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The Great Wave Of Animation

Great Wave Of Animation

I see people on social media bemoaning the recent downturn in the animation business. They’ve adopted a doom and gloom attitude, but dry spells have always been a part of being an animator. Every seven years or so, there’s an event that sweeps across the business and changes the playing field. I’ve been through several of these myself. I got into the business following the purge created by “runaway production” when overseas studios picked up a lot of work that had previously been done stateside. Filmation shut down, Hanna-Barbara cut back, and a lot of people were out of work. Other purges involved the dot com bubble bursting, the end of big budget hand drawn features, the digitization of the production pipeline and the shuttering of independent animation houses when big studios established their own production facilities.

Now we’re seeing the end of the streaming bubble and no one knows yet what form the coming venue for animation will take. We can’t go backwards to broadcast or cable, and the streaming networks are cutting back because it became unprofitable for them to make so many shows that people just weren’t watching. Animation will always be a part of popular entertainment. All of us just need to wait for the next wave to develop, and no one knows yet what form that wave will take.

If I’ve learned one thing from all the purges and waves I’ve survived, it’s that you can’t just sit and wait. You need to take steps now to guarantee a place in the future of animation. When the downturn turns around and opportunities begin to become available again, it’s going to be like musical chairs. Not all of the jobs that were available at the peak of the streaming bubble will be available. The first people hired back will be the best and brightest, not the average 9 to 5-er.

To prepare for that, artists should be taking this opportunity to do two things. One is to open your mind and ideate… come up with new and unique characters and ideas for cartoons. Don’t look to formulas that have been successful in the past, project yourself to be able to conceive of what will be successful in the future. When the shutdown ends, “more of the same” won’t cut it. That means exposing yourself to kinds of creativity you haven’t considered in the past, not doubling down on the things you already know inside and out. Look beyond animation for inspiration. Look to cartooning, illustration and cinema… or even music, dance, live performance and other forms of art. The one thing you can be sure of is that the future of animation won’t be like the recent past. That was tried and it didn’t work.

Secondly, artists need to prepare themselves to survive the cull. Every downturn eliminates those whose skills aren’t up to snuff and people who aren’t versatile enough to reinvent themselves to suit the coming wave. I remember artists saying, “I draw on paper. I’ll never use a computer to draw.” Those were the first ones cut in the digital purge and they never got hired back. A few years ago, anyone who could hold a pencil could get a job in animation on streaming shows. Draftsmanship and a diversity of styles weren’t required. But when the business bounces back, being average won’t cut it. The artists with chops are going to be the first ones hired, and many who believed they had established a firm career in animation are going to be left behind. Don’t be complacent. It’s not enough to establish a career. You have to work to maintain it. The second you take it for granted, you risk losing it forever. That is no exaggeration.

Instead of sitting on your hands waiting for the phone to ring, you should be working even harder to be the first pick to be called back. Go to life drawing classes, visit art museums to study masterful compositions and poses, learn to draw in new genres and styles, and research new technology so you’ll be able to be its master instead of being afraid of it. This is a chance to recharge your batteries creatively. Grab that opportunity with both hands. Find a way to survive until the drought ends and devote every spare moment to becoming a better artist. Don’t get distracted by side interests or hobbies during downtime. This is when you should be focusing on your goals, not playing. It sounds weird, but layoffs are the time you need to get to work.

I’ve devoted a big chunk of my life to Animation Resources, trying to help artists invest in themselves. Recently, I’ve gotten notes from members saying, “Sorry! I got laid off. I can’t afford $100 a year any more.” I sympathize with their problems, but I can’t think of a worse time to discontinue your membership. When things were busy and everyone was employed, these same people would say, “I’m working too much. I don’t have time to look at the Reference Packs.” If being employed is the wrong time to invest in your skills and recharge your creativity, and being unemployed is the wrong time too, then when is the right time?

The volunteers at Animation Resources work all the time curating material to help artists be better at what they do. It doesn’t matter if we’re working or not. We carve out time from our schedule to give back to the muse. The artists we serve should do the same, or they’ll risk being on the wrong side of the next wave.

Members Appreciation

For the past decade, Animation Resources has been serving artists working in the fields of animation, cartooning and illustration. Our volunteers and members have pulled together to raise the bar for our art form, and it’s time to celebrate… It’s Members Appreciation time again!

During the month of February, Animation Resources expresses our appreciation for to members with a very special Reference Pack, and we invite you to become a member too. For the next 30 days, we will be sharing reasons why you should join us. Our benefits of membership far exceed the cost of our annual dues.

Dollar Days

This year, we are trying something new to encourage new memberships. You can join for a one week trial membership for only A DOLLAR! Yes, you get access to everything our annual members get for seven days for only a buck. (Click here for the details on our Dollar Days.) What are you waiting for?

You can find out what our members get at the Member Appreciation Page. It’s easy to join. Just click on this link and you can sign up right now online…


Members Appreciation Month

PayPalAnimationAnimation Resources depends on your contributions to support its projects. Even if you can’t afford to join our group right now, please click the button below to donate whatever you can afford using PayPal.

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