Experimental animation's true calling



And for the sake of vanity, here's my own experiment:  http://www.oscarts.org/production_03.html

As someone who has magical fantasies about someday dominating and mastering the indie/experimental animation market through a combination of bribes and demagoguery (only to be overthrown when I can't rig the vote...), it warms my heart that the modern landscape offers an opportunity for this medium which has been hitherto unknown. 

A while ago I found an anniversary archive of Cal Arts experimental animation from over 20 years or something. The article flippantly mentioned that despite this robust portfolio, the school began discouraging experimental animation because it's, shall we say, practically unmarketable.  

However, my generation has a much better opportunity to not only create experimental animation, but also profit from it. Here's what I think the major factors contributing to it are:

1. Internet distribution reaching a wide audience. How many people have seen Charlie the Unicorn? Ask this at a college, and you aught to hit at least 50%. Back in the day, you had to drop $50 on a festival submission fee so that 100 people could see your stuff. Now you can get it out there and build a rep without spending a dime via YouTube. Even better, a site like www.awntv.com or www.atomfilms.com lets you actually MAKE money off your cartoons through ad revenue. And even in the case of real-life viewings at film festivals and venues, you still have much better access; film festivals always have websites now, and it's far easier and less committing to hit "upload" than to send out a whole press package with a VHS tape. www.withoutabox.com offers a search engine that lets you submit a film to any film festival in the world, all from a central hub. 
2. Technology. Back in the day, animation was great because it could tell any story and show anything possible through the pencil. Well, in modern day  we essentially have a thousand new metaphorical "pencils" to explore looks, production techniques, stylistic approaches and motion methods. Flash, 3D, and After Effects mean that any video-oriented medium can be approached in a whole new way.

3. Exposure and learning resources. Distribution is terrific for the indie animator, but it's also great for the up-and-coming artist looking for a niche. Now when you're in school, there's a multitude of cartoons on YouTube that lets you hypothesize about your own ability to create such a cartoon. Similarly, you can easily find a number of great animations that are supplemented with tutorials, explanations, production focus, and a method of contacting the artist who created it. 

4. It's hip to be square! Disney famously set the pace for years in the animation industry, setting standards for quality, convention and popularity. And even when projects like Yellow Submarine or Fritz the Cat would try and make elbow room for the weirdos, they were playing to a very small weirdo crowd. But in today's landscape, kids love finding the primordial, aberrant animation that you can't necessarily throw on Cartoon Network. And even then, often times you can, and when the demand is high enough it DOES get on Cartoon Network. A great example of this is Jason Reitman, director of Academy Award-winning Juno, who back in the day was posting stuff on AtomFilms. Clearly, there's people out there who dig this stuff, and an ever-increasing crowd that'll drop 90 minutes on this market rather than on some Pixar-imitating SFX-laden piece that is nonetheless devoid of style and substance. 


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