Pixar's Brad Bird wants respect for animation Writers

Become a member of the CGSociety

Connect, Share, and Learn with our Large Growing CG Art Community. It's Free!

THREAD CLOSED
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 12 December 2007   #1
Pixar's Brad Bird wants respect for animation Writers

Variety is running an article on how we wants more respect given for animation writers..

http://www.variety.com/article/VR11...oryId=2774&cs=1
__________________
LW FREE MODELS:FOR REAL Home Anatomy Thread
FXWARS
:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
This message does not reflect the opinions of the US Government

 
Old 12 December 2007   #2
I'm of two minds on this.

On the one hand, BB is right about all of the skills being the same. It all boils down to strong characters, story, and so forth. Good animation writing deserves as much respect as live action. In some cases, it desrves more since animation doesn't allow you to improv story elements nearly as much "on set" as as live action. Some live action stories are literally built on the fly.

On the other hand, strong characters and good storytelling are precious commodities that don't always exist in animation. A lot of the time, animation writing feels a lot like programmer art. It's functional and holds the underlying framework together, but it could be done much better by somebody outside of the programmers.

As much as I love what Pixar does on a technical level, I still feel that they have a very long way to go when it comes to mature storytelling. I'm not talking about the target audience, mind you. I'm talking about the depth and scope to their writing. A perfect example of this is "Cars."

Critics loved the flick "Cars." For kids, it's a masterpiece. For kids today, its an entirely new story. Anybody old enough to remember Michael J. Fox's "Doc Hollywood" might be far less impressed. Same story. Just swap out plastic surgeon for race car and a live action Fox for an animated Wilson. Calling it like it is, Lasseter lay claim to some personal source for inspiration when he practically cribbed the whole thing off of a late night cable TV viewing. I'm joking (mostly.) However, critics and fans still called it a mature and original piece of animated storytelling. It baffles me to this day.

Anyway, I digress.

The fact is, critics and fans hold animation writing to a different standard than live action writing. That's largely due to the perception of the medium. Ratatouille may indeed have a valid social commentary and a subtext. As a 33+ year old man, I get it. However, it's not like George Orwell's social commentary in "Animal Farm" either, where you're clobbered over the head with the message.

In something like "Ratatouille", the commentary almost so subtle (comparatively) that it might be entirely lost. At the end of the day, what you're clobbered over the head with is the fact that you still have talking rats. THAT is what 90% of the viewing audience is going to end up seeing. THAT is what they're going to take away from it.

This is a case of perception defining reality. The audience sees a talking rat. They see a cartoon. They see a cartoon and they see something for kids - at least in the North American market. Abroad, the perception of animation is a bit different.

I hold all writers in the highest regard. Its not easy. Its painful, emotional, and arduous work. Many times, its as thankless. However, until I see the CG equivalent to "The Shawshank Redemption", "Citizen Kane", or even "Psycho," I contend that most animation writers (in Hollywood) have simply NOT stepped up to the plate. Is it their fault? Not totally.

The audience demands less. The critics demand less. It would stand to reason that animation writers feel that they can get away with less. More over, writers are pigeon holed by the expectations of that aforementioned set of critics and audiences. What's commited to paper and celuloid is often what is most commercially viable. Not much room for innovation and experimentaion when you've got $100mil on the line.

Studios are out to make a buck. To make money, they have to give audiences what they think they want. Most of the time, they're giving them what they expect. Now, just imagine if they actually gave them what they deserved.

Just imagine a CG flick written by Hollywood's best & brightest - from any genre. Imagine an animated movie written by the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Judd Apatow, Woody Allen, James Cameron, or Wes Craven.

Animation writing, especially in the North American market, just isn't up there with live action writing yet.

Oh, well. I guess that's why the indie circuit is there. There isn't $100mil at stake on an indie pic. Independent animation can take creative risks beyond the visuals. They can tell stories that commercial animation might not dare.

Animaton writers deserve respect. However, if they want to be as lauded and revered as their live action counterparts then they better darn well bring as much depth and complexity to the table. I'm not seeing it yet. I see stuff that's fun and enjoyable, but not so multi-layered that I'd likely to find new ways to enjoy it or read into it 10 years from now.


EDIT>> Don't even get me started on the kid friendly jokes and potty humor that fills so many animated flicks. If I have to see another animated burp, fart, or Urkle-like sight gag again I'll kill myself. Granted, even Shakespere had to resort to certain types of crude, base humor to please some the masses. However, I don't think that it should be a staple today. Sadly, it is. Shrek, as an example, is one of those movies that offends the most in that regard. (I will give credit to the Shrek writers for at least trying to appeal to an older audience with different expectations though.)
__________________
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.

Last edited by cookepuss : 12 December 2007 at 08:02 AM.
 
Old 12 December 2007   #3
Originally Posted by cookepuss: I'm of two minds on this....


Great post! I curious what your thoughts are on The Incredibles. That was the animated flick I was most impressed with in regards to writing. When the parents get into an argument and Mr. Incredible says how psychotic it is to have graduation for moving from 5th to 6th grade, I almost choked on my popcorn. I think there was a lot of stuff about mundane suburbia hidden in there that made it fun for the older audience (or at least, me). We'll see if Wall-E has the potential to step up in regards to writing.

I would love to see someone attempt something like "The Fountain" in animation.
 
Old 12 December 2007   #4
Originally Posted by cookepuss: However, until I see the CG equivalent to "The Shawshank Redemption", "Citizen Kane", or even "Psycho," I contend that most animation writers (in Hollywood) have simply NOT stepped up to the plate. Is it their fault? Not totally.

You're not going to see a Shawshank Redemption (which, in my opinion, is somewhat overrated anyways) from Pixar because they make children's movies. They make fantastic children's movies, though, films that compete with the best of the genre, and much of that is owed to the great writing. The responsibility of a screenwriter is not simply to create a plot and populate it with characters and dialogue. It is also his job to create the pacing and structure and tone of the whole movie. Pixar movies, for the most part, have a wonderful tempo and sound and 'flow' and that is not simply up to the director. The difference between Finding Nemo and Shark Tale isn't just a matter of CG quality or direction or cinematography, it's also the difference between the guy who wrote Toy Story and the guy who wrote The Tuxedo (remember The Tuxedo? I wish I couldn't).

Of course, when the director and writer are one and the same it becomes difficult to tell where the writing ends and the direction begins, but that's really an ideal situation to be in for an animated feature (and indeed, for any writer ).

It's not as though animation can't support brilliant dramatic writing, though I agree with your sentiment that it is mostly found on the independent circuit. Personally, I can't wait to watch Persepolis.
__________________
-Tim
 
Old 12 December 2007   #5
Originally Posted by cookepuss: I'm of two minds on this.


Good post indeed.
__________________
www.albertoblasi.com | architect & graphic designer
 
Old 12 December 2007   #6
Thumbs up

brad bird is the man.
pay respect to the people who joy us with their creativity,time and love.
 
Old 12 December 2007   #7
Originally Posted by ThirdEye: Good post indeed.


quoted for agreement
__________________
stee+cats

http://www.cresshead.com
youtube channel:-
http://www.youtube.com/user/cresshead

"zero stones - zero crates"
 
Old 12 December 2007   #8
Cookepuss - that has to be one of the best replies ever on CGT, seriously! It should go into a FAQ on how to intelligently respond to posts here (something I could definitely use help with!) Too bad BB's point is such a non-issue. I mean, how many "animation writers" are there in the world? Are they really "lacking respect", or did Variety just need a manufactured conflict to hang their interview on? You pretty much nailed it: There's little or no demand for higher quality animation writing, and no studio is going to foot the bill for something that very few people on the planet even know or care about.

That said, maybe we should have an international fundraising benefit concert for the poor animation writers so that the general public can finally meet these 2 dozen oft-unnoticed and under-praised artists. And we can create an award to give them in recognition of their achievements. We'll call it "The Bird" and we can give it to all the writers. I suddenly feel a tear coming on.....
__________________
www.artbot.com

 
Old 12 December 2007   #9
Originally Posted by eirenicon: You're not going to see a Shawshank Redemption (which, in my opinion, is somewhat overrated anyways)

BLASPHEMY! One of my all time faves. Regardless....

Quote: from Pixar because they make children's movies.

Yeah. I'm sure John Lasseter would just LOVE to hear that one. No doubt, Pixar would contend that they do not make childrens movies. They would likely assert the fact that they make family oriented movies. Big difference. A kid's movie would be like a "Pokeyugimom" thingabmabob that appeals to one audience and one audience only. A family audience is designed to have the broadest appeal.

If he were alive today, I'm sure that old Walt would tell us that Disney doesn't design movies for kids, but for the kids within us all. Pixar is trying to keep that spirit alive while delivering some solid messages about family, loyalty, honor, fidelty, class struggle, inner strenth, and so forth. I just think that their message, while apparent to those who are willing to listen, gets overshadowed by a lot of other things.

Quote: They make fantastic children's movies,

Sometimes fantastic. Sometimes great. Never less than good.

Quote: films that compete with the best of the genre, and much of that is owed to the great writing.

Highly debatable. Pixar has a formula. You can see it in every film they make. That's not to say that each of their films is cookie cutter, but they follow a predictable pattern in terms of story structure, themes, and excecution. It is the "Pixar style."

It is that same style that is a trapping for them. I wouldn't necessarily call their writing "great" so much as I would call it "polished." There's a huge difference there. "Cars" is one of the least inspired works from Pixar, so much that it is (as I said) as much a ripoff of "Doc Hollywood" as the "Flintstones" are of the "Honeymooners." As uninspired and hacked out as it ultimately is (for Pixar), it feels like the shiniest, most polished hack job around. In other hands, it might have turned out far worse. In Pixar's it turned out to be "good enough."

Quote: The responsibility of a screenwriter is not simply to create a plot and populate it with characters and dialogue. It is also his job to create the pacing and structure and tone of the whole movie.

True. At the same time, there's a feeling (as all things Hollywood) that Pixar films are written by committee. That's part of where that ultrashine, high gloss polish comes from. Sometimes, that's also to their detriment.

Quote: Pixar movies, for the most part, have a wonderful tempo and sound and 'flow' and that is not simply up to the director.

Also as much a negative as it is a positive. Some movies - some great ones - are constructed on location and in editing. This is something that isn't always possible in CG. In that regard, I blame the medium more than I do the writers.

Quote: The difference between Finding Nemo and Shark Tale isn't just a matter of CG quality or direction or cinematography, it's also the difference between the guy who wrote Toy Story and the guy who wrote The Tuxedo (remember The Tuxedo? I wish I couldn't).

Ya' know.... I'm not an elitist. I realize that there's a time and a place for every movie. There's a market for every film. Did I think that either "The Tuxedo" or "A Shark Tale" were cinematic masterpieces? No. Did I think that they would be treasured for decades to come? No. I forgot about them pretty much after I left the theater. Still, I thought that it was okay enough for me to click my brain off and just watch.

Sometimes, cinematic "junk food" is okay.

It's when you're the leader in you field, like Pixar, that things get dicey. You're under much closer scrutiny. Much more is expected of you. You're expected to deliver and deliver in spades. When you're in their position, you're expected not just to elevate the visuals to a whole new level each time around. You're also expected to elevate the art form itself each go around. That's the burden of being the poster child for a whole industry.

If Pixar (as an example) can't stand up to the task then somebody else will come along and dethrone them. It's natural selection at its finest.

I understand that Brad Bird wants more respect for animation writers. However, they've got to earn it just like everybody else. I don't think that they're pulling their weight enough just yet.

I've yet to see an Oscar winning animated film, especially in recent years, that transcends the genre. I've yet to see one that could stand toe to toe with other Oscar nominees in more general categories. The moment I can see a Hollywood animated flick give something like "Babel" or "Titanic" a run for its money then I'll change my mind on the state of animation writing.

It needs to grow still before getting the proper cred. Bottom line.

Quote: Of course, when the director and writer are one and the same it becomes difficult to tell where the writing ends and the direction begins,

Sorta. You can tell where compromises are made sometimes. Just watch the Incredibles. You can see where the essence of the vision was preserved and where it was cut short. Still my favorite Pixar flick, btw.

Quote: It's not as though animation can't support brilliant dramatic writing,

It just that not many people demand it from the medium.

Besides, I'm not just talking about drama. You can go to horror, comedy, suspense, romance, etc.. I'm not just asking for the CG equivalent to "Shawshank" or "Babel". Where's this medium's "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "American Pie", "Donnie Brasco", or "Die Hard"?

The Pixar formula breathed life into a new industry. Now, it's constraining it. 95% of a all CG movies follow it to some degree or another.

For animation writing to be taken seriously - or as seriously as its live action brethren - it needs to branch out. It needs to move into areas beyond just the G or PG rated arena. The PG-13 rated "Beowulf" was a good start, despite being a bit uneven. "Final Fantasy: Advent Children" was a good step too, even if it was only a direct to DVD thing.

The industry needs more of that.

The North American market has SO MANY hangups about animation. There are so many preconceived notions about who it should be for, what it should be, and how it should be done. Crap! All of it.

Personally, I see animation on TV making much more headway than big budget animation. Shows like "South Park" and "Family Guy" do more to push the boundaries of what is expected from animated writing. I'm not saying that it's always classy or well written, but they push the envelope enough to say, "Hey. Here's something that maybe the kids can't watch. Here's something that appeals to your adult sense of irony. Here's something that addresses a topical issue." Again, it's not alway pretty, but at least TV animation writing is taking greater steps than film animation writing.

Quote: I curious what your thoughts are on The Incredibles.

Best Pixar film, imho. (Even better DVD extras, if you ask me.)

It felt a bit roped in since some of the more adult themes like adultery had to be toned down for family audiences. However, it was a solid piece of writing. It poked fun at comic conventions without every being disrespectful. There was a great deal of humanity to the way Bob, in particular, was written. Much more depth than anything done by Pixar before or since. The characterization was great.

I do feel that the film did have some weak spots though. The characters' powers and personalities were, by and large, heavily borrowed from established comics. The villain plot, though fun, was ultimately cliche. The idea of superheroes & lawsuits wasn't too original either.

HOWEVER.... The journey was so much more important and well constructed than the destination. I could overlook all of the cliches and "borrowed" ideas because the characters felt that much more real than anything ever done by Pixar. EVER.

I'm not saying that had something to do with the lack of animal characters, animal sidekicks, or anything like that. However, it does say something. Whatever it's saying. (I'll leave that conclusion up to you.)


My opinion is just that. It's an opinion. It is neither right nor wrong. I'm just your average cinephile with a love for CG and an equal love for writing. I'm sure that others disagree with me. Good for them. Variety is the spice of life.
__________________
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.
 
Old 12 December 2007   #10
and then there's japanese anime..their films offer a far wider story type than usa/western based animation therefore they tread on tradition film territory and not just the disney, pixar, shrek and surf's up type of stories...not that i'm a fan of all anime..you have to find the gems just as you would in live action films.
__________________
stee+cats

http://www.cresshead.com
youtube channel:-
http://www.youtube.com/user/cresshead

"zero stones - zero crates"
 
Old 01 January 2008   #11
Brad Bird wants the same level of respect for animation from the audience in America as animation gets in Japan and it's just not gonna to happen. If you actually do some research into the history of anime and check the period and the whys and the hows it's clear why animation is held in such high esteem. Environmental conditions that allowed animation to become "important" in Japan just don't exist in the US. The important thing though is that feature animation getting it's own category in the academy awards happened solely on the strength of the screenplays that animation was seeing...As important as Sci-Fi/Fantasy films are to the bottom line of filmmaking they don't and never will have their own category in the academy awards because of the screenplys. Animation is gaining respect in the US, but it's not the same and never will be the same as Japan.

Post Hiroshima and Nagasaki Anime/Manga revealed itself as the first escapist entertainment that was affordable enough to produce high volumes of. As a result of the amount of anime/manga produced rigt at that time Anime/Manga became a critical component of the rebuilding of of Japan's more "Modern Identity" so animation is literally interweaved with all other elements of Japan's social fabric.
 
Old 01 January 2008   #12
Quote: Environmental conditions that allowed animation to become "important" in Japan just don't exist in the US.

True. At the same time, animation in the USA has changed a whole lot since and because of the formation of Disney. It had a lasting creative stranglehold that's been felt everywhere from feature films of yore to Saturday morning cartoons in the 80s to the cartoon network today.

I was watching some of my father's old cartoons. He's 60 now. There was a huge sense that these things were not aimed at either children or families. Even the most familiar ones had a very strong adult sensibility. Starting with the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny VS Adolf Hitler bit, you could tell that there was an early attempt at using it as another outlet for writers as a whole - instead of just animation writers.

One of the cartoons I was watching actually had Porky Pig cursing like a sailor. I kid you not. Not stuff you'd want a kid of any era to hear, but it was still the stuff my parents grew up with. I'm not saying that's "mature writing", but its a clear indicator of the intended audience.

The state of animation writing stagnated thanks - in part - to Walt. Personally, I blame the post WWII desire to escape to a more innocent time. That greatly impacted the state of animation writing. Escapism, especially after such a dark time, can be quite a powerful motivator. Just look at what the current world political climate and pro-censorship stuf in the USA is doing to writing across the board (TV, movie, and animation.) Its not pretty if you're a creative type. Pretty stifling actually.

I think that animation in the USA really, truly did start off for adult audiences. I think that it has slowly gone from adult entertainment to propaganda tool during war to pure, mindless escapism. Its slowly making its way back around to the adult arena, but it has taken about 50 years to get there. It'll change here in the USA. It will. Its just going to take longer than it should have.

Make no mistake about it. It IS happening though. Just not as fast as Brad Bird would like and certainly not fast enough to demand instant recognition.

To put it in perspective, we can't neglect the impact that globalization and the internet is going to have on the playing field. We're not just talking about East VS West anymore and their respective writing styles. There's a whole world open now and its gotten a lot smaller. With the advent of non-traditional distribution methods, I foresee the state of animation writing evolving at a much quicker pace than ever before. We're not just dealing with demands of the locals. We're global.

Plus, you've got the direct to DVD market which didn't exist 20 years ago. We're seeing a new crop of direct to DVD animated features that don't follow the Pixar or Disney formulae.

Eventually, something is going to "pop" and those in power - and comfortable with that position of power - will realize, "Hey. We can do other stuff. We can explore other avenues and STILL make money. Wow."

The animation industry is a lump of coal right now. It's going to eventually become a diamond though. How do you create a diamond? Lots of time and a wee bit of pressure. That's where we're at at now. Lots of time and pressure from every side. Decades of history. Creative avenues from all sides - feature, DVD, TV, and web.

Animation will have its diamond period. Anybody who thinks that we're in some "golden age" isn't seeing the big picture yet. Animation may be evolving, but animation writing is still in its relative infancy. The "small world" is going to force it to grow up quicker than ever before.

Everything will pop. It will. I understand Brad Bird's plight. Animation writing still isn't quite the diamond it can be just yet.

ANYWAY.... I've exhausted myself and hogged this thread enough.

EDIT>>> For a good case study for the changing face of USA animation, look at the Flintstones and how it was promptly demoted from primetime sitcom for adults to a Saturday morning slot for kids. I remember watching a something on PBS about this. The sudden shift in target demographic was pretty stunning.
__________________
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.

Last edited by cookepuss : 01 January 2008 at 01:55 AM.
 
Old 01 January 2008   #13
The family movie is a great thing. I hope pixar will always make family movies. Movies free of sex and violence. Art is not about progression. It's about glorifying beauty. Pixar glorifies values of caring about others. It's easy and lazy to be crude (sincity).

Having humble sincere characters that actually care about others is what is needed.

A great film maker is one that inspires people to be nice to others, and to move towards self realization. You are responisible for what you create. If you inspire someone to hate or lust for more then you will suffer the consequence's.

The problem is that people think art needs to be progressive, new age, giving a new look on something. That's wrong, that's not art. Lets see a movie that's not based off mental speculation but scripture.

Arts need to learn who they are before they create anything.
__________________
There is a right and wrong.
 
Old 01 January 2008   #14
Quote: I'm of two minds on this.


Whew! what a breath of fresh air! While some of the examples I might not agree with (Wes Craven...) I'm enjoying the hell out of reading this thread. Great stuff to think about!
__________________
__________________________________
www.halfchunk.com
 
Old 01 January 2008   #15
Just curious, but would anoyone know what animation writers earn compared to, oh I don't know, those tards that write the "<Insert Verb Here> Movie" movies? (I mean scary movie or, worse, the newer films Epic Movie and Date Movie)
 
Thread Closed share thread



Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
CGSociety
Society of Digital Artists
www.cgsociety.org

Powered by vBulletin
Copyright 2000 - 2006,
Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Minimize Ads
Forum Jump
Miscellaneous

All times are GMT. The time now is 07:11 AM.


Powered by vBulletin
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.