Friday, December 24, 2010

Is that a faint smile?

It's Christmas!

Hope everyone who has made their way to this fairly inactive blog has a wonderful Christmas! Or whatever holidays you celebrate. Or don't. It's fine just to wish you some wonderful days, I think. Happy Friday and Saturday all!

Unless you don't recognise the traditional week and then it all gets quite difficult.

I think it's been both a great and crappy year for the world overall. Great in that whole systems fell apart economically revealing the fragility and sustainability of systems based on bullshit, truths were revealed that we all suspected and the world has fewer lies today than it did this time last year. Crappy because the worst we suspected has been confirmed and very few seem to be bothered to do anything about it. So the world is a bit more apathetic and hypocritical than this time last year.

But, hey... there's always 2011! The year people take the world back? Or at least consider it? Let's hope so.

Between now and then, however, take the time off. Let yourself off the hook. The world's ills are not your ills. Let them go for a while. And have a lovely holiday time with friends and family. Just enjoy it.

Happy Christmas all!

Oh, but if you do find yourself dwelling on the world, please consider making a donation to the defense fund of Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of leaking confidential documents. He is being treated hideously and is being punished without even a verdict yet. If he is innocent, he needs all the help he can get. If he is guilty, well... if he is guilty, the man is a hero, putting his conscience above blind orders and has done the world a favour. Either way, he needs support. I have donated and wish Bradley Manning as happy a Christmas as he can possibly have under the conditions he is being kept in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where is the reaction to Wikileaks?

No, I don't mean hailing Julian Assange as the new messiah or, alternatively, calling for him to be murdered in cold blood. I mean, beyond the weird Cult of Assange thing that's going on.

Wikileaks, for a large part, isn't telling us stuff we hadn't already suspected. You could go as far as to say that most of it we already knew. But there's 'knowing' something and it going on somewhere far away and maybe it's real and maybe it's not, and there's 'knowing' something as in it is out there in the open and in your face. Wikileaks is making the former into the latter.

And, for me, it pretty much makes the entire Western world a hideous place of hypocrisy, lies and heinous crimes.

In our name.

They are our governments. Our corporations. We live in their countries. We buy their products. We work for them. They pay our wages and we pay their taxes. We support it. And now we can't even pretend not to know about it. We are now accomplices if we do not make a stand.

And I find it hilarious that some condemn Wikileaks for this. Call for them to be shut down. Call for the death of Assange. Really? Calling for someones death because they had the balls to get the truth out there?! Because they got your crimes out in the open? Because they make it harder for you to pretend this shit doesn't happen. Makes a mockery of every working day in the Western world. Freedom? Nope, we don't have that. Morals? Not a fucking chance. We'll make people disappear and torture them with no problem. Funny too that a big deal was made of that one German who was taken and held without trial or due process because it turned out he was the wrong guy. Even if he was the right guy, it's STILL WRONG!

And I say a big deal was made of it but only within the limited press reporting on the leaks.

No arrests have been made. Except for Jesus 2, Julian Assange, who I'm really suspect about altogether but that's a separate issue. Where is the real reaction? The outrage? The arrests for crimes that have come out in the open with these cables?

Where is the reaction?

As far as I'm concerned, these leaks simply make real what most of us suspected. And what that does is make a complete mockery of the Western world. Not just the US. Every country. Hell, not even just the Western world. The whole thing. It's a mess. A complete utter joke. These governments have outlived their usefulness. The corporations should be torn down. This entire society should be allowed to fall apart so it can build something new.

Something better.

For the people. Not for the money. Not for politics. Not for pure evil. For the people.

Just the people.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lost At Sea

Had some really great news over email - Susan (see earlier post) is out of hospital. Sounds like she has been through the wars but she is out and with her family (though not yet with her beloved cat). Get well soon, Susan! There has been a hole in blogland without you.

As for me, healthwise, I'm fine and feel I should be very grateful for that. I say fine but who knows what time bomb I have under my skin. With bailouts, IMFs and various aimlessness, things all feel a bit bleak.

You know you need something else in your life when you're going to the toilet just for something to do...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Any Irish people?

I don't know if I have any Irish people at all who pass by the blog but, if I do, you'll know all the crap going on at the moment. You're probably sick of it. For those who don't know, the gist is this:

The country is down the crapper. The banks got us down the crapper and the government pushed us right in there by then pouring money into the banks - paying private debt with public money. Now, the government is looking to get funds from the IMF, which will cripple the country, and make the poor, the young and the middle classes pay for those bank debts and new IMF debts while destroying the economy. The current government will be voted out in January, and yet they are being allowed lock us into this crap so the next government can't do a thing other than bitch about how the previous government got them into trouble.

And they'll do it because Irish people have a nasty habit of just accepting shit and moaning about it in the pub.

Don't accept it.

It's not too late. It doesn't have to happen. Every economist on the planet says this is not the way to go. Says that there are other options. Politically, there are also other options. The parties could prevent the budget going through and force a general election. If these other options aren't explored, we are screwed. And our children are screwed.

Moaning in the pub is not going to help.

There is a demonstration tomorrow, Saturday November 27th, in Dublin at Wood Quay, 12 noon. It was started by some union I don't support but this is not about unions. It's about every person in Ireland. So please make the effort to get out there and make your voice heard. The people of this country can change it.

Don't let the gobshites chuck a grenade before they leave.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Get well soon, Susan!

Susan Schechter, author of the excellent blog, 'If you're going through hell, keep going', sent me a message to let me know she is in hospital. I don't have many details but there is a post here from one of her friends explaining the situation.

Susan is a regular commenter here, a very good blog buddy of mine and an all-round fantastic person so the news that her kidneys have failed is really alarming. As said on her friend's blog, "26 years on Lithium has taken its toll". Thanks Pharma - you guys rock!

No, really... you don't.

Susan, my thoughts are with you. I'm hoping for a speedy recovery and hope to hear more from you very soon. We need to get you out and back blogging again. Get well soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Must... sleep...

So, so tired. Not a night goes by that I don't wake up at around 2am and that's me up for a few hours. Then there's the usual pre-7am wake-up call by my very own flesh and blood alarm clock that is my daughter.

So tired.

Anyone still come by here? You know, just to poke my corpse with a stick or something? Oh, by the way, I have just joined Twitter. Em, I think it's here - . I haven't yet tweeted much but, if you come across this, why not follow me and see if I tweet some more? Go on. You can always unfollow me if I'm rubbish at it.

So how have y'all been? I miss you blog guys and girls.

Edit: Wow, blogger just chooses my font sizes entirely at random. Thanks blogger.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One thing I found...

Thanks so much for the kind messages in the comments of my last message. I have been archiving stuff on a new hard drive and found a whole bunch of unfinished Medicated Life stuff that I never posted and thought I may as well put some up for you to see.

This is a few pages of a full-on story based on the time I discovered Flash animation quite a few years ago. You should be able to click on them for larger versions. It sort of went like the above images.

The last panel is unfinished but I decided that, as he had discovered some sort of mystical ability to make cartoons in an hour, he deserved a superhero outfit.

He didn't like it.

Maybe at some stage, when my career comes to a crashing halt, I'll do a little graphic novel about my experiences in animation. Not saying it will be any good but it will pass the time. There's more where this came from so I may put up a few oldies as I find them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


What the hell happened to June?!

You know guys (well, me, because I'm likely the only one around), I've been thinking about retiring the blog. I'll explain why.

I started this blog a few years ago simply to get stuff out there that I couldn't really say without the protection of an anonymous web space. I honestly didn't expect anyone to read it. But some did. And, as I went on, I found much more to say. And then I found a little less to say.

I was hit with a realisation about a month or so ago -

I'm in a business that has zero value (well, I know that and you know that because I've told you but I have only recently taken it in completely). It's not even a business because businesses make money. In spite of what I feel is an area of expertise and experience, I'm not making a huge amount of money. Or even an average amount of money.

All I can do, every skill I've built up over the years, is effectively valueless.

And I need to make some money.

So I'm hiring myself out as a rentboy. Well, not yet. That's plan B. But what I am doing is trying to focus. For a while, trying to dump the projects that won't bring me in anything. You know the reason I take on most projects? Just to show I can. There are some projects, as I've mentioned here on this blog, that I see as really important. Contributions. Good for children. But others? No, I take them on to show I can and then lose interest.

That's pointless.

I'm learning the art of quitting. Quitting isn't a bad thing when the things you're quitting only serve to distract from what you should be doing.

And what I feel I should be doing is focusing on finding a way I can deliver something really good for children, for parents too, that has a value to it. That will make me some money. And, given the state of this industry and the planet, that's a pretty tall order. Next to impossible. Everything right now is going against it.

But I'm damn well going to try it.

This blog is not one of those pointless distractions. Yeah, it doesn't make me a penny but it has worth to me. It is a place I can talk about things that would otherwise just be thrown around inside my head until they damaged me. And, having a look through my archives this evening, I realised, even if I do say so myself, that there's some pretty good stuff here. I surprised myself a few time. I like this blog. It's a sort of home for a certain part of me. The Bitter Animator.

But it takes up a lot of time.

An amount of time that would probably surprise you. The drawings don't take all that long but the combination of text and images mounts up.

With me trying to work hard on finding some new strategy, some new aim, and not always having topics jump out at me for the blog, it has been left behind a bit.

And so I've been thinking about retiring the blog. My thinking was that it's probably better for those few of you who still check it to know if it's done or if there will ever be a post again.

But I'm not sure I can retire it. I think I probably need it.

Posts, however, are going to be pretty thin on the ground for some time. I hope that's okay. That's the right expression? Thin on the ground? Expressions aren't my strong point. If I do make some money, I'm pretty sure it won't be in the expressions industry.


I was just checking this posted okay and saw the image below it. Me looking out at a blank space. I looked out and saw nothing a month ago. And, well, I think that nothing was an opportunity. I have taken on the challenge to fill that space. Looking at that image, it actually seems so obvious. That's why this blog is important, I guess. Sometimes it knows more about me than I do...

Oh, one last thing, a guy called Ryan contacted me and I went looking at his site. Well, Ryan's introduction on his home page really touched me. And, while Ryan is dealing with some things I haven't had to, the more I read his posts, the more I could identify with them. If you get a chance, check out Ryan's site, My Chemical Imbalance.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dead flies

I was looking at a graveyard of splatted flies in front of me and couldn't help wondering about my own life. Our lives.
I don't know how many flies there are but there's an absolute shitload of us. And we die all the time. We're born and then BAM! Dead. That's it. Two generations later, we may as well never have existed.

Our atoms, those things that made up each of our parts, are still there though, right? We're all just made up of bits. Not all that different to the flies. To a chair. Anything. Just a bunch of stuff that came together and made a form. Could actively move those atoms around.

Isn't that amazing? That we can group these parts together and move them around in space actively, with our own thoughts? Which, in turn, are some incredibly complex organisation of these parts and impulses from one to another. It is amazing. In many ways, it's totally and utterly unbelievable.

Am I to believe this is an accident?

That our self-awareness is little more than an accidental curse? A by-product of a random system created by millions of years of chaos?

That looking down on Earth, we're nothing more than the movement of atoms brought together by gravity?

Doesn't sound quite right. It actually doesn't sound all that likely.

If it is, it's not likely that we'd be unique. The only ones here. There must be others like us (at least in some ways) in the Universe. You know, now that I think about it, it's weird to think that there is so much life, has been so much life, all over our planet... and we're the only ones writing books? Painting pictures? Wasting our time on blogs? How is it we have come so far and not one of those millions of other life forms on our planet haven't?

There's not just one life form that can swim. Not just one that has camouflage. Not just one that can light up. Not just one that can use sonar.
But there is just one that can make a television. Build a car. Flip a burger.

That just doesn't sound likely to me.

There's something not quite right about our whole existence. It just doesn't sound likely to me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Having to end it...

Thing is, I knew this wasn't going to work right back when he came on board. Well, Colonel Ginger Nuts has to go. He just isn't cut out for children's shows.

And it's not a pleasant conversation.

Never should have happened in the first place. I said the project was shit. Said it from day one. And, in cases like this, I hate being right. So now it's taken well over a year to get to a point where the realisation kicks in that this man will never turn it into something good.

Now, it's up to other writers to try to make this into something other than a train wreck. And someone has to explain to this guy why he's not going to get to work on this show he created and will never see in its current form ever again.

I hope it's not me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How many drafts?

I'm rapidly losing the will to live.

The reason I didn't want to write on this project was that I thought it was utter cack. Why would I spend my effort trying to turn something awful into something slightly less awful? Seems like a losing battle.

So I'm not writing it.

But, by the looks of what I am being given to read, nor is anyone else. I need to not even be aware of this project's existence. I need it to go away.

Go away piece of shit project with your shit writers. Go away.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Does anyone out there have any positive stories about distributors?



Even one?

No. No, I didn't think so. It's funny - I thought it was just the distribution company our show was with. I thought we went with a pack of monkeys and all those other distributors were great. After all, many distributors have great visibility in the business. They must all be great while we were lumbered with idiots.

Turns out everyone feels the same.

People on big shows with high-profile distributors have nothing but horror stories about how their show has been treated. Everyone feeling they went with the wrong distributor. And that's a real problem.

You see, when a show is made (as ours is now), it falls to the distributor to sell the show, usually internationally. They have to find the best platforms for the show, try to hype it up as much as they can, get it the best time slots from broadcasters. They have to find licensing deals, build what they would call a brand. Get books into shops. Toys if people want them. That sort of thing. Take the raw materials that are the show itself and get it out there.

Handing a show over to a distributor is like handing your child over... an abusive coke addict who barely knows or cares that your child exists.

Things I have seen from distributors that bug the living shit out of me:

- Not actually getting to know the show. Like, not even watching the goddam episodes. How can you possibly expect to sell something if you don't know what it is?!

- Trying to tell the show makers who live with the show every single day what the show is or should be, even though they don't know the show, as in the previous point.

- Not talking to other people within their company. Seriously - do you guys spend so much time glued to your Blackberries that you can't even talk to somebody in the next room? Stop asking for the same shit all the time when the people in your office already have it.

- Not forming any sort of strategy. Probably as a result of the previous point, distributors routinely wander around aimlessly until those few minutes a month they decide they should do something. Without the preparation and resources, they achieve nothing.

- Spending more time coming up with reasons why things won't work or can't happen than actually trying to find out what you can do. We've made a show. That's an uphill struggle. We know all about how difficult things can be. We don't care. What you can't do isn't worth shit to us. Go do something.

The list goes on and on...

How most of these people keep their jobs is absolutely beyond me. Actually, some distributors have a fairly high rate of staff turnover so maybe they don't. And of course, because they don't actually ever communicate with people in their own company, every time someone leaves it is like starting from scratch. The new person will be sure to tell us just what great things they've worked on. But that silence when we ask them a question about our show tells us so much more.

In a way, I suppose it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who ended up with a fuckwit for a distributor.

Oh and if any distributor comes across this, you know I don't mean you, right? It's those other distributors...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Yeah, yeah so you're going to say, oh but The Thing is a remake and that's great. And The Fly. And...


I've had a lot of discussion recently about remakes (because there are so many of them) and any remake you can name that was actually good, you have to go back about 20 years or more to find. They were made because someone thought they could make a great movie out of the concept. They weren't made during a time of total creative bankrupcy and cynical lowest-common-denominator film financing.

Oh, but what about Dawn of the...


That wasn't a remake. It shared the name of a movie and one location - a shopping mall. That's it. No characters were brought over. Not the story. It didn't even have zombies in it. Wasn't a remake.

The use of the title there was little more than a symptom of the problem. Slap a name on it that people will recognise and hope that will sell it. Do you think The Thing really had any value in its name? Wasn't even the full title of the original movie. Was a whole different time when Carpenter made that movie.

Modern remakes are not made with love. They are dead. Soulless. Especially those that are remakes of current movies that just happen to be made in a language other than English.

They're shit.

And that's why I don't watch them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The come down is a bitch

The crash at the end of long creative projects is apparently very common. Someone once told me that there is a course in dealing with it for actors. I wonder if I could find it and sign up.

With a quiet studio and empty desks, after so much creativity, I feel isolated. Empty.

Something happens when you move up the chain in animation (and probably any creative business). When you get to a certain level, where you're calling the shots, you can inspire others, you can get people to go along with your vision (however misguided), you can have a whole team of people willing to help you, wanting to help you...

And yet, as that happens, a gap forms between you and them.

An isolation.

As much as this business depends on being part of a team, the old expression of it being lonely at the top is true. Worse, if you're not at the top but at least in the upper part, you have the loneliness without the security of being overlord of all you survey. You're just overlord of a few little things.

Overlord for a brief period. But the isolation lasts longer and hits so much harder when the project is over. At that point, you no longer have a team of people around you willing to help. They're now just colleagues, distanced by some change in dynamic.

I'm in a void right now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Early learners

Susan sent me this link to this rather fancy new children's furniture - their very own cubicle. Well, maybe they didn't intend for it to be represented in that way. Maybe not. But that's what it is.

I couldn't help thinking about the role of children's shows when I saw that. Of course, I'm always thinking about children's shows. It's what I do. But have you seen Higglytown Heroes? It's rather entertaining but the message of every show is that you should work hard. Each episode highlights a different job and shows how important they are to the community.

They're heroes you see.

It's quite a nice thought actually. The local pizza delivery guy does deserve credit. Many people doing their day to day jobs deserve more credit than they get.

But the message in each show seems to be simply - get out there and work, children! Work! Work! Work!

And I can't help wondering who those children are going to end up working for. Children learn from television and this is one show that has a clear message it is teaching. Some are less clear and some are plain disturbing (I may review some children's shows at some point, showing the lessons as they appear).

I've rambled on in the past about how we're living in this age of distraction. Bombarded by choices and yet also shackled by the things we think we need or should have.
Not shackled simply because that's the way life went or just happened to end up. No. Shackled because it serves some people's interests to keep us that way. Like modern day slaves.

But willing slaves.

And to make someone a willing slave, just like getting them hooked into a cult, you have to do a certain amount of conditioning. If you expect it to continue all their lives, you have to do a lot of conditioning. And that has to start early.

That's what schools are for, I guess.

Many schools grew from a need to create work forces of a certain level and, importantly, with certain leanings and loyalties in how they think. Often religiously motivated. To serve the machine.

We still do that today, but it's corporations now. The religion aspect has faded somewhat, though the history of the corporation seems tied to religion if you go back far enough - that's simply about who was holding the power at the time.

Now, we're creating our work force even before school. With shows, toy furniture. It's conditioning.

Is this conditioning something we should accept?

Or reject?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Well it's a popular name...

Cartoon Brew reported on a Draw Mohammed Day that seemed to be gathering support on Facebook, in response to the censorship of a recent South Park episode. It started just as a little cartoon, not a real thing and people have jumped on the idea and it gathered momentum. The idea is this - on May 20th, loads of people will draw Mohammed in protest over censorship that comes about through threats and intimidation. I guess it's safety in numbers.

As I read the comments and discussed it with others on the Brew boards, my thoughts on it went back and forth quite a bit. I'm still not 100% sure what I think of it to be honest.

My first immediate thought was that this is a great idea. Simply because I don't think people should bow to threats. That shouldn't be indulged. And I object to the idea that somebody elses religious beliefs should dictate what I should or shouldn't do.

There have been many comments that say this drawing day would be disrespectful to ordinary Muslims. This is true, and unfortunate. But that anyone should be driven by fear to censor a point that, actually, was about censorship, well, where's the respect there?

But it's not so much about respect really. It's about fear. Fear of death threats like those going back all the way to Salman Rushdie. Fear of those threats being carried out, like they were with provocative filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

The world has been tip-toeing around recently for fear of becoming the next target. I know I'm pretty sure I don't have the balls to take part in Draw Mohammed Day.

That is all sorts of wrong.

And it's not really about Islam. It could be any religion, group, whatever. It is not right to threaten others who don't follow your beliefs. Not right to kill them. Not right to censor them through fear. It could be death threats from tea-drinking vicars, morris dancers, shoemaker elves. Really doesn't matter who it is.

And when people are pushed, as they are right now, sooner or later, they push back. First in small ways, like this drawing day. And then in bigger ways. It's not going to end well. I don't like it one bit. Worst thing is, this fear may give some sort of power to Muslim extremists, but it's going to give far more power to those who wish to spread anti-Muslim hate.

It's not going to end well.

No, I don't think I'll be drawing Mohammed. Not out of respect. Out of fear. They rarely go together. I may make my own little protest. Draw a pig or something. But not Mohammed.

I'll leave this with a thought I had on that Brew posts about beliefs. For me, if the systems and beliefs can stand up to scrutiny, can feel that certain and that right, they shouldn’t ever need threats to back them up. They are what they are. If I’m wrong, I hope it’s Allah or God himself who sorts me out in an afterlife, not a fallible mortal who takes it on himself to act on what he perceives to be the word of an almighty.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free shows!

More about free stuff and value. Not interns this time. This time, it's shows.

Television shows cost a hell of a lot more to make than a chocolate bar, so it's odd that so many programme makers would be willing to give their shows away for free, isn't it? Or even offer to pay to have their shows aired.

But it happens.

Just recently, a fairly new show gave a whole second series to one of the bigger (maybe biggest) children's channels over here for free. Well, not quite free. In return, they wanted a better time slot, just like the guy selling chocolate bars above. They wanted to have some say on when the show aired and that was worth giving the entire series away for no money whatsoever.

It's something I've mentioned before - the value of what many of us do in this industry is zero. Sometimes less than zero.

And you've got to wonder where they're making their money. Well, they're hoping it's in licensing and merchandising. Selling shit to your kids. That's what it comes down to.

There have been criticisms in the past that children's television is no more than dressed-up advertising. So many of the popular 80s cartoons were toy properties and were little more than cynical marketing ploys. Ploys many of us remember with fond nostalgia. Because we were total suckers. We were just children - a completely innocent audience. A victim unable to distinguish between entertainment and exploitation.

With shows being given away for free, that criticism needs to be brought to the fore right now. Because, unfortunately, it can be the only way these shows remain, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, commercially viable. Either people need to accept that in order to get television shows for their children, they need to allow their children to be targets of advertising (and I don't think people should ever accept that)....


The entire business model of children's television needs to be torn down, examined and rebuilt.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I don't have a dog right now. But this is what I'd be doing if I did.

I'm not really a spiritual person at all. I have questions with no answers and other questions with answers I don't like but don't really believe in a huge amount. But two things seem to allow me to go beyond what I see day to day. Just glimpses, probably just into my subconscious... but maybe to something more than that.

Music and dogs.

Music goes deep inside. Like that guy from Inner Space. Inside and then it sort of plants little bombs that go off, waking something up inside.

Dogs are different. It's not like I'd listen to dogs for any length of time. And barking isn't all that soothing. Certainly not approaching anything spiritual. But, with dogs, I see something in their eyes. I don't know what it is. Something familiar, something special.

I even see it in the stupid ones. Possibly more so in the stupid ones. Yes, so some will eat their own vomit or worse. And they sniff each others posteriors. And lick themselves in... well, you know.

But there's something more there.

Not in cats. I know some of you are cat people but cats are up to something entirely different. I don't trust them.

But dogs... dogs are special. If I had time, a lot of music and a dog, I'm pretty sure I could unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Learn from the Apple App Store

Just a little bit more on working for free.

Apps on the iPhone are pretty damn cheap. Many are free. Some fantastic ones are free actually. But invariably the free ones have much more one-star ratings (or even no-star if that's possible). This happens no matter how good the app may be.

Often, the more expensive an app is, the fewer one-star ratings it gets.

People pay for things they value. But it works the other way around too -

We value that which we pay for.

So, on the app store, it's easy to see how that works. People download a free app, load it up for thirty seconds (if even), don't instantly get hooked and then delete it, which hitting it with a one-star rating. If they've paid a tenner for that app, it becomes worth their time to really try the app out, get used to it, see if it has more to offer than it appears on the surface. By dumping it too early, they could miss out and lose the investment they put in to pay for it in the first place.

The same is true for employment.

If someone has invested even a week's wages on you, they'll be more likely to put the time into teaching you what you need to know. More likely to pay attention to what you do. More likely to look for the value you bring.

Less likely to give you that one-star rating.

And less likely to dump your sorry ass out on the streets.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome for animators

Cartoon Brew reported on a piece in the New York Times about unpaid internships. Specifically, that they may be illegal. The piece called out Little Airplane, makers of Wonder Pets -

"At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu."

In the comments in the Cartoon Brew piece, many came on anonymously not only backing it up but making out that things are far, far worse. Unpaid interns being completely mistreated, psychologically abused. Workers being treated like children. If there's any truth to the stories there, it sounds like people are expected to work in hideous and demoralising conditions. For little or no pay.

I actually hope the stories aren't true. I rather like Wonder Pets. It would be terrible to think something so pleasant comes from a place like that.

Little Airplane aren't alone. Other companies are brought up in the comments of the Brew piece, some not paying people for years. Not paying for the work they are getting. Like whole departments of slave labour.

But that wasn't the most horrifying thing of all.

No, there is something much worse buried in the comments of that Brew piece - Stockholm Syndrome for animators.

Many people are taken on as unpaid interns, put to work on productions and not compensated in any way, if any of them are like the allegations aimed at Little Airplane, they are taken advantage of.

And the victims not only accept it. They are grateful.

Grateful for being exploited.

From some Brew comments -

"As the work experience I gain allows me to be hired there or elsewhere", "don’t write off the value of the experience", "the unpaid intern spot got me a foot in the door", "couldn’t an internship just be viewed as a training session or a really long interview process?" and more.

Yes, it's hard to get your foot in the door. Harder still to make a steady living in this industry.

And, if you work for free or very little, you are part of the problem.

You are sabotaging your own craft, your own end of the industry, your peers and your co-workers both old and new. You are setting the value of your work at zero. You are setting the value of your co-worker's work at zero. Those new kids who are having a hard time getting a foot in the door, you can be damn sure you're setting the value of their work at zero.

You are part of the problem.

It's hard enough in this business. The power and the money is in all the wrong places. Most people accept the situation as normal but many of these people being exploited or working for very little are more talented than the people doing the exploiting. But those people at the top have the money and the control, creative and otherwise.


Because they won't do a damn thing for free. They don't allow themselves to become victims. And, in cases like these, you can be sure the people at the top, the slave drivers, are laughing their asses off and are getting paid damn well for it. They're getting what they want. Don't kid yourselves that they wouldn't take anyone on if they weren't getting them for free. Anyone who has had anyone hanging around for work experience knows that having a new kid around is often far more trouble than it's worth.

Which means only one thing - to retain these people for any length of time, they need the positions filled. They need the work done as part of their production. The Brew comments point to whole departments in some places being filled with interns.

The people at the top get what they want and make damn sure they are paid for it.

Creative talent, on the other hand, can be discarded and moved aside with no problem because the creative people will work for free, will work for almost nothing. They are willing victims.

And that's why it's so god damned hard to get your foot in the door.

Don't accept that.

Don't set the value of your work at zero. Stop making it harder for every single other person in your end of the business. Stop being part of the problem. Stop accepting the exploitation.

Stop working for free.

And please, stop being grateful to your captors. It's not right when it comes from a sex slave who has been kept in a box for years and it's not right from creative talent.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finding blog subjects...

I currently live a very sheltered life. By choice.

It's something I mentioned here before but I have a huge interest in what goes on in the world. I think we're capable of so much and yet we're kind of shitting on each other in a big way. Wars, conflicts, killing, maiming, torture are commonplace and almost always for the wrong reasons. And much of that is supported by people like us working for particular people, owned by particular corporations. We're part of it. Just doing our jobs.

Very little of that is reported by mainstream media. But it's all out there. It's not really hidden. And the more you look, the more things you'll find that will haunt you.

That was a major issue for me when I was in advertising. Trace who your clients are and who owns them and what they've done and, well, it's only a matter of time before you find out that you're a Stormtrooper working on the Death Star. I had to get out of advertising and I did but that doesn't mean things stop happening.

I had to go on a media blackout because these things haunted me and prevented me from living my life. I'm not completely happy with that choice because it's only by knowing about these things we can do something about them. Although, personally, I think the only real way things will change is by tearing down the whole current system and starting again. And that wouldn't be pretty.

I suspect it will happen some day in the not too distant future though. There's only so long this society's charade can continue. But that's a whole other subject.

Most of what is happening, I can't change. Not in my own little life. But I can contribute positively and choose carefully what I do and who I do it for. And I do that.

But I'm still on a media blackout.

And that sometimes means I don't have a huge amount to talk about.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's not always easy to tell...


That's the sound of the real world around me. Actually, I'm drowning it out with some Judas Priest right now.

I've been having dreams about death for the last month or so. Not my death and never anything particularly gruesome or depressing. Well, one dream was a bit nasty where I had to watch people die from some poison and, for whatever reason, I was meant to observe. Wasn't pleasant and stayed with me a while.

But generally, they seem fairly benign. Just an element in a larger dream. I think it just comes down to the subject of my last post, which got some great replies in the comments. While I like the idea of things we create being immortal, I'd far prefer me being immortal. Well, I guess I'll work on that once I get my current project out of the way.

Things to do -
1) Finish cartoon show.
2) Find key to immortality.

As to do lists go, that's pretty small so at least I know I'm not biting off more than I can chew.

By the way, I followed one person who commented back to his blog and found a real gem - . Thanks for stopping by, Steve. I absolutely love your blog. Brilliant cartoons and they brightened my Monday morning.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Giving credit where it's due

I was part of a contract negotiation a while back with a producer. One important part of a contract you get from a producer is the part that says they can boot you off the project any time they feel like it, even if it's something you created from scratch.

On this point, I had a lawyer explain to me - well, if they're putting up their money for development, they want to protect their investment. They're taking a risk.

This may well be relevant for you US folks. Over in Europe, however, 'their money' rarely ever means just that. More often than not, it means the public money they applied for. Development grants, non-repayable government loans and that sort of thing.

The only difference between them and you is whose name is at the end of a form.

So who is taking the risk? He who may end up signing his creative work away for damn all money (and you can take that as a certainty) or the one spending public money that was never his to begin with?

After years in this business, I'm left slightly baffled by the power of producers over here. Because their real power isn't in their money. It's in form filling. And yet filling out those forms is something rarely taken seriously unless you've got the word 'producer' on your business card. They do hold all the power.

And yet the real power is hidden. Unrewarded. Or at least barely rewarded. The creative talent.

Producers know this.

It scares the living crap out of many of them. Not all of them. But many of them.

Why? Because anyone can fill out a form. If a producer puts a creative talent out there in front, gives them the credit they have earned, that talent may well just walk across town to another form filler. Or decide to fill forms themselves.

Leaving the producer with nothing but a company name.

If you see an animation company or content production company's website and don't see the creative talent out there in front, or even listed, it's simply because the producers are terrified. They need to make it seem like the creative talent don't matter. Like the power is in a company name. On those where you do see the creative talent out in front, you'll find those people are company directors. Either as part of a formed partnership (a great way to do it) or brought in on some percentage to try to lock them into that company.

Even in those scenarios, however, the fear will come as soon as they use an external talent. And, invariably, they will at some point because producers are always looking for new talent. New talent is easier to mould, to control, to wrestle rights from. The industry keeps things moving this way and so producers retain their role.

It's odd how, at so many different times, we're told what we do is a team effort. And yet so many producers fear their own team.

But, to bring it back to the title of the thread, producers deserve credit where it's due. They do schmooze on boats at MIP or hang out in bars in New York at Kidscreen (they should be just back from that now) and, while many of us creative types are envious of how that sounds, we simply can't be arsed doing it. Producers deserve credit in this industry.

Just not quite as much power.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What broadcasters want

Ten years.

That's how long broadcasters have wasted time looking for another Spongebob. Of course, missing the fact that the big thing about Spongebob is that it wasn't another anything.

I've been flicking through a little section in Kidscreen magazine that outlines what current broadcasters are looking for. Yes, there's the usual requests for another Spongebob and more Dora, though they don't quite ask for it like that, but things are slightly different this year due to one thing -

The amount of requests for live-action.

It seems animation may well be falling out of favour. Cartoon Brew have had their own personal battle with Cartoon Network showing live-action shows but it looks like Cartoon Network aren't alone. The only mistake Cartoon Network made was putting the word 'cartoon' in their name.

ABC Australia - especially interested in live-action for preschoolers. Cartoon Network US - open to live-action. France Television - live-action for tweens. Nickelodeon UK - live-action sitcoms. There are more but my fingers are getting tired of typing 'live-action'. I really should just copy/paste it.

Not that there's anything wrong with live-action. There isn't at all. I just find the growing trend interesting and it certainly impacts on those of us in cartoon land.

I actually think it is at least better than chasing that elusive next Spongebob. Though it's entirely possible that the calls for live-action are chasing the next something that I don't know about. The next Hannah Montana? I don't know. I'm not well up on the live-action shows. Though I do enjoy Imagination Movers.

Sometimes (and I'm not speaking specifically about the live-action here), I think there is a huge gap between what broadcasters want and what children and parents want.

One quote, however, stood out to me in the Kidscreen pitch guide thing, one that as soon as I read it I thought, "Now these people, I like and would love to make a show for." It's from Jocelyn Hamilton from Corus Kids in Canada, who says she is looking for -

"Fun, character-driven preschool series with heart that make you giggle."

Now that's an aim I can support. That, as someone who works in children's television and, more importantly, a parent, is something I can get behind.

Jocelyn Hamilton, if you ever stumble across this, I hope you get exactly what you're looking for.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eagerly awaiting my return

This blog was dormant for a while and all was quiet. But as soon as I started posting again, the spammers were drawn here. I like to think of them as spambots because it helps me to believe that actual human beings aren't spending their time spreading shit that nobody wants to read on places it should never be.

Real human beings with any sort of conscience or decency wouldn't do that, would they?

Of course not. But those dirty rotten spambots! Well, they aren't programmed to feel guilt. Their evil Ming the Merciless-like overlords know that even the slightest hint of a conscience chip in there would render them unable to carry out their evil tasks.

You know what I'd like? Loving spambots.

They'd clutter up your inbox and your blog comments with random crap that you haven't asked for, just as they do now. But, instead, the messages would be along the lines of - You're a very special person. We love you. We know how hard you're working and really appreciate the contribution you're making to humanity.

That sort of thing.

But no, I get some gobshite trying to sell boots.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Does it matter though?

One thing I've never bought into is the idea that television made our society worse. You only have to look at the days before television to know that man's ability to do shit things to one another was there long before 24 or The Shield. Vikings raped and pillaged and they barely watched any television at all. All those heads on pikes on Tower Bridge in London - not one of those executioners or the people revelling in their deaths watched television.

Listened to radio perhaps.

But no television.

So I don't buy into the idea that television (or indeed rock music or video games) is responsible for society's ills.

But one thing I hear a lot is - I watched X when I was young and it didn't do me any harm.

How can you possibly know that? Unless you have a perfect clone leading the exact same life as you with the exception of watching certain television programmes, you can't ever know that.

The fact is, children do learn from television. It does influence their behaviour. Who knows what effect watching better television would have on a whole generation? Almost impossible to measure and yet, I think, well worth a shot.

And, if it all goes horribly wrong, it doesn't matter. When today's children grow up, they will say it didn't do them any harm anyway.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It might be so much bigger than it seems

I asked a question in the post before the iPad thing happened - what do you do if you're on a project you want but know it will end soon?

Red Pill Junkie answered - "You give it everything you've got." Andy offered this - "make the best damn beer you can." Yes, I remember saying that, Andy, and you guys are absolutely right.

The other day, I was at a recording of one of the episodes we're working on. We got to the end of the episode and I listened carefully. Like many children's cartoons, it ended with a nice positive moral. This message was no different to ones I've heard many times on children's television but, for some reason, with whatever way it was read, it sounded important.

It sounded like something that might stick.

Something that, somewhere deep inside, might survive the beat down that is school. The oppression of what we're sold as the 'real world'. And I thought, if enough children believe the message behind this little story buried in this unassuming children's show, truly believe it, when these children grow up, we'll be creating a better life.

Can children's television really lead to a revolution? I don't know, probably not. But everything a child is exposed to helps form their world view. Sets their boundaries. Or breaks them. Television for children can be worse than junk food, glorified ads, or work against parents creating chaos. Or it can be something wonderful. Something that entertains, that contributes positively to their world. And then, to our world.

Right now, I'm a very small part of that. Just a tiny part. And it may not last long. But, right now, I'll give it all I've got.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The iPad

Thanks for the responses on the last post guys. I have more following on from what you offered, but I couldn't let the Apple iPad announcement go unmarked.

A huge iPhone. Only without a camera or GPS.

For half the price, you can get a fully functioning laptop around the same size as this thing, with at least double the storage capacity. This iPad is, to go all internet about it, epic fail.

Monday, January 25, 2010


That's an old image by the way but one I just hadn't posted before. Probably because it's not very good but, hey, it gives you something to look at, eh?

Man, it's busy right now. Times being what they are, that's a good thing but (and I mentioned this on the blog last year) things will dry up early this year.

And then things get exciting and scary. I have so many different directions - that's exciting. None guaranteed or even highly likely to lead to an actual income. Scary. I am lucky to have a safety net with a project up next but without much of a role for me. Sort of a consultation role - which usually means very close to unemployed but not close enough that I can't live.

So I guess it's not all that scary at all.

The real scares come with the idea that I have to push myself forward and choose a direction. CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER, as some fighting game might say. But I choose Dhalsim because he breathes fire but then realise I can't handle his ridiculous hang time. And then I'm well and truly buggered, aren't I?

I could have chosen Ryu or Ken but that's boring. Safe. For people stuck in a rut. Well, I've quite enjoyed my rut. Right now, I'm spamming Hadokens all over the place. And it's great.

But soon, Ryu and Ken will be off the roster. I'm going to have to pick someone else.

That's a bit of a confused thought and will lose any of you not familiar with Street Fighter. Mostly, what I'm getting at is this - I began last year working on a tough project, with the promise of one I really wanted. This year, I begin the year on that project I wanted. When you got what you wanted and know it will end, what then?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guess who is still alive?

It's me, that's who.

Wow, it's dusty in here. Are those cobwebs?

I've been busy. My head has been full, occupied and yet often quiet, which is nice. It's 2010. Still no flying cars or robot butlers. What is this? The stone age? Eh?

There are a few emails I haven't responded to. I'll get to those, but I just dropped off the internet for a while. I'm slowly climbing back on to it again. The internet, I mean.