The LA Times on the Future of Animation Production

Mass Animation

The Mass Animation project headed by former Sony Pictures Animation exec Yair Landau continues to receive press, most recently in an editorial that ran in yesterday’s LA Times. To summarize the project via the Times:

Through Facebook, Mass Animation invited the public to create scenes for its first short video, “Live Music.” The company supplied the animation software, the story, backgrounds, characters and audio. Animators whose work is chosen will receive $500 per scene. All told, the project will cost about $1 million and take six months to complete, a fraction of the money and time required for a comparable Hollywood project.

The unsigned Times editorial believes that this is “an early sign of things that are certain to come” as “a new class of creators and entrepreneurs is coming to vie for its share of the global entertainment dollar.” We’ve written about the Mass Animation project before on Cartoon Brew here and here. As I argued in one of those posts, unlike previous technologies, the Internet empowers artists so that they no longer have to settle for exploitative compensation models handed down from above.

The LA Times gets it right in predicting that the days of corporate-driven entertainment are drawing to a close, but it won’t be because of shady production models conceived by the likes of Landau. It’ll be due to the burgeoning generation of savvy entrepreneurial artists who understand that the road to creative success and financial security doesn’t run through Hollywood any more. Execs like Landau are dinosaurs within this new digital/online paradigm, and they’re grasping at straws trying to find “innovative” ways of paying artists cheaply on the Internet. Their attempts at doing this will become increasingly desperate and outlandish as more and more artists recognize the uselessness of such people in an entertainment landscape where the means of production, distribution and promotion are accessible to all. That is the true definition of mass animation.

For an even less-flattering perspective on the Mass Animation project, see yesterday’s post by Steve Hulett on the Animation Guild blog.


  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    This “idea” could work one way and one way only: if the end goal is a directionless art-piece of amalgamated clips cobbled together from several artists willing to get bent over backwards while working in isolation from one another. If it aspires to anything more, say a real film with a driving creative voice, it’s screwed. The “Digital Age” will not change animation by making the oppression of animators for a sightless project a possibility: we already have plenty of studios doing that the old-fashioned, non-virtual way. You are quite right to say that what the new technology allows is an explosion of new creators. We live in an age in animation where more and more unique, personal visions of real power will make it to the screen, in short form and as features. See: Nina Paley.

  • Chiskop

    Wow, as i read this post i was fuming at these so called futurists, predicting a bleak future. Thank God towards the end you started taking swipes at Landau and the rest. Honestly every thinking person knows that what they are doing, Landau and music-video-for-animators-contest pushers, is really crap. There’s nothing innovative about them all.

    I really think that this article coupled with that famous rant by Bashir are a good build up to where things are going.

    Peace dudes.

  • http://tangoland.com Cynthia

    Here we go again. Complete exploitation of artists who are willing to not get paid. An animation studio’s dream come true.

    Corporate animation will never die. An animated movie is an expensive product and the budget a corporatation or LLC can offer is the only way to pay people fairly for their time.

    I’ve seen so many of these “enter our contest and maybe we’ll pay you” schemes I am unable to take this seriously and honestly wish it the quickest demise possible.

    I’d like to see other professionals, besides artists, get handed this option. Can you imagine plumbers, nurses or teachers entering a contest to maybe get paid for their work. Artists who engage in this desperate form of “employment” drag the reputation of the business right down with them.

  • Graham

    Which is why it’s important to tell people about these crap schemes and not to participate. The more people that work for pennies the worse off it is for everybody.

  • http://musictovideo.blogspot.com/ Charles

    I really do believe in that last paragraph. I’d be pretty depressed if the only outlet for my work would be through corporate distribution.

  • http://cyruscords.blogspot.com Cyrus

    I’ll throw my 2¢ in on this one. I am one of those animators who has participated in Mass Animation and I have to say that the experience for me has been great. There are certain things that I would say could be done differently but for the most part it is exactly what I thought it would be. I work in the online advertising and marketing field for Gannett and in my free time I chase my dream of becoming an animator. This experience with Mass Animation is just that, the ability to gain more experience. I knew that the likeliness of me working hard and making someone else ton of money was there and that IF my shot got chosen for the film I would get credit and get some cash for my work but I chose to participate to gain “experience”. As an animator an an intelligent individual I choose how much time I am willing to put into each thought with the knowledge I may never get paid for that but most likely the directors pocket book may get larger. It was never my intention and am sure not most participants intention to discredit or take away from any other hard working animators.

    With that being said it is inevitable that some will probably be taking advantage of, maybe an animator maybe not. It is business right. In my opinion this probably won’t affect animation production as it is right now other than to give some animators the chance to work on a major production from satellite locations. Here is hoping from one animator stuck in the frozen north of Minnesota.

    Thanks,
    Cy

  • http://www.daxnorman.com Dax Norman

    With all of the talk of exploitation that Mass Animation certainly exemplifies, little has been said of how insipid, uninspired, generic, and banal the short “Live Music” will amount to be.

  • AutisticAnimator

    So I should pitch my cartoon series to hulu.com instead of some television network?

  • http://www.coffeeroll.com JPDJ

    How does the old saying go? “If you do something well, never do it for free.” That’s it.

  • http://bobcampcartoonist.blogspot.com/ Bob Camp

    Cyrus makes a valid point. This is a chance for him to gain experience.
    We all have to make a living. This is why I work for the big studios.
    It all comes down to what you want. if you want a steady paycheck and security then a studio job is best.

    Pitching concepts to networks and studios is getting harder and harder. Most studios farm ideas from the in house talent. If you want to create your own project with your singular vision than you have to find your own way I think.

    Everybody is trying to find out how to make money in an ever changing world and that includes the suits.

    If you do your art for free then you own it. Then you can choose how to market it. Look at Bill Plympton. here’s a guy who never sold out, did his stuff his own way before anybody else without animation software or the internet.

    What is important to you? Art or money?

  • http://www.srulibroocker.blogspot.com Sruli

    For out of work animators, or students looking to boost their production skills I think Mass Animation is fine. I also think having a shot from a theatrically released short for your demo reel is a good thing.

  • Arnald

    I agree with Bob Camp on his comments.

    Only issue for me that I do have a problem is the taking advantage of
    a situation (bad economy) and talent, name dropping such as “former ex-sony blah, blah,blah” which him or her is the only which gain anything out of it.

    Also people, stop believing the B.S. “from rag to riches stories”, usually
    they all are lies or half-truth for the perpetuation of the dream which
    is just accomplished with a lot of work(specially animation and if you
    want to do it your way) and luck (right place, right time).

    And even if you get to do a scene or a couple of, a bona fide animator
    takes a good ten years of uninterrupted experience to amass enough
    knowledge in many different subjects to be a real pro.

    So, stop believing all this snake-oil salespeople.

    Usually, if they get lucky with the project they will forget you and move
    on with a new group of suckers. They know can’t keep paying you
    slave labor wages.

  • Chilly Twilley

    No details. No funding. No guarantee. Just another Hollywood exec leeching off of hungry animation artists. I’ve heard this crap for 30+ years replete with the standard refrain of loving and respecting the art form. What’s really being said is “If you make me rich I’ll cut you in…maybe”. With the current technology who needs a middle man anyway? Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.