The 2D Expo: Flash Panel Wrap-up

I was planning to post a summary of the Flash & TV Animation panel that I moderated a few days ago at ASIFA-Hollywood’s 2D Expo, but panelists Lili Chin and Eddie Mort beat me to it with this extensive write-up posted on their fwak! blog. Going into the panel, I wasn’t sure what sort of a conclusion (if any) we’d reach with the discussion, but the panelists – the aforementioned Chin and Mort, along with Gabe Swarr, Bob Harper and Jorge Gutierrez – went a long way towards convincing me and the audience that Flash is the ideal production system for hand-drawn “cartoony” TV series. The biggest benefit of Flash, constantly stressed by the various panelists, is that it offers animation creators an unprecedented amount of control over their finished product and allows them to see their actual drawings reach the screen. Craig McCracken supported this theory in a recent ANIMATION MAGAZINE interview about his new Flash series for Cartoon Network: “You don’t have to worry about stuff being off-model. The animation is all going to look dead on, and you don’t have to worry about the layout process.”

Another conclusion that we reached is that it’s financially feasible to produce a Flash series entirely in the United States. While in the first couple seasons, a Flash production may cost as much as a TV series produced overseas, each subsequent season will decrease in cost as libraries are built up in Flash. This is something that never happens in the traditional TV production process, even on a show like THE SIMPSONS which is now in its umpteenth season. Also, with libraries built up of designs, background art and basic movements, the tedious grunt work is already completed thus allowing the animators to focus on creating interesting performances with the main characters. Even in the scenario that a show is outsourced to other countries, the artists in LA still maintain an advantage because rather than having to go through the laborious process of calling for retakes, Flash animation files can be fixed from any location with a minimum of hassles. For example, MUCHA LUCHA has an in-house animation crew in Los Angeles devoted to tweaking and finessing the animation that comes back from overseas. It remains to be seen how widespread the use of Flash will become in the LA animation industry, but it’s undeniable that Flash is responsible for one of the biggest shake-ups in the TV animation industry in recent times and it’ll be fascinating to watch how the union of Flash and TV animation will play out over the next few years.

Also I want to briefly mention how excited I was at the results of the 2D Expo, organized by ASIFA-Hollywood board member (and fellow Brew partner) Jerry Beck. I think the results went far and beyond anybody’s wildest expectations and I can see this event maturing into something truly special over the coming years. My immediate suggestions for next year are to create a larger exhibitor/networking area and to have more specific how-to panels and talks related to specialized aspects of animation production. All in all though, I thought it was a great success and it seems the majority of people who attended agree that it was a fine event. The most elegant and thoughtful write-up I’ve read about the event so far is courtesy of animation artist Ronnie del Carmen, who made the trek all the way from Pixar along with fellow filmmaker Jim Capobianco.