Ralph Bakshi on Pixar

We’ve already linked to this, but this interview with Ralph Bakshi has some really shrewd insights peppered throughout. One of his comments that stood out most is his opinion of Pixar:

I don’t see too many new films today as it is – just sitting in the theater and watching all of that money on the screen, wishing that I had even a tenth of it to do some of the things that I wanted. It’s just a hard pill for me to swallow. On the other hand, thinking about a place like Pixar having to spend $150 million on a film is another hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t think animation is worth that kind of money. I think it’s part of the problem. With everything that’s happened to this country, where do we come off spending that kind of money?…The kind of money they spend, the expertise, and the various departments they have is startling. Those films better be good, because basically the guys have no choice. It better be good, or they’re wasting a lot of money.

Bakshi has a point. Has all that money really made animation any better? How much better would CG animated features be if budgets were voluntarily cut by the studios and directors were forced again to make creative decisions instead of spending all their time gilding lilies. Too many computer animated films today have the gaudy feel of things created by dictators who spend tons and tons of money and still end up with aesthetic and conceptual eyesores. Hollywood is never going to return to Bakshi’s days of shoestring animated features made quickly and with passion, but reining in the ever-ballooning budgets of computer animation might result in less inflated, self-important films that actually leave a lasting impact.


  • squirrel

    I think a middle ground needs to be found. Animation artists need money to function in ANY way, but could it kill people in high-end studios to revise their lifestyle to a less glamorous fashion, and keep the quality in the films they make? …oh, and lay-offs are the wrong way to go.

  • Rufus

    As much as I love Bakshi’s films and have enormous respect for the dude, I respectfully disagree. Put any of his films alongside any of the latest pixar films and if you don’t see where the $150M goes, you gotta be both blind and deaf. And of Bakshi to say that animation isn’t worth that kinda money is speaking against the art he says he likes so much.

    The art has evolved. Not that animated films on a shoestring budget are no longer possible…but now people can work in humane conditions, make a film and be damn happy doing it instead of wasting their health away towards an animated film. Now making a great film can be a dayjob and not a slave-labor-sweatshop. Sure it costs $150M, but it makes a much larger bank. It’s the better working conditions that facilitate a better standard for the films.

    So the only thing I can take away from Bakshi’s thoughts is that animation isn’t a medium worth investing large amounts of money into.
    Maybe someone should hire Bakshi as a director and give him some dough to make his animated wet dreams come true.

  • http://tedwilsonillustration.blogspot.com ted

    You’re right Amid.Hollywood never will return to shoestring budgets. I love Pixar’s films, but there is an element of OCD ostentatious-ness that’s hard to ignore… But like Bakshi says in his super-inspiring Comicon clip, animators could work in their garage for a year and put out a film on their own.
    We have all the tools at our disposal now, we just need the gumption to do something with ‘em!

  • Grayson

    i agree with this many of the best films ever made in animation (Dumbo, most of the Warners shorts) were made on tight budgets and gave us animation in its best form only artists and their sincerity make the films better

  • MattSullivan

    I don’t get the appeal. Ralph bakshi’s films are terrible. TERRIBLE> Yeah, you can admire him for going against the grain, for maknng the most of small budgets, but if his films were actually any GOOD I might think he knew what he was talking about.

  • http://venadoinstantaneo.blogspot.com diego c

    Bill Plympton told me the same thing a couple of weeks ago in a interview, and I agree. But I think it was important, Amid, to emphasize that Bakshi actually says in that interview that he likes Pixar films, this way it may look just like a plain attack.

  • Bob

    Are they terrible? Or do you not understand them? Often what people don’t “get” they label as bad. If his film’s were that bad would he really get to make so many of them?

  • Justin

    Why cite Pixar as an example for overspending when they at least gross triple their budgets. Seems like a pretty worthwhile investment. Either way, I bet, head to head with the same budget, Pixar would blow Bakshi out of the water.

  • David Cuny

    If you’re curious what the films would look like if the budgets were cut, have a look at “What’s Up: Balloon to the Rescue.”

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

    Animated films with raw ideas and broad strokes expression instead of watered down, dumbed down “product” with tons of polish is the way of the future. We are witnessing the end of an era in animation. Big studio wastefulness is crashing down under its own weight. That leaves a big opportunity for independents with fewer dollars but more sense. Bakshi took advantage of the opportunity afforded him by the implosion of theatrical cartoons. He did it again by revitalizing television animation. There will be someone like him that turns the whole artform on its head and uses the medium for all it’s worth. I don’t think that animator is going to come from the generation that worships the status quo. It’s going to come from the generation that follows that declares all bets are off. Fans don’t know what Bakshi is talking about. Animators do.

  • http://www.elmwoodproductions.com Jon from Elmwood

    I DARE any major studio making animation, Disney, WB, Pixar, whoever, to give Bakshi only a million and let him do what he wants till the money runs out. I promise you we’ll see more than one film come from him that breaks another mold, tells a compelling story, has fantastic use of music, and if the studio takes the time to market it and actually release it… MAKES MONEY. But then again no studio has the guts to do it…

  • Hot Pants

    so should animators be reducing their day rates then? or should we be working with junior producers and junior animators and hope that the young talent pulls through as the old dogs of the industry fade to the background and are not able to make their day rates anymore.

    Dumbo was made in a different time, its silly to compare it to today’s budgets, The great depression only a decade before Dumbo’s release set a different tone for people’s work ethic.. you could probably line up thousands of animators drawing their fingers to a nub for 10 cents a day and produce reels of hand crafted animation. Today we have lazy computer animators who want their rates paid leave at a reasonable hour so they can run home and catch their favorite shows on cartoon network..

    If you put a bunch of well paid experienced people in a room, you’re burning thousands of dollar every day just for that. Unless you want to outsource your work to India or Korea, then you can start lining up for jobs in another country…

    just like anything thats produced in the USA things are more expensive to produce here because our economy has evolved.

    so unless you start producing your film in indonesia, or put together a team of fresh out of school youngens and cross your fingers for results you will need to be spending millions to produce something long like a movie.. .

    and thats good for animators.. good that our industry is making money.. Millions sounds like alot, but thats all relative.. 3D animation is expensive..
    stop complaining about animation making money, its a good thing!!

    go take some animation mentor classes and start makin them bucks!
    then donate to green peace
    and by a new ipod.

  • http://Mrfunsblog Floyd Norman

    Mainstream animation studios function like the Pentagon. More money and bigger “weapons” whether needed or not.

  • http://MouseTracksOnline.com Greg Ehrbar

    Just to make things interesting, thought I’d offer this from hollywood.com:

    The full list of Hollywood stars’ paychecks are as follows:

    1. Will Smith – $80 million
    2. Johnny Depp – $72 million
    3. Eddie Murphy – $55 million
    3. Mike Myers – $55 million
    5. Leonardo DiCaprio – $45 million
    6. Bruce Willis – $41 million
    7. Ben Stiller – $40 million
    8. Nicolas Cage – $31 million
    9. Will Ferrell – $31 million
    10. Adam Sandler – $30 million

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/animationinventory Teodor

    Fancy animators, there is no budget that could save your movies.

    He is right again.
    Last year he talked about fancy animators and now about budgets.

  • tgentry

    Uh…last time I checked it was their money to spend. If they want to spend 150 million on a movie that’s going to make 400-600 million why complain about it? When I watch a Pixar movie I think the money spent is up there on the screen. You could slash the budget, and you might get some creative results, but you’re talking about a studio that is already creative to begin with. I don’t see limiting their budget as a way to make them MORE creative. They seem to be investing all of that money on good storytelling. Bakshi’s just grumpy.

  • amid

    Hot Pants – Please note that our discussion guidelines request that all commenters include a valid working email address (it never shows up in your actual comment). We approved this comment despite the fake email address because it wasn’t offensive, but any future comments from you with a fake email will be deleted.

    A quick note about your comparison to Dumbo. Adjusted for inflation, Dumbo would have only cost about $15-20million in today’s money. Nobody is suggesting that that’s what a mainstream CG animated feature should cost. But ten times that amount is far beyond what is necessary to make a film. Spending in animation today is out of control, and after a certain point, that money (whether it’s $100 or $150mil) doesn’t make a difference in the quality that appears on the screen.

  • The Littlest Warthog

    Bakshi actually goes on to say he thinks Pixar movies are great.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    2D short animation was super-lush in the 1930s-1950s, then it went downhill in general, in terms of complexity. Things could go that way for 3D features. At some point, studios may realize it isn’t necessary to rig every capillary, trace every ray, and simulate every molecule of splashing water. Most people in the audience really don’t care about that – although I will personally enjoy watching the super-refined effects as long as they’re being produced.

    HOODWINKED made a big profit. It cost what to make – $10 million? $30 million? It grossed over a hundred million bucks worldwide. I think that’s sort of what Bakshi is talking about. Nina Paley and others have proven a watchable 2D feature can be done at home with a crew of one. A studio could throw three years of subsistence salary at a number of animators working alone or with small crews, and more than likely pull one or two profitable movies out of the bunch that would pay for it all with profit enough to cover the whole experiment.

  • Ethan

    I have a very mixed opinion on the subject, actually my opinion is all over the map… let me show you :

    The budget for animated films went through the roof only a few years ago. It is very hard to swallow the 175 millions of some studios, but going down to something under a 10 million budget, you definitely won’t get the quality of today’s production.

    Is that quality important ? My opinion is that it all up to the directors and writers to decide what is important to their film (in an ideal world). Some stories need it, some don’t.

    Budget is definitely not proportional to quality, and it has a detrimental effect on artistic liberty, but with a budget too small the artists have a day to animate their shots instead of a month. Any artist in the pipeline want to push his own art further and that takes a tremendous amount of time of his shots. You gain artistic liberty on one side, and you get hit by technical limitations on the other side.

    Food for thought : Look at all the animated films that made a lot of money, they all have at least a 50 millions budget, however there’s no correlation between budget and box office above a certain point. Consider Ice Age 3. I know you guys didn’t like it in America, but everyone else around the world loved it. It was produced with 90 millions, almost every aspect of the film is at least on par with Dreamworks or Pixar, and made a lot more money that any 180M films. Should we now look for a 45M budget ? How low can you go to keep your 1 month to do your shot ?

    All major studios have a smaller “independent films” studio (Warner independent, Focus, Searchlight, etc…). I think they should do the same for their animation division. At least, this year Fox did it for Fantastic Mr Fox, but it’s not exactly an independent films budget, and sadly you can already hear the cries “omg it’s ugly!”, “coraline was so much more fluid!”, “the animation is crap!”.

    If Pixar or Dreakworks make their next film with a 10 million budget, you can be sure everyone here will claim it’s the ugliest animated film in the world. They are stuck in their own game of market domination. It’s up to other smaller, more efficient studios to attempt an “independent film” approach and hope for a wide distribution. (forget Delgo, it doesn’t exist, your mind is playing tricks on you).

  • Rufus

    Amid, what you’re saying is just “Stretch the cream out thinner”, no?

  • http://benjaminwigmore.blogspot.com/ Benjamin Wigmore

    Bakshi loves to hear himself talk… CGI, budgets and blah blah blah.
    When was the last time Ralph produced or animated anything?

  • Mike Caracappa

    As soon as Zemekis gets motion-capture working, they won’t have to worry about paying all those animators. All the characters can be played by one person. Inexpensive CG films are on their way.

  • http://www.kohrtoons.com Robert K

    Why is it that people always assume that artists need to stuffer? Why do we have to work for a year with no pay in a garage to produce a film? Why can’t studios take more risks and try some cheaper content?

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

    The inflated budgets of today’s big CGI features aren’t high because of the “day rates” of the animators or because experienced artists and production people are being used. The inflated budgets are due to executive interference, inefficiency and creative decisions by committee.

    Dumbo is the perfect comparison because it was created quickly and cheaply by a talented creative team without undue interference. Few Disney animated features have been more “hands off” in this regard.

    Bakshi is a director who works fast, encourages creativity among his staff, and tries to say things that have never been said in an animated film before. Whether you like his pictures or not, you have to admit that he is a model for anyone who wants to make important animated pictures. (I say “important” as opposed to “expensive”. They are not one and the same.)

  • Ethan

    Greg,
    These pay checks do not apply to animated films, otherwise Over-the-Hedge would have cost 150M on actors alone. And considering 60 percent of the budget is publicity, and considering the overall quality of the film, it would have cost 350M, which it certainly didn’t.

    I don’t have a problem with big actors in animated films (well in ANY film), their pay is proportional to the guaranteed box office revenue (because the psychotic fans of these actors will see all their films, they will appear on talk show, and it’s guaranteed strong publicity), I DO have a problem if the actors really suck, of course, or they were imposed by the studio against the will of their creative crew. Otherwise the pay check negotiation is none of our business… pun intended. Once again it’s up to the director and writers to decide if an actor is useful and worth it. A 20M actor that brings 20M guaranteed additional box office is essentially free.

  • Brian Reynolds

    This has nothing to do with this thread, except I notice that there isn’t a single woman listed in the above top 10 star salaries, and that bothers me, somehow.

  • Daniel M.

    Animated movies certainly wouldn’t cost so much if they stopped casting so many A list celebrities and went back to broadway actors doing the voices. Working at a major studio, it sickens me how often we’re reminded of how little the actual artists make for a year and a half of their creative input and devotion, while Joe Hollywood gets more money than any of the artists on the film will make in their lifetime, just for the equivalent of about a week or so’s worth of time.

  • Dick Stone

    Oy! What are we doing? Bashing Pixar for turning out a good product? Pixar hasn’t made a bad movie yet, they foster creativity, their artists are happy but we somehow find fault. Maybe Bakshi was speaking of the piles of crappola churned out by ‘other’ studios, I’ve heard him speak and I must say he is a little hard to follow sometimes.

    For the record Bakshi isn’t as tall as his legend is giant. He was a maverick but his receipts weren’t enough for him to stop hoping for some benefactor to help him finally prove himself in today’s market.
    Oh, and I like and get Bakshi’s work before anyone says I don’t understand. (kinda snobbish of you)

    The tools have changed deal with it. We should be demanding creativity, originality, pushing the limits – not how to get there. If a studio spends more we should expect more. At least Pixar delivers. And if “The Princess and the Frog” does well as a 2D maybe there will be more. Most of all we need to support the independent stuff. It isn’t high budgets killing Indy work its ownership rules, just ask Nina Pawley about her ordeal with her “Sita Sings the Blues” copyright infringement of public domain music.

  • Isaac

    There’s an interview with Pete Docter (here http://www.cartoonbrew.com/internet-blogs/podcasts-clayberger-docter-glines.html ), where he says the same thing – “people will accept whatever you up there, as long as there’s some emotional grounding.”

    3D is just an expensive medium.

  • Geoff Gardner

    Actually, I think that Bakshi, and respectfully Amid, kind of miss the point … it’s not about the money spent or even so much the quality of the animation, it’s the story. The prettiest animated film in the world will still be crap if the story is crap. It just so happens IMHO that Pixar has time and again turned out quality animation along with quality story telling.

  • AaronSch

    Audiences will cherish the films produced by Pixar for decades. Every dime spent to produce them is clearly evident on screen. The Walt Disney Company and Pixar will enjoy financial returns from those films well past our time on this planet. With all due respect to Mr. Bakshi, his anti-Disney rants over the years smack of nothing more than “sour grapes.” Little if any of his output can hold a candle to the Pixar shorts let alone their feature films. Though I admire and own some of his work on home video, how does he justify the dollars spent on such poorly executed features like “Real Cool World,” “Wizards,” “American Pop,” “Fire and Ice,” and his incomplete “Lord of the Ringss” opus? Was all that money wasted?

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    If great animated features can be made for $10 million, where are all the great $10 million animated features? I doubt it’s a conspiracy by the studios to spend more than they have to.

  • Grayson

    Dumbo is the greatest cartoon ever made and I think it wouldn’t be anywhere close to as excellent if it were a CGI film or had a high budget. Money can buy you computers and special effects but it can’t buy you Walt Disney, Vladimar Tytla, and great character animation.

  • TedSchekler

    Yeah, we need more shoe-string budget passionate movies like the ‘beautifully’ rotoscoped pieces of garbage from the 70s. remember Lord of the Rings from the 70s…..yeesh…..
    no one gives Bakshi the chance to make any more features because they stink. plain and simple.

    No one pays money to see the ‘eyesores’ of dictars, people pay money to see Pixar movies. People are taking a risk with their money, not one person commanding unwilling people. It’s part of capitalism, dummy.

  • http://MouseTracksOnline.com Giovanni Jones

    “These pay checks do not apply to animated films, otherwise Over-the-Hedge would have cost 150M on actors alone.”

    Actually, that was my point, and in a way it was not. Everything is relative. If you applied two or three of those salaries to a live action film, you could likely exceed $150M just for the names. If it always resulted in great movies and big box office, that would be the reasoning behind such budgets. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t because few things in the movie business are sure things.

    But my point was also that Pixar’s $150 budgets are surely not based two or three individuals, and my guess is that Pixar’s infrastructure is now larger than the small independent it once was.

    Yet even though it’s a bigger company now, the films all seems to serve a creative vision. And it is also correct that a small, lean group of artists could very likely create an amazing film at a fraction of that cost. Btu still, if Pixar had not produced one critical, popular and financial success after another, $150M would seem completely out of the question. By today’s Hollywood standards, it seems to be a proven return on the investment, short and long range.

    Of course, it sure is a lot of money to ordinary people like me. I still drive a dented Corolla. But the stereo works beautifully!

  • http://alexkirwan.tumblr.com Alex K

    WOW, I can’t comprehend this debate AT ALL. If Pixar was blowing wads of cash on celebrity stunt-casting, filling their films with top 40 friendly pop tunes, or liscensing tired pre-existing characters and properties for idea fodder, I could understand these complaints. So far as I’m concerned, the joy of watching these films is seeing how far the craft can be pushed in service of a good story, and so far as I’m concerned in a Pixar film that money is on the screen. In the world of tv animation, where I spend my days, we are constantly constricted by budget from giving each story the attention it deserves, and constricted from showing what we’re truly capable of as artists. Bakshi and his films are not short o n imagination, but the limitations of their execution make nearly all of them unwatchable. Yesterday’s cost-cutting rotoscope process is today’s motion capture. There can be truth to the idea of strength through limitations, but more often than not, a big idea with a small budget generally results in artistry being moved to the back burner, and audiences respond with a resounding “meh”.

  • david

    haha i agree with Ralph, and i think it’s hilarious to see all the people bashing him or defending pixar. All that money wasted on the perfect blade of grass or glistening cool water fx is pretty pointless. The thing that Ralph did is he made adult cartoons, away from the stagnant studio system.

    No, not everyone has to “starve” You can get your free lunches at DW and work on super commercialized products, but then don’t complain about the state or quality of animated content that comes out since you are technically contributing to it and doing nothing to change it.

    Complain complain complain, but i barely see anyone taking advantage of technology and resources available today to do something new and fresh on their own time. I’d take an bakshi indy feature(the good ones) over some sappy formulaic big studio product anyday.

  • tgentry

    I think it’s important to consider that when they put all of this money into an animated film, they are also getting a return by way of breaking down technical hurdles. Especially with Pixar it seems like every film they are trying new things. If they had a pat fifty million for every film, the stories would still be good, but would they be able to develop new and better ways of doing things? I’m sure developing a solid fur simulation was a big chunk of change during Monster’s Inc, but now they can apply it to future movies. Same with the water from Nemo, new cameras from Wall-E etc. Some people don’t care about these things, but I think their movies are visually gorgeous. So you won’t hear any complaints from me about how much they are spending. They’re obviously doing something right.

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

    it’s not about the money spent or even so much the quality of the animation, it’s the story. The prettiest animated film in the world will still be crap if the story is crap.

    That is the biggest fallacy regarding animation out there. Animated filmmaking is a visual medium. Personality is conveyed through pantomime. A whole new world is created through drawing or clay or computer simulation. It can look like anything that can be imagined. An animated film without a clear cut story can still be quite entertaining. But an animated film without visual expressiveness isn’t anything at all. The very best that a non-visual animated cartoon can aspire to is being an illustrated radio show or a creepy imitation of live action. That isn’t animation.

    Stories are important, but they are just one aspect of animated filmmaking. It’s an aspect that animation shares with books and plays and live action films, so non-animators think it’s more important than imagery, but that isn’t true. The most important aspect of animation is the thing that makes it unique and sets it apart from all other creative mediums- that is the essence of cartooning- caricature and exaggeration.

    Pinocchio is often cited as being the greatest animated feature ever made, yet its story is nothing more than a short setup and payoff at the beginning and end with a bunch of loosely connected episodic stuff inbetween. The reason it works so well isn’t because of the story. It’s because the visual contrasts and beautiful painting and drawing create their own moods and establish their own visual narrative.

    “Story” is overrated.

  • Jorge Garrido
  • Grohl

    If it’s sour grapes, it may be because Bakshi didn’t own his feature films. “Fritz the Cat” grossed over a hundred million bucks to date on a budget of just under 100 thousand dollars (not a bad return by any measure) but Steve Krantz held the copyright, not the guy who made the picture. And if studios today actually decided to make animated movies for a reasonable budget, you can bet the executive tier would remain as grossly overcompensated as they are now.

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

    Most people here who bash Bakshi don’t appear to have ever seen his best films. Bakshi isn’t about rotoscoping. That was a compromise with the devil- the only way to get an animated picture made during the dark ages of the late 70s. His best pictures, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, along with Fritz the Cat totally revolutionized animation. Bakshi was the catalyst that broke the mold and made totally new pictures possible. In the entire history of animation, no one (save perhaps Winsor McCay) singlehandedly and instantaneously took animation in a totally new direction.

    Before Ralph, animation was seen as a medium for talking dogs and princesses. Is there any wonder why he rebels against animation studios that insist on dragging animation back into that tired old routine again?

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

    I’m sure developing a solid fur simulation was a big chunk of change during Monster’s Inc, but now they can apply it to future movies. Same with the water from Nemo, new cameras from Wall-E etc.

    Who cares about fur and water and camera moves?! SAY SOMETHING NEW!

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    HOODWINKED.

  • http://www.nakedfella.com/ David

    Stephen Worth wrote:

    “Animated filmmaking is a visual medium.”
    ““Story” is overrated.”

    and then

    “Who cares about fur and water and camera moves?! SAY SOMETHING NEW!”

    It sounds like contradiction, but I take it to mean that writing and pictures work together to make the best animation. I agree.

    Every part of the visuals in an animation tells a story. Caricature and exaggeration in a character’s movements and expression conveys meaning, but so does beautifully captured water and fur. When done right, it drops audiences deeper into the “world”.

    (not animators, though. It takes animators OUT of the world: “whoa, nice fur”).

    There’s room for ludicrously expensive Pixar movies AND tiny little Bakshis. Unfortunately, there’s also room for “Shark Tale”.

  • Mark Sonntag

    Many a film has been ruined by too much money, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” But let’s not forget how many of us are able to practice our art as a result of the “inflated budgets.”

  • Pedro Nakama

    When budgets go really high people are in danger of losing their jobs. The new James Cameron film “Avatar” is up to $500 million. If it doesn’t make more than that execs will think VFX films aren’t making any money. And they will cancel any future projects. The same goes for animated films.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Lord knows I don’t want to go back to that Steve. I want to see more experimental/originality in my animation than the tired old concepts.

  • Mike Caracappa

    Stephen Worth, I couldn’t agree more with your comments, especially regarding the “Story is King” attitude. I especially think when it comes to animation we miss more of the visual possibilities as well as the other destinations a story can take, whether its linear or more abstract. It reminds me a little of the transition of newspaper comics that were once beautiful, large, and sometimes abstract themselves only to be reduced both in format and content to simple daily gags for the sake of audience demand. Animation seems to be shafted in a similar way, where everything in the story is reduced or more simplified for todays audience, but rarely risks going outside those borders to open new doors.

  • David

    “Bakshi isn’t about rotoscoping. That was a compromise with the devil- the only way to get an animated picture made during the dark ages of the late 70s.”

    —-

    Stephen Worth that’s not the way I remember Bakshi talking about it back then. Ralph was very big on rotoscoping , how it was going to usher in a whole new era of “realism” in animation, getting away from cartoony drawings to instead do “moving illustrations”. I’d have to dig up the old interviews from magazines like Starlog and CineFantastique , but I recall a quote from Ralph along the lines of : “Don’t call me an animator! I hate animation. I do moving illustrations”.

    At the time Ralph Bakshi made it sound like his decision to use Rotoscoping was an artistic choice he preferred , not an economic compromise.

    Does anyone else remember this ? Did I dream this up ?

  • Lucky Jim

    I think part of the point Bakshi’s making is that when you’re spending other people’s money to that amount, you’re making a lot of folks nervous. And if you don’t make back what you’ve spent, not even God can help you.

    Pixar’s been very lucky with their generous budgets, but they’re also very smart. The obscene (future) profits of “Toy Story 3″ and “Cars 2″ let weirder projects like “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” and “Up” exist.

  • AdrianC

    I have to agree with diego C.

    In the next sentence in the interview right after the last one in Amid’s excerpt Bakshi states “I think the Pixar films are great… I don’t care too much for the Shrek stuff. I think that Pixar is the best studio in town. ”

    Her even says this two paragraphs before the previous quote: “Are Pixar films good? Yes, they’re very, very good! All of the guys on them, I trained (laughs)” I know he was joking (or at least partially) but I think he’s sincere about his reception of Pixar’s films.

    Bakshi is not bashing the quality of Pixar’s films. He just seems to find the tendency to spend so much money on these films is generally unnecessary. It’s a valid concern and Pixar is certainly not the only studio to have have questionably huge animation budgets (Dreamworks comes to mind).

    Could Pixar make films just as well as they have been if their budget was much tighter? Most likely, but it’s impossible to know exactly what they would look like.

  • Kate

    Wait, we’re going to slam Pixar for spending every penny of their films budgets wisely, but not a word for the salaries of the “creative execs” who desperately need another Gulfstream IV or a $40,000 watch when they’re just going to be fired for making their movies bomb at the box office within the next two years? If we’re going to have an internet circle jerk wankfest about unnecessary big budgets, let it at least be about wasted money. Pixar delivers. There’s no question about that and I’m not seeing an end of an era anywhere, especially with the receipts from this year’s animated fare. And story is not overrated.

  • Mike Johnson

    In my opinion as a non-industry animation enthusiast (a.k.a. a fan) I think if we are talking about the “art” aspect of animation, insofar as how well the animation is drawn, I really don’t think it has had an appreciable effect. Some of the best-drawn animation has been achieved on tight budgets, and is due primarily to the talent of the animator, regardless of how much money was thrown his or her way. You didn’t have to throw a guy like Bill Tytla a boatload of money to know that you were going to get honest-to-God ART back from him. He took tremendous pride in what he did, and was going to see to it that what you got was as jaw-dropping as could be done. To a good degree, if you want great animation, hire great and passionate animators. Pay them well, of course, but the finished product is only as good as those who produced the drawings, though I do not by any means wish to discount the contribution of the writers, as anyone who is familiar with Pixar’s work can attest.

    I thing what the money provides is primarily the technology to enhance what is being done by the animators. Gilding the lily, so to speak. NO amount of lily-gilding is going to save a bad script or lousy animation, but applied frugally, it can work wonders.

    Sure, the $150 million mentioned by Bakshi can provide a lot of technical assistance, but for me the question is always “does the film need it?” Take Nina Paley’s “Sita Sings the Blues” for example. It is one of the best animated films I have ever seen, and it was done on the cheap compared to anything from Pixar or Disney. More money would not have made it appreciably better in my honest opinion. It is great just as it is, and a big part of that is Nina and the passion of hers that is palpably visible in just about every frame of film. She is proof that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars to create animation that excites and moves people. The only shame about it is the lack of publicity surrounding it. That has killed many great films (The Iron Giant, for example) and it is a real shame that so many great works of animation have been sabotaged by ignorant studio execs who don’t deserve to be in charge of stocking the executive bathrooms with toilet paper, let alone with marketing and publicizing a major film.

    I would love to see animation become more than a rich studio’s product. There are plenty of great animators out there (some of them probably members of this community) who may have exciting new works waiting to be made, but lack the necessary funding or publicity. If only someone could fix that…then I’d be living in a more perfect world, and be better exposed to all of the animation I know must be out there. It’s hard being a fan like me, because I feel I am always rooting for the underdog, instead of cheering for the conquering heroes. Yes, I love Pixar’s films, and even many of Disney’s (though I will never consider a Pixar film a Disney film, no matter how hard Disney tries to convince the masses otherwise) but as films like The Iron Giant show, there is plenty of room for competition, and as Nina Paley showed us, even ONE person with limited funds can produce art that will live as long as anything else out there.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  • Rat

    “The very best that a non-visual animated cartoon can aspire to is being an illustrated radio show or a creepy imitation of live action. That isn’t animation.”

    Case in point: A Christmas Carol. One of the best stories of all time, and word for word true to Dickens in the dialog.

    And yet, completely ass, for reasons related mostly to the visuals.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    I agree with Stephen Worth.
    He is 100% correct about story (and animated fur and water).

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

    @ robcat2075
    “If great animated features can be made for $10 million, where are all the great $10 million animated features?”

    The Triplets Of Belleville, $8 Mil
    Mary and Max, $8 Mil
    The Missing Lynx, $5.6 Mil
    The Secret of Kells, $7.5 Mil

    I’m sure I could find more outside the 2009 Oscar race such as Triplets which have become beloved.

  • http://christiandivine.wordpress.com christian

    Wasn’t CG supposed to make films cheaper? Wha’ happened?

  • http://www.andrewchesworth.blogspot.com Andrew Chesworth

    I think the well-regarded figures at Pixar like Brad Bird and Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton have often cited the word “storytelling” in addition to simply “story”. The difference to me seems to be measured by the personality, pinache, and good measure with which the filmmaker shares his message or tale. For instance, “Grandpa tells this story so much better than Uncle Jim”.

    There’s a reason Pixar too is often promoting their director-driven mentality. Would you rather go on a date with a really engaging individual or an analytical committee? Of course, Pixar films are made by committee in their own way, but their committee mentality fosters and encourages that idea of “here’s something Brad Bird would like to share with you.”

    I think great, dynamic, and visually striking animation is a vital part of that engaging experience. Films with small budgets like Persepolis and The Triplets of Belleville capitalize on this while working within tremendously humble means.

    I think Amid’s right to point out the bubbling budget trend in animation; it at least puts the discussion on the table, and just look at all the terrific feedback it’s cultivated.

  • Kyle Maloney

    When your as successful as Pixar there’s no reason to cut budgets. I could understand if the other studios trying to emulate Pixar were to cut budgets, because their more likely to fail (and often do). But to say Pixar is doing well would be an understatement.

    And obvious its never about the mount of tech or departments you have, its the talent they choose and how well they work together. money alone cant buy that.

  • Dave S

    CG was once predicted as the thing that would make filmmaking supremely cost-effective. The same thing happened with CG that happened to the four day work week that was touted in the 1960′s to legions of unsuspecting school children.

  • Blasko

    Four words: Sita Sings the Blues. My point is that we ought to do a bit less hand-wringing on the future of animation. 2008-2009 have been gorgeous years for animation, with a new infusion of trust in the medium and artists who are willing to take on a wide range of stories, themes and tones. Yes, there’s big bucks flowing through Dreamwaorks and Disney, but this is not diminishing the quality of work we’ve been seeing across the board. Finally, I feel animation’s long walk out of the proverbial cartoon ghetto has led to a better place for both artists and audiences. Let’s not forget to celebrate that, too.

  • jon Hooper

    Just a point of comparison, the original Toy Story was made for a budget of around 25 to 30 million. I think things are definitely getting bloated when it takes 5 to 10 times as much to make pretty much the same thing. It is the same problem that infected 2D during the 90′s, you get a bunch of executives who think that you need 500-800 people to make an animated movie. (Which you do need if you keep changing and fiddling but keep the same deadline).

  • joe

    Don’t forget, The A list actors that usually voice the characters (and do a horrible job) Get paid TOP dollar. This completely bloats the movie’s budget. Now look at your films and count how many A list actors are in 1 animated movie. Over the hedge for example. It was an All star cast of voices. Im willing to bet that If not more 1/2 of a newly animated 3d feature goes to the voice talents of the A-list celebrity. It needs to stop.

  • Rene Ramos

    Sadly, he used another of Hollywood cliches for his movies: Sex & Violence. I own all movies of his, and if you pay attention you can see why they all failed: He was aiming for the shock value, rather than letting the story bring the attention.

    And of course this is a business, investing movey is to make more money, and pulling the current economy doesn’t work, for the entertainment industries will always have a place, people want to relax for real life.

    Of course, he could have aimed at the worst offenders but he decided to bash Pixar, the only animation company that’s making animated film art since Disney was alive.

    Bakshi is a cult legend now, but I think he was like the Zemeckis of his time. Mass producing animation without any effort and get surprised by the bad results that don’t translate into money.

  • Rene Ramos

    I forgot to add that Robert Crumb hated so much what they did to the Fritz The Cat, he killed the character, I got this from wikipedia, but it’s on the filmed interviews also:

    Robert Crumb first saw the film in February 1972, during a visit to Los Angeles in the company of fellow underground cartoonists Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, and Rick Griffin. Crumb disliked the film, saying that he felt that the film was “really a reflection of Ralph Bakshi’s confusion, you know. There’s something real repressed about it. In a way, it’s more twisted than my stuff. It’s really twisted in some kind of weird, unfunny way. [...] I didn’t like that sex attitude in it very much. It’s like real repressed horniness; he’s kind of letting it out compulsively.” Crumb also took issue with the film’s condemnation of the radical left, denouncing Fritz’s dialogue in the final sequences of the film as “red-neck and fascistic” and stating that “They put words into his mouth that I never would have had him say.”

    Had he mentioned Dreamworks I would understand his point to a degree, but Pixar is making history.

  • Giovanni

    There are artists that love realistic renders, and there are those that don’t. There’s the classic European art that is defined by work done with fine brush strokes and beautifully realistic renders, and scuptures that look like they could breathe they look so real (Pieta). When animation attempts to look as real or as fine, alot of people get upset. Are visual effects not art? When something is rendered realistic it requires a very fine artists
    to do it. The computer doesn’t paint and model those images an artists does. There are artist who love to work in such detail, check out Zbushcentral.com. To me it’s just sculpture and painting with a new kind of tool. Those artists at Zbrush love what they are doing. Not all artists see animation as cartoony, but like a fine art painting come to life (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi). I believe realistic renders are art too.

  • http://cheekyentertainment.blogspot.com Craig Clark

    As I read closely, I see Ralph is indeed a fan of the Pixar films. It’s very hard not to be. It’s just the financials are very steep to play in that neighborhood. One of Ralph’s most recent Indy projects that he was trying to get off the ground was “The Last Days of Coney Island”, using a small Toon Boom team. Also in the mix somewhere was “Wizards 2” at one of the major studios.

    Bill Plympton, Phil Nebblink, Nina Paley have proved that it is possible to get your features on the screen for under a million. In live-action I’m reminded of Robert Rodriguez’s $7000 “El Mariachi” feature, and Darren Aronofsky’s $60,000 feature “Pi” which grossed $3.2 million. The most cost effective cog in the whole machine is still a good story.

  • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

    I kinda agree with Bakshi. I am not a big fan of his work, though I admit I haven’t watched a lot of his films, but one thing is his opinion and other thing is his work, he could be completely right about thing even if his movies were terrible (I don’t think they are, but they’re mostly mediocre IMHO). Like others have said, though, it’s Pixar’s money, so they can do whatever they want with it.

    Money is needed in CGI, cause cheap CGI looks especially awful, but I don’t think fur or textures have to be realistic to make the film better. Character designs have to be appealing and expressive and move fluidly.

    I don’t know if I agree with Stephen Worth. On one hand I am really tired about everybody, including Pixar, talking about storytelling. To me story and characters are important, as well as entertainment and good pacing. But this “storytelling” mantra usually means that all the scenes you have in the movie serve mostly to tell the story, something I don’t quite agree with. In fact I get quite infuriated when I watch the dvds and I see some deleted scenes that were very funny or entertaining but they didn’t get to the final movie cause “they didn’t serve to the story”. Like the “Duck and cover” song from Iron Giant. We only see a small part of a very funny clip that you can find in the special edition dvd. I’d like to see the whole song in the movie. I don’t think it would distract me from the story so much. The Simpsons use this kind of sketches all the time (like Itchy and Scratchy, for example) and they contribute to the entertainment.

    One of my fave animated films of all time is “Three Caballeros” which is a combination of musical numbers that hardly tells a story at all. But they are beautiful to look at, they are entertaining and the characters and gags are funny. The movie is “well-written” in a way, cause the characters and their interactions are spontaneous and interesting, but it doesn’t have the classic plot structure, and it doesn’t need to have it. Same thing could be said about Sita Sings the Blues, in a way.

    But , on the other hand, I have seen films that have poor visuals that work because of the story. I actually enjoyed Hoodwinked, despite of its awful visuals. I thought the characters, structure and gags were quite more clever than Shrek’s. Another film that I really liked is Sout h Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. I’m not even a big fan of the series but I thought the movie was brilliant, especially in its musical moments.

    So maybe story is not king, but having likeable characters and funny gags is the most important thing to me. Good, expressive animation is the nex thing. Story points and realistic backgrounds are optional, not really needed.

  • Ethan

    Whatever happened to the idea that animation is about bringing characters to life ?

    It’s been said over and over for years by the same select few people in the industry. It all started the moment some influential story artists started saying publicly it’s all about the story and now it’s going as far as “the work of every other artist is overrated” or something.

    We need both the high budget stuff and the small independent films. They are not mutually exclusive, an artist will have to decide which approach will work for the film he/she wants to do. You WILL have to compromise “something” either way.

    Wasting money by an inefficient pipeline, or an attention to details that doesn’t help the film, are completely different matters.

    I don’t perceive Ralph Bakshi intended to talk about “for” or “against” Pixar. I think it was a mistake to name a studio, it caused some people to stop thinking rationally :)

  • Scott

    ” you have to admit that he is a model for anyone who wants to make important animated picture”

    And don’t confuse “important” with “good.”

  • http://jodimationindustries.blogspot.com Jodie Hudson

    I have a legitimate question if anyone has the answer to it. How did Triplettes of Bellville get made for 8 million dollars. Like a breakdown of the budget. This isn’t a call for Pixar films to be made at that budget, I really have been trying to figure out how they did that.

  • http://[email protected] paburrows

    I somewhat agree with him about whats produced by most of the studios and their high budgets, but I think that he’s justfull of envy with Pixar. I haven’t really heard of anything good that he’s produced in years.

  • diego

    Oh my god, I can’t stand Stephen Worth comments – even when he’s right (I agree with him most of the time, I must say) – but its just that his way to communicate his ideas doesn’t work for me. And the people who go against him, answering his comments with anger and without acknowledgment of anything, those are the ones who really drive me nuts, — and their silly comments provide more Stephen Worth comments: its a vicious circle.

    “Fans don’t know what Bakshi is talking about. Animators do.”

    Isn’t that a little disrespective? I’m a animation student, so I don’t feel personally insulted, but I really really hate his “I’m the king of animation acknowledgment” approach: that’s no way to discuss. So fans just don’t know, eh? Is that an argument?

  • Scott

    “Fans don’t know what Bakshi is talking about. Animators do”

    Who cares? What about the audience? Film is about communicating to an audience. Bakshi’s ideas are far more interesting than his execution, and his poor execution more often than not undercuts communicating his ideas to the audience. This has nothing to do with budgets, just Bakshi’s lack of artistic discipline.

  • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

    I think if Mr. Bakshi doesn’t like big budgets for animations, he should try drawing something and putting it on YouTube for us to watch. Until he does that, his comments on film are utterly and completely meaningless.

    Some people spend to much on haircuts. So what?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ariville Sketchees

    Money never equals quality. Some Pixar movies are nice, some not. They can get away with spending that kinda of money cause they’ll always be an audience who’ll dish out money to see it. Pixar is a business, nothing else.

  • Donald C

    Considering the better of Bakshi’s works have less than favorable animation and overall presentation, I wouldn’t take his critique all too seriously.

  • troy joseph reyes

    first i have ti admit that i didnt read all the comments above,time constraints, so im sure iam not saying anything original, but in my humble non professional opinion, its not the money, small or grandiose, that makes the movie or the animated feature.its the idea, the vision, the concept, the story, the talent to put it together. this argument will go on forever with no resolution.when the film maker has respect for his audience, believes that they dont need to be spoon fed with special effects, believes the story stands on its own, budget or no budget, then and only then will greatness be achieved.

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

    The job of a fan is to appreciate entertainment. The job of a filmmaker is to know how to create it. Nowadays in interviews Ralph almost always speaks directly to the artists in the crowd. He’s not selling anything, so he doesn’t have to pitch the fans. It’s more important to see that cartoons survive. Only animators can take responsibility for that.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Kah-Mawn!
    We complain when its low budget, complain when it’s high budget! Sheesh! BTW, the results of a pixar film are hardly examples of money badly spent. Ralph Bakshi, whom I admire, is making the assumption money is wasted. His statement would work better if he used another studio.
    Sure: smaller budgets will keep corporate meddling away and satisfaction for the auteur. Doesn’t guarantee entertaining entertainment.

  • Ethan

    “The job of a fan is to appreciate entertainment.”

    Please excuse my sarcasm and cynicism: Ladies and gentlemen, you fans cannot appreciate art. You can only appreciate “entertainment”. You cannot understand the creative process, only true animators can. You fans are only asked to pay your ticket and shut up.

    “It’s more important to see that cartoons survive. Only animators can take responsibility for that.”

    How? with a university grant ?

    What about with fans making word-of-mouth to improve the box office of the smaller productions that aren’t the usual consumerism crap ? Animators talking only to each others and ditching the fans from the asifa won’t do much to improve revenues of the better films.

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

    You’re setting up straw men Ethan. Feel free to substitute “art” for “entertainment” in my comment if you want. It’s the same thing.

    Animators take responsibility for the survival of cartoons by making them. No amount of fan support will save cartoons if animators forget how to exploit their medium. Ralph is great at calling out what is wrong with how cartoonists are thinking about the films they make. The problems he is pointing out are not the responsibility of fans to fix. It’s up to filmmakers to address and correct them.

  • Scott

    “Ralph is great at calling out what is wrong with how cartoonists are thinking about the films they make…It’s up to filmmakers to address and correct them.”

    Hardly. Not everyone (and I’d say MOST everyone) doesn’t agree with ANYthing Bakshi has to say. His opinions are no more or less valid than anyone elses. Bakshi’s films hasn’t garnered him a wide following, and Bakshi’s personal habits haven’t impressed many who’ve worked with him. Frankly, he gets about as much respect as he deserves.

    I happen to like some of his work, prior to 1980. Everything else sense is pure crap.

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

    Have you worked for Bakshi, Scott? I have. He certainly impressed me and the people I worked alongside. Bakshi is a giant in the business, and few have done more to change the face of animation. I’m not alone in saying that.

  • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

    Well, there are good.helpful limitations and there are bad ones that stifle creativity and harm the end product. The trouble is, it isn’t all that easy to tell which is which.

    Though I am not a big fan of Bakshi, I do think he has a point, to some degree. Sometimes having some kind of limitations – be it limited time, limited budget, limited technology, or what have you – can force filmmakers to be creative in ways they may not have if they had unlimited resources at their disposal. But there is no guarantee that certain limitations will produce better work. Would “Up” or “Shrek the Third” or “Ice Age 3″ have necessarily been better if they had been finished six months sooner? Cost $10 million less to make? Been 15 minutes shorter? I think we’ve all got our favorite animators and studios and while we may be generally in favor of putting some kind of limits on a production, when it comes to those favorite creators, we want them to have as much time and money and freedom as they need to make their vision happen.

    There are a lot of concerns that prevent the shoestring budget animated feature from coming back. Computer animation is still pretty expensive and in some cases, the end result of all that time and money really is justified. While I think computer animation can survive on good story, there is a certain expectation of visual quality and if you don’t have the money to make your textures look right, well, that’s where you really have to get creative in making sure your film still works in spite of that. I think a lot of money could be saved if studios would start using real voice actors more often instead of big name face actors, but I’m afraid that’s unlikely to happen. But in some ways, technology has made it more possible than ever for someone to produce animation without a studio and get it to a wide audience. The trick, and this is not a new development, is that you either have to make some sacrifices in your life or be willing to work on the project for a very long time, because animating on a shoestring budget doesn’t pay well, if ever.

    A related question: Do you think Richard Williams would have been better off making some compromises in order to get a not perfect ut closer to his vision version of”The Thief and the Cobbler” into theaters? Or is he one of those people who gets to take all the time he wants?

  • Scott

    Yes. I have. And most would agree with me. Beyond that, you’re uncritical praise of him is ridiculous. End of my commentary.

  • Sylvain

    Yeah. He wants to ‘fix’ the industry as if animation is a global collective.

    Every year, I see plenty of productions with all kind of budgets, all range of quality, artistic value, entertainment value, some with new things, some rehash ideas, adaptations, everything. What I don’t see is a Bakshi production anywhere to be found.

    Art and entertainment are two different things, in this kind of discussion they are intuitively taken in opposition. Saying ones only job is to appreciate entertainment is quite insulting, in your context. Ok, then I say ‘appreciate’ and ‘critique’ are the same things.

    So you were saying it is the fans job to critique art ?

  • Tom Pope

    Ralph Bakshi is one of VERY few “household names” left in the animation world and there will be few of those to follow. My first job in the business was Cool World in 88. A great film? No. But the opportunity to work for a legend in this business, right out of the gate? A thrill.

  • Mike Caracappa

    Im still with Stephen Worth. Its quite fascinating to see here how the quality of an artist is measured by whether or not they were sucessful in the mainstream. Bakshi isn’t everyones cup of tea, but when top proffesionals like Andrew Stanton and John K. understand the value of his teachings, his word deserves merit for any artist. And as for the guys here arguing about whether or not the audience is looking for art or entertainment, the answer is the average audience member doesn’t give a shit as long as they got their moneys worth and are entertained. Whether or not they love it to peices or get something out of it is their own business. The first priority any audience member is looking for (including artists and animators) is entertainment. So stop knocking Stephen about it already.

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

    Sylvain, my point was simple- Fans don’t need to know how a film is made or how much it cost or where the money was spent. They just look at the end product and decide whether they like it. But filmmakers need to be aware of all of this and in control of how their films are made. Bakshi is speaking filmmaker to filmmaker here about issues that concern filmmakers. That isn’t an insult to fans and it isn’t Pixar bashing.

  • diego

    “No amount of fan support will save cartoons if animators forget how to exploit their medium.”

    Stephen, that doesn’t mean that the fans don’t know what Bakshi is talking about (as you said before). Maybe some of them don’t, maybe most of them, but what you stated was the anti-argument by excellence, in fact: was just an insult.

    Okay, animators are more important to animation than fans, but that doesn’t justifies your “Fans don’t know what Bakshi is talking about. Animators do” statement.

    I love Ralph Bakshi and his movies and I agree with him, and with you, but stop bullying people around with your opinions.

  • Sylvain

    I fail to understand how you guys can possibly use the words animator and filmmaker interchangeably, but what do I know, I just a VFX guy.

    Many of the best animated films I’ve seen have been from filmmakers who don’t know much about animation, they unknowingly pushed the art further because they didn’t have that preconceived notion of how an animated film should be made, animation was just a tool. It’s up to the rest of the team to optimize the pipeline, make suggestions, and avoid wasting cash.

    I also can’t believe all the appeal-to-authority fallacies here.

  • Cameron

    “‘Story’ is overrated.”

    I disagree Stephen. Good animation IS story. What you’re talking about is narrative.

    It’s not hard to find a good narrative. They’ve all been told. Find an old novel and switch things around. BOOM! Instant plot.

    But it isn’t worth anything without a visual perspective on the world and a gut-knack for timing, movement, and editing. Hell, you could create a pastiche of other works, but if the soul behind it is uniquely yours then it’ll work anyway.

    Astro Boy’s narrative is cobbled together from Tezuka’s love of Fleischer, Disney, and science-fiction. But you take his own personal life experience and you’ve got a shockingly moving story about prejudice and the search for family behind all the comical action mayhem.

    That CGI adaptation kept many of the elements that made Astro Boy work. It’s a solid narrative. But the guts are GONE.

    Pixar, I think, avoids the problems a big budget studio usually falls prey to. This is because Steve Jobbs protected the artists. Execs stick their noses in, but Pixar gets a project with vision and sincerity out no matter what. Disney and Dreamworks aren’t so lucky. Ghibli is very lucky, as are Madhouse and Production IG. Mega-corporation Toei is not lucky, a few works of art from WAY back in the day aside.

    Studio animation is as valid as the Ralph Bakshis and the Bill Plymptons of this world, but there are some driven by the almighty dollar and others legitimately committed to quality work. We don’t need to bury studio animation. What we need is to support those studios that know what makes good story is good work from its artists that help to tell said story.

    It is that human element and the ability to recognize it that divides the geniuses from the hacks.

  • Sylvain

    Stephen,
    Reading some posts above forces me to fully agree with you about fans.
    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • david

    Studio animation has been hitting a brick wall for a LONG time and churning out the same stuff over and over again.

    it’s up to the artists to put the ART in cARToons. not a studio.

    as long as there are major actors attached and a godawful cheezy randy newman soundtracks we will keep seeing the same old same old.

  • RCC

    “‘Story’ is overrated,” says Stephen Worth. About what I expect from a man who has frequently exalted the aimless, rambling “Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon” as an ideal to strive for.

    David (earlier): It IS a contradiction. Worth will gladly permit the creators he likes—often but not always, acolytes of Terry, Clampett, Bakshi, and Kricfalusi—to wallow in visual detail at the expense of plot, clarity, and characterization. Should a Pixar or Disney film exhibit the exact same tendency, however, Worth will hold it up as an example of missing the forest for the trees.
    Essentially, Worth will let you break his rules if he likes you; otherwise you get paternalism and the whip. How different, in practice, does this make him from any other suit? He knows far more about animation than many, but he functions no differently.

    David (later): You’re not dreaming. Bakshi raved about rotoscoping during the making of Lord of the Rings and treated traditional animation with condescension. He’s gone through phases, like many artists. I think that’s a good thing.
    I value some of Bakshi’s films as standouts of the form. “Heavy Traffic” is as personal and beautiful a film as the medium has ever hosted. (Yes, I said beautiful; despite the film’s bawdiness, it is an deep and fascinating portrait of humanity.) And Bakshi’s “Mighty Mouse” TV shorts include some of the greatest cultural parodies I’ve seen.

    Unfortunately, Bakshi — like Kricfalusi — is represented badly by Worth, who does tremendous damage to the man in an effort to exalt him; talking down to others on his behalf and bashing third parties for not getting exactly what Worth does out of their oeuvre.
    At least Bakshi and Kricfalusi have shown the ability to grow and change over time.

  • http://www.hunteachother.com Max W.

    I agree with Bakshi and his sentiments. Why not split that $150 million into five $30 million segments and try five “new” ideas? Get something new and fresh possibly. Better yet, why not ten $15 million segments? I’m looking forward to the day when that will happen.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    Sylvain – there’s a world of difference between being an animator and being a film maker.
    It like the difference between an actor and a director.
    Some of us are good at both but it’s not a given.

  • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

    I tend to use “filmmaker” as a more generic term for someone who is involved with the making of film. If I say “animators,” that refers only to the people doing the actual animation. “Filmmakers” includes the story artists, model builders, the guys who make textures for CG, the guys responsible for the lighting, the directors, and whoever else might be involved. I don’t see it as using them interchangeably.

  • Ethan

    In a large production, I use the term filmmaker for the creators in a position to decide what needs to be done to achieve the goals, i.e. those with the initial vision for the project. That’s the writers and the director. not the animators, texturers, lighters, or even concept artists. To avoid ambiguity I name them the “writers and directors”. However in a small production, the filmmakers end up being everyone involved, specially the animators.

    (Stephen, I think I lost my temper earlier, sorry about that)

  • Rextherunt

    I think there’s a lot of confusion here. Art isn’t simply craft. Animation isn’t simply American feature films. There’s a million individual visions to be found outside the narrow viewing habits of, what appears to be, the majority of fans on Brew. Unfettered creativity doesn’t always make for a better viewing experience . Things go wrong even in those big Pixar movies (everyone I’ve met whose seen Up says they cried in the first ten minutes, then spent the rest of the fim wondering how the explorer was able to make a thing that made dogs talk when he wasn’t set up as an inventor? Self indulgence/full creative freedom doesn’t always make a better film or Tv series. Twenty minute eps of Ren and Stimpy feel tedious, compared to their leaner prequals, and even Sita Sings The Blues could have lost a few songs! Bakshi might be impotant (in America) but if his films really connected with people they’d still be regularly screened today.

  • http://www.ianemes.com Ian Emes

    I’m sorry guys, I don’t see more sharpness and more detail as progress. At first I was beguiled by Pixar, but it’s worn off. Those guys are geniuses, and I admire them so much, but progress to me is about reinventing the visual language, not sharpening it up. Cezanne made progress, just with oil paint. He found a new way of presenting reality. He invented abstraction. Look at the surrealists. That was a huge step forward, a new way of seeing the world. That’s progress. For me, progress is about being given a new insight, not how many pixels can be pumped into an image. Tarkovsky made progress, Kubrick, Lynch. Technique alone and more and more impressive visuals does not amount to a new way of seeing things. The Pixar guys are super incredible, but has the content of their films, in terms of ways of seeing, really moved forward from 40 years ago? They are exercising a marvelous craft, learning from history, but they are serving a commercial, public demand and they are not free to be completely irreverent. I believe only irreverence and experiment will yield real surprises. I am always impressed by CGI but as yet – no revelation.

  • BT

    Is there some problem with having gorgeous, lushly produced great movies by Pixar and ALSO having low budget independent movies? You know, like we have now? Personally I like both.

  • Rooneytoon

    Yeah, I totally DISAGREE with this. While I love art just as much as the next person, what do you think cutting budgets is going to do? It’s going to cause studios to pay their employees less money and to not be able to invest in technologies (that help artists continue to express their creativity) and buildings where the artists work. Do you really think everyone is going to get to keep their salaries? I have worked at studios that need to be “creative” because the funds aren’t their, and have found amazing solutions, but cash strapping a studio is not the answer to force people to be expand their creativity. You can still do this and be properly funded.

    The true method of forcing new styles (i.e. computer animation in general) is when audience’s refuse to pay for the current product (2D animation in the late 90′s). Not to mention people know when they are being sold something that is cheap (or was cheap to make) and know when they are not getting their money’s worth. Some of the less expensive styles of animation are more suited to short films, tv shows, you tube videos….or things that are free to the public but paid for by advertisers.

  • cogspa

    I agree with Ian. You can pay more and more money to make digital grass as perfect as possible. What you can’t buy is imagination and innovation. All the digital stuff looks beautiful but everything looks the same.

    Company A may look better than Company B, but stylistic they look they look more alike than different.

    Reminds me of the trendy kids in High School. Sure, they all look cool, and everyone wants to be their friends, but they all look like similair and eventually become unexciting.

    Story should supercede looks anyways. A good story told be a stick figure is better than a bad story told by a perfectly rendered hedge hog. And if good and bad stories are being told by perfectly rendered hedge hogs, I might want to find a stick figure.

  • Gio Renna

    It really is heart breaking to look at the at all the 0′s involved in the budget of big studio films, but (at least in the case of some studios) the difference those 0′s make really shows.

  • Ethan

    What do you all think is the ceiling budget beyond which there’s no more difference in the visuals, assuming a great efficiency, and great talented people ?

    1 year or more preprod with a dozen masterminds.
    2 years full production with 200 employees.
    a generous 100000/year average salaries.
    another 10 millions for additional operating costs, amortizations, rent, etc..

    That’s about 50 millions, and that’s my wild guess answer. Going beyond 200 employees on a single 2 years production, you better have one incredibly well oiled pipeline (pun intended).

    Once you give a whole month to an animator for a single shot, you won’t get anything better by giving 2 or 3 months.

    Now we’re talking about 180 millions for WallE, even 150 millions for something like Bolt. Where oh where did all that money go ? My guess is Publicity. I simply do not believe these film cost over 150 million –to produce–.

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    @ taper dunipace

    The Triplets Of Belleville, $8 Mil
    Mary and Max, $8 Mil
    The Missing Lynx, $5.6 Mil
    The Secret of Kells, $7.5 Mil

    Of those four I’ve seen Triplets and while enjoyable I couldn’t rank it as “great”. They got their $8 mil worth. For most audiences it was impossibly slow.

    The Kells trailer made it seem to be just another boy on a magic quest movie, so no “great” there based on that.

    In general I still haven’t seen an example of a GREAT $10 mill movie.

    American artists need to eat and pay the rent. I don’t think you can do it here for $10 million.

  • Andy

    Steven Worth: “The job of a fan is to appreciate entertainment. The job of a filmmaker is to know how to create it. ” Well now, that’s just a teeny bit patronizing, isn’t it? You say that as if the two are mutually exclusive, which they are not.

    Worth will probably order a fatwa on me for saying this, but Bakshi is the most overrated “animation legend” alive. He’s a great artist and designer, but he is a crappy writer and director. His misses outnumber his hits. For every “New Adventures of Mighty Mouse” there’s a “Nudnik”. Of his features, only “Heavy Traffic” and maybe “Hey, Good Lookin’” are any good. I had fond memories of “Wizards” but caught it recently on FOX Movie Channel and while in the 70′s it was pretty cool, it has not aged well.

    That said, “Has all that money really made animation any better?” Money is nothing more than a tool. You can spend $150 million dipping a dog-turd in 24 karat gold, put it on a platter of the finest silver, hire a 200 piece orchestra and as many Hollywood stars as you can to announce that it is the greatest dog-turd in the history of the world and it’s still a turd. It’s not how much money is spent, it’s what you do with it. Captain Obvious over and out.

  • skyman

    umm, did any of you people attacking Ralph see Cars? I’m afraid neither it’s cultural value, or yeah, it’s entertainment value, hold a candle to Coonskin. Ralph had some big fucking balls, the kind of balls that you have to leave at the door when the budget for a project is the same as the gross economy for a small country. Is it that hard to understand? Do you people really think that Pixar is daring? On one hand we have caricature, on the other we have idealization… Do you really think the average family has a deep thematic connection to the incredibles? Yeah right, You keep watching your kid’s cartoons kids, I’m going to keep plotting to make art move and speak twisting truths that render people unable to self-deceive… I might spend my life trying and fail, but at least I won’t spend it drooling at a bunch of fucking dogs flying airplanes. Enjoy your underwear clad superheros, i’m gonna go read the fabulous furry freak brothers. nerds

  • skyman

    If you still don’t get it, try this-
    Imagine a pixar cartoon with…….

    BOOOOBS in it

  • Sylvain

    “With everything that’s happened to this country, where do we come off spending that kind of money?”

    I’m confused. Is he talking about his inability to make money, or about the United States economy here ?

    Someone should tell him that every single one of those high budget animated films (disney, sony, fox, dreamworks) brought hundreds of millions in foreign box office revenue into your country, in addition to the hundreds of millions inside the country both helping your economy and giving jobs to many thousands of artists.

    That money isn’t spent on an ultra expensive machine that creates an instant dinosaur when you press the “dinosaur” button.

  • Sylvain

    It’s fascinatingly cool how this degenerated into a “Pixar” versus “Bakshi” discussion, while the article wasn’t at all about this opposition.

  • Sylvain

    Oh my god I just realized we can say fuck without being moderated down, I’m going to use it all the time now, it’s my absolutely favorite way of expressing myself !! Such a versatile minimalist and multi-purpose word.

  • Lippy

    I was playing a little game with myself and the Brew-Masters– I was trying to figure out WHERE the link –”aesthetic and conceptual eyesores.” would take me..

    I BRUISED my BRAIN thinking all of the horrible animated garbage that’s been produced in the past 15 years.. all to wind up at the Sultan of Brunei’s private Jet??!!? WTF?

    I’m not stoned, am I?

  • ZigZag

    The budget for Iron Giant was $48 million.

    It will forever be one of the greatest animated films of all time.

    Bakshi is right.

  • A fabulous furry geek brother

    Oh, you let me down Skyman. I was right with you on the making of art that moves and the speaking of uncomfortable truths, until it turned out all you really wanted to do was see some wobbly toon titties.

  • skyman

    just trying to make a point, it’d be pretty inconceivable right?

  • http://www.sexymecha.com Hal

    Say what you can do defend Bakshi and John K, but both of their heydays were sullied by numerous second chances squandered. For all his talks about budgets, plenty of filmmakers reinvent themselves on low budget projects. Maybe John K should go the way of David Lynch and put his money where his mouth is instead of lamenting the lack of a fraction UP’s budget. Big companies need lots of people to manage the process, especially IT intensive studios. Pipelines require management to run smoothly, and PIXAR seems to pay all its employees a good wage and result in a dedicated staff. Plus, PIXAR, Dreamworks, Sony Animation- they are able to hire ANIMATORS in the US on features. Most $30 million or less productions farm out to other countries, be they Canada, Korea or China. If John K can pull off a feature of quality for a lower budget and keep his staff on board for a second I’ll start listening to his discussions. As it stands – what has he contributed to the body of modern animation since a Yogi Bear short, a great dildo money shot with a cat and a lame kids show? Not much besides perpetuating his own style in young animators who still buy into talk and little to show for it. Pixar may be the consummate mainstream animation studio, but that means something these days and their production process is anything but consistent stylistically to result in their finished product.

  • Ethan

    120 comments for a snippet of interview, while the interview itself has only 7 comments. This has to be a record or something, A sociologist somewhere should to do a study and explain why we enjoy controversy so much :-)