varietylogo1 varietylogo1

Variety Attempts to Identify Future Cartoon Talent


Last Thursday, Variety published a list called “Tomorrow’s toon talent: 10 animators poised to become household names” and it was an embarrassing revelation of how far behind the times they are in covering the animation field. Don’t get me wrong, the people on the list are wonderful, but they are not tomorrow’s talent, they are today’s. Most of them are already established names (as well established as anybody can be in our field), and some of them have been around for years. And with the exception of the two feature directors, all have appeared on Cartoon Brew.

Arthur de Pins? “Here’s a name to start watching closely,” I wrote on June 30, 2004.

Pendleton Ward? “Pen Ward is a great new talent,” Jerry wrote on January 11, 2007.

David OReilly? Cartoon Brew was the first web site ever to write about any of his projects, back in March 2007 when I didn’t even know his name.

Michael Langan? His short Doxology was the premier short on Cartoon Brew TV.

Stephen Neary? First appeared on Cartoon Brew in November 2008.

The biggest headscratcher is the inclusion of Teddy Newton. I profiled him in Animation Blast #8 way back in 2002 (yes, eight years ago) and when I wrote that piece, he was already considered one of the most original talents in the mainstream industry.

Other inclusions on Variety‘s list are less about pointing out new talent than jumping on the bandwagon of projects that have been popular recently, like Patrick Jean’s Pixels, which was on the Brew on April 8 and Headless Studio, which appeared here on May 4.

It might be more understandable if this Variety article was the work of a single reporter who was overextended and on deadline. But they credit their findings to the “Variety staff” and list four people at the end of the piece. In other words, an entire braintrust of Variety staffers worked on this together and they still couldn’t come up with a single up-and-coming talent.

Variety‘s list is symptomatic of the animation industry’s weaknesses. Executives on the development side are unable to identify original talent using their own eyes and reasoning because they are too uneducated about the art form. They have no sense of history to understand what has preceded them, and no understanding of the art form’s possibilities to be able to predict its future. So they rely on others to tell them what or who is currently popular. The result is that they’re usually years behind in uncovering trends and artists. Conversely, when I look to some of the more prominent artist-run studios like Augenblick, JibJab and Titmouse, that’s where I find the young and fresh talents who will lead this art form into the future.

Jerry and I don’t publish silly lists like Variety, but we take our work far more seriously than those who claim they are identifying new talent. We pore through countless submissions, speak to artists, attend events, and actively scour the web to identify the future of this art form. Case in point: yesterday I posted the student short Mars! on Cartoon Brew. Prior to my post, it had had a grand total of 3 views in the eleven days since its appearance online. In less than twenty-four hours since appearing on the Brew, it’s gained ten thousand views and is starting to go viral. For those looking for a real taste of tomorrow’s animation talent, tune in to our Cartoon Brew TV Student Film Festival beginning next week.

  • Larry

    I don’t know what you’re so upset about, Amid. Nowhere in the article does it say they’re up-and-comers. In fact, it just says they’re not yet HOUSEHOLD NAMES, which is totally correct by anyone’s standards. They’re not yet John Lasseter, or Brad Bird, or Chuck Jones.

    I find it almost embarrassing that you have to pat yourself on the back for finding them first — you and Jerry run an animation blog, and are animation scholars. Of course you know who they are. Now, if you HADN’T written about them first, that would be a newsworthy article worth writing.

    Bottom line: it’s always great to see animation talent get recognized in mainstream media. Why the hate?

  • FP

    There’s a little studio called PIXAR you may want to watch…

  • Mark

    There’s not a name on the list poised to become anything other than a name in the small bubble that is the world of animation. Period. Love their work, but “house hold names?” Nah.

  • Nice to see de Pins is still out there, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him do anything animated.

  • VinceP

    I would love it if more skilled animators were household names. That would be awesome.

    I think the solution is for variety to do an article on cartoonbrew.

  • I’m with Mark here.
    These guys are all talented and no doubt lovely people, but household names???
    I don’t know a single animator that’s a household name, except maybe Walt Disney and that’s kind of an exception.
    It’s like a list of the next 10 archeologists to become household names, or the next 10 upholsterers or the next 10 apiarists.

  • de

    Will Animators ever really be household names?

    As part of the animation community/industry, I’m always happy to see animated works and animation artists featured in the mainstream media because the truth is we get very little respect for the work that we do.

    So is the media coverage in Variety good for us in the animation community? I believe so. As limited as it is I’m happy that it’s very positive and actually quite optimistic.

  • Hal

    I forget who said it best… “Overnight success comes from years of hard work.” Any chance for more animation talent to become “names” in Hollywood is a good thing if they want the kind of ridiculous resources major studio money can provide.

  • “Why this Winsor McCay is onto something with his ALIVE illustrations of prehistoric tomfoolery!”

  • Trevor

    I fail to see the problem with a mainstream newspaper writing an article on animation, especially one that isn’t focused on only major studios and box office figures

  • There are several books with comics, ilustrations and about Arthur de Pins. Looks like he was part in french/disney ‘kind of magic’ or someone who imitates him.

    Cartoon Brew climbed on our head with Adventure Time and now there is no household for Pen Ward.

  • Dave O.

    Mainstream journalism has many faults of which includes the failure to get all the relevant viewpoints of multifacted subject matter. Aside from investigative journalism, its impossible for staff writers to immerse themselves adequately enough on a topic while working on a deadline. These faults are exposed when a feature article by a trade publication treads on the territory of experts (that would be you).

    Your point is a valid one Amid, but I agree with the first commenter in this thread that your negative energy might be a tad misplaced. What is the harm if these animators get a little exposure in a trade publication? Your listing of accomplishments in this context seems a little like self-aggrandizing and sour grapes that Variety didn’t contact you directly for this article. Maybe you just need to hand out more business cards at mixers? :)

  • Gregory Bernard

    So, does that mean you own these people Amid? Surely, any interest in their careers comes directly from your little website here, right?

    Not for the first time, I ask that you somehow find it in you to get over yourself.

  • Tim Hodge

    No body gets into animation with the goal of becoming rich and famous, or becoming a household name. Most of us got into because we couldn’t believe someone was willing to pay us to do what we love.

    Most average TV watchers could not name a single animator any more than they could name a writer. Anyone could tell you who starred in “Raiders if the Lost Ark”, who directed it, and who composed the score. But the average moviegoer would draw a blank as to who wrote the screenplay. The same goes for “Nightmare Before Christmas”; people know of Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman, and Chris Sarandon, and maybe Henry Sellick, but have no idea who actually made the characters live and breath on screen.

    In the world of animation, people know the names Walt Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, possibly Katzenberg and Lasseter. The people who know animators’ names are the kids destined to grow up and become animators themselves.

  • amid

    Dave O.: The harm is is that Variety is claiming they are identifying future talent when in fact they are identifying contemporary artists. Teddy Newton has been working at feature studios like Disney, WB and Pixar for nearly 15 years and he just directed a short at Pixar. David OReilly is one of the most popular and winningest filmmakers on the festival circuit right now. These guys have already made it in their own ways and they aren’t future talent, which is why I pointed out that we’ve covered all of these filmmakers ages ago.

    If you’re going to publish an article claiming to identify “tomorrow’s” talent, then you should do your homework and actually deliver on that promise instead of half-assing a list of currently popular artists.

  • Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth were hardly new to animation when their first features came out, though the press certainly made it seem like it. John K. had been working in the field for 12 years before Ren & Stimpy got popular mainstream. Brad Bird spent even longer before he was recognized beyond the tight-knit animation community. The article just reflects the way it’s worked for a long time.

    The heart of your argument seems to be that mainstream journalism needs more consistent and active trumpeters for the art, which I completely agree with, but the way you’ve presented it here seems a little masturbatory with the links to your own material, so it’s turned some readers, who probably agree with you, off.

  • david

    who reads variety? and who cares?

  • pizzaforeveryone

    please understand that I need this to justify to my parents that what I’m doing is a reasonable career choice.

  • Jeffers

    Adventure Time has been on TV for a couple months now. I stayed out of the previous discussion in order to give myself time to try and adjust to the show’s “unique” style and writing. I still have the same thoughts about it as when the show first appeared on the Brew. Mainly WTF?! I’ve really tried, but I still see very little if any artistic merit to the show. Same thing goes for the upcoming “Bob’s Burgers” for Fox.

  • Isaac

    You should have simply congratulated Variety for dealing with cartoons and animation in the first place, Amid. Your post comes off as out of touch and condescending, as if you have something against Variety for having the audacity to publish a list of animators. Worse yet, it seems to be an excuse to insert some anti-executive propaganda.

    An article about animators from a popular, successful, household-name magazine should be welcomed, not attacked.

  • Stephan

    No one in Hollywood reads Cartoon Brew to look for Entertainment News. They read Variety. Pen Ward’s paycheck just got bigger. The negativity can only be poisonous to animation’s image.

  • Jody

    Good lord, Amid. You sound like one of those annoying hipsters who makes fun of people for liking a band that THEY have liked since before they had a record deal.

    Nowhere in this “article” does Variety claim to have discovered these people. In fact, most of the blurbs point out that they have been working for years. The only thing wrong with it is the title (“Tomorrow’s Toon Talent”) which was undoubtedly written by some editor simply because it was catchy.

    What exactly are you complaining about here? That studio execs rely on people who know more about animation than they do to pick who will direct their big-budget features? Goodness, how irresponsible of them! Perhaps instead of heading major corporations they should spend all day reading your blog and watching old Merrie Melodies cartoons until they reach an Amid-approved level of coolness.

  • condescending, as if you have something against Variety for having the audacity to publish a list of animators descending, as if you have something against Variety for having the audacity to publish a list of animators

  • it exactly are you complaining about studio execs reply every body animation than they do to pick them perhaps instead of heading major corporation they should.