The great reporting from Pando Daily’s Mark Ames dealing with the Techopus scandal has opened my eyes to a sad truth.
Our heroes are not what they say they were. In fact they were more Micheal Corleone than John Wayne.
As a animation fan, who is trying to find work in the IT industry, this type of news tend to hurt deep.
Animation has had a bad month, with the creator of Clarence, a series that airs on the Cartoon Network, one Skyler Page was accused of sexual harassment by Emily Patridge — Mr Page was later fired by Cartoon Network, pending an investigation. The other major news which many were not reporting — was the end of Broadcast TV’s run of Saturday Morning entertainment. Vortexx, a block of shows created by the bankruptcy of 4Kids Entertainment and the selling of the majority of their products to Disney, Saban Capital and Konami. Vortexx ends its run, as the CW (owned by CBS and Time Warner) gives its block to Litton Entertainment, just like ABC and the main CBS net did before between 2012 and 2013.
But the biggest black eye, and also the biggest story in animation since the major merger of Disney and Pixar — is the collusion of these companies to suppress the wages of the VFX and CGI animators.
The Pando Daily articles are damning. Shocking.
But here is a perspective from somebody who is a fan of Cartooning — Animation and where its been and even if it has a future.
It doesn't if these people continue to stay in power.
Let’s do some thinking for a bit.
Ed Catmull is a hero in the CGI world. The man who co founded Pixar and brought the idea of modern day computer animation. Texture Mapping. Bicubic scaling etc.
But his business acumen comes into question. He, Jobs, Lassiter and Katzenberg were apart of the most shady acts the animation industry has been privy to be involved in since the 1970's when Tesuka was being used by one of his most trusted men, and Tesuka’s Mushi Productions was dragged through the mud.
What if i told you these same wage fixing schemes were part of the reasons why VFX Companies had to keep moving to tax havens because it was not possible to make a honest living as a CGI animator because these same men were suppressing your wages.
What if your HR department told you that since you worked in Sony Animation, that you cant be hired — not because Sony did anything wrong — its that Sony didn't join this Grand Cartel?
The same Catmull, your hero through thick and thin CONVINCED your younger self that take the lower wage — that he states that your a part of the best animation house ever created — the house that the man proclaimed the next Walt Disney — John Lassiter built. Not knowing the other side of the foot — you have a child on the way, new house with a mortgage that needs to be paid, debt from CalArts becoming a pain.
All in the while — they parting it up with the big wigs in the political spectrum in order to get tax breaks for some of there films. You know — the work Katzenberg did in China to build Oriental DreamWorks? So those outsourcing costs become zero? Meanwhile other outfits run out of cash or have to move from country to country in order to compete with ILM/LucasArts?
Here is a much darker thought. These were the people — because of their successes in animated movies, convinced the mainstream and others that CGI was the way to go for animation, for animation to get out of the “ghettos”. But did those success came by collusion and conspiracy?
And while your at that, what about those men the CGI movement left behind — Michel Sporn, John K, Bill Plimpton, Milton Knight and others? What could animation be now with their voices still heard— and if not always agreed to — understood?
And what does it say — even with the success of Frozen, that the CEO’s who promote this movie as the first “Princess with Subjectivity” in a Disney film — that several years before — these men went after two female CEO’s of a major Animation division because these female CEO’s wanted to pay artists what they deserved?
So explain to me how as a animation fan, historian and somebody still working outside of the Field I studied for (Information Technology) how should I feel?
I feel that I wasn't surprised that animation was in a ghetto and there was some form of epic collusion between the companies. What makes me pissed off? This has started YEARS ago and nobody in the animation web sphere said anything about this and couldn’t. Why?
I remember a conversation I had with somebody that worked on a website that did reviews of shows and movies from these companies. The companies told the website they couldn’t do reviews of there shows if they were “being disrespectful” to these companies. In fact two of the owners of that website worked for one of these companies in their HR department.
This was around 2008.
Now the site is basically dead.
Because it refused to give the news and information to and for the fans, and the animators that bring the work to the fans.
As much as Mark Ames has pissed people off, as much as Nikki Finke has done and Amid Amidi has done (and boy the latter one as done too much )— they give the news and info to the fans even when the odds are against them.
These are some of the reasons for the “Eastern” look of animation. Despite all the issues Anime has had in this country — and the issues of pay that the animators face over in Japan — there is a sense of freedom from that work that the western side lacks. But even the Japanese too — with the success of Frozen have taken in to the DisneyToon Studio’s song and jive dance.
If Pixar-Disney are the vanguards of the North American Animation Industry, the face of purity in Hollywood as many say, then it has become rotten at its core and needs a course correction.
Because those men and women working 15 hour days building Elsa with Renderman deserve better than a trophy that got from Judges who never cared about the the movie (or animation in general)and their own CEO’s working with their Competitors CEO’s in a scheme to slam their wages down to save their own hides.
And the Animators union? What they have to say about this?
A small joke here and there — taking a page from John Stewart laughing at tragedy.
But enlightened men laugh THROUGH tragedy. Not at it…nor cause it.
And many of you who maybe fans of a few animated films a year, the song and jive “Happy” dancing through the streets — are blind to the dark shadows behind the smiles.