Animators don’t like to work on spec. It’s a simple lesson that former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal is learning the hard way after he released a video asking animators to create animation with no guarantee of payment to promote his upcoming TNT and TBS docuseries Shaq Life.

The creative community has called foul on his “Shaqtoons” idea, with hundreds of animators and other artists in creative fields lambasting the concept.

In the video, O’Neal invited animators to produce entire short films about him in less than a month. He wrote that any shorts chosen for broadcast would then be paid $500. He also offered “exposure,” a common tactic used by people who ask artists to work for free. “That’s right animators, I’m going to make you famous,” O’Neal said in his pitch. (Ironically, the animator who created the animation for this pitch video was not credited.)

While O’Neal is receiving most of the heat for this bad idea, the situation could have likely been avoided. The networks producing his show, TNT and TBS, are owned by WarnerMedia, a division of telecom giant AT&T. Warnermedia spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to create original animation through the many animation studios that it owns including Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network, Warner Animation Group, Adult Swim, Ellation Studios, and Rooster Teeth, as well as countless other studios to which it outsources production. For a company that knows the value of quality animation, it’s beyond logic why it decided to ask for free animation to promote a show about a well known sports celebrity.

For further information and resources about why working on spec is bad, and why companies that ask for it are behaving unethically, visit

TNT/TBS has already removed their own tweet that promoted the contest, but not before one animator already submitted their Shaq-themed short film:

Here’s what others are saying on Twitter:

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