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Sesame Street

Dear Sesame Street,

We, the undersigned, would like to register our concern over the contest you are now conducting with Aniboom. We are concerned that your contest includes a solicitation of original design concepts, characters and content to be produced on a speculative basis by cartoonists, artists, motion designers and animators.

This approach, requesting new and original work to be created in competition, is one that we believe seriously compromises the quality of work that is entered into “competition” and is questionable, at best, for a reputable organization to request.

Sesame Street has long been a highly esteemed provider of educational programming for children. From its inception, it has shown respect and support for the independent animation, film, and design communities. Artists have responded by creating lasting work — that is as valuable for children and adults today as when it was first created. We applaud that work, and hope that Sesame Street will continue to push the fields of animation and film-making. As such, we also think that Sesame Street should uphold the ethics and professional behavior we’d like our own children to grow up with. Is the education we want to pass on to them that artists’ and animators’ work is not valuable? That the only way to ‘make it’ is through winning a contest?

There is a more appropriate way to explore the work of various artists. A more effective and ethical approach to commission new work is to ask a pool of talent to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project. You can then judge the quality of the artist’s previous work and her way of thinking about your project. The artist you select can then begin to work on your project by designing an original solution to your criteria while under contract to you, without having to work on speculation up front.

Design should not be a one-way street, with artists creating work in a vacuum. We believe the best design, art and content comes at the request of a specific brief, mission or client. Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.

There are few professions where all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to compensate for their efforts. (Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay!) We realize that there are some creative professions with a different set of standards, such as advertising and architecture, for which billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In those cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving an original film or character design.

There are many artists, animators and cartoonists who can provide you with original and highly creative new work that will far exceed your expectations, with respect for an appropriate budget and schedule. We can think of dozens off of the tops of our heads who we’re sure would love to work with Sesame Street. And we’d would love to point you in their direction.

We believe that “leveraging the power of the web” is an exciting prospect and casting a wide net can quickly provide many interesting results. But we think that more considered curation and the selection of applicants whose goals may be more closely aligned with your own can provide better results.

It’s your contest, though and you are free run it as you wish. But you will do so without our participation.

Your consideration of these professional issues is greatly appreciated.

Cartoon Brew

See the full list of document signers and how to put your name on the list after the jump. (UPDATE: Over 200 people have now signed the letter.)

Bran Dougherty-Johnson
Amid Amidi
Jerry Beck
Justin Cone
Ryan Rothermel
Lilian Darmono
Caroline Attia Lariviere
Michael Uman
Aaron Stewart
David Ahuja
Matt Owens
Joe Vaccarino
Thiago Maia
Arlan Smith
David OReilly
Steve Scott
Jonathan Notaro
Saiman Chow
Cassiano Prado
Daniel Piwowarczyk
Fernando Del Reginato
Liam O’Connor
Sean Pecknold
Guilherme Marcondes
Wes Duvall
Ira Lederer
Mario de Toledo-Sader
Adam Wentworth
Salvatore Dell’Aquila
Marck Al
Andy Kennedy
Michael Langan
Tatia Rosenthal
Will Krause
John Canemaker
Ralph Pinel
Fx Goby
Christopher Abbey
Jim Le Fevre
Hazel Baird
Matt Hunter Ross
James Houston
See No Evil
Fabricio Lima
Syed A. Meer
Gabe Swarr
Emily Hubley
Celia Bullwinkel
Chris McDonnell
Dylan White
Christian Bevilacqua
Fons Schiedon
Ryan Uhrich
Ryan Hooks
Simon Robson
J Baab
Boca Ceravolo
Igor Sordokhonov
Howard Beckerman
Tim Finn
Julie Zammarchi
Gina Kamentsky
JJ Sedelmaier
Fran Krause
Jason McDonald
Colin Sebestyen
Doug Wilson
Adam Templeton
Aras Darmawan
Stephen Kelleher
Lauren Indovina
Stephen Fitzgerald
Aleksandar Vujovic
Mike Rauch
Jon Gorman
Jessica Plummer
Charles Brubaker
Elliot Cowan
Eric Del Greco
Sarah Ramert
Tavo Ponce
Joe Lea
Dexton Deboree
Dimitri Luedemann
Ayhan Cebe
Greg Herman
Carlo Vega
Cameron Archer
Sean Callinan
Nick Cross
Andrew Kaiko
Rachel Yonda
Carlos Florez
Rex Crowle
Chad Colby
John Lane
Raf Schoenmaekers
Ash Edwards
Paul Nicholson
John Marshall
Giovanni Bucci
Tim Lovett
Lance Agena
Dax Norman
David Nethery
Jyoteen Majmudar
Bob Flynn
David Van Allen
Janet Perlman
Chuck Wilson
Igor Choromanski
John Eickholt
Jeremiah Morehead
Brent Altomare
Pasquale Ricotta
Charles Lee
Tommy Wooh
Paola Rocchetti
Marcos Guevara
Clem Stamation
Javan Ivey
Rogier Hendriks
Kasper Verweij
Harm van Zon
Reinier Flaes
Alex Ahumada
Emma Lidgey
Stuart Langfield
Joris Bergmans
Luciano A. Muñoz Sessarego
Nigel McGrath
Eoghan Kidney
Daily Dolores
Aleix Pitarch
Quba Michalski
Joel Duggan
Michael Sporn
Casey LaLonde
Jake Mathew
Adam Gault
Pablo Mateo Lobo
Melinda Rainsberger
Carole Guevin
Matt Lambert
Joe Clay
Joe Mercer
Joseph Heraghty
Douglas Filiak
Tim Rauch
Derek Kinsman
Steve May
Collin McCormack
John Grimaldi Jr.
Hannah O’Neal
Sergio Jimenez
Greg Babiuk
Jim Read
Hussain Currimbhoy
Nelson Diaz
Darren Rawlings
Jeremiah Dickey
Rusty Mills
Gavin Freitas
John Ryan
Chris Hoffman
Andy Hall
Greg Taylor
Brian Donovan
Michael Sutton-Long
Harry J Frank
Angus Wall
Steph Thirion
Fran Trachta
Wojtek Wojtulewicz
Alfredo Lopez
Greg Duffell
Tuesday McGowan
Mike Fallows
Ryan McGrath
Filipe Carvalho
Bob Kurtz
Paulo de Almada
Colin Bridges
MWCC Animation
Andy McNally
Cameron Linderman
Betsy de Fries
Jordan Montreuil
Caleb Halter
Ben Nicholson
Scott Denton
Lisa Crafts
Kevin Peleschak
Matt Hanson
Scott Schroeder
Craig Shaloiko
David Edelstein
Sara Franks-Allen
Rodrigo Redondo
Sérgio Duque
Matt Ciaglia
Jen Brogle Jones
Patrick Osborne
Steve Weinshel
Brandon Lori
Jonathan Lemon
Adam Patch
Nathan Rittenhouse
Derek Landers
David Lightfoot
Mustashrik Mahbub
Jonny Munévar
Miguel Rodriguez
Matthew Encina
Marcos Silva
Patrick Bonsu
James Coulson
Max Ulichney
Pablo Gonzalez
Eric Miller
Matt Mattson
Omar Muhammad
Francis Vallejo
Verónica Navarro
Linas Jodwalis
Janet Benn
Terry Ibele
William Joyce
Brandon Oldenburg
Adam Volker
Joe Bluhm
Jeremy William Martin

Portions of this letter have been adapted from the the AIGA’s position on spec work. We believe it is high time that Motion Designers and Animators took such a principled stance on the issue of producing effective and original work for their clients. We also stand with the Belgian advertising agencies, whose recent virtual strike protesting the pitching process in their country should be applauded.

Please contact Bran Dougherty-Johnson if you would like to become a signatory on this letter.

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