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One Big Happy Animation Blogosphere

Group Hug

In light of some amusing controversy over a recent entry, I thought it would be an appropriate time to point towards this blog post, entitled “One Big Happy Blogosphere,” by indie animator Tim Rauch. In it, he raises some worthwhile questions about the role of blogs in the animation community. He writes:

“While it’s reasonable to make thoughtful criticisms of a studio product, at what point is an artist’s ego fragile enough that we should avoid going out of our way to provide negative feedback?  You wouldn’t walk up to a three year old working with crayons on his kitchen table and poo-poo his choice of color.  I believe the same kind of “protective zone” should be extended to non-professionals or professionals doing personal projects: respect their desire to create and provide negative criticism only when it is asked for and can be constructively received.  Leave the wrestling-match of serious criticism to work that has entered the wider world in a more public way; but please keep in mind that individual artists have been involved and resist the urge to slam, insult or generally denigrate their contributions.”

While I strongly disagree that adult filmmakers with fully-developed minds should be offered the same “protective zone” that we allow immature infants (a practice that benefits neither artist nor audience nor the development of the art form), a lot of what Tim writes is not too far removed from the personal rules that we employ when writing posts on Cartoon Brew. Jerry and I have no strictly defined rules about how we write, though common sense guidelines have evolved over the years.

Certain pieces of animation are fair game to all types of criticism: examples are films from major studios and TV series. In other words, commercial animation that is supported by significant budgets. Similarly, when an indie does mainstream commercial work, like a TV commercial or music video, that opens the artist up to a more critical assessment of their work than if they were making a personal film. We obviously take into consideration that they probably do not have the resources of a major studio, but we also compare and contrast it to the capabilities of other artists creating animation within similar constraints and circumstances.

Where we tread carefully is with student films and personal films. If we see something of poor quality, there’s no reason to denigrate it. Likewise, if something stands out, we’ll be sure to let everybody know. We receive a multitude of links, press releases and artwork on a daily basis, and even if we wanted to post all of them, it would be impossible with our limited resources. Some of the projects that arrive in our email are actually quite good, but because every post requires time and effort to compose, we aim to post on the Brew only the truly exceptional things that we’ve enjoyed.

At the end of the day, our goal remains simple and largely unchanged since we started the blog in 2004: write about the things that personally inspire and educate us, while calling out the shysters who flood the mainstream market with crass and poorly produced examples of animation art. Sometimes these posts inspire and educate readers, and other times, well…

  • MLi

    “write about the things that personally inspire and educate us, while calling out the shysters who flood the mainstream market with crass and poorly produced examples of animation art.”

    While I agree that this is what your blog is about and that you are entitled to write your own opinions on animation, I would just like to point out that the “amusing controversy” was probably brought about because the readers felt that the earlier post was not a well thought out, informative criticism that supports the vision you describe in your blog.

    I don’t think it is problematic that you are trying to express your opinions but it is more the way in which you presented it and went further to update it with an unnecessary personal jab. When you posted a link to the article about Katzenberg, I think it already would have shown your views without having to add such a personal generalization (“which shouldn’t exactly come as news to anybody who’s seen the films that DreamWorks Animation produces”), which instead of provoking readers to focus on issues about the industry and executive’s decisions influencing the art form, just generated a lot of adverse reaction to the post itself. I feel like there have been an increasing amount of similar posts, where the point was lost by an overly disrespectful and cynical remark added to it, and I think a blog like Cartoon Brew should be wary of expressing thoughts in certain ways if it wants to continue to interest and inspire readers and differentiate itself from a more personal blog.

    And more importantly, I think it was very unprofessional to link someone’s personal opinion with a snide observation onto your post as an update. When you are stressing that you are entitled to criticizing bad trends in animation art I do not see how criticizing someone for not liking your views supports what you preach. I note how Malceod expressed his opinions on his own blog and not even as a comment to your post, and it was unnecessary to point it out in such a way.

    I don’t feel that Cartoon Brew was always like this, and I think rather than reiterating your goals to the readers you should try to really look back on why the focus of this blog has been lost to the readers and why it’s been triggering certain reactions. We, as readers and also bloggers ourselves, are aware of freedom of speech. But we should not forget about basic respect for one another, either.

  • It’s definitely a fine line if you have a blog, a brain and some consideration. It didn’t take long for me to realize that even when saying something negative about a poorly done blockbuster that I was hurting some artists who’d given their all on the ugly mess I knocked. I do try to have some consideration, though I’m not sure how successful I am.

  • anonymous

    I’ve stopped reading a lot of popular animation blogs purely because of their negativity, and “holier than thou” attitude. Macleoud didn’t even post anything angry, he just said he thinks he’s done reading CB. And quite frankly, I think it’s next on my list out of my Google Reader too. There was no reason to point out his blog post.

    I think a lot of people are seeing that Cartoon Brew is headed down the oft-trodden path of animation snobbery. You can keep doing it, no one is going to stop you, and you have the right. But you lose respect when you go down that road.

  • Bubz

    I am an artist and animator. Allz I got to say is people need to toughen up. I love when people rip apart my work – this is how I learn to do better next time. If it weren’t for honest, unfiltered opinions I would totally suck as an artist because I would never have learned from my mistakes because I wouldn’t have known I was making them.

    Also – “sticks and stones” people! It’s just words. If you make something and believe in it just ignore the bad comments and prove those people wrong by being successful with your work. Don’t sit in a corner and cry – Be a MAN! (and or WO-MAN!)

    That is all.

    Carry on.

  • I think what would be more useful is constructive criticism. It’s great to have an opinion, but if you are artists, doesn’t it make sense to articulate it in a way that encourages understanding of your point of view? If you don’t like something, perhaps a comment that describes how it might be improved would help this industry and be more inspiring to those who visit this site.

  • Peter

    Um, you fine folks realize that this is a personal *blog* featuring the views of two artists, not CNN or even an animation trade journal of some kind…?

    I think Amid’s previous post was taken more than a bit too seriously, and that his later update pointing out that somebody got their panties in a bunch over something he wrote was done out of ironic bemusement.

    How could he resist making light of a blog reader’s threatened boycott of, uh, reading this blog, due some kind of offense taken on behalf of a corporation?

  • this must be an election year. that was an amazing example of a politically-spun, needlessly verbose and ultimately vacant non-answer. say what you want, be critical, just don’t react like a petty, vindictive frat-boy when someone criticizes you.

  • I’m a big fan of reasoned debate about the merits and flaws of all kinds of animation. But that’s not what you get on this blog, and it never has been. Amid’s thoughtless and unprofessional conduct alienated me a long time ago.

    It is actually possible to have strong opinions about animation without being a bully. Every time Amid goes for the cheap laugh at someone else’s expense, he further undermines his own credibility. This latest incident crossed yet another line when he went from mocking big, rich animation executives (and hey, who doesn’t love to hate the rich?) to mocking a small, independent student blogger. But the root of the problem is the same: mockery is not criticism, it’s bullying.

  • I think what makes writing respectful criticisms so touchy on the internet is that it’s the wild west. Anyone can say anything and respond in anyway they choose and just go on their merry way.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but with the internet everyone can remain anonymous and anonymity and opinion usually equate to some form of asshole-ish-ness.

    While this has been becoming more and more of a problem with animation and artists blogs….it’s been even worse in video games.

    Anyone who’s played any game online knows what I’m talking about.

  • First of all…. the girl in that photo in the white shorts has a nice bum.

    Second of all, yeah the nagativity around here (including from me) wasn’t nice. And this is even coming from a guy who hates nagative comments directed at himself. So I’m really no better than some of the people that I despise (nobody here, but elsewhere). I must apologize.

  • Steve G

    Anyone who writes a blog is allowed their opinion and I assume everyone knows, even before he writes it, what Amid’s opinion will be. Take it or leave it.
    I disagree with almost all of Amid’s critics and taste, but that’s fine. he wants to be a critic and you have to accept that. But a critic usually doesn’t critque their readers that I’m aware of. Opinion is one thing – being snarky to the community you want to inform and serve is another.
    CB is better than that — I hope.
    I think that if CB would like to remain a ‘voice’ of the animation community it should look towards what has happened with Animation Nation and how that has lost any serious credibility in the industry.

  • Everyone’s a critic, and everybody’s entitled to an opinion. Sometimes though (to paraphrase a song from AVENUE Q) it seems like ‘The Internet is for Scorn.’

    I usually try to emphasize what I like, but I’ve done a handful of critical posts in my year of blogging. As far as I’m concerned, everybody’s published work is fair game for negative remarks. HOWEVER: personal attacks and accusations against individuals are generally uncalled for IMO and I’ve tried to weed them out when they show up in the comments.

  • “Kenny” Martinez

    Nope this is par-for-the-course for internet animation blogs and whatnot: elitist backstabbing and hatemongering, and the holier-than-thou attitude everyone noticed. I’ve been seirously interested in animation since 2004, and it’s always been like this. IT’s just intensified.

    If all of the animation coming out of Hollywood was nothing but Hair Highs and Mind Games and Triplets of Belvilles, it’d still be like this. No wonder animation is having a difficult time being accepted an an artform.

    And say what you will about the talents of Seth MacFarlane, at least he doesn’t need to take down someone else’s work in order to prove himself as the “HOLY AUTEUR OF ANIMATION”

  • floyd Norman

    True, you don’t have to be a jerk, but the animated movies we hammer are not the work of children or students. Rather, they’re the “big boys” making the big bucks.

    We’ve all seen films that sadly suck. While watching these films I know the filmmakers know better — and can do better. So, I see no problem with calling them out on this.

    Hurt feelings? Get over it.

  • Barbara_in_BC

    Tempest in a teapot. The true role of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Which is what happened when a Dreamworks executive was needled. Maybe Amid is sometimes disappointed with the quality of animation produced by people with heaps of money, when such brilliant little films are put out by struggling artists.

  • T.L.

    There there now.
    Get it all out.
    And then go back to making your Shrek 5s and 6s.

  • elan

    Unfortunately, Cartoon Brew has definitely gotten the reputation around the “blockbuster” studios as sour-grapes writers who don’t offer constructive criticism, but rather sit on the sidelines and say how THEY would have done it better.

    Those that can’t do, write books about people who did.

  • Always was two sides of an issue, always will be. But don’t ask a tiger to play like a kitten, and don’t expect a kitten to be ferocious.

  • When someone supports their opinions with arguments and examples, I can learn from them, even if I don’t happen to agree. I don’t think strong opinions, positive or negative, are a problem at all. As Will Finn says, the problem is ad hominem attacks. That takes place much more frequently in the comments than it does in the blog posts themselves. Anonymity encourages disrespect, and behind a keyboard even the meekest and most timid individuals become more obnoxious than the biggest boors.

  • You know what’s really sad about this? It’s the fact that nobody in the animation community can seem to post anything without the fear of pissing somebody off. It’s like a hermetically sealed box.

    Why on earth do you care what Steve Macleod thinks? Why is his opinion enough to pull an entire post? I agree the article about Katzenberg was disturbing! And it says something about why animated features never seem to change in this country.

    I’m getting sick of seeing industry professionals posting their arguments on their blogs (about studios or another professional animators work), only to pull it and apoligize because their afraid of pissing somebody off as if their going to lose their credibility. I thought you guys considered yourself a voice for the animation industry. I don’t need to come here and listen to you give an explanation about “how you do things” at this site. Say what you want to say or don’t say it, but don’t pull your opinion because some dude at Dreamworks happens to be sensetive.

  • Zep

    Uh, Mike Caracappa: The original post wasn’t pulled, so rest easy on that point. No one’s pulling their punches or opinions. It’s just back on page two as there are many other things that have posted since.

    Also, did you bother to actually read that interview with Katzenberg that started all this?
    Because while Amid says “Shocker! Katzenberg admits he KNOWS NOTHING [present tense] about animation!”, that gave a totally inaccurate report of the interview. Katzenberg admitted that he knew nothing [past tense] about animation–but that was 20 years ago when he and Eisner came to Disney from Paramount. Then he goes on to say this:

    [about Pixar:]”Envy’s a good thing, not a bad thing in this,” Katzenberg said. “I envy them the consistency and the quality of the work that they’ve done. They’ve just done an amazing job. You cannot be in the movie business and not acknowledge that they have achieved something that probably nobody else has ever done, which is, they’ve had eight movies in a row, and every one of those eight films has been of the highest quality and successful.”
    “To make eight films and have every one of them be as good and as successful as they have been is phenomenal and just makes us that much more ambitious in terms of what we want to do,” he said.
    That ambition is focused on a genre that once held zero interest for him.”

    Here’s the really GOOD part, boys & girls:
    “After more than 20 years in animation, though, Katzenberg’s inner child shines through – and he’s a cartoon geek.
    “It’s the love of my life, other than my family,” Katzenberg said. “It’s just the most exciting and challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and I continue to be just so enthusiastic about it. It keeps presenting new challenges and new opportunities, and that keeps it fresh and exciting for me.”

    So, Mike–what’s “disturbing” about this to you? And to the rest of you?
    Sounds to me like Katzenberg loves animation and tried to learn all about it(there’s more in the article about that, if anyone bothers to click the link Amid provided).
    You sure can disagree that DW produces anything of value, but don’t go there based on evidence that’s actually a WRONG reading/reporting of quotes. I’m sure no one at the Brew would want that.

  • Honestly?

    I find Jerry’s posts amusing and informative.

    Your posts, on the other hand, bore me and are full of negativity and bias.

    I’m not an animator, I’m an animation fan, and every time you post something, I just groan and skip the article because I know you’re going to be slamming someone you don’t like. Heck, I don’t like John K.’s designs or animation style but I don’t go around saying he sucks because he doesn’t draw stuff the way I like it. The man’s good at what he does, but he’s never been my cup of tea, so I don’t see his work or criticize him.

    It’s one thing to say “Oh, I don’t like so and so because of X and Y reasons.” You can’t do that. Every time you criticize someone it feels like you’re flaming them, and I can’t stand it. I guess I’m done here. This isn’t the same site I stumbled upon a couple of years ago. Now everything feels too negative for my tastes.

  • To CartoonBrew:
    Thank you for this post and all the links attached to the article. I sometimes can give harsh criticisms to friends and family from time to time, but I always go into these harsh criticisms only when I can take it in return–that is what allows the criticism to be fair (that no one is above the other). I’ve read stuff from all the various links you posted and read the updates and whatnots, and I have to say that you (CartoonBrew) have done just that. You allowed your self to take criticism just as harsh as what you have given out, and have taken it on the chin nicely. Respectable.

    To those that take the stuff here too personally:
    I don’t agree with many of the comments on this blog (I think Amid and Jerry have been many times too harsh or narrow minded about different topics), but also many people don’t agree with many of the views I have, yet I still enjoy reading the criticisms and the info shared here. I feel that if you take the criticism here too seriously, you have willingly given too much power over your life to a website–and that is sad. Though this site has grown in size and respect, but it is still a site from two people’s point of view, not the voice of god shining down from heaven. So when it comes to personal views, take it or leave it.

  • mike Caracappa

    Zep, the article was taken off the front page, so I consider that pulled. I looked at the dates of the articles before today. 2nd, you can argue whether JK likes animation or not, but the fact remains that he is a business man, not an animator, not an artist. He’s deciding projects on what will sell to an audience. If it was really about personal vision, we wouldnt have 4 more shrek sequels to look forward to. How many more talking animal slapstick movies will we endure before he gets around to… I don’t know…something with depth. Anything that’s not the same old tired story. And its sad and frustrating because the audience doesnt know any better. All he’s doing is continuing to set an expectation for how animation is seen in this country. Its no wonder nobody sees animation as a childrens medium. No one will ever take it seriously enough. And it doesnt help either when industry pros back down every time they have a serious opinion about something because they don’t want to rock the boat or piss off their bosses or peers. That whole outlook is just childish, and if anyone expects anything to change in american animation, that kind of crap has to stop.

  • Rat

    I don’t think Amid is hearing what we’re saying. Sometimes rationalizations, excuses, and apologies that aren’t really apologies cause people’s mouths to make noise, and it interrupts their ability to listen.

    So listen, or don’t listen… I don’t care.
    Change your tone, or don’t change your tone… I don’t care.
    Think that web-arguments are important, or think they don’t matter at all.. . I don’t care.

    Take or leave this one person’s perception: Be as nasty as you want when reviewing a movie… I might even be worse, that’s how we in the community attempt to make better movies. Be as nasty as you want when talking about the people MAKING the movies… okay, but be careful that you don’t come off looking like a bigger ass than the people you’re skewering.

    In that post, you did, IMO, and clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so. You’re welcome to do it… have right at it. Free country and all. It’s your website, have it your way.

    Anyway, peace said. Post over. Take it or leave it.

  • Zep

    Mike C, once more:
    The post was not “taken off the front page”. It moved down the page as new things were posted. It never moved from its original place.

    That’s how it always works. You misperceived a completely mechanical effect of this blog’s layout and called it a deliberate pull-it wasn’t. No big deal, just facts.

    There was a discussion across several blogs a while ago about bloggers “backing down” from too pointed criticism, but that at least isn’t the case here and doesn’t apply.

  • Thanks for the post, Amid, glad to see I touched a nerve… (also, really liked that group hug image! haha)

    I would certainly agree that Amid could word things differently at times, but we’d all be worse off if there weren’t people out there stirring the pot. For every critical post he makes (and truth be told, among my friends, I’m a harder and more vitriolic critic than anything you see on the Brew) Amid has boosted ten other artists who would otherwise go unnoticed. Oh, and if you meet him in person, he’s a swell guy.

    Ultimately, I completely agree that any “published” work, from the biggest budget Hollywood toon to the most amateur and no-budget indy (my own flick?) is fair game. I’m not arguing for general “niceness”, just constructive criticism. What would your mothers think???

  • Thanks Floyd. The voice of reason.

  • Kelly Tindall

    I thought calling out the CalArts guy was a little bit of bad form, but honestly… Amid is the acid, and Jerry is the warm hug, and that’s how I like it.

  • Its important to always respect the creator, no matter how large or small.

    However, Amid’s writing adds an extra zest, and let’s face it guys, when things get a little heated, we all love reading the controversy in the comments!

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Jerry: Good (cartoon) Cop – Amid: Bad (animation) Cop?

  • I always agree with everything Jerry posts.
    I always agree with everything Amid posts.
    And I always disagree with eveyrthing posted in the comments. Including this comment that I am posting right now.