8.18.2006

A little sunshine & Atlanta animation


Andrea and I had a real "date" the other night by actually going out to the movies to see Little Miss Sunshine. Great great great movie. As Andrea mentions on a recent post, it was a nice ray of sunshine during a summer filled with (for the most part) cinematic crap. There were some things that seemed off in the film (like the last act), but overall I loved it. Steve Carell takes a broad 180 degree turn from playing a comical 40 year-old virgin here and does a fantastic job as a suicidal gay professor. There were some wonderful subtle things in Sunshine that would've been overlooked (or not even put in at all) in a typical Hollywood film—but ah, this is not your typical Hollywood film. All the characters were well grounded and played perfectly by each of the actors. The humor was honest and quirky and slightly off-kilter, which Andrea and I so desperately needed. There's a great visual metaphor of the entire family having to get out of the wonky Volkswagen bus and push it just to get it started each time. Whatever arguments or differences are fought about inside the vechicle are forgotten when everyone is forced to band together to just keep going. No matter how dysfunctional, the family still has to come together at some point in order to move on. Great movie.

Ahh, a date. It was nice to get away and talk without being interrupted by whines or grunts or complaints or crying from the back seat or on the couch or from Ava's room or ANYWHERE for that matter. Andrea and I could just sit and talk to each other like normal adult human beings. Just talk. It was a welcome thing. Thanks, Nate.

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The animation scene here in Atlanta is the feature of an article in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in the business section. You can read the article here, but if they're asking you to register, try BugMeNot. The funny thing is, I tried getting the AJC to write an article about the local industry back in, oh, I think it was '97. I presented my idea to this one senior writer, telling him that there's a pretty cool group of guys who all know each other like family and we all work on cartoons, etc. I was promptly told that there's not much of a story there. Come back when there's something of interest. Well. I guess nine years is long enough to establish a story now. I was actually interviewed for this article, but ended up getting lumped into the broad description of "other animators," when they mention SCAD students.

The article is fairly decent and accurate, for the most part. Primal's own Doug Grimmett is mentioned (and quoted), as well as ASIFA-Atlanta president Joe Peery and Clay Croker offering their two cents. Pretty much what the article is about is Atlanta's growing animation scene and that most of it has grown significantly in the last ten years. This is true. You can give credit to Turner and Cartoon Network for most of the growth. If it weren't for Turner being in Atlanta, Doug would've never moved Primal Screen here in '96. But I like that the writer keeps Clay's comments about the saturation of the market:

"Atlanta's pool of young animation talent — much of it from SCAD or the former Atlanta College of Art — makes the city an attractive place for studios, Fry and other animators said.

It could also mean that the market is saturated, said C. Martin Croker, a veteran Atlanta animator.

Some people 'have an idea that there's an endless supply of workers needed for the animation scene, and that's just not the case,' he said. Salaries of dozens of Atlanta animators have fallen sharply in the past several years, Croker added."


I'm not going to add anything more to that. I've been out of the freelance pool for 10 years so I don't think I have enough authority to agree or dispute that—but I do know that the market has had its ups and downs. Actually, the same can be said for every industry.

I thought that this was a strange comment to make:

"Luckily for Grimmett and other animators, Flash software debuted in 1996. It enabled animation to be produced efficiently on computers. That changed the look of animation — it's much more varied than just Saturday morning cartoons or Disney flicks — as well as its production."

It makes it seem like Flash was Atlanta's saving grace once it debuted, but it wouldn't make a big impact here until Adult Swim in 2000-'01, when Harvey Birdman's producers decided to go with the vector-based program for their show. In fact, it was supposedly some "big-time secret" that they were going this route, but c'mon—we all knew what was going on! We may be the third largest U.S. city for broadcast production (so says Doug), but we still have that small town persona. You can't keep secrets from anyone.

But I digress. The article is a nice spotlight piece on an unusual career within the entertainment industry here in Atlanta. Most see Turner and CNN, etc., but I'm sure that many regular joes out there do not even know that there's some actual animation being produced here in town. Whether you like the shows or not doesn't matter: it's a thriving scene right now. Hopefully another article can be written about Atlanta's animation industry ten years from now and be able to say the same thing.

7 comments:

  1. Well, SOMEONE has to play spoiler, so it might as well be ME! I found the article to be an extremely shallow puff piece (no, I'm not upset that I'm not it it...consider it a dodged bullet, frankly) that was hardly worthy of front page status. The whole mess seemed like an ill-conceived studio press release that morphed into an "article" about the overall Atlanta animation community. No big mentions of ASIFA, commercial animation producers, animation for broadcast design, web content, etc. Just superficial cotton candy about local Adult Swim shows and rosy stats about Scad grads arriving in the ATL bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to be paid Wal-Mart wages for the bragging rights to say they're animating "Squidbillies." Thank God for Clay's honest assesment of the current landscape; Dunwoody parents by the score might think twice before they sign away their life savings to send Buffy and Chase off to Savannah to learn to animate. I also was particluarly thankful that the article went to the trouble of listing the premier dates and times for each of the shows mentioned; I wonder how much Time/Warner paid to have this treacle run page1?

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  2. Argh! I wanted to see Little Miss Sunshine but not in the first row of three completely crowded screens. Now I want to see it even more! Bmoo.

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  3. Great to see your rave about Little Miss Sunshine. It was a gem. Toni Collette is always brilliant and was here. The child was fabulous and her scenes with Alan Arkin the film highlight of the summer. You're right on target as usual. Maybe I'll go see it again tonight.

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  4. Congrats on your night out, Ward. As much as we love our kids, you've just gotta get away from them every now and then, especially when they're little. Now that mine are both in their teens, we *want* to take them places with us, but they'd rather stay home than be seen with us embarrasing old fogeys...;-)

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  5. You don't have to say much these days to be misquoted. What I actually said to the reporter was that freelance animators in town (Atlanta) have been willing to work for less and less during the past few years (as the current "scene" has "exploded")just to be in the field they've been locally schooled and prepared for. Also to stay competitive with local studios, overall animation project prices (and moreover profitability) have indeed come way down. The bottom line is that these days good is good, cheap is better, and fast and cheap is best of all. What's next?

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  6. "Little Miss Sunshine" was a lot of fun, the image of them pushing that van was a wonderful visualization of a desperate family falling apart but simultaneously working together.

    How come it seems like every animation article has to push the "3-D/FLASH is saving the careers of ALL these animators!"?

    Funny, when I'm animating, it doesn't feel like a "laborious process"...

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  7. that night out with you-- much needed. although, I wish you could've seen it with me that saturday night when the theatre was completely full. isn't it funny how you laugh louder and longer when those around you are doing the same? I love having the theatre to ourselves, though. you know, so we can make out and stuff. HAHAHAHAHAHA

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