Cartoon Movies are a Hit With Big Screen Producers The Buzz


When was the last time you sat down to watch television and didn't see an advertisement for an animated feature film? In recent years, cartoons have been a big hit on the big screen.

There seems to be a large number of producers tapping into a market that had previously been at the disposal of a select few big-name production companies. What has caused this rush to produce cartoon flicks and how long will they continue to be in demand?

The Rise to Popularity

"They [production companies] started to see it was profitable," explains Maureen Furniss. She is the editor of the Animation Journal. According to Furniss, producers began to realize that Disney wasn't the only company who could put together an animated feature.

But it's not only about how much money there is to be made. It's also about how much there is to be saved.

"The lower-cost, higher-performance tools have let more people produce animated features and shorts -- as opposed to a few well-funded major studios. And the independent animated feature may cost less than the independent live-action film," says Andy Johnson, a producer and animator.

"But even that is thrown upside down as...equipment gets better and cheaper."

Aden Rimbey of the Quickdraw Animation Society feels that cutting costs is being taken too far in the production and animation industry. "Studios will buy the equipment they need to get the film, then get cheap labor. They are not paying as much for the craftsman who knows what he is doing."

Not only is there money to be saved in the animation industry, but there is also a great deal of money to be made. Kung Fu Panda, an extremely successful animated film, made $600 million in worldwide box office profits, for example.

As long as people continue to flock to movie theaters to see cartoons, producers will continue to make them.

Technology

When computers first came on the animation scene, they were used to create a few minutes of film footage. Now, they are being used to make an entire full-length feature film. Advances in computer animation have given animators the ability to make characters more lifelike and scenery that makes viewers feel they are looking at a real place.

Some argue that technology is taking away from the creative process. Others feel it provides more opportunities. Rimbey confesses that animators have come to him saying "they feel more like a cog in a machine than an artist. The creativity is still there, but artistic expression is not as expressive. It is all the same."

Furniss, on the other hand, feels that technology provides "tons and tons of opportunity," particularly when it is coupled with classic artistry. "There are new techniques, plus a resurgence of interest in old techniques, such as 3D models," Furniss says.

In bringing down the cost of animation production, technology has also made it possible for smaller companies to compete with larger ones. Also, according to Furniss, there is more being done at a student level. "There is definitely growth," says Furniss. "Some major film festivals that were held every other year now are being held annually."

Effects on Those in the Field

Johnson cautions that although jobs are available, this career is still hard to break into. "It's who you know, not what you know, that is the determining factor. There is growth opportunity for non-glamorous jobs, such as corporate positions."

Even while creating jobs, the success of animation has caused a shortage of positions in other sectors. Technicians and actors, for example, have fewer openings available to them. "A lot of things are being taken over by the computer, so there is a shift in available jobs," says Furniss. "People have to keep up with the times."

The most noticeable change brought about by technology and the success of cartoon films is that it has brought small production companies into an arena that was once occupied by a few large companies. "I definitely see a trend moving towards that," says Johnson. "Some of the larger houses are closing or laying people off after a film is done."

Johnson says that "boutique studios," where one or two people with a few computers do the work, are becoming more common.

Furniss feels that animators shouldn't discount what they can learn by working with others. "Animation is an art and a craft. There are many things to learn."

Into the Future

With changes happening so rapidly in this industry, what might the future hold for cartoon films?

Rimbey hopes that animators will look to the past for inspiration. "People are going back to classical techniques incorporating the digital, because they see the creativity that has been lost."

Furniss agrees that the focus should not be on technology alone. "They [animators] need to work on traditional skills, like painting and modeling."

Could it be possible, with all the advances in computer technology and television, that the movie theater will become obsolete? "I don't think so," says Johnson. "There is still the movie experience -- an experience you can't get from the web or television."

Links

Animation World Network
This site covers every aspect of animation

Animation Blast
Cartoon commentary and news from an industry magazine