Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flash in the Pan...

Over on Cartoon Brew there is this discussion currently going on debating the merits or lack thereof regarding the Flash animation software. I'll admit my bias against it is as one who finds the results thus far to be less than satisfying when compared to the best frame-by-frame pencil animation from the glorious past that I grew up on. In fact, I even find the limited animation style of Hanna-Barbera's 1960's era shows like "Yogi Bear" to be far more visually appealing due to the organic, hand-drawn nature of what inbetweens there are. I just posted the following comment that I know is going to result in a good trouncing over on their board. But I have taken great pains to explain my views, so I hope that even those of you who like using the program will at least try to understand where I am coming from on this rather contentious subject:

To all those who defend Flash and claim that “it’s just another tool” and can produce wonderful results in the hands of a skilled artist, I have this to say: An old Etch-a-Sketch is also “just another tool” as well, yet I could practise with it for months or years on end and never produce an image with the same control or visual appeal as I could with a pencil on paper. Like it or not, there are those of us traditionalists who see Flash for what it is: a “tool” for creating computerized cutouts using replacement parts, not fluid character animation.

Even the examples being cited here as superior, such as the dancing frog short and “Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends”, may well be entertaining but they are not in any way comparable visually to the best of traditional hand-drawn classical animation. In “Fosters” for example, while I’ll grant you there may be a certain visual appeal in terms of graphic shapes, it is still just predetermined replaceable character parts being shifted around on screen. Any “Squash and Stretch” you see is not the real deal either, as it is achieved simply by distorting the image along its X or Y axis. When a character on “Fosters” turns his head from the front to the side, there are no inbetweens allowing for a gradual turn, just a *whoosh* sound as the head immediately changes views in a single frame. At best, there may be an attempt at contriving a 3/4 view inbetween by sliding the features gradually along the the front face cutout before replacing it altogether with the profile. Again, the Flash software is not conducive to subtle animation.

If these limitations are all perfectly fine with you folks, then go ahead and enjoy it as a medium. But please don’t try to convince the rest of us that, in the right hands, somebody could produce a film that rivals “Pinocchio” using Flash. I’ll admit, I’ve seen a precious few examples where an animator is drawing frame-by-frame directly into Flash, but even those results, while noble in the attempt, do not produce anything that has the sensitive rhythmic linework I associate with the best of pencil animation, due to the clunky line quality that I always think looks like a brush inked line that’s been hacked out on both sides with an Exacto knife! I’ve had my own brush inked line art ruined in a similar way by technicians who imported it into the “Illustrator” program, leaving it in a mangled mess, all in their quest for it to be a vectorized image. Sadly, everything has become a slave to the needs of the computer.

Yes, Flash may be “just another tool” in the eyes of some, but don’t kid yourselves regarding its inherent limitations. And to those who maintain that only a poor carpenter blames his tools, please don’t hand me a plane when I need to saw through a piece of lumber…

End of rant. :)

Or maybe not...

In case anybody I've been debating with stops in here for a look-see, I'm posting a clip each from the Flash-animated "Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends" in comparison with a clip from a 60's episode of the hand-drawn "The Flintstones" with my comments:

"Foster's" - Digitally rendered, highly geometric shapes results in a deliberately flat, graphic look. There is no implied volume of form. Characters are comprised of pre-designed body pieces that are shifted around on screen and replaced by new pieces to achieve very limited animation. Animators are largely restricted by availability of head and body angles stored in computer. The clever timing of the movement is its saving grace. Very unsatisfying performance otherwise, due to inherent limitations of software.

"Flintstones" - Also, limited animation with some parts of body on "held cels" that do not move while other parts, like arms, legs and face are animated with different individual drawings to achieve more characterization and distinct facial expressions. Though still shape-based design to some degree, there is an implied feeling of dimensional, organic form. Animators still have to limit their number of drawings, but each drawing can be drawn from scratch, enabling a more satisfying performance overall, dictated by the vocal track.


Thad said...

I made a remark in class the other day, of how cheap flash looks, and I got a lot of sneers from the other students. I must've touched a nerve.

Of course they don't know who Chuck Jones is either, so they don't have much hope.

Pete Emslie said...

Sadly, Thad, the industry doesn't have much hope either, considering how TV budgets in particular are dictating that more and more shows be of this quickly produced "cutout parts" approach that Flash does so efficiently and, utimately, cheaply...

SteveLambe said...

I understand where you're going with your argument, but comparing Foster's with Pinnochio is a little one sided.

No one in their right mind is going to say flash rivals the hand drawn disney movies. That'd be just be plain stupid. In television however, there are a select few flash animated cartoons that rival...even surpass the quality of the old HB cartoons.

Now with that being said...flash animation does have a long way to go. Far too many animators still rely very heavily on the mechanical cheats. BUT...Flash animation for television is still somewhat in it's infancy (about 4-6 years) so hopefully we'll see more drawings and less computing.

Pete Emslie said...

Steve, the fact is many of the software's defenders make the claim that Flash is quite capable of full, frame-by-frame character animation, not just the computerized cutouts. Frankly, I have my doubts, although I have seen some noble efforts. One of the best shorts I've seen in Flash is Jessica Borutski's "I Like Pandas", but even that shows some clear evidence of the cutout approach in addition to some keyframe individual drawings. However, given that Jessica also shows some major ability in her pencil art on her blog with some lovely cartoon appeal, I know for a fact that, if she had the time and budget to do so, she could animate a short traditionally that would far surpass her Flash efforts due to the inherent limitations of that program.

I'll admit my wording was a bit wrong and my argument was starting to meander a bit, because I was not actually trying to imply that "Foster's" should be compared to "Pinocchio". The "Pinocchio" reference was actually meant in support of my above argument. But in my opinion, "Foster's" and other highly geometric, graphically styled shows just don't compare favorably to the best of Hanna-Barbera's work in the 60's/early 70's. I find that dependency on digitally created straight lines and perfect curves to result in design that is sterile and it leaves me cold. True, "The Flintstones" was limited animation, but what was animated moved in an organic way with real "Squash and Stretch". I just happen to vastly prefer hand-drawn organic cartoons, that's all. Graphic shapes are fine for corporate logos but seem ill-suited to a medium based on characters moving around on screen. If somebody approached me with an assignment that required my being limited to drawing with rulers, french curves and ellipse templates, I'd tell them to stuff it and shoo them out the door. Why? Because I'm a self-respecting CARTOONIST, that's why! :)

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Great post, thanks! I agree with you're points.

On my previous intern I helped with a dutch flash animation serie kika and bob

paul o'flanagan said...

I've worked on Fosters AND El Tigre. i think this argument is all about budgets. with the budget for any of these shows put into 'classical' animation, the results would be alot less significant. but with the program doing what it does - the animation in these shows comes out quite effective. those that say you can do ANYTHING with flash are wrong and more than likely afraid to pick up an actual paint brush. but with a limited budget and tools at your desposal, flash is kinda handy. also, there is some lovely frame-by-frame animation in that 'romeo and juliet - sealed with a kiss' movie. all done by one person in flash. it's all to do with your resourses

SteveLambe said...

Like Paul mentioned, the bottom line is time and money.

On El Tigre, over half of our crew is from spumco. Would they prefer to sit down and animate every scene classically...with loving organic shapes and beautiful fluid lines. You bet!! However with the limitations that are in place, we are restricted only to poses...not animation. That's where Paul and his flash crew come in to save the day.

The sad reality is that until things change, flash is best way to keep things on time and on budget for tv.

CJ Grebb said...

No one is claiming that Flash (in its current state) can make Disney quality features. But check out the work here:

Adam Philips' work may not be as rich and fully realized as paper-drawn Disney features - but on the other hand, The Flintstones never produced anything with that much life or vitality, despite being done the "old-fashioned way."

Phillips is animating on the twos and ones in many cases, and even his use of limited animation is very good, certainly comparable to some of the straight-to-DVD Disney features we've seen churned out in the last decade. Give him a staff of 30 talented Flash animators and I wonder if he might not be able to produce something quite good.

Does his linework look as good as hand-inked cells? No. Is that a limitation of Flash? Yes. Will Flash always have that problem? Time will tell.

So perhaps Flash shows some promise.

If you're wondering where the bitterness towards your comments come from, consider this. There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of animation fans out there who love the medium and perhaps would love to create some art IN the medium. Very few of us have the finances or the studio space to produce a piece of animation in the classic manner, but we might have the ability to buy a PC, Flash CS3, and a Wacom tablet and produce something of our very own. And instead of classic animators and cartoonists like yourself encouraging them to get better with the tools available to them, they see the "old boys club" berating their choice of animation tools in an elitist manner.

Is 98% of Flash animation lifeless and awful? Yes. Has Disney, Hannah Barbara, MGM, Warner Bros, etc., produced some lifeless, awful work, even though they do it "right?" Hell, yes.

Do Flash animators deserve more credit and encouragement than you seem willing to give them? You tell me.

Thad said...

Why are artists who work in Flash so unwilling to admit that no matter what amount of talent went into it, it still looks cheap, fake, and ugly?

And where else but the Internet would a horrible show like Foster's gain so much attention? Let's not kid ourselves, people...

murrayb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan! said...

I don't think it should be legal for a cartoon like Foster's to be made, especially for kids- that's just mean. South Park is one thing, but c'mon, Kids deserve better.

I agree that hand drawn animation is better by a long-shot, but I don't think Flash is entirely bad. People just get too caught up in all of it's cheats- I hate seeing motion/shape tweened animation, and flat rotations of limbs and heads. Animation can be done well on Flash, but I do agree that the drawings themselves don't look nearly as appealing.

I don't like that it vectorizes all the lines you make and that and wacom drawn images normally can't compare to a nice pencil and inked drawing.

I don't think it's bad for Flash to be used to make cartoons for TV, but bad that a cartoon for TV looks like it was made by some kid to submit to Newgrounds or something.

And wow, yeah I agree with you on Flintstones- I wasn't a fan of it's limited animation- but jeez, after watching Fosters Flintstones looked great. It looked like it had more inbetweens than the typical episode, though.

Rossco said...

Couldn't agree more with you Pete.

Flash always looks very sterile and cold to me. It seems the way the creators of Foster's have tried to counter this is to throw as many colours and confused shapes to give it some interest.

By the way, Bob Harper said in your discussion on Cartoon Brew:

"I have little regard to Milt Kahl wannabes how design washed down classic Disney stuff. I’d take working on something graphic like UPA than to work on than Pinochhio any day - hey nothing personal. :)"

???? What a crazy world we live in.

Pete Emslie said...

CJ Grebb said: "Very few of us have the finances or the studio space to produce a piece of animation in the classic manner, but we might have the ability to buy a PC, Flash CS3, and a Wacom tablet and produce something of our very own."

My generation had the super-8 camera, which allowed us to fart around with trying our hand at animation, whether drawn on paper or manipulating plasticine characters. The difference is, we never considered our efforts to be of professional quality, worthy of being aired on TV. I don't mind today's animator wannabes seeing what they can do by using a software program like Flash to get their efforts on-screen. I just want them to acknowledge the limitations inherent in that medium as my generation acknowledged the lesser picture and sound quality of super-8 film. Frankly, I had no problem with Flash when it was merely being used to create simple animation for websites without using up much memory. It's when it made the leap to broadcast TV that I cried foul, as I think the resulting "cutout" style imagery is far below par compared to TV shows of yesteryear. Again, just my opinion.

murrayb said...

Hi Pete, The new goofy short was "tradigital" I have friends who saw it in Ottawa at the fest who said it looked 'almost' 1950's good.
Andreas Deja flat out refused to do any paperless animation, good for him.
I hear the frog princess is being animated on cintiqs,(or maybe just inbtweened and cleaned up?) I think that's a crime. Disney HAND drawn feature is sacred ground.

What can I say, I agree Pete. I wish some producer would spend the money to do hand drawn TV production here. Flash combined with canadian tax credits makes it cheap enough to keep animation from going overseas.

That's the reason to do the best we can to mimic classical animation in flash by not mechanically cheating.
I worked in layout and pose a few years ago, to have it come back pooped out by the poor sweat shop overseas studio. Shows haven't been completely done in canada since THE RACCOONS in the early 80's(I loved it as a kid) So it's a boon in that way.

What do you think of this flash work:
Bradley Cayford Music videos
johnk weird al video

If you gave a group of great classically trained, talented animators who work in flash like: Brad, Nick Cross, Jessica Borutski,...
a quarter of Pinnochio's budget in TODAYS ADJUSTED dollars.... I think the result would be pretty darn good.

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Murray,

Those two music videos you linked to were admittedly quite impressive, the John K/Weird Al one particularly. If these were indeed animated using Flash then I am certainly willing to concede on some points of my argument. However, I'm still curious as to the actual process involved.

Was the John K one animated directly in the Flash program, or animated on paper then scanned into Flash for digital ink and paint? If it was completely done within the program then I'm highly impressed and dumbfounded. If all Flash animation aspired to anything close to that good I wouldn't be raising these complaints. My firsthand observations have been entirely limited to the "cutout" efforts that I abhor so much, never having seen anything like what you're now making me aware of. Perhaps there really is hope yet! Thanks for showing me these.

murrayb said...

John and Katie rice did a huge stack of amazing layout drawings. Lets say roughly a pose a second, or 1/24th with mouth and arm breakdowns sprinkled throughout. very similar to what john would send to korea.

We cleaned up the keys and seperated them into many many levels, to make it easier to inbetween each body part using tasteful flash cheating.
to me, thats the best of both worlds. I don't really believe in not drawing at least some of it on paper if you want it to look organically appealing.

Some of the subtleness Brad can get with his flash inbetweening (like the little shiver the cat does after the kiss) are cheating in a good way. admittedly it's still rare to find animators like brad (he works straight ahead too!) but who knows, maybe the Milt Kahl of flash is just around the corner.

Pete Emslie said...

Hmm, okay, that does alter my view somewhat, but it appears that hand-drawn on paper is still a major part of the process as I had sort of suspected as I watched the video. Anyway, there may indeed be some benefit to using this hybrid approach that you've described, so perhaps Flash can be used in a practical manner in assisting the process. Regardless, it looks like your studio did some nice work to pull it off so well.

Raff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hodges said...

Disney is using toonboom, which seems to be getting more credit then flash, and Adam Philips of biteycastle ( who was a disney effects animator before (and I think his flash cartoons are great), is seemingly very excited with what toonboom is offering compared to flash, they are very different. Due to efforts of Andreas at Disney, who refuses to animate on a cintique, which I think is great, they are making a system where they can import a traditional workflow as well. The real issue with bad animation is cost, not programs, now programs allow for cheaper cost, but the flintstones sucked too. Digital animation will only get better, but its going to take the efforts of people who care to not to cheap animation. Instead of fosters, look at Samurai Jack and Clone wars, which combine both traditional and digital. Pete, in terms of a Sheridan example, look at Shaz's film, though not complete, it was entirely done in flash on a tablet, and it had some of the best animation out of all of the films.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

I agree 100% with Pete! It's hard to do the kind of cartoony, personality intensive, acted comedy I like with Flash.

Flash seems to work best with the graphic, cut-out style or the loaded-with-effects-and-gimmicks anime style. Maybe the depressing Chris Ware style too. That's fine for fans of that sort of thing; the problem is that these three styles are completely dominating animation now.

Personality-driven comedic acting is disappearing from animation. That's unacceptable. Art is supposed to allow us to express what we think about life. Flash narrows that freedom to just the emotions expressable by Flash.

Flash liberates animators whose thoughts can be expressed in these three styles and puts handcuffs on everybody else. That doesn't sound like progress to me.

Oops, I forgot to mention something! Is Flash cheaper? The answer is yes, but so what? Would you like to see feature films shot with home video cameras because it's cheaper? Should all live-action movies be shot the way "Blair Witch" was done, just to save a few bucks?

Do Flash films generate the kind of toy spin-offs, books, consumer products and theme parks that 2D spun off? Then where's the savings?
Flash is a money loser, not a money saver.

_Eddie Fitzgerald

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Sean,

Thanks for dropping in to add to the discussion. I agree with you regarding Shaz's "Scooter Goon" student film. It was definitely one of my favourites due to the funny and expressive character animation. However, it sounds like Flash may have just been used to import the images rather than Shaz actually drawing them with the software, correct? I must admit, without any firsthand knowledge of what exactly Flash does, I'm getting rather confused by what it can and cannot accomplish.

Just for the record, a friend of mine who works in a studio where they use Flash, had shown me a little bit of what his work entails. He's a terrific cartoonist himself, and he is quite frustrated in working with Flash, as he claims it would be faster to just draw the damn character himself instead of manipulating dozens of layers of character parts. He also showed me the "Line tool" and let me try it out. I was appalled by how unsatisfying the results were when I tried to draw something, as whatever line I put down was immediately distorted into a line that was not what I had intended it to be. The vector process apparently likes to smooth out any bends in the line into perfect curves. Also, the line quality was that choppy, ugly line that I've described as looking like it was hacked out with an Exacto knife. In short, the Line tool did not allow me anywhere near the same control as I could wield by using a pencil or brush on paper. Until such time as the technology improves to the point where it can translate my lines in absolute faithfulness, I remain unimpressed.

David said...

I'm glad Murray Bain popped in here to mention his studio's work using a hybrid hand-drawn/Flash system . I was going to mention Copernicus and also Jessica Borutski's work ("I Like Panda's" and the upcoming "Good Little Bunny With The Big Bad Teeth" ) What Jess is able to do with the line quality in Flash is amazing to me . Look at these :
Bunny and Fox clean-ups. Yeah, she's doing rough key poses with pencil on paper first, but the clean-up line Jessica gets with Flash is really nice, I think. I really struggle to get good results from Flash , so I admire those who do .

Still seems to me that the best medium for frame-by-frame drawn animation is : drawings , pencil on paper... however, there are some good alternatives. I enjoy drawing on the Cintiq tablet with Sketchbook Pro and my favorite draw/paint/animate tool TVPaint . TVPaint has a very good simulation of drawing with pencil on paper. It doesn't do any of the work for you ... no automatic "tweening" function , it's a "what you draw is what you get" application , just like pencil on paper work, although it does have the added benefits of that nifty little ctrl+z "Undo" and easy to resize and zoom in on drawings (no more resizing on the xerox machine ...aka "cheating").

I do see some good work being done in Flash which approaches the look of classical animation (Jessica Borutski, Copernicus Studios, a few others here and there) but it always seems to me like it's a fight against the inherent limitations of the Flash program to make it look good . (dare I say : cheating to make the Flash program turn out good results it was not designed for). To me, as a traditionally trained animator I'd rather use something like TVPaint which accurately reproduces the line I put down , but for better or worse Flash has become an industry standard tool ... although if I had to go vector I'd pick ToonBoom Digital Pro any day , even ToonBoom Studio 4.0 , which I tried out in a demo version recently. PAP ("Plastic Animation Paper") is also pretty good.

David said...

And , by the way, Pete,
I pretty much agree with the gist of what you've been saying. I think there are some wonderful artists working with Flash and making that awkward program do wonders it was never designed to do , but by and large the majority of it is uninspired flat "cut-out" stuff ... no blame to those do it to make a living , but not what I think we ought to aspire to .

Of course, I'd say the same thing about the majority of limited animation traditional/cel animation work , too. Some very talented artists worked on TV shows made at Filmation and H&B in the 70's and 80's , but nothing in the work they were required to do on those shows speaks very well of "classical hand-drawn animation".

So, yeah, I guess I come down on the side of "don't blame the tool" , but I also am not convinced that Flash is the best digital 2D animation tool available ...

Cookedart said...

Hey Pete,

I've got to disagree with some of your major points.

First off, the example of the goofy short, "How to hook up your Home Theater" is a good one. It was drawn completely digitally on Cintiqs in Toon Boom (other than the holdouts by Mr. Henn and Mr. Deja) - and the result is something that you'd be hard pressed to find flaws in with respect to the quality of the character animation, blasphemy or not.

Secondly, Shaz's film was animated within flash, and cleaned up in flash. He animated it on a tablet pc and dealt with the tools to result in something that looked every bit like pencil-on-paper animation. Both Ben Huen and Pierre used this approach for the drawings on their films as well.

Thirdly, there is the one short on youtube, Everyone else has more sex than me, which seems to use a hybrid of flash symbol based (cutout) animation with traditional sensibilities, and I quite like the result as well. I can understand if you disagree, but I still think this is a good example of flash work if you're discussing the topic of character animation.

I do believe that digital workflows, though, can mimic exactly what you can achieve traditionally, especially when considering the quality of the Goofy short.

The question then is, why do it digitally if traditionally you can get the same effect?

First off, there are the obvious workflow improvements - no need for scanning, a cleaner image set up for coloring (scanning and paper texture create noise that has to be levelled off in photoshop before being coloring worthy), and easier color adjustments after the fact (since it is vector based). However, these are just time-saving measures. Where I think a digital workflow really needs to be considered, is when the workflow actually assists you in creating higher quality work. The fact that in flash, you can change the spacing and timing of your drawings without second thought is nothing to scoff at. The editability of your drawings is also something to be desired - you can skew, stretch, rotate, or transform any portion or the entire drawing to get exactly the drawing that you need for any specific frame in the scene, as well as having the ability to easily erase any frame and rework a section of it that is not working. I think these, plus other workflow enhancements, can show that programs like flash can actually assist an animator in being able to visualize the final output of an animated scene, all without the distraction of leaving for a linetester and having to take down notes to yourself - rather, the feedback is instantaneous and the reworking of the drawings fast as well. This fluidity can really help create better character animation (in my opinion) - and is especially invaluable while you are roughing out a scene.

Of course, there is the cleanup issue (which I don't personally find flash is good at), but it can be rectified in a number of ways - learn to make flash's brush tool do what you want it to (which, I might add, you would have to do with any cleanup medium, traditional or not), or you could use a bitmap program like tvpaint or even photoshop (via use of CS3's Animation Palette), print out the pages and clean them up traditionally, etc.

The fact of the matter is, I think a good character animator should be able to create good character animation no matter what medium he or she is presented with. But what is most important, I think, is to keep an open mind so as to find ways that are the most conducive to creating the best quality animation possible, even with tools that don't at first seem like they would have the ability to do so.

I've done this research mainly for the workflow for my own film - and I haven't looked at it to find a way to do it as quickly as possible, but to find the way that I can make the best animation possible, as easily as possible. Whether or not this workflow would work for other people is of course a subjective argument, but I think the case is strong enough that if you can overcome the programs shortcomings (of which there are many), you can do much or all of what you would be able to do otherwise, and maybe even faster than you could do it before.

Anyways, I'd love to hear what you think, Pete.

Thad said...

Is the Goofy cartoon available online anywhere? I'm interested to see how it looks.

Cookedart said...

Hey thad,

Not to my knowledge.

I caught it at ottawa and it was great though!

I'm sure it will make the rounds with a future disney release, though. I think the the disney people said that they didn't quite know what will be happening with the film, just that it helped then establish the digital workflow.

Here's hoping, though!

Pete Emslie said...

Eddie- Thanks for your words of support. I agree with you on that Chris Ware example, the one with the kids making a movie camera out of a box. Simple geometric shapes stuck together do not exactly make for exciting, expressive characters. I can't understand how others find that appealing either.

David- I really quite like the examples on your site that you've digitally inked with the TV Paint software. If I were to try inking digitally myself, it looks like that one might be the way to go for me too, as it seems like you have more control over the line through natural hand pressure on the stylus.

Alan - That's a very exhaustive and thorough argument you've made for the merits of Flash and I'm certainly willing to defer to you on many of your points. I must admit, I'm amazed that Shaz did the drawing right in the Flash program, as I still can't figure out how he's acheiving what looks so uncannily like pencil on paper. Perhaps you guys could give me a demo sometime?

Speaking of demos, my friend who works at the studio doing Flash animation came over earlier this evening to show me again how he's doing linework using the brush tool. Yes, there is thick and thin to it, but it is not possible to control it completely as you're laying down the line initially. In order to achieve the line you want, you have to go back in and manipulate it. Frankly, it seems far more time consuming than what I can do quite effortlessly with brush and ink, so I don't know how anybody is able to clean up animation that way very easily. (And as for the Line tool, forget it!!)

He also showed me the Alias Sketchbook Pro software that he uses for freelance work on storyboards. That was actually far more intriguing to me, as I felt that it did simulate a soft pencil line that was very responsive to natural hand pressure on the stylus. I could see myself possibly being able to use something like that in my own work.

By the way, I appreciate all of the comments on here, both from those who support me on some aspects and also from those who have argued some of my points. This kind of debate is healthy and I'm sorry that the one on Cartoon Brew has not remained as civil. I've decided not to continue posting on that topic there, as it just seems like my words are being misinterpreted by others.

Hodges said...

Alan - basically you said everything
Pete - My personal take with flash specifically, is that the transition between thick and thin is flawed, there are MUCH better programs for digital line quality, as you mentioned with sketchbook, and photoshop, sketchbook is a great program though. Line transition is also smoother on a cintiq or intuos tablet (more pressure sensitivity) compared to a tablet pc laptop. As everything with time, as long as the right people are pushing for the development in the right way, they will find a way to combine the two, its simply just adding better drawing tools. Still Shaz made flash look so nice, but Disney using toonboom makes me curious.
Basically to me saying digital programs are bad for animating is saying digital paint is bad for painting.

David said...

"Basically to me saying digital programs are bad for animating is saying digital paint is bad for painting."

From my observation of this discussion on Cartoon Brew and here , I don't think Pete was saying that all "digital programs are bad for animating". I think what he was suggesting is that Flash isn't the best choice for doing frame-by-frame character animation based on the results he's seen so far.

To me, the lack of sensitivity of the drawing tools (pencil and brush) in Flash means that the artist (especially the traditionally trained artist) is constantly having to wrestle against the limitations of the program to achieve the same results that would be easier to get with traditional media or another digital program (TVPaint or ToonBoom Digital Pro/Harmony) so you have to "cheat" the Flash program to make the drawings look good. To me it's more effort than it's worth if you're trying to do anything more than basic limited animation, but maybe that's just me. As I pointed out in my examples above , there are some artists getting remarkable results by working in Flash , so for them it's working, so who am I to argue with it ?

I wonder why Disney chose ToonBoom over Flash ? (well, actually I don't wonder at all, but I just thought I'd throw more gasoline on the fire ... ain't I stinker?)

Hodges said...

Hey I actually watched the clips, the flintstones has to be the best clip that show ever made, but there wasnt anything there that couldnt be exactly replicated. Also Fosters may not be animated in the best sense of 3d form, but man, their layouts designs and colours really are amazing. Even if the show has bad "animation" its still one of the best general looking cartoons on television now.
I think Disney went toonboom because its trying to emulate traditional animation whereas flash is a program that has been adapted for animation, rather then created for the soul purpose of it. Interesting either way, and btw Pete your new Cleese is awesome, Definatly one of my favorite alltime episodes. Makes me want to watch them all, all over again, and maybe this isnt the best time to mention it, It would be great if sometime we could get together and go over some of our 3rd year film designs with you and get some feedback. cheers

Ambs said...

I'm not any sort of authority on the matter or even a user of flash, but I am an animation fan. I think 20 years ago, nobody would have thought computer animation could ever be any better than an NES cutscene. If the stuff being aired isn't up to snuff, that's the network's fault for settling for less than whatever the current best is. Right now flash is nowhere near traditional animation, but traditional animation was more limited it it's infancy too. If no one tries to push it as a medium and improve it, then we may never see what great independent American studios (not run by rich ecentrics) can do. Because even Disney doesn't seem to try anymore, and the network shows send their stuff overseas.

Mitchel Kennedy said...

Hey Pete,

We're not making features in Flash, we're only making TV animation in Flash. Yea, there's a lot of cheats (everyone's favorite being the constant use of snappy atic, action, recovery), but there's also more movement than in drawn TV animation. The characters are expected to move more, and there's more follow through and secondary action which is also expected.

Compare Peep or Johnny Test to Scooby Doo or Care Bears and you're going to find that the Flash shows are a lot more fun to look at.

The problem with Flash shows is that of the older non-flash shows. Sometimes they're being animated by people who are not strong artists (sometimes, but not the majority of cases). Most times, if not all, the people who are in control of the show are confused by what "quality" means. For them, "quality" means impressing the person who is above them, even though the people at the top don't know exactly what a good cartoon is.

Take a look at Copernicus's stuff -- there's a lot of tricks to get from one post to another, but it all looks fantastic. Their whole production system to get it looking so good starts off on paper and is completely engineered to be pleasing to watch. They care.

Look at Collideascope's stuff too. They do a hell of a lot of TV stuff, so with the insane deadlines and whatnot, they still pull off some good looking animation. D&J and Johnny Test are, for the most part, animated frame by frame traditionally in Flash (Something Disney is only now catching onto.) Doing it this way allows them to create more full animation, which hasn't been seen on TV until now.

I can't see Flash having any limitations. On a basic level of drawing and moving from frame to frame, Flash and Toon Boom work the same. The new Goofy short was animated paperless in Toon Boom, and you can't even tell the difference. The problem is not Flash, the problem is production.

Beast said...

Amen@ I agree with your thoughts completely,

Michael Sporn said...

I've about given up defending real animation vs Flash. Flash, as you've basically said, allows the "artist" to move objects in space; it doesn't offer much more than that. Amateurs can take a couple of quick lessons and believe they're able to animate when their squares and circles bump up against each other.

The real purpose of Flash is to allow Networks to offer lower prices on animation production. A half-hour now costs them $150,000 rather than a real-animation production at $400,000. That's the only positive thing there is to say about Flash.

Oh yeah, real animators have lost jobs over it, and our medium is not in a good place.

Pete Emslie said...

Mitch said: "Compare Peep or Johnny Test to Scooby Doo or Care Bears and you're going to find that the Flash shows are a lot more fun to look at."

Maybe it's a generational thing, but I really can't agree with your assessment of the Flash shows you cite as good examples of the medium. I'll cut "Peep" some slack, as its characters are deliberately designed with simple abstract shapes and minimal facial features in order to appeal to the pre-school audience. (Sort of the visual equivalent of Fisher-Price toys like "Weebles"). Because of this highly abstract design approach, Flash animation is good enough to move the shapes around. But in a show like "Johnny Test", I believe it would benefit from more conventional animation. I'm sorry Mitch, but the animation in "Johnny Test" still feels like cutout style with just a few extra drawings for inbetweens here and there.

If you are going to compare Flash to conventional animated shows of the past, I'm not sure I'd pick out "Scooby Doo" or "Care Bears" as stellar examples, however, I'd still much rather watch the original Scooby episodes than anything I'm currently seeing on TV done with Flash. Ironically, I think that "The Care Bears" has benefitted from its recent incarnation in CG, as that medium allows for the fullness of the teddy bear forms to show clearly, while not affecting their personalities which were largely nonexistent to begin with.

All things considered, I'm still prone to side with Michael Sporn in this debate. As Michael says, Flash is mostly being used as a way of saving the Networks a lot of money. From my standpoint as an instructor in the Sheridan Animation program, it bothers me that many students are going to graduate only to find that they are unable to use most of their skills in the current studio situation. To put it bluntly, why are we teaching all of these drawing skills when you will most likely just be moving pre-existing character parts around onscreen? As the situation stands currently, there is practically no drawing going on at all in the studios producing TV animation. The only exception to this would be storyboard work. If somebody had told me 20 years ago that drawing ability would no longer be a requirement to becoming an animator, I'd have thought them to be nuts. Sadly, it has come to pass...

Raff said...

As far as the inking argument goes, the main limitation of Flash is that you have to zoom in to get finer lines right. (You don't have to draw a line and then tinker with it after, you can get it righ the first time.) But that goes for inking in any program.

In fact, the general problem I find with digital drawing and especially Flash is that it lends itself too easily to big marker-like lines. It's just a matter of being patient and zooming in when you have to.

As for the animation, no one's forcing you to convert things to symbols and tween them around. In this clip click here there's none.

But honestly, I'd say a lot of what you see on TV now comes more from the notion that a cartoon is supposed to look like a sitcom acted out by wallpaper, more than anything else.

The Powerpuff Girls was not Flash, it was traditional cel, but a lot of the modern stereotypical Flash aesthetic was in there.

Pete Emslie said...

I don't know how exactly "Powerpuff Girls" was done, but it was unquestionably digitally inked even if the rough animation was hand drawn. For the record, I'm not real keen on the stark geometric look of that show either. Why doesn't anybody like to draw organically anymore? Why all the dead straight lines and perfect circles? Where are all the real cartoonists today? Sorry, but I find the graphic shapes aesthetic of today's cartoons just completely unsatisfying.

Raff said...

>> Where are all the real cartoonists today? <<

Here's one.

Here's another one.

A few more.

Why aren't they doing TV? I don't know.

Mitchel Kennedy said...

"From my standpoint as an instructor in the Sheridan Animation program, it bothers me that many students are going to graduate only to find that they are unable to use most of their skills in the current studio situation."

As a student of the Sheridan Animation program, it bothers me that Flash is not taught at all during the four years. Despite what anyone thinks the industry should be, the reality is that Flash is the leading tool, and nobody coming out of the program knows how to use it.

Either way, Flash isn't the problem. Production is the problem. Studios want stuff done fast and cheap. The people pulling the strings also have 'quality control' issues that affect the cartoons. I know this first hand.

With that said Pete, I don't disagree with you about learning to draw and learning to animate traditionally. However, being an artist for oneself and being a worker wrist for an industry are two very different aspects these days, and cannot be compared to one other.

Being an artist for yourself requires the utmost discipline to master as much skill as possible. Being a worker for the industry requires only to be able to do what the people above tell you to do, and to do it fast while maintaining their ideal of 'quality'.

Again, Flash is not the problem. The problem, like you said, is within the current studio system.

Jeremy Canton said...

Hey Pete, this is a fun issue to talk about.

I totally agree the flat shape-tweening look is so old now I'm sick of it. But I'm not going to knock the program out of respect, freelance work in flash has been making me money since high school and its lead to huge contracts that other people will never have. A few people have already mentioned how I feel about it too; that the problem isn't flash but the studios' use of it.

To me, flash is more suited for internet animations and games like you find on and such. It's more of a computer-media creation tool than strictly an animation device. How it became a broadcast quality tool I have no idea because I don't think it was made for that.

Most people probably aren't even aware that there is an entire programming language in flash called actionscript that is basically one of the things that makes flash DIFFERENT. This is what enables it to be flexible, and make games, websites, banners, and, ya, animation. Sure theres a timeline and a few drawing tools, but those I believe were meant for graphic design elements that you could then motion-tween for, again, a website or flash presentation.

I think what happened when it got into the hands of everyday people is that they started playing with it and pushing it (making animations) - I mean, was there any other program like it out there that you could make a digital frame by frame animation in like 5minutes? No.

Somewhere along the line studios must have realized it could make animation quickly, aka cost less money, and so jumped on that.

In short, I don't think we should blame the program because it can't imitate appealing lines, I just think we need to understand the difference between what it WAS made for and what some people are using it to do. Because I think its an amazing program, one of the best, and seeing what people did with it as a teenager is what inspired me to do 2D animation at Sheridan.

Also, are you sure Flash is the program in question here? We were told last year that Flash is dropping out fast in the industry and being replaced by Toon Boom.

P.S. I was going to mention Adam Phillips but someone already did, take a look at his animations, they are the height of what it's capable of.

Pete Emslie said...

Jeremy said: "I was going to mention Adam Phillips but someone already did, take a look at his animations, they are the height of what it's capable of."

I have seen his animation in the past and I've looked at it again just now. Quite honestly, I still don't much care for what I'm seeing. Yes, the animation might be more fluid than what can be found in the average Flash-produced TV series, but it still seems limited and jerky in its movement to me, with a hint of that cutout effect still present. Also, I really don't like the choppy vectorized linework or the harsh digital colour. I'm sorry, but I do not like Flash, Sam I Am! I do not like Flash, it's a sham! :)

Mitchel Kennedy said...

Animated in Flash.

The colouring and inking is gross, but the animation is pretty hot stuff for TV.

Mitchel Kennedy said...

Also, here's one of the first (if not the first) Flash show for TV.

The animation AND linework are both great for TV.

Obviously, production has changed, and not the tools, since.

That's it for me. Over and out!

CJ Grebb said...

I'm sorry, but I do not like Flash, Sam I Am! I do not like Flash, it's a sham! :)


As is your right, of course! I hope, however, you can see the potential there. Clearly Adam Philips' work shows that Flash can rise above simply moving geometrical shapes around, despite the fact that (and I think we Flash fans tend to forget this) FLASH IS NOT A CEL ANIMATION PROGRAM.

With Adobe in the driver's seat now, who knows what kind of improvements to the program might be coming? If they can work the kind of line control into Flash that photoshop currently enjoys, if they can add "animation disc" functionality to allow users to rotate the stage 360 degrees, if they can incorporate "spot colors" that can make global color changes, etc., etc.,

Granted, nothing is ever going to replace the visceral feeling of having a few sheets of oversized paper in between your fingers as you flip drawings back and forth, allowing persistence of vision to bring your art to life. Nothing is ever going to replace the kind of line control you get with a #2 Windsor Newton or a PITT.

On the other hand, "The Man" is no longer going to pay a team of 20 traditional animators to do in five months what 5 Flash animators can do in one, especially if the loss of quality is lost on most lay-persons.

The solution is not to dismiss Flash out of hand, but to encourage those who use the program TO GET BETTER. John K. is doing a fantasic job of trying to educate the up-and-comers about what is becoming the lost art of traditional animation. The rest of the traditional animation/cartoon community needs to do the same.

On a side note, if I was working at Adobe I'd have a picture of Pete on my wall, with a little note under it saying "this is the guy we have to convince." If the tools continue to improve, if traditionally trained animators such as Philips continue to use Flash, and if the price of Flash stays reasonable, then in a few years we might just be approaching a new golden age of independent animation, where great, traditionally grounded work is being done IN SPITE of the lack of studio support. A pipe-dream, perhaps, but still, one worth dreaming, don't you think?

Hodges said...

In terms of a cartoonist using digital tools, Look at Stephen Silver, His work now is very often digital, which shows what programs CAN do. Pete you may not like the look of some flash shows, but I HATE scooby, flintstones, and ALL of those older limited shows, they suck, and i agree that 99% of flash shows suck too. whats the difference if they all suck. Scooby looks like sweatshop cartoon garbage, samurai jack doesnt. I think what your trying to defend is the artistry in feature films, like 101 dalmations and such, because that quality wasnt there is those tv shows. Ive yet to see the goofy movie, which was done toonboom and apparently looks great, and i doubt you would be able to tell it was entirely paperless, but wasnt easy for them to achieve. You may not think Adam Phillips work is perfect, but since when could a SINGLE person do a 7-8 minute cartoon within 5-7 months. NEVER, now there being able too. you have to respect that, and respect what it means, if the right people push this. And the tools will only get better exponentially, you seem to not realize how quickly these digital tools have developed and how quickly there improving. Just look at early 3d and how terrible it looked, no squash and stretch, then the incredibles came out and changed A LOT of minds. I would just like to note that Adam Phillips was a disney effects animator for many years (traditional animation) Theres a good reason hes now become very engaged in digital tools. Of course I respect if you simply dont like how it looks, but that means it merely a personal taste preference, not a general problem with the industry. The only really good tv cartoon in terms of animation EVER in my opinion were warner bros. early work. And that was because they cared, not because of tools.

J. J. Hunsecker said...


I couldn't agree more with you. Amen, brother!

Kyu-bum Lee said...

This discussion is rich in information and valid points.

It'll be interesting to see where all this digital animation revolution will take us if we decide to accept it and develop it as the Disney artists have done with 2D medium in the beginning.

Now I'm late for my class..

MikeBelanger said...

Flash isn't a genre - or even one kind of style. Its a program. That simple.

The reason so much stuff looks the same is simply because people are conforming, and doing what's simple and easy. Making tweens and just stretching them is a lot more simple than drawing fully 3d forms, especially if that's all your trained to do. If they used some other program with different restrictions - they'd probably find out what's simple and easy in that program too.

Peggy said...

Overall, I have to agree.

I was one of the first Flash directors at Spümcø (And I'm here from a link on John K's blog). I was proud of what we were doing on 'Pussy Hunt'. We were pushing the boundaries of Flash back then. But after a year or so, I started feeling less and less involved in the animation. Sure, I was responsible for my timing, people would praise how I'd handled a scene - but I never felt like I owned a single scene. I wasn't drawing a fucking thing. I was just moving around cut-outs.

My drawing skills were atrophying.

There were other reasons I left the industry, but this is the core of it. I wasn't ever animating. I wasn't even in-betweening. I was just moving shit around. I was never bringing anything to life.

I will say that you can do nice, lively stuff in Illustrator. I do it all the time. But you can't just fucking autotrace it. Autotrace is crap.

Unknown said...

It's sad how Computers are taking over Good Ol' Paper & Ink...It's true that Flash is a tool to be use properly but not in a way that it completely takes over the medium entirely.//

Yeldarb86 said...

Sadly, everything has become a slave to the needs of the computer.


I've told a lot of people I know, namely the school administrative types, about my interest in animation, but most of them keep trying to nudge me in the direction of graphic arts. (The university I'm attending now has very few courses pertaining to animation.)
Incidentally, I'm finishing up this killer digital arts course where we try to create projects using Python programming! Takes me back to my days of practicing Java in high school, and both are impossible to get past Level 1. :(

Of course they don't know who Chuck Jones is either, so they don't have much hope.

That really sucks, Thad. Makes you wonder how they got into art school in the first place.

Pete Emslie said...

Peggy - I can well sympathize with your situation. I particularly appreciate this quote: "My drawing skills were atrophying."

Yes, that is a very real danger resulting from this reliance on the technology. I know of many animators who got into the industry because they always liked to draw as a kid, then honed their skills through formal art training. Now they're employed in jobs "just moving shit around", as you said. What a tragic waste of so much artistic talent.

david said...

pete where are your cartoons? do you have any animated cartoons? have you pulled a mark kausler where you sat down and animated your own cartoon traditionally for years of your life? have you tried to animate traditionally in flash?

well then

answer me those questions, and when you can get back to me, at least some people are animating traditionally flash.

yes my line quality is shit, but i'd rather have shit line quality with moving funny drawings than crappy flash bullshit all around. I.e. i'd rather watch pencil tests of fred moores animation, than watch pretty dreamworks poopstain feature shit. But what does it matter when all you guys are so hung up on "the good ol days"

until there is a lot of money involved then its not going to look nice.

Even John K's stuff in flash looks, ugly and flashy, regardless of whatever types of drawings he is using, but he opted to have everything have a pristine stylized thick and thin line quality. But flashy non-hand drawn inbetweens...which is basically cleverly moving parts around.

it still looks flashy.

Either way, there will be people like you, and John, and others who will continue to complain

and then there will be the younger artists, who see flash as an opportunity to make some fucking cartoons

instead of complaining about how it doesnt look the same as hand painted cels, etc. etc.

and sorry to say, but the more you sit around and complain, the less gets done on your end of things and the more other artists will be learning to animate and research cartoons and become the new movers and shakers in animation.

so like herbie hancock said:

hang up your hang ups

Pete Emslie said...

David Gemmill said: "pete where are your cartoons? do you have any animated cartoons? have you pulled a mark kausler where you sat down and animated your own cartoon traditionally for years of your life? have you tried to animate traditionally in flash?"

No David, I have no animated cartoons to show you. I have never made any claims to have worked in animation - I am a cartoonist with a long history in the print medium, but with a lifelong interest in the animated cartoon. I have worked for Disney on staff for 10 years as a character illustrator, with an additional 12 years since then illustrating kids' books and other Disney merchandise. So, though I have not animated, my understanding of character design still stems from a life spent observing and analyzing both feature and TV cartoons, in addition to my long experience working with the Disney characters. Therefore, I know what is an animatable design, capable of fluid movement, as opposed to something designed for more mechanical movement like many of the Flash TV shows on currently.

As I recently admonished another poster over on Cartoon Brew, I find it ridiculous that anyone would imply, as I believe you are doing, that because I have not animated anything personally I am therefore unfit to comment on animation. Would you make the same demands of critics such as Leonard Maltin, Mike Barrier, Amid Amidi, or Jerry Beck, none of whom have animated? I am critical of contemporary music and movies too, though I have not worked in either of those fields either. Am I not allowed therefore to also state my opinion on those subjects in your view?

For the record, I am familiar with your personal work, David, and quite like your pencil art. Your cartoons have a lot of energy and personality. If you are happy creating your own films in Flash and are happy with the results, more power to you! I looked at your "Ball Sack Cat" and agree that the movement is very fluid in his walk cycle due to your drawing each image rather than just shifting parts around. You'll forgive me then if I also state that I'm not keen on the Flash-style linework, as it is just not aesthetically pleasing to me. That is one of my criticisms of the software, in that I find digital inking and painting to be generally rather cold and sterile. Again, that's just my personal opinion, but it is also one of the reasons that I'd far rather watch films done in the traditional methods. Until Flash can match that look, I will continue to be critical. Sorry about that, Chief.

david said...

to each there own. As far as linework or aesthetics are concerned that is understandable. I was not implying that you were unfit for commentary on animation, however it upsets me when i see more "talking" about something less "doing"

Would i like to do things traditionally? of course. Would i want to waste years of my life trying animate something hand drawn traditionally for aesthetics? probably not because that would be a burn out.

The point is that we have to remind people what funny cartoon animation is. I can accept the computerized look and line quality of flash for an opportunity at animating something with real hand drawn inbetweens in probably 1/50 the time it would take to do it traditionally. If people keep using the same flash cheats and shortcuts to cheapen up animation then it will perpetuate the detriment of quality in animation.

Good hand drawn animation is good hand drawn animation. I would hope that some can be forgiving of the overall final look when they are being entertaining by real moving cartoony drawings (not cut-out bullshit)

Regardless. flash isn't the only culprit, having bad ideas and crappy designs on tv is just as bad. There are still a good number of shows that are animated in the "traditional" sense that suffer horribly from the crappy concepts, ugly designs and watered down animation.

Pete Emslie said...

You see, David, we're not in complete disagreement after all! Let me give you a bit more background that may help to explain my views better:

Back when I was in high school, I tried a bit of animation. Nothing much, some simple walk cycles and a bit of close-up acting. Back then in the mid 70's it was the super-8 camera that allowed my generation the chance to try out our filmmaking skills. To be honest, I realized early on that animation was pretty labour intensive even just to get a few seconds worth of footage. It seemed to me that to get anything of substance achieved probably required a group effort from a bunch of dedicated types. Being a bit of a maverick myself, I decided that it really wasn't for me because I liked having total control of a project. I figured, rightly, that I was better off following the route of the print cartoonists whose work I also enjoyed. The rest is history and I have absolutely no regrets about the path I chose to follow.

So even though I don't care at all for the look of Flash, I do understand the lure it holds for independant animators. Like the super-8 camera, Flash is a relatively inexpensive and accessible way of trying out your animation skills. The advantage too, is that the results are immediate and easy to revise what isn't working, unlike the commitment to film with a super-8 camera and the waiting for the results to come back from the lab!

However, I also would compare it to super-8 in the sense that both media seem more suited to hobbyists, as the results, in my opinion anyway, are not broadcast worthy. Flash looks acceptable in a postcard size image on the home computer, but seems "cheap" looking on the TV screen. Again, just my opinion - others may disagree.

One problem with Flash being so accessible to the average person is that there is a huge amount of amateurish dreck out there being posted on personal websites and venues like YouTube, etc. Yes, there is the occasional gem that comes along, like "Everyone Has More Sex Than Me" or "I Like Pandas", where the animators clearly have great ability. The problem is that I feel that Flash's inherent limitations, at least what I perceive, are hindering the results. I've seen Jessica Borutski's artwork on her blog, and I just know that I'd love to see her work in traditional full animation if she had the time and budget to produce it, as she is a major talent. That is my frustration - that nobody is willing to put up the money to use such talent to its full potential. And so long as Flash "cutout" style animation is in vogue on TV, at ever decreasing budgets and churned out ever more quickly, the situation is not likely to improve, in my opinion anyway.

ca60gregory said...

I disagree with the argument that you must use flash to stay on Budget, it is possible to create classically animated films that are appealing and inexpensive, an old instructor of mine from film school told me once how he used to earn a living animating commercials in his apartment on his own, on a piece of glass with a lightbulb under it, held up against a radiator or something.

I suppose ink and paint software and required hardware tends to be a touch costy. But you pay for it once and use it forever.

Bitter Animator said...

One of the things being touted as a strength of Flash (and it is a strength) is also ultimately self-destructive: the volume of product that can be produced at low budgets.

Yes, it's great that anybody with a good idea can now realise that idea. Some really creative stuff has come out of peoples bedrooms with just their computer and a bit of time. This wasn't possible before.

And, yes, it's great that many studios can now produce stuff in-house or get shows off the ground that would have otherwise been too costly.

But that's shooting ourselves in the foot. All that is saying to producers, networks and distributors is that animation can be done on the cheap. It's not simply that suddenly loads of shows that would have been within a certain cost can now be produced - it's that many shows that would have been outside that range will now not be produced because Flash and its equivalents are driving prices down.

Great to get Flash animators some work. Ultimately harmful to animators (both traditional and digital). It reinforces the idea that animation production is not something to be valued. It reinforces the idea that viewers don't care about visual quality and, maybe more importantly for those of us making a living in animation, it cheapens our craft and reduces our paychecks.

The budgets get squeezed and squeezed and that squeeze happens in the 'per minute' animation costs. That hurts animators. We are on our way to becoming (or have become, clawed our way back and are now becoming again) minimum wage employees.

Pete Emslie said...

Bitter Animator - I agree completely with your assessment of the current situation. It has also astounded me, the number of animators who seem so grateful for Flash keeping animation work here in North America. Work that, had it still been traditional animation, likely would have been outsourced to the orient to be produced at a much cheaper rate. As Flash doesn't allow much, if any, new drawing on the part of the animators, I wonder why these remaining jobs are any more highly valued than working on an assembly line producing widgets. It strikes me that there are more and more animators scrambling for less and less crumbs, instead of collectively standing up to the system to demand the whole cake!

Frankly, I feel that most of these types who are grateful for what little they have are sadly deluding themselves, as Flash is likely only delaying the inevitable. At some point in the not too distant future, the animation sweatshops in East Asia will also be taking away that work as well, once they're all up and running with Flash themselves. Again, it all comes down to who can churn it out faster and cheaper using the same technology.

I really do believe in the old adage that there is "Strength in numbers", and that if the animation community were to band together collectively, they might stand a good chance of reversing this situation. Look at what the screenwriters are doing right now by going on strike, trying to get their fair share of the profit that is being made from the constant barrage of new media that is utilizing their handiwork. They are organized and are making a loud and clear statement to the Hollywood brass shouting "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!", to quote the famous line written by one of their own.

Why isn't the animation community doing the same? Why are they instead acting more like meek little lambs being led to the slaughter? I honestly believe there is too much apathy and resignation to one's fate amongst the animation community and I think it's time to change that attitude. For starters, all of those who work in the LA area should be attending the annual conference that is held each April by Charles Zembillas of Animation Nation. By organizing yourselves, maybe you can collectively make a difference and demand that real animation be produced again at sufficient budgets. The networks don't cut corners when it comes to live-action dramas and sitcoms on TV, so why should animated shows be churned out like sausages? Stand up for yourselves, dammit!

Bitter Animator said...

Pete, you are so right about the work going to Asia. That is exactly what's going to happen. If a US studio can produce
Flash animation for a cheap rate, imagine how cheap it's going to be when it goes to East Asia.

That will leave animators in the US and many countries in Europe (I'm currently in the UK) not only without work once again but with a craft so utterly devalued they'd make more selling their own toenail clippings.

And the producers are laughing their asses of.

Raff said...

>> Stand up for yourselves, dammit! <<

Pete, are you talking about fighting to return to back-painted cels, or for more hand-drawn keys and inbetweens, or for a ban on outsourcing?

By the way, all this talk is tempting me to try animating a scene on paper, then inking/painting it once with back-painted cel and then again in Flash with added film grain to experience the difference.

I don't think anyone's tried a real A/B comparison yet.

Where is a good place in Toronto to get cel materials? I'd rather not order

Pete Emslie said...

Raff asked: "Pete, are you talking about fighting to return to back-painted cels, or for more hand-drawn keys and inbetweens, or for a ban on outsourcing?"

I'd at least like to see a return to the industry standard of the 80's/early 90's, in which traditional character animation was still plentiful on TV. I'm talking about shows that had real drawing in them, along the lines of "Animaniacs", "Duck Tales", "Goof Troop", "The Simpsons", and of course, "Ren and Stimpy". I'll also include the relative latecomer, "Sponge Bob" in there too. Yes, I realize that some of the animation on all of these shows was outsourced to Asia, but much of it was done at various support studios domestic to North America too. Somehow or other, the networks were still putting up the money to enable the various studios to produce pretty decent work by TV standards. The payoff for the networks was the fact that all of these shows had legs, lasting for a number of successful seasons apiece, and all of them popular enough to be able to spin-off a lot of licenced consumer product that generated more money for the network coffers.

Believe me, I understand that this industry, like all businesses, is always concerned foremost with the bottom line. But when you produce something of sufficient quality and lasting value, the resulting ongoing profits from longterm syndication runs and merchandising make it a worthwhile investment. In contrast, many of the cheaply produced shows today don't last very long - often less than one season. They're usually built around some bizarre concept with equally bizarre (and visually unappealing) characters that fail to engage the viewers' interest for more than a handful of episodes before they turn their attention elsewhere. I personally feel that most of the Flash animated shows today suffer from that deficiency, and that is why there is such a turnstile mentality in the industry today. Whatever shows that fail can be quickly replaced by more cheap, poorly designed and executed dreck. Nothing is built to last.

slowtiger said...

I have a certain feeling that several things get mixed up in this discussion, and in animation industry as well. (My background: starting with Super 8 in the 70's, I worked in traditional animation as well as in digital 2D, on paper and on Cintiq.)

First: Flash is not a style, it's a program. From what I read, the main criticism goes against "shifting flat shapes around" and "that cheap vectorized look". Well, every animator must decide about the style first, and second about the array of tools needed to do it. If you do it the other way round, you will restrict yourself to what the software is able to do. This of course is also the mistake of every client who demands the use of Flash (or any other software) for a piece of animation.

If your only tool is Flash, then every animation you do will look like a nail, errmm, like cutouts. I like cutouts, some of my favourite films have been made with cutouts, nothing's wrong with it - but if I want to work in a different style, why should I handicap myself with working in a program which is the opposite of what I need? Get better tools suited to your work.

Second: Line quality doesn't get defined by being a vector or being a bitmap line. A clean line will look the same on TV and in cinema no matter wether it was created by a vector program, or by a digital paint program, or was scanned in. If you want a rough line, use paper and pencil, or draw in tvpaint or Mirage, or use some brush options like in Photoshop or AnimeStudio. If you want a delicate line with thinner and broader parts, use paper, or a good graphic tablet, and again tvpaint/Mirage (bitmap), or ToonBoom or AnimeStudio or Animo (vector). Again, first decide what you want, then see how to achieve it.

(Animo was a sensation when I learnt it a decade ago in Cambridge. A whole production system set up aroud a vector based animation module - unfortunately prohibitively expensive. Now cheap but good applications like AnimeStudio can do nearly the same for just 200 $.)

Third: You need a minimum budget to achieve a certain quality. You don't have to spend the money on expensive software. The most important part is to spend the money on creativity, on manpower to do things right. Only if your initial decisions about story, character and style are OK, you should think about workflow. If you deceive a great show which has appeal and is done with cutouts and interchangeable parts, then use Flash. If you want full animation, don't use Flash. If your client wants full animation with characters designed for print only and demands you do it in Flash, ... get a different client. Sometimes he can be convinced of better alternatives, if you know what software is available and know what it is able to do.

David said...

Bitter Animator makes some excellent points about the situation in general:

"it's that many shows that would have been outside that range will now not be produced because Flash and its equivalents are driving prices down.

The budgets get squeezed and squeezed and that squeeze happens in the 'per minute' animation costs. That hurts animators. We are on our way to becoming (or have become, clawed our way back and are now becoming again) minimum wage employees."

I see job postings for 'Flash Animator's Wanted' and sometimes I check into it ... most of these Flash-based studios want very high footage (and the animator is responsible for doing everything in the scene... what used to be two or three separate job functions now rolled into one artist... and only one paycheck, so the producers gotta love that) at a pay scale which is about what I was making back in 1986 . (and that was before the 90's "boom" had inflated some salaries).

So, it's nice that in the short term the use of Flash has brought some animation production back to the U.S.A. and Canada but how long does that
last ?

Bitter Animator nailed it again:

"If a US studio can produce Flash animation for a cheap rate, imagine how cheap it's going to be when it goes to East Asia.

That will leave animators in the US and many countries in Europe (I'm currently in the UK) not only without work once again but with a craft so utterly devalued they'd make more selling their own toenail clippings."

Sure, sure, "Flash is just a tool" and "don't blame the tool, blame the way some people use it" , yeah, yeah, I understand that totally ... I also understand that the mentality of the money people is not to look at the potential of the great artistic things that could be done with Flash if only the artists were given more time with it ; what's attracted the interest of the money people to Flash is the perception that it's the New Big Thing™ for "faster/cheaper/better"
and as long as we keep feeding that mentality about our industry then it won't advance . In one of the posts above Murray B wonders if the "Milt Kahl of Flash" is just around the corner, but I wonder if there is a "Milt Kahl" working in Flash if he'll ever get a chance to let those skills shine outside of the occasional music video which has a relatively higher budget than most tv shows.

What's amazing to me is the memory hole that is quickly developing in our industry . Since the ascendancy of CG animation in the mainstream studio feature film arena it's only taken about 5 or 6 years for a mentality to have developed that treats traditional hand-drawn as if it's some arcane, lost art like the Egyptians building the pyramids or the great age of building Gothic cathedrals in Europe. As if trad. hand-drawn is now considered something just impossible to do now. Or it's just a quaint, slightly eccentric craft like building a ship in a bottle. Really ? C'mon...

Hand-drawn traditional animation was very popular in the 80's and 90's and I think it still could be if some efforts were made to apply smart production methods to curb the true cost over-runs that happened on some mainstream studio features (and it wasn't primarily the artist's salaries that drove those budgets through the roof, even if there was a brief period of salary inflation in the 1994 - 2000 period ... incidentally that mid 90's salary inflation was largely driven by a personal grudge match between a few studio heads bidding in competition to see who would get the best animation staff. Then when they got tired of their little game and dropped it they blamed the animators for making the 2D features cost too much . But their own salaries and stock bonuses never came down did they ? Even when the movies they personally green-lit and presided over died at the box-office. Nope, it was blame the animators.)

The devaluing of the craft and allowing ourselves to be perceived as the bottom rung , low-budget end of the industry is dangerous ground to be on. (again, that's not the "fault" of Flash , it's just a tool, but there's definitely an aura of cheapness that has grown up around it wherein Flash is perceived by the money sharks as something they can exploit ... until they get tired of it and move on to the Next Big Thing™ that they'll slash and burn through.)

I'm fine with digital "hand-drawn" . I like drawing on the Cintiq tablet with artist-friendly apps like TVPaint or Sketchbook Pro. I'm all for taking the drudge work out of production and being more efficient . I'm not necessarily arguing for a return to hand-inked, hand-painted cels shot on an Oxberry camera stand. (although that is still a very legit choice for an artist to use . Look at Mark Kausler's recent film "It's the Cat". and Mark's doing another one on cels now. "It's the Cat" looks great . I'd rather watch it than 90% of the digital stuff I see) But where artists see the goal and potential for reaching new artistic heights with this new digital drawing technology , I'm afraid that the technology itself is perceived by many as the end all, just another way to go "faster/cheaper". I think ultimately this comes down to a discussion about controlling our own content and distribution. But that's another topic and a big one ...

boob said...

Flash vs. traditional is a discussion that pops up often. I'm a rabid supporter of Flash but I completely agree with what you're saying and many of the comments.

From my perspective I went to art/animation school in the Midwest and barely got an education in software let alone animation. Flash became a tool for me to gravitate to. Things came quickly. Even if I was drawing every frame and importing raster art into Flash 3, it was easy and I was seeing immediate results. Maybe if there were teachers and a staff to teach about the actual principles and how to draw for animation would I have a different outlook, but I just wanted to make stuff move.

However, those same immediate results are still what keep me so supportive of Flash. That, and it's actually fun manipulating esentially "cut outs" in Flash. It all adds up to process and what you enjoy. I like to draw like anyone else, but I hate cleaning up and inbetweening can feel mechanical even when it's done very well. And I'm speaking in terms of a one-man team. I haven't had the luxury of being a part of a production pipeline with design, storyboards, layout, posing, animation, etc. I just want stuff to move man. I can have a blast drawing the best poses I can than take 'em into Flash and start figuring out what I need to do to get from on to the other. It might not be Disney, but really I'm just trying to have fun and make someone laugh (or at least smile).

Thankfully I'm still an artist with a critical eye and I can see the natural imperfections in hand drawn animation that gives it charm compared to some of the flatter, perfect stuff Flash has a tendency to produce. But I like the flat stuff too. I like the arrangement of shapes in Fosters even though Mac's face is just sliding around on a square. It's a convincing effect - even if it's not "correct". And if it's communicating what it needs too then what more can you ask for. There's plenty of crude animation that can still tell a story or make us laugh. There's plenty of times where I feel like I really prefer some snappy pose to pose stuff over beautiful Disney work. Call me crazy.

We'll always have opinions - it's all subjective. Nothing is superior and I don't think anyone has really gotten carried away spoting off that Flash or good ol' fashioned pencil and paper are better than the other.

Anyway, thanks - I haven't felt motivated to post about a smart discussion in some time now.


Mark aguilar said...


Does Foster's rival Pinnochio, No.

I find a common argument in every bodies post and that is all the producers want to do is save money.

Can you blame them? Things are much different if you're flipping the bill.

Now I am not saying that flash is better than pencil and paper. I draw in my old fashion sketchbook daily, but I am an avid user of Flash. Does that mean I prefer it over paper and pencil,NO.

But thats not my point. My point is, I constantly read these blogs and here very talented people (whom I respect and admire) bitch and moan about how nobody draws anymore and all the producers want to do is save money.

Well, how come nobody tries to raise the money themselves and produce their own traditionally drawn short or movie?

And if they did, what happened to it. Did they not make the return they expected, because their budget was too large.

Also, I think what alot of shows today are lacking today is not quality of animation, but poor or lame story telling. I'll take a quote from "The Illusion of Life"
"A good story cannot be ruined by by poor animation, but niether can a poor story be saved by the BEST animation."

As for good story telling, everybody is attacking Foster's, but I think that show is a great example of good story telling. A foster home for imaginary friends,that's great stuff, who as a child din't have an imaginary friend. And if any one here replies they didn't have an imaginary friend shouldn't be an artist, because you have no imagination.

Give Foster's some credit, because it was done in Flash, it allowed for CN to move the entire production in house for the 5th and 6th season. I would think that many on here would applaud that, because many of the arguments on this blog are rooted in the fact that animation is going overseas.

"if she had the time and BUDGET to do so, she could animate a short traditionally that would far surpass her Flash efforts due to the inherent limitations of that program."

Well Pete, why don't you sponser her, or would it cost you too much money?

I keep hearing is how the producers all they want to do is save money, the horrible money horders, well, why doesn't somebody on here sponser Jessica Borutski.

"Do Flash films generate the kind of toy spin-offs, books, consumer products and theme parks that 2D spun off? Then where's the savings?
Flash is a money loser, not a money saver."

Did you ever go into Hot Topic and see all the Foster's stuff or the Gameboy game or the many Matel toys Foster's had.

Another point when a child is screaming about wanting a toy they don't give a rats ass if the show was hand drawn or generated on a computer. That doesn't come into effect until thier older.

Am I saying that Flash is better than paper and pencil, NO, what I am is saying that I am tired of reading blogs like, in which artistic veterns (who I admire and respect)attacking up and coming animators (like myself) because of the times we live in. Because they can find more work using Flash than traditionally animation.

John k is the only exception because he does flip the bill and guess what, although he doesn't like it he uses Flash in his hybrid pipeline to produce his commercial work.

Funny how he flips the bill and "Yet when it comes to TV production I will still opt for Flash from now on. Against my will."

So maybe some of you complaining about Flash should flip the bill and finacially prodcue a tradionally fully animated short.
And don't send it over seas. Let's see if you decide to use Flash.

Bitter Animator said...

You say "flip the bill" a lot.

What you're saying is true and yet, again, ultimately self-defeating. The reason it is so hard to put a traditional studio in place and raise the finances right now is that budgets have been tightened and tightened and Flash budgets are becoming the standard.

Why would a producer or network pay more when they could get it done on the cheap in Flash?

Flash, in part, is the reason it's so damn hard to "flip the bill" and finance a traditional project.

And when overseas Flash budgets become standard and get squeezed again, animators will have a slight problem on their hands.

Raff said...

Hehe, there's no end to this!

>> Why would a producer or network pay more when they could get it done on the cheap in Flash? <<

Easy. Tell them it's going to look like Anime.

Think "Avatar The Last Airbender". It's proof that the money gets poured in if they think the result is going to be hot sh*t.

>> I'd at least like to see a return to the industry standard of the 80's/early 90's, in which traditional character animation was still plentiful on TV. I'm talking about shows that had real drawing in them, along the lines of "Animaniacs", "Duck Tales", "Goof Troop", "The Simpsons", and of course, "Ren and Stimpy". <<

Right now The Boondocks is keeping up those traditions, more or less. I imagine people are sick of the likes of Ducktales and Goof Troop. We can leave the puns, the tired old cartoon slapstick and the oompa-oompa music with the 80s. The challenge is to keep that image out of producers' minds if you try to go traditional.

The 90s were about revolutionary counter-culture holding sway. Everyone was trying to be smarter and hipper than the next guy, and they were inspired by 70s geniuses like Jim Henson. The Tick, The Maxx, Sam and Max, lots of clever cartoons were being done because the era was conducive to that. And 1st-season Ren and Stimpy was like Nirvana's Nevermind - you're lucky to get it once if ever.

All that being said, it's the Japanese who are really keeping up the volumetric hand-drawing and the nice background paintings.

Is Williams Street really regarded as the norm in animation? I see things like Drawn Together and What's New Scooby Doo as more common, and they're the same volumetric hand-drawn-inbetweens thing as ever.

What I miss are the nice gouache BG paintings and the line quality, which isn't much to ask. Film grain is just an After Effects plugin away.

And artists who can animate and draw! Why are people being so sloppy? It seems the only ones who really animate these days are the artsy-fartsy theatrical short creators who draw scribbly characters with beady little eyes. Want an Oscar with that?

Mark aguilar said...

"And when overseas Flash budgets become standard and get squeezed again, animators will have a slight problem on their hands."

Maybe, but not only is mony a concern, but time. Why because time is money. It is faster to go down the hall and do retakes and have those retakes finish
end of day. Than to get of hold of India, Asia, where ever and deal with the language barrier and wonky time schedules, that come with overseas production. Flash gives a studio the ability to have animators in house to make changes on the spot for short turn-around.

That was one of benefitting factors of bring Fosters in house, Craig could make corrections and those corrections go into effect immediately.

Plus if you do not like what the studios are doing, why don't create your own content.

With the internet and mobile devices, what is to stop any one on this blog from making thier own content.

Because of Flash mnay animators are able to create thier own content and get exposure

Rob lilly, check out his cartoon, something that probably may have not been possible for him prior to the internet and Flash.

Hodges said...

Technology is getting better so fast whether you realize it at the time or not. Im itching so much to get a cintiq on a rotatable stand, attached to a drafting table, ridiculous. As someone young coming into this, I have high aspirations that havent yet been crushed like many bitter animators ive met. I dont want to see anything like the 90s cartoons, those were bastardizations of the 40-50s, if were going to look back on what was "great" lets put it in perspective, nothing is better then those early warner bros, thats the bar, not animaniacs. And if you think that the technology is the problem, thats a huge mistake, all it is is a tool, just like digital paint comparing to all other types of traditional paint, the problem is the system, your talking about shows where the target audience is children, not artists. The quality work is not going to come out of daytime childrens cartoons, so looking there as an example of whats possible is silly.

just to add on one of my favorite examples of a flash animator is the great Pascal Campion
What he can do so quickly is wonderful, and he updates with a new illustration or animation almost daily.

Hodges said...

oh yes an doodlez by cellar door productions, those little shorts are great!

Jeff Read said...

I hate Flash as much as the next cat, but to be fair there's actually a burgeoning community of artists who use hand-drawn, frame-by-frame animation in Flash to profoundly good effect.

"No tweening" is kind of a braggable thing in the Flash community, meaning you did each frame by hand.

But of course, Cartoon Network doesn't air those people's cartoons...

Jeff Cook said...

I am at an animation school that teaches classical animation (which is ultimately vectorized coloured in Toonboom) and/or CG animation depending on your preferences. 1 year is devoted to classical character inbetweening and clean up and then a following 2 years is spent with either 2d or 3d.

Flash is not in the curriculum yet but it is always being talked about being integrated into the course. I definitely get a lot of satisfaction from classical animation but I am not against flash and I would like to experiment with it and its "no tweening" methods. It is JUST a tool, but a tool that I can see benefits in.

The sad state is that in our class of 34 students, a good 3 odd recognise the name 'Chuck Jones' among others. I also feel pressured towards needing to learn flash as the industry dictates.

Not all New Zealand classical animation house use flash but the majority do and those which don't will vectorize the drawings in some form.

Tim Szabo said...

How is it fair to compare modern television animation in any form to feature animation produced 60 years ago? Thats like comparing a modern Toyota economy car to a Deusenberg. The Deusenberg has brass headlights and a Lalique glass radiator mascot and the Toyota's logo is only plastic. Not a fair comparison. Try a comparison with two examples that have a similar budget and were at least made in the same half century.

Which would you rather have, the traditional animation of Diego done who the hell knows where overseas or the Flash animation of Fosters animated in Burbank? Now we're comparing apples and apples.

Pete Emslie said...

Timothy - That's not exactly what I'm saying here. I use the example of "Pinocchio" simply to point out the inherent limitations of Flash. I don't expect anybody to be able to do something like that with Flash for precisely those major limitations in the software making it virtually impossible. But I do make a head-to-head comparison between TV's "The Flintstones" of the early 60's, and the contemporary "Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends", which is animated in Flash. As these Flash shows go, I think "Foster's" is among the better examples design-wise, but it still cannot match the aesthetic visual appeal and organic (though limited) animation of "The Flintstones", in my opinion. And that is a fair comparison.

Hodges said...

One studio still doing it right is Animagic, running in spain and started by the extremely talented Sergio Pablos.

Raff said...

Alrighty....maybe this will change a mind or two - I advise watching it all the way through:

Mokuu said...

Sir im completely with you on that aspect.

Hand drawn animation forced artist to actually learn how to draw, study life, experiment with traditional medium. Flash doesn't get that same feeling, hell, its not even a good sketching/drawing program to begin with.

I am seriously, wondering if it will make people lazy, maybe even be the downfall of the industry when it comes to quality. In the mean time, traditional artist must hold the fort till the flash fad breaks and hand drawn animation gets its groove back.

David said...

On the digital front , it's interesting that a new article on mentions for the first time that the new Goofy short was NOT completely digital/paperless:

"Goofy is hand-drawn in Home Theater, but in true 21st century style, the short was 50% paperless thanks to Toon Boom's Harmony software (including cleanup and ink-and-paint) using Wacom's Cintiq tablets."

50% ? That means that 50% was traditional pencil on paper . That's a little different than what a lot of people have been reporting .

(for the record: I love drawing on the Cintiq and I'm a big proponent of "traditional" hand-drawn in a paperless environment with Cintiq . )

- Terrence said...

Eddie wrote:

"Flash seems to work best with the graphic, cut-out style or the loaded-with-effects-and-gimmicks anime style. Maybe the depressing Chris Ware style too. That's fine for fans of that sort of thing; the problem is that these three styles are completely dominating animation now."

That says to me one thing. The audience doesn't care. It's only the people who actually do the cartooning and make this work that sit around and complain about this.

All the forms of animation you mention dominating TV right now are there because they are cheap to come by. Broadcasters are not willing to pay for traditionally done work and current DVD sales are showing that the people may not be willing to pay either.

"Personality-driven comedic acting is disappearing from animation. That's unacceptable. Art is supposed to allow us to express what we think about life. Flash narrows that freedom to just the emotions expressable by Flash."

No one is forcing traditionalists to use Flash and nothing need disappear. You're free to sit in your home and do traditional animation all you want. You're free to put it up on the web and show it to millions. My guess is you would like to get paid for it, but that's another story. If no one is willing to pay for it, then does the medium die?

Lately 2D traditional animation doesn't make enough money to even cover the cost of making it. Today, it's cheaper to make a full 3D film like Shrek than to do a DIsney style classically animated film. The gap is only going to get bigger and for one reason. Good drawing takes time and skill. No tool is going to change that or make the traditionalist draw faster. But in 3D, Pixar's first film can be rendered in realtime on any modern computer. Soon, a movie like Shrek will be rendered in realtime. 3D will only get faster and cheaper.

And Flash? It's cheaper to make a Flash show than to outsource 2D traditional to India!

Broadcasters and producers only see $Dollar Signs$ not good expressive animation. A guy like Andreas who refused to draw on a Cintiq simply risks producers saying, "Fire him and get someone who will!"

Theater, opera, radio, movies, TV, home video, internet... No one medium of entertainment has totally killed that which came before it. If people really want to see the 2D traditional animation, then an avenue for it will be made. Maybe TV is simply not that avenue anymore.

- Terrence said...

Bitter Animator wrote:

"it's that many shows that would have been outside that range will now not be produced because Flash and its equivalents are driving prices down.

The budgets get squeezed and squeezed and that squeeze happens in the 'per minute' animation costs. That hurts animators. We are on our way to becoming (or have become, clawed our way back and are now becoming again) minimum wage employees."

How much should you be paid for your craft? It's only worth what the market will bear.

Japan is facing a serious problem here right now. 2D animators make less than a McDonalds employee in America but TOKYO is a much more expensive place to live than L.A. or San Francisco.

The video game industry is paying top dollar right now, though, and many skilled artists are transferring their skills and moving on.

Bitter Animator wrote:

"If a US studio can produce Flash animation for a cheap rate, imagine how cheap it's going to be when it goes to East Asia.

That will leave animators in the US and many countries in Europe (I'm currently in the UK) not only without work once again but with a craft so utterly devalued they'd make more selling their own toenail clippings."

To that I can only ask, so what? Industries change and some even die. I am sure there were plenty of bitter horse drawn carriage makes at one time, just like there bitter 8 track recorder manufacturers. But you have skills and you have options.

1. Move to east Asia. As an experienced western animator I can guarantee many studios there would be glad to have you. You would, of course, have to prepare to live a very different and simpler lifestyle. I know a couple of guys who moved to China and Malaysia and opened up their own studios.

2. Learn 3D and use your skills in the video game industry. The big companies are paying 6 figure salaries to people with serious traditional experience.

3. Comic books are on the rise again. If you can draw, you can use your skills there.

Otherwise you can change industries altogether. Do some other job by day and spend your nights doing traditional animation your way. Put it up on the internet. Maybe it will get millions of views and turn some studio heads.

I find it strange though that in a world of free content out there on the net, some of the strangest videos, and even some anime mash ups, get hundreds of thousands or million of views, but great, original 2D animation, available for free, rarely gets more than a couple of thousand views. Is the demand really there?

We can sit around and wish that producers or studios would suddenly decide to pay $500,000 per episode to traditionally do a show instead of getting it done in Flash for $80,000 or so, but who can justify it?

BTW - I already see studios in India advertising Flash animation for $300 per minute total cost on their website. How can we compete with that? That's less than $10,000 for a half hour show! It's coming whether we like it or not.

Raff said...

>> You're free to sit in your home and do traditional animation all you want. You're free to put it up on the web and show it to millions. My guess is you would like to get paid for it, but that's another story. If no one is willing to pay for it, then does the medium die? <<

You need money just to have time to do it. You have to eat and make rent and work x hours a week to pay for that.

And you need to pay others for true full-out traditional because not only will you not have time or patience to do it all yourself, but it usually takes combined talents to get "that look".

Pete Emslie said...

To be perfectly blunt, Terrence, arguments like yours just make me sick. I believe that anything of value, particularly in the arts, is worth standing up and fighting for. Neither do I buy your assessment that the general public no longer cares about traditional animation. In fact, the current box-office success of the just opened "Enchanted" would seem to attest to my longstanding belief that the public will indeed flock to see beautiful drawn animation if given the opportunity. True, "Enchanted" is primarily live-action, but it is the animated opener and affectionate homage to Disney's time-honoured classics that is what audiences are clamoring to see. Personally, I see some very real glimmer of hope that I think is really going to catch fire again once Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" (or whatever title they finally decide upon) is released.