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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.