators who won were compensated. People who wanted to play submitted entries. Those that didn’t, didn’t. End of story.

  • http://www.wesleywelcomer.com Wesley

    I worked on it with a bunch of friends while we were in school. I think it’s awesome because now I can say I have experience in an industry where experience is huge. I’m definitely going to work on the next one too, with all the DC heroes.

  • http://benmcevoy.com Ben McEvoy

    The title of this post says it all and I couldn’t agree more. CG professionals are worth more than this and I hope will consider the long-term implications to our industry when deeming any of this acceptable. More importantly, students leaving colleges and schools should be taught to evaluate and understand what ventures like this do to their job prospects and the expectations of professionals in this industry and the industry that will come of it if this sort of behaviour continues to propogate.

    One of my students ‘won’ a grand prize of $150 and the opportunity to work on ‘modifications and revisions as directed by the company’ for the new DC Universe competition. For $150 he gets to do a whole bunch of work which will probably amount to $15/hour, no rights to the completed work, and a credit buried in the game/trailer for what that’s worth. The benefits are so incredibly small versus the investment and the pay off is so grand for the organizers.

    It’s a shame, but at least something can be done about it.