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


Man I am liking what I am reading! The spirit aint dead thats fur sure:).

Ha ha well done Daddy! Being how strange your style is this should be a shoe in.

Great thread.
Great responses.



lol agreed, great thread… Thanks K! I really hope to harness the strange in all of us;)

There are some great people out there doing it already… Any monkey can do it

I shared the vids with a few guys I comm with here in Oz and they were inspired by his attitude too… Thanks again for the great link


**dont forget luck!
Not everyone knows someone whose wife is a friend of a producer who is a friend of a bigger producer.
I need to trace my family tree. :scream:


ernesttx great example of what can be done. It doesn’t have to be Pixar, Disney or anything else but what you make it. Story is key and finding that audience.

I also think you can find an audience

It reminds me of the guys from this sight

They make films all the time for around 250,000-300,000. Fact is if they are able to make that money back via differant ways. Fact is you can make all kinds of films and find some way to get a return on your investment.

I think we need another post on shortcuts that can be used to go Indie. Make it fun and watchable.

I think we need to bring the Flash attitude into CG animation quite honestly.

I remember the guys from 3 Legged Legs saying it took about 5 weeks to make this
Could a team of 4 do something full length in a year?

It was done partly in Maya or XSI.

I wonder where Thurist is so we can ask him how he is able to do about 3 full rendered mintues in 1 month-6 weeks while holding down a day job.

Here are some folks in the Flash Arena who maybe could give us inspiration for CG Indie

So I posted several flash cartoons that each series is about an hour to 12 hours long worth of animation. Yes 12 hours for Brokensaints. Now that is a moving comic book!

I hear people say flash is so much more easier than cg. To a point it is but it does take awhile to draw. CG has it’s initial upfront time, but once you create the assets you don’t really have to recreate them over and over again.

So one thing I noticed in many of these is

  1. Animation is simple
  2. Backgrounds are simple
  3. Limited animation
  4. Characters are simple and stylized.

Could we apply this to a CG production?

I really like the simplicity in the current cartoon network bumper

So keeping things simple.

Backgrounds can be simple as well, maybe even live action, backgrounds and then composite. I forgot those short wit the differant shaped guys running around town.
Aw Mr. City Men

Try out some old school anime tricks

I mean really if you keep it simple and use various tricks used by 2d and live action you can probably make the series alot more quickly. I mean many people say even though we animate in 3d we should study the basics of Animation. If we use the basics of Animation in CG animation why can’t we use the same shortcuts?

Be creative.

We do have a limitation of rendering power if we cannot afford a render farm but at the same time we can use that to create style.

Cell shading, soft shading, combination of the two, illustrative style.

There are rendering shortcuts that can be used.

Of course dare I say there is mocap. Might go good with a 3d Anime style series.

I think the key is breaking it down. Instead of looking at Mt. Everest only looking at the next 10 feet in front of you.

Just keep swimming …Just keep swimming…

Looks like many on the forum have a lot of excitement. I hope it grows.

I always thought Lucy Daughter of the Devil was a great example of simple animation, strong style, easy on the render, and good looking CG on a budget which copies a little bit of old school simple Flash 2d.


I totally agree. Everytime I look at crappy 3d I wanna stab my eyes out. I can forgive a 2d animation that is almost a slideshow, but not a silky smooth poorly animated 3d animation. Bad silky 3d animation just creeps me out.


That short by ThreeLeggedLegs is really amazing. Beautiful style as well. Reminds me a lot of Samurai Jack’s style. It’s amazing they were able to accomplish it in only a little more than a month.

On the subject of adapting the flash ideals to the 3D community, I’d have to say that flash definitely is not easy to animate for (at least now when you’re trying to keep a constant and steady quality of art. Flash has a lot of different capabilities that make things simpler but it can be extremely daunting if you’re doing a frame by frame animation. That said, I do think that one reason why there are so many people doing shorts and indie films with flash could be because it seems to be a lot more mainstream lately, plus it’s also more accessible to non-professionals. Many people may even buy it for fun, just to play around or even to create websites, games, etc. 3D software, on the other hand can really burn a hole in your pocket if you’re not intending to use it full time.

I’ve been working on my own animation (2D) for a few months now (just for the experience, it probably wouldn’t be good for profit) and although it’s hard, it’s also very rewarding and I’ll admit that as others have said, you do learn quite a bit. (if anyone wants to check it out)

I was skeptical at the beginning of this topic, but peoples’ responses here are actually very inspiring and seeing all these links to different places shows that it could be possible to at least -complete- a film in a short amount of time.


Bakshi is definitely oversimplifying it.

Many animators want to work on really beautiful looking films, not simple looking indies stuff, regardless of how well-written the story is. The indie route works mostly only for low-budget projects, and it’s almost impossible to match the visual quality of well-finance big studio films. For some creative types, the visual quality is the main focus, and today, without a decent budget, you just can’t get something as beautiful looking as the big studios, and even if you could, it would have to be a short film, not a feature.

Also, most animators and artists are not writers or directors, and to think you could get a quality piece of storytelling just by throwing a few of them into a room and lock them up… :surprised

I think his approach is appropriate for certain types of projects, but inappropriate and unrealistic for others. I guess if you enjoy more modest projects that don’t have to have gorgeous production values, then yeah, it could work.


We are overcomplicating it.

And we are jaded.

And we are fettered by investors priorities.

And there is no reason you couldn’t make a pilot.

And I am grumpy from hi res stills and particle systems, all night long!


Many animators want to work on really beautiful looking films, not simple looking indies stuff, regardless of how well-written the story is. The indie route works mostly only for low-budget projects, and it’s almost impossible to match the visual quality of well-finance big studio films. For some creative types, the visual quality is the main focus, and today, without a decent budget, you just can’t get something as beautiful looking as the big studios, and even if you could, it would have to be a short film, not a feature.

I agree with you to a certain extent. It would be next to impossible for a small crew to do a Pixar quality level movie at full length. Not all artists are storytellers and directors, some simply like creating images. This is really a boost for those who want to be directors and storytellers and really promote the idea of collabing, creating indie movies and series using the CG media.

Quality will be an issue for the indie but what you don’t have in quality you can fake it with style (South Park, Lucy Daugheter of the Devil) and substance (Kiwi).

You can fill the need for niche markets such as more grown up CG animation that is rarely being met or you can do a comedy or childrens story outside the standard talking animal caper. What we are trying to promote here is that you don’t have to rely on Hollywood money whether them financing your film or them hiring at a studio. You can ultimately work for yourself and make your own living. Either way it’s worth a shot.

I know quality will be an issue BUT

A) Quality is an issue on B-movies but there is definately an audience for them.
B) For web shows and DVD we could produce high enough quality to fit that audience
C) We can hit around anime quality as well which has hit theatres before

Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny had a very high quality look to it BUT is Scooby Doo, The Flinstones and Smurfs any less memorable despite the differance in qualilty?

What Hannah Barbara was to Disney and WB we can be to PIXAR!

Just thinking about the quality that can be achieved.

We have great examples

Plankton Invasion: 4-6 weeks per episode to create 3-5 minutes.
Add 3 artists instead of 1. Could they do a feature?
So if you can do 3 minutes a month by yourself = 36 minutes per year.
You get 3 other guys who can do 3 minutes a month= You could do 90 minutes in 10 months.

Jeff Lew did about 3 minutes a month as well for Killer Bean and this is the quality we get.

Although each person kept it simple. Which was one of our earlier elements to get a project of that magnitude done.

If it’s not super high quality you can make up for it with substance and/or style.

M Dot Strange took 2 years to make We are the Strange. For some it may not be the quality we would like BUT it was his own style which worked and found fans and allowed him A) make a living doing it B) tell his creepy story C) even got invited to Sundance D) Gets invited to speak around the world AND they pay for it. D) even got offers to direct multi million dollar films E) even got offered a few distribution deals but turned it down due to Hollywood evil and them taking all his rights if he agreed.

I like what they said at Ain’t It Cool News about his film

This was a $3000 computer animated film done basically by one dude in his bedroom that looked like something Hollywood would make for about $70 million

Financially we could make a living doing this, without anyone telling us what to do. Just making films. It is an INVESTMENT. But keep costs low and that investment can easily pay off financially and emotionally when you see people enjoy your story.

Financially the sweet spot is roughly around 10,000 on the average in sales for most of these niche animatios.

Broken saints is a great case study. Not the rule but definately shows the potential

By the end of October, over 30000 copies of the series had been sold between North America, the UK, Australia, Germany, and Italy. Since then, the BS DVD has received a new online push in Europe and the US, and pre-holiday launches in France, Italy, Scandinavia, Mexico, South America, Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan are making great word-of-mouth waves overseas. With any luck we’ll hit the 50K mark worldwide by January, which is considered a ‘gold record’ for an unknown cult thingie like BS
in other words, a genuine story of ‘success‘.

30,000 copies at 50 dollars a peice retail. Fox is also distributing now. This was really before FOX took over distribution and because they were so popular they get to keep their rights.

30,000 x 50 = 1.5 million?
Hopefully they’ll hit that 50,000 mark.
50,000 x 50= 2.5 Million? That be a nice chunk of change to share among 4-10 guys for a year of work.

And when you talk quality. personally I wouldn’t buy that on the comic book stand but as a web, moving comic thingy it works and got fans due to substance and style.

What we learn

  1. A good level of quality can be achieved. Various artists proved it, at least to the quality of Plankton Invasion and at a descent time frame.

  2. If you cannot achieve that high quality in a timely manner you can make up for it by style and substance

  3. It is possible to make a living not working for the man but instead working for yourself

  4. The more hands you have in the pie the easier it will be to achieve the goal. So collab… it could be worth 1.5 million dollars to share between you and 3 other guys.

  5. It can also bring in a sense of accomplishment while having some fun.

  6. It doesn’t have to be Pixar for it to be fun, enjoyable and fill a niche market for someone.

For some it is not something they really want to do. But if you want to do it you can do it. I really think some people should help boilster the spirit of the Indie and the spirit of Collaboration (not collabing on fan films, bleh)

Some say it’s like climbing Mt Everest (I disagree to a point, the whole death by falling, freezing etc can’t compare to having a slump in the comfort of your own home) …but…
Some see it as a hard task like climbing MT Everest… it can be if we take in the whole mountain… but really climbing MT Everest is nothing more than a lot of walking, some climbing and keeping one foot in front of the other, focused on your next step.

Keep it simple and don’t make it hard before it even gets hard.

You don’t get to the top of Mt Everest by concentrating on how hard it is before you even start climbing.

A good climber already knows that and respects the mountain however he must concentrate on the top and focus and tell himself he can do it. Not how daunting it is. If he works himself on how hard it is and impossible it is at the beginning of the climb he’ll never start.

He has to focus on two things. His next move and the top. Not the whole mountain at one time.

So if you want to make a film with some friends please do it.
If you want to make shorts, thats cool too.


This has got to be one of the most informative and well thought out posts I have ever seen on cgtalk. Very well thought out reply and helpful information and motivation for those willing to take plunge into making their own dream project come true instead of relying on someone else to do it for them.

Its like the music industry, for so long many people who were trying to make it relied way too much on their record companies and big name producers to make it, but that is not the only way. There are many artists (Aimee Mann) that have gotten to where they are today based soley on their own merits and are the better for it. No one tells them what music to make, how many records they have to sell, how to market themselves, you can be true to yourself and what you want to put out there. There are well established bands that are breaking away for the tradtional record label paradigm and are doing their own thing and have been successful (NIN).

I think with tools getting cheaper and applications like Blender, animators can break away from the established tradition and create their own stories and projects on a fairly frugal budget and still get decent quality, its all about the artists and if what they want to dedicate the time and energy to make their project a successful reality.


Don’t forget that if you have an indie project take off, it’s easier to get a budget to do bigger and better things with your idea.

Just a few examples off the top of my head:

Duke Nukem
Grand Theft Auto
Tripping the Rift (although the people involved were well connected, which helps…)
Narbacular Drop/Portal
Meet the Parents (just one of many non “art” examples, I’m sure)

In any case, from what I’ve seen it isn’t enough to have a good idea. You’ve got to have something to show for it, some proof of concept. And a finished product that stands on its own is much more likely to get noticed than a folder full of storyboards and concept art.

A small group working alone is unlikely to produce the next Wall-E or Halo, but even “established” companies usually started out with smaller projects. In my opinion, it’s best to start small, and think quality over quantity.


There are many examples of this working in the industry

2 are:
Wachowski Bros: Bound -> Matrix
Media Molecule: Ragdoll Kung Fu -> LittleBigPlanet

One thing I notice is that these people have already produced a lot of excellent work before they were given the opportunity to “make it big”. It’s not just about having great ideas, you often have to have a back catalog of experience building up to that point. And they didn’t just sit back and hope someone saw their stuff, they actively went out there and banged on doors and made some noise. (In LittleBigPlanet’s case they went to Nintendo first and were turned down, now they are partnered with Sony their game looks like it could be the flagship to really get people buying PS3s).

And thanks for your post Ilive, you make some excellent observations.

I heard an interesting quote that paraphrased went like this:

“people don’t know what they want to see, if you ask them what they want they’ll often tell you a mix of what is already on the market. But what they really want deep down is something they haven’t seen before, that’s why focus groups created to find out what people want never really produce a product that satisfies”.

Although I can’t really figure out how that applies to Dreamworks because they just regurgitate “bleh” and people seem to love it (Kung Fu Panda partially excluded).


I think doing indie projects as stepping stone can be a good approach, but you’d have to plan out what your ideal career trajectory is. For example, if the story you really want to tell is one that can only be done by a large animation studio, then you’d better keep that story on the shelf and pick a more modest story to tell for your indie projects. Maybe you’ll never get to the point where your best story will get made, but you won’t know until you’ve done the indie projects and see if they can take you to the budget you require for that most important story.


I love topics like this, and I find them very inspiring, which is why i’m posting, so I can hopefully bump this and get it going again.


I am thinking about this topic all the time. :slight_smile:

Worthwhile viewing: American Movie and Ed Wood.

In an old indie film magazine there was  a great bit of advice I never forget. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Lots of times when you see bad indie films(and bad big budget ones) they forget this.

The more planning the better--even if you go with happy or unhappy accidents, at least you have a plan you can deviate from.

I have this book from the 80s called Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices.

Its pre digital but has some really good tips on making a movie at the price of a used car. I think the guy has a website now.
But if it was possible then-its way easier now.

I want to go the live action with fx  route, but it sure is tempting to try and do something that is strictly animation.

Total control, freedom, you rely on yourself(or on others in other parts of the world).

But beyond coming up with an animation  idea that I really am excited about(the only one I ever really wanted to do requires Gustave Holst's Mars symphony and the  thing is still under copyright), and the appropriate style, the isolation is too much for me. I have done that with other creative things and would rather do something that requires some  participation of others(in person). 

When I was pursuing my live action project I met a lot of people, most bad,  some cool, but it was an interesting/educational  experience in its own right even without anything being shot. I ended up blowing some money for nothing(after I had rented a workroom  downtown so i could transfer some stuff for costume fittings..I collapsed from exhaustion after 2 years straight of practical work). I almost went crazy. And someone had told me, if you dont get help, by the time you get to filming you will hate what you are doing. It was so true. It already had happened. Way too much for one person(although i did everything I had set out to do alone, took me another year but I did it--now I need to make cg models(which may end up replacing some of the practical ones).
I am less inclined to pursue that project now, and do something else-that I care less about, so i can get back to it with perhaps a higher budget. I dont want to be half assed. I would rather NOT make it at all than do a bad job.

I did have people willing to give me investment money, but the trouble with that is they werent going to help me in the short term, and if you sell the movie they get their money back first in full before you see anything-and I would not agree to that.

With live action and people(mainly strangers) you need some sort of support -family, friends, and that is what really tripped me up. Didnt have it. Still looking but its a luck thing.
 And finding it among strangers is like playing the lottery.

Its too easy to blow money for nothing. I wasted about a $1000
but know of someone who wasted $15000 because an actor didnt show up.

Another idea(if it wasnt mentioned earlier) would be to do a live action movie as a machinima, and see if it attracts more interest.
It may well be good enough to show potential companies.

Their main concern is if you can do what you say you can do, and if you show an edited production–its something.

If you think you really want to do it
but you dont think you can write–but would like to be in charge of animation
you could also try contacting some webcomic person whose work you like.

I see ads on craigslist where comics writers want to collaborate with artists–well how could they say no to animation if that’s your specialty?

You just have to have all the legal issues done by a lawyer before hand so there are no misunderstandings down the road.



P.S. I did a couple of live action stuff on super 8 tho :), but it was long time ago.


Are you an artist or a production bot? Inspiration has paid my bills for a few decades now. I am under the assumtion I get paid as an artist to bring inspiration and execution to the table. I am also doing a two hour indie 3D. I still work for various corporate clowns to fill the fridge but I do have some seed money coming soon due to the work done already.



Sounds like some of you are askeered of a little work. Others are like…“Yeah…indes are a good stepping stone to the big boyz.” Why not use the indy platform to become one of the big boyz. You ain’t going to do it by following their formula either. They have that sector under hammerlock. Are you a risk taker or not? Is life being comfortable and the fridge filled the most important thing or not?

BTW… Looney Tunes still rock and are The Bible as far as their work from the forties through to the early sixties is concerned. Pure schtick and mythos driven archetypes. I also have the Disney Animation book by one of their artists…found it in the garbage…dumb-assed Americans…the TV should have been there…not a seventy dollar book on one of the most amazing group of artists of the 20th century. They were an indie outfit, BTW, when they started. And Looney Tunes kept their talent roster down. They used one guy AFAIK for all those voices. If yer gonna do an indie film make sure your talent is not one trick ponies…including the actors. Why do you need Tom Hanks at 20 million? You don’t need any “name” actors. The guy may be a good screen actor but 3D animation requires acting like an 1890’s stage performer would use with broad extensions to movement, exaggerated facial expressions. Your pal that is a big ham is probably a better choice than Tom Hanks…just as an example.




Ralph is totally right…IF:

  1. You have a great story/premise/idea
  2. You are really really really really really really good*
  3. You have enough money/resources to survive while you make the film

*not just good at your particular craft, but also good at managing/running a show, being a director, cinematographer, working efficiently, being productive etc etc etc.


In the group of talent working on this great indie film.

5- 10 guys/girls 2 years

Could mean mental torture.

So you do it on weekends.

Who starts to argue 2-3 months down the line,about god knows what!

the coffee

the food

The words " our general(director) just does`nt inspire me like he did in the begging,my idea is so much better than his".

You`ve found out the ugly animator is shagging the nice lighting girl,who you had a crush on,and now you got to listen to the doing it in the bedroom next door,while your working pushing pixols for the big dream.concentrate son its for the greater good!

you know “cant work this weekend” "or why the fuc** are you getting the same as me in this when im doing more work and putting in more work.

This is not a technical problem Ralf,but will be a mental one.He should bloody know this and say it.

Thats why you see the one guy shorts.He can work with himself.

And sorry, but a lot of people in the cg industry or trying to get in are not all that nice a bunch of people.

In real life you get paid to work with assholes and nice people,thats also why you do it ,but how long can you stand doing it over nearly 2 years for no money!

a whole non disjointed movie that also does not suck,hes living in dreamland and sucking groups of students into a bloody nightmare.