Speak of the devil, Animation Guild president Kevin Koch (he’s not the devil, the subject is) was interviewed on Lou Dobbs last week concerning Disney’s annoucement that they will shortly be outsourcing to India. The transcript is available here, and it’s not hard to see that though this was an important effort, what actually came across in the interview does not have much of an impact. Severely edited, the gist of the interview is that animation outsourcing is bad mainly because Disney will lose its emotional appeal. Everyone in the industry knows there is far more to say than what can be condensed into three minutes and one sound byte per person.
Last Saturday night was the Toonie Awards banquet held by Cartoonists Northwest. Congratulations to winner Kevin Brockschmidt, and to nominees Shary Flenniken, Bill Van Horn, Mike Grell and Bill Barnes. Mike Grell was the speaker, and his description of a cartoonists journey from confusion to middle age was fascinating and inspiring. I’ve been given the new responsibility of writing up our meetings for the newsletter, so look for my notes on Kaja and Phil Foglio’s appearance on March 19th in the next issue of Pen Stuff.
Neopets… it’s a card game I don’t play, but I am one friend removed from a few people who work there. Word has long gotten around that the pay there for artists is less than stellar; even though the company has long since left start-up status behind, artists salaries are far below a Los Angeles living wage. So Neopets artists have recently voted to unionize with the Local 839. Neopets apparent response? Post an advertisement for artist positions in Singapore. Whether this is an earnest step towards moving their operations overseas, business as usual or an anti-union ploy remains to be seen, but it has brought up a controversy that has been plaguing the union for the last five years: in an age when studios have all of the power, are they still relevant for the younger generation?
The union can’t force studios to continue to work in traditional animation it’s true. And the union isn’t there to hand out jobs either, although it’s not outrageous that local artists would wonder how much help they can really be when there is no work to be had. They question if the guild is worth $2K a year in dues. They don’t see the offering of a pension as very enticing when they can’t find employment to start with. But here is my question for the union: why are so many people still surprised to find out that so much of the industry has gone overseas at the expense of so much talent? Given that they can’t stop it from happening, what is the union’s responsbility when it comes to informing the general public? When web searches look up topics like “animation going overseas”, they shouldn’t be bringing up my website, they should be bringing up the guild’s. More on the issue
It’s a bizarre day indeed when the Disney 2003 Annual Report arrives in the mail and the Mickey on the cover has an enormous inflated head. We are getting our report late, it’s true, it’s been sitting around for two months in Atlanta with Scott’s parents.
Now Mickey has gone through some legitimate design changes. But the transition of Mickey into 3-D has been a bumpy ride, with lots of unintentional off-model mishaps. This article from VFX is a must-see for the pictures alone. One animator’s comment that the 3-D versions of the characters “look like the huge, rigid models of Disney characters that used to be posed up by the ceilings of Disney Stores” is right on the mark.