Forget Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks. Call of the indie!


Possibly some great advice. I see so many people looking for jobs with great talent or even mediocre talent.

This old timer has some advice.

Go make it yourself. Don’t look for a job. Make your own job.

ps Don’t really forget those places if they offer you a job. It is probably cool to work there and a good career move.


He makes a really great point, but still, I think it’s very easy to say “stop crying about not having a job and do it yourself and get rich”, but at the end of the day, there’s much more to it than that. Obviously it’s a great idea for people to branch out and try their own thing (and not do everything “Disney’s way”) but I honestly can’t see things being as simple as he’s trying to make it. It takes a lot just to even render out thousands of frames in a reasonable amount of time. A lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of manpower, a lot of will, a lot of dedication, and that’s honestly not something that would be easy to get a bunch of people to do (mainly without the promise of pay, because let’s face it, there’s no telling whether or not this indie film will be a success anyway). On top of this, they would all have to have an actual job (or two) that pays well in order to be able to live through this “year” of production.

Still, his conference is very inspiring and I respect his willingness to give this speech to today’s animators, but one would have to take everything else in their life into account.


I can’t see the movie right now, I sure hope I am on topic.
A production environment keeps you in tuch with the industry. People support each other. I can imagine working from home a few years will definitelly show on your work, esspecially if you don’t have a strong artistic background. even so, it’s easy to get trapped in your own style.
So…the gains are only financial and for short term(of course depends on the person and the situation. If you work with 5 other people it can be ok.).


I’d love to give a detailed answer to this, but I’m currently wrapping up a project and I don’t have the time, but:

  1. I don’t think what Ralph says applies to 3d Animation.
  2. He’s oversimplifying the situation based on where he stands in this world, that’s why it’s appealing to hear him talking.

Gotta work!


well I think it applies to 3d animation.

There are people making money off of live action low budget films and 2d animation.
There is a niche market and money can be made.

Jeff Lew took a shot at it and worked on a full length Killer Bean movie which is very high quality. Took him 4 years. Imagine though if there were 4 other guys working on the film with him. Can take them 1 year.

M Dot did it as well. He’s making money doing it.

I think people are overwhelmed before they start.

I’m currently working on a CG film featuring Sasquatch, some Grey Aliens and a few human characters. MOCAP is involved as well as good old fashioned keyframing. The rate I’m going it will take about 7 months. It’s roughly 30 minutes long. It’s going to be for free.

In 3d though once you build the assets you can make part 1, 2, 3 almost as fast as a flash animator can turn out a 2d animation.

You have to keep rendering time down but you can also buddy up with some folks who have render power and go from there.

I mean there are ways around the difficulties you can face in CG and creative thinking.
I mean the CG itself doesn’t have to look like Pixar.

Hannah Barbara created an empire at one time in history that made soem memorable shows but were no were near as good looking as WB and Disney. But who can forget Smurfs, Scooby Doo, Snagglepus, Herculoids, Space Ghost, Justice League, Jetsons, Flinstones etc.

If you do have the talen though and go with a few other talented people. What could be accomplished?

Could money be made? Even millions possibly?


Ralph is definately right with what he says

He’s not saying it’s easy, or risk-free, but he’s simply asking the question “why isn’t anyone doing it?” and that’s a good question.

It’s not so much a criticism of Pixar et al. but a criticism of the animators who don’t believe there’s any other way of working in this business.

I think it’s an inspiring talk, you never know, the next disney could be founded on a single indie animation that blows everything else out the water.


That’s exactly the problem. It won’t blow everything else out of the water, cause of production costs. And it’s been done before. Simple animation with great ideas is actually striving right now - For example, South Park. Those guys don’t give a shit about how their animation looks like, they’re just in there to tell their obscure, little, funny stories. And very sucessfully so. Mr. Ralph ‘Fritz, the Cat’ Bakshi is quite comparable to that, IMO.

3d is quite a bit different compared to 2d in production regards and I think it’s a pretty horrible medium to create films at the moment. It’s potentially probably one of the best mediums, but with all the problems that arise… You’ll have to model, shade, texture, light, comp every single asset on the screen. And cheap, fast 2d tends to still look a lot more appealing than quick, cheap 3d, which always has this sterile, ugly look that’s just hard to sell, cause it loos like crap.

Also, I’d love to know what he’s using. What sorta magic software is he using that does all the things he mentions? A software package where you just have to animate and the computer will do the rest? Seriously, Ralph?


That was the best DANG video I have seen all year, and this is the best DANG thread for bringing it up!

I have no idea who the guy is (I heard Fritz in there somewhere which I loved) so no danger of hero worship.

Bloody Hell,…we do have all these incredible tools and no nutz to use them.

And cheap, fast 2d tends to still look a lot more appealing than quick, cheap 3d, which always has this sterile, ugly look that’s just hard to sell, cause it loos like crap.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! I have seen some damn ugly 3d being used for kids programs in Holland. It is however being used. I find the story lines, acting, textures, sets and animations horrid,… but it is being sold. Who here could not do better? He is not talking about doing it alone but with a group, how do you think those big studios got started? 3D assets are reusable. Dont get me wrong, I am sitting here next to a 300 dpi still for a brocure that is crawling atm. These things can be solved if you spread the pain over a group.

Freakin top expostulation!
A very good thread indeedio.
Cheers Chris


Ahh man even as gutsy as this is, it’s very refreshing to listen to. Very insightful and I’m sorry but I love the idea of sticking it to the big boys.

One things for sure, imagine how much more creativity there would be out there if people did indeed have total freedom to go off for a yr and create a movie? What a world - oh and we wouldn’t have any bullshit pay problems like those currently occuring in the fx industry.

This is very doable - get a sponsor or two and you can get paid for doing it too!


pixar set the bar very high for rendering 3d features and given the lemming nature of the majority of anything with a lot of money involved many people think thats the only way to skin the cat. ironically i think how great pixar’s films are, and the uneven but generally ambitious attempts to reach the same TYPE of quality has reinforced that mindset that any 3d feature is going to be so hard to render that you might as well not bother.

but you dont need to do anything like that to make a worthwhile movie, as a number of people have mentioned. bad 3d looks bad but that has nothing to do with render times.
making renders cheap is a matter of putting work up front such as baking stuff. these days after enough hassle you can eventually put your normal mapped high quality looking assets assets in a high end game engine and render at 30 fps and have it look legitimately good if you really care about render times. and if you arent getting paid render in your spare time. buy an extra computer with no frills for $1000 and let it crunch for 6 months, who cares that sees the final movie how long the renders took. you can do other things while you render, its fun even sometime :slight_smile:

south park goes to the other extreme in terms of quality and i frankly am glad there havent been more mainstream imitators but maybe they corretly perceived that you cant rip it off any cheaper than its really made, heh.

but between those extremes fall just about any look you can imagine. if you can’t figure out a look that will work within your constraints you have problems as a film maker or with your imagination but dont blame the technology… its better than it every has been before. of course we have seen inedpendant or lower budget films that tried to simply do the same thing high budget films do. of course they looked shoddy and cheap.

on the other hand we have probably all seen independant films that were quite cool looking and striking and it had nothing to do with having a high budget but rather just smart choices in art direction. or old films made before any sort of digital perfectionism where no post tinkering coould improve it anyways. people made independant films on film guys, real film, plenty of them, if you have ever made a film on real film, thats some commitment, doing it on a computer immediately makes it 100 times easier, no matter how hard it is on the computer.

i think the real barrier to this happening more is ironically that most good 3d artists find decent paying WORK doing 3d and its hard to turn away from a paycheck. if you are a starving artist with no hope you can give yourself permission to really make great art… most of us are making a little bit too much money with 3d to the point where it becomes our whole livelihood and then you feel hesitant about doing anything really risky.

ps- there IS a way you can get total freedom to make a film, without needing another job, and even get equipment and help to do it- its called going to a university. there are some other threads on cgtalk about the topic. :arteest: for the same money as a proper 4 year degree you could also make a damn decent film by hiring people to make it for you but at least in my case student loans were much easier to come by at age 18 than loans to make a movie directly on my own…

pps- the truly hard part is getting somebody to watch your film when its done.

ppps- i’m using the term film to refer to both live action and animation, for the point of this discussion i think its worth looking at the live action world to see how much independant (and i mean low/no budget, not just “independant” like tarantino) stuff does go on and often to a quality standard that is quite proficient technically even compared to mainstream corporate funded fare… not so much in sci fi or fx heavy work (though there are a few out there) but in general… you see plenty of independant films where the photography is not amateurish… usually made by professional film makers on the side, but they do it somehow…


I think Ralph’s advice is good, but probably not for everyone. Really, it does just come down to making a product and finding someone to buy enough of it to make it worth your while. It does apply to 3D, but you have to get into the right mindset and production pipeline. You are not going to compete with Pixar or do anything with their complexity or quality, just like Bakshi’s work isn’t the same smoothness or “quality” of Disney films. But he got the story told, and sold his work, and made a living off of it.

Maybe a small team doesn’t have the money and time to pull off a Pixar or Dreamworks scale movie. But surely a small team could model/rig/texture/animate/comp something along the quality of the webcomic The Dreamland Chronciles ( And surely you could find a buyer in the cable and international market for the finished product, with DVD sales rounding out the sources of income.

The team members just need to find a way to live for the duration of production. It would be easier to do with experienced people, but experienced people are much more likely to have other factors that prevent them from living off of ramen noodles for a year (aka, spouse, children, mortgage, retirement). That’s really the catch though. You can put together a small team to produce the work without a ton of overhead, and you can even bulid the hardware infrastructure (network, storage, renderfarm) for a modest investment, considering it only has to support a handful of people and doesn’t have to scale to 100s of people and machines hitting it. But how do you cover the living expenses of your team members (and their families/dependents) during production? Investors? Day jobs? Communes?

Just something I ponder on a daily basis… :slight_smile:

Michael Duffy


students at GOBELINS are on the right track…maybe they need to watch this video and see if it sparks any ideas. :smiley:


Totally inspiring–thanks for posting. Thanks to Ralph for saying!!!


Unlike traditional animators, a lot of people doing CG are into it for the sake of CG and looks, they have no interest in directing their own movie.

I myself like large teams, long deadlines with very tough technical challenges and pretty pixels.

Given the choice between a most amazing story written by one of my friends, and an incredibly well polished but not as well penned movie, I’d rather watch the first and work on the latter.

I tip my hat to this guy, and while I agree with a lot of what he said, I think his views are somewhat simplistic. It’s also clear he’s never been immersed for very long in a big shop producing top tier vfx or cg features.
Most people aren’t working at rythm and hues or ILM just for the paycheck comfort, even if half or more of the movies they have to work on have a visual/wow bias rather than deep storylines and amazing film-making. People work there because that’s where you meet inspiring people and you get the longest time to produce the shiniest of pixels.

Very nice words, but CG isn’t traditional animation in terms of people and values. Close in some regards but not the same. Has never been, will not be for many years (if ever).


What he says is quite right, although it would be quite risky to use all your times making some film and getting a good group together that is fully dedicated to the project. Not to mention that half of the film usually is audio and other half is the graphics. What I’m saying is that you would also have to find quite wide range of skilled people to get things done even half-decent.

In many cases such projects fall apart in discussion sessions already, because people disagree about story part (no matter what THEY are doing in the project). Few people want this and others want that.

Working for some bigger or even decent company is different since you are getting paid and you just do what you are told to do. In “Indie” or other smaller projects the problems step in when you face the fact that nobody is actually paying you. You don’t feel the need to do what others tell you and you start making your own statement about the story for example even if you were just an animator (this example was written in mind that the project actually had full crew making the film).

So basically if you can find very good people with open and dedicated minds you could do wonders.


Totally not the message I got when I saw the clip. He’s not adressing people at big studios, and btw lovely that you know them all. He was talking about people lying around complaining they didn’t have a job in 3d. Cg, animation 3d if the technologies are stripped away has never been closer to traditional art. What do you think software developers have been breaking their backs all these years for. Go away and sculpt something then come back here. There is just alot of room for techo’s who dont draw a stroke but are as need now as they always have been. Nothing has changed.

A simplistic view is often needed to cut through to the truth.

The message was that the Disney (synomomous with big studios) way is not the only way and,… get orf yer fat arses youth.
The clip wasnt about you!
Cheerio Chris


While I support INDIE work, I will say this, the “box” doesn’t do the job for you, it doesn’t spit out content, it’s merely a tool, and in some ways it’s harder to use than hand drawn animation, and in more ways, it’s easier to use, with hand drawn animation (yay for the tablet and all it’s wonders).

Also, he speaks blasphemy in his hatred of Loony Toons, which were far more original, if repetitive, than today’s mass anime import frenzy with a sparse few good cartoons between them.


Well a lot of people are going indie. I don’t understand what the fuss is about. Pidgeon Impossible is one I just saw yesterday. And there’s hundreds if not thousands of people working on indie projects.

Personally I don’t think money has anything to do with it. If you are a true artist and this is your calling then it shouldn’t take a promise of something so shallow as money to get you inspired.

Just my 2 pennies.


He’s right you know. The quality of large studio animation is so high, that some people are thinking they are nothing if they can’t dupilicate the work.

I don’t think he’s talking to the people who don’t know squat about animation, he’s talking to you and me. We know what it takes to make a model, texture it, and animate it. He’s talking to the people who know how to do the work, but don’t make a film because they are trying desperately to get a job at Disney or whatever.

The old 3d animated cartoon Roughnecks still gets 5 stars on Youtube. People like it a lot even though it’s old and has outdated graphics, often bad lighting and texturing when compared to today’s standards. As a one person or small team, you can cut corners like that if the end result still looks good and the audience still likes it. You don’t have to try to mirror the big studios - it’s not within your capability, time frame, or budget to do so.

So he’s right. We are paralized. We all run out to buy zBrush, Maya, and super fast machines so that we can keep up with the multi-million dollar studios and the detailed creatures they spit out. Everyone here wants to work there, so we have to spend all this money to keep up and hope we are some day chosen. When in truth you and a couple other guys could have animated something similar to Hoodwinked with a few old machines, lots of paper and time, Blender, and Photoshop (or Gimp).

Yeah, I was in an online team a couple years ago where just that sort of thing had happened. The script was done, but a few people wanted to improve it, and the head-man (not going to give his name out here), said ok. So we ended up with two new versions of the original story. As the resident work-horse on the team, I found it very frustrating. The headman pretty much said no to every design sketch I presented, and I was told to do it again. And again. And again. And again. With no constructive critisim. The other two guys liked what I was producing and didn’t understand why it was being rejected out of hand like that. Headman wanted it perfect, he stressed perfection… Meanwhile the story was up in the air and no actual production was getting done. And Mr. Headman was doing nothing. He was racing motorcycles. After three months of no progress I quit, and the project collapsed with me. At first I felt it was my fault that everything failed, but ultimately I realized I was right, and that project was going no where with or without me.

I’ve tried making a short film myself several times. The first time I went ahead with production without a script :argh:… the second time I had a story that was too ambitious and poorly planned :surprised … the third time - now pretty much - I think I’ve got it, but I’ve been backtracking a lot and doing the same work over again, I know it’s hurting my progress and I’ve stopped myself from doing it so much. So yeah, it’s not easy :cry:. It’s a learning process, you are almost certain to fail at first, but with every failure you learn something. And when you succeed, you never know, maybe you’ll get lucky and earn a few bucks. You’ll certainly earn respect though. I respect no one more than the guy who produced his own short film. Doing something like that says you are dedicated, determined, confident, and a whole host of other positive things.


Keep in mind the era Bakshi comes from. What if Loony Toons and Disney were the only animated films around, and you weren’t interested in vaudville or fairy tales? Animation as a medium holds so much promise, but almost no one is making interesting adult films outside of these accepted genres. Bakshi went out and made many “out of the box” films that explored animation out of the narrowly defined standard that WB and Disney cast it in. This is very similar to today when some of us wish there would be more animated movies with a dramatic/adult angle, rather than the animated often-polymorphic family-fun comedies that come out of Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, BlueSky, DNA, etc.

Bakshi’s response to the above, as pertinent today as it was when he started out, is along the lines of “well then quit complaining about the state of things and do something about it. Go make your own damn movie,” which is exactly what he did (and continues to do).

For those unfamiliar with Bakshi, here’s his IMDB page: . This is the guy that did Fritz the Cat, Wizards, Fire and Ice, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Cool World, American Pop, and a host of other films.

Michael Duffy