Sunday, November 04, 2007

My Notes To Korean Animation Studios 1 - Please use what we send you

At one point I got so frustrated with overseas studios throwing out all the work we would do stateside, that one gloomy day in a frustrated frenzy I scribbled out a pile of notes to explain what I think of as simple basic concepts. Notes that to me are like explaining to a grown up that "You have to put your shoes on on top of your socks."



I say scribble, because they really were scribbles. I just wanted to make the point as fast as possible and had no time to have someone clean up all my drawing to make them pretty. So excuse the roughness of the drawings.

Here's a sample:




wanna see more?


I don't blame the overseas studios for not following the instructions and drawings you send them. It's the fault of the American system in the 80s and the Americans who trained them in the first place.

But I got stuck with having to retrain so many studios to just do things logically that after awhile I lost it because of so much time and money wasted on retakes. Needless retakes that could be avoided if only service studios would literally use the drawings and instructions you send them-and follow the timing on the ex sheets.

Even though I had changed the creative production system in Spumco, we still had to have service studios not undo all the work we did here.

I eventually had to help start one from scratch that hadn't already been trained by the Hanna Barbera factory system. Then they became the most successful overseas studio of all and everybody uses them now.

It's not enough to have talent and funny ideas. You have to have a sensible production system that exploits the talent.


This post was inspired by Jaime Weinman's comment about "Don't Touch That Dial".

Jaime J. Weinman said...

"Back in Style" went to a subpar overseas studio and endured almost a full year of retakes, just to get it as good as it looks.

Didn't "Toby Danger" also go to that studio (Akom) and have to go through a lot of retakes? Or am I misremembering?

Yes, "Don't Touch That Dial," made for a lot less money, actually looks better -- it seems (from the outside) that there was a lot of money being spent inefficiently on studio cartoons in the '90s.

Tom said... jaime,

Putting that Scooby parody in "Back in Style" was something I was told to do. I felt it was redundant to do almost exactly what I had a part in doing a decade earlier but was overruled, being just a writer on that show. That picture also should have ended with the Filmation bit, imo. "Back in Style" went to a subpar overseas studio and endured almost a full year of retakes, just to get it as good as it looks. "Don't Touch That Dial", made ten years earlier, probably cost about one-fifth of the Warners short. Retakes were minimal at Bakshi's because we had to get it right the first time. There was no corporate parent company to foot one cent of overage.

43 comments:

Brandon Ayers said...

I think it would be hard to get an american studio to do it right without instruction too. Pushing your vision for the cartoon (with all the varied "styles" out today) could only be taken from you. I think all animators should know the art director's (whatever the position) vision for the show so that they can nail it. It's basically like thumbnailing your drawings. Preparing for the work that lays ahead.

Kris said...

I'm interested to learn more about your experience with the overseas studios. Which studio was it that you trained from the ground up?

I think part of the problem with overseas animation is that they don't really get the opportunity to care about their jobs. It sounds like slightly more interesting factory-line work, and no one who works in a factory actually cares about doing a good job. It's drudgery to them, and it shows.

Do you think this kind of system will disappear any time soon?

Evan said...

i want to see more!! i think its fascinating.

Taber said...

Wow this just seems so natural and logical to me that it's hard for me to imagine how they were taught otherwise. And it's cheaper and easier to copy the layouts too!

I say this because every life drawing class I've ever had has stress asymmetry, contrast of shapes and space, as well as rhythm.

Barbara said...

man, that really sucks. The animation industry seems to be rife with incompetence and bad decision-making. Whoever decided outsourcing animation would be a good idea does not love cartoons.

Juan Pablo said...

Please post more notes!

They're good to help those important concepts sink in.

Raff said...

I'm a little confused as to the use of the term "layout". Traditionally, doesn't it have more to do with staging and setting up the background than anything else? In this case, it sometimes seems more like the layout drawings are polished versions of the storyboard drawings, or even uncredited key drawings.

Faz said...

yeah, that's tough. I always hear horror stories about overseas studios. but kinda agreeing with what brandon said, it is hard to know what the right thing to do it, because in school we're also taught to go by the model sheets and prettymuch do most of what you just said not to do, haha.

Sean Worsham said...

I think Spumco's flash cartoons have been the best so far especially when you compare some of the recent net commercials, george liquor and cartoon network shorts (flash ones)and especially Tenacious D when with stuff like the Ripping Friends.

The layouts and key poses by Spumco's flash shorts are especially sumptious. I just wish more studios would use flash more effectively on their saturday morning shows and not to do it just cheap, but to keep the original artists' vision as intact as possible.

flashcartoons said...

makes me sad to see how america has really turned into make me rich and screw america place
so helpless to stop oversea labor for jobs i wish to have someday

Chris S. said...

Thanks for posting the notes!

I would think with the recent advancements in communications (video conferencing, etc), a lot of the miscommunication and headaches you dealt with in the past can be somewhat alleviated, no?

CartoonSteve said...

I was just reading this: http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com/2007/10/guy-delisle.html

regarding Guy Delisle's book "Shenzhen". Except in that case, they just skipped the layouts and xerox enlarged the storyboards.

Next they'll find a way to infuse HARMFUL LEAD in the cartoons they produce for us.

NextGen (Hector) said...

Great post John!

Paul B said...

YEAH! THAT'S ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKES YOUR CARTOONS DIFFERENT, FUNNY AND ALIVE!!!

GREAT JOHN!!

YOUR PAL, PAUL.

cartoonjoe said...

Maybe I'm naive, but it would seem to me that the solution to the problem of service stufios messing up and misinterpreting the layouts is to simply do the animation work IN-HOUSE. It seems also to me that sending the work half-way around ther world to be completed is a collossal waste of time and energy; doing all the work in-house would be the SANE way to retain your vision, don't you think?

Julián höek said...

keep the notes coming john!
thanks

Trevour said...

I wanna see more! Your instructions here are clear and to the point. I would think if I can understand this, then an experienced animator overseas could understand it too.

Pete Emslie said...

In my opinion, what it all boils down to is this: Animated TV cartoons in the early 60's used to employ real CARTOONISTS as animators, carrying on the tradition from the theatrical shorts which were sadly dying off at the time. Increasingly since then though, cartoons are being created more and more by animators who may not have any real flair for cartooning whatsoever. Any real cartoonist would draw in the way you are suggesting, John, in a naturally intuitive way without having to be instructed to do so. The problem is that, these days, the titles of "animator" and "cartoonist" would almost seem to be mutually exclusive, something that would have been practically unheard of back in the day. Heck, with the overreliance on computer technology in TV animation today, many animators don't even have to be able to draw at all, let alone cartoon well, as they're merely required to just shift pre-existing parts around on screen. Such is the sad state of the art today...

Tom said...

Drawing in-house layouts is the way to go but studios complain it's no longer cost-effective to do them in this country and that overseas shops rarely follow the U.S. layout poses, anyway. 'The Simpsons' still does production layout here but they also spend a ton of money on each episode.

Art F. said...

i don't see how you could screw up a drawing that much in the clean-up. did it get any better after you sent them these notes? the misanthrope in me thinks probably not.

PCUnfunny said...

Great post John. Are you goimg to try and elminate the need of overseas studio's in your new studio ?

David Germain said...

The animation industry seems to be rife with incompetence and bad decision-making.

Worse yet, it's usually the animators who have to spend that extra time back-tracking and manipulating things in order to cover up as much of that incompetance as possible. At least, that's how things have gone where I work.

_aa_ said...

John,

I think you're absolutely right. I can see your frustration. It's simply amazing that you were able to get such good work out of the Koreans at that time. I think you laid the ground work for the rest of the studios to get their ideas through.

I'm not certain some of the other commenters are grasping exactly what you're saying here, but never-the-less I'm glad to see the interest.

I would love to see more scribbles and notes. I think they're great!

Sincerely,
Jared

Mellanumi said...

John,

Quick question off topic (and that's a good question about where we should send our off topic questions). how significant is the study of anatomy to becoming a cartoonist? Should the approach be more intuitive and superficial? Or should the study of anatomy be approached with the rigor of "learn the rules before you break 'em"? Lastly, I'm curious if you have any of the old books (from the 40s, 50s, and 60s) on anatomy and figure drawing, and if sometime you could post some instructionals or encourage your friends at animation archive to do the same? When I was a kid, I recall the instructionals to have far more character and personality than a lot of today's humbug approach, and am curious to refresh my memory. Thanks if you can.

JohnK said...

Hey Tom

in an earlier comment you pointed out that Tiny Toons cost way more than Mighty Mouse.

We could easily afford to do layouts in house. More money gets wasted on tons of other things that do not show up on the screen.

And the vastly increased entertainment value would add up to much greater profits.

Yeah, the Simpsons still does layouts...but why? They aren't allowed to draw anything original. It might as well just be done with a stock system.

Jose said...

wow...you can read the frustration in those pages.

how irritating!! haha, what you say seems to goddamn obvious..

what show were these notes for? it's reminding me of the problem w/ ripping friends, were almost everything was put thru some horrible bland-on model-machine

Marc Cantlin said...

I wanna see more!

bicho maldito said...

It was fun to read, even though the situation might have pissed you off. I worked myself for a design company that hired providers from China. Sometimes it was a mess to explain them how to do things, but I wouldn't blame chinese workers. I believe they tried to do their best.

Sorry about my english. Maybe this is what got me into trouble with China. xD

R. Banuelos said...

"Drawing in-house layouts is the way to go but studios complain it's no longer cost-effective to do them in this country and that overseas shops rarely follow the U.S. layout poses, anyway."

How much do the artist get paid? Like an in house layout artist or storyboard artist, what do they get paid?

Midodok said...

"I think part of the problem with overseas animation is that they don't really get the opportunity to care about their jobs."

Hey! Korean animators care about their jobs and the chance to do something creative very much! Anyways, keep posting this stuff! We are listening to what you have to say.^___________^

Bitter Animator said...

Isn't the ideal to be right there with your crew though? What would it take these days to keep the animation work where the director is?

Outsourcing by its very nature removes it from the creative process. Even these notes seem desperate to retain some of the life of the layouts when I can't help feeling the goal should be to build on them and surpass them.

MikeSnj said...

Looks like you handeled it well.

Ben Lane said...

Some good educatin' going on here. Viva la Flash!

Animal Qwacker said...

I always hear how overseas studios screw things up.
Maybe we could just have willing and able American artists and studios just do this stuff right the first time.

Jay said...

I can't see the notes… just empty boxes…

JohnK said...

>>Hey! Korean animators care about their jobs and the chance to do something creative very much! <<

Hi Midodok

I'm sure many do! The system doesn't seem to be set up to take advantage of that. Unless you're working at Rough Draft or maybe there are other good studios.

chrisallison said...

Awesome eye notes! Haha, I'm obsessed.

Thanks for showing us these, John. This is really helpful. I'd love to see more.

Tim said...

Man, I can't imagine how frustrating that must be, essentially trusting your art in someone else's hands. Did they improve once you sent them the notes?

Clinton said...

Off topic again, John. Did anyone pick up the latest Looney Tunes DVD? It has my favorite bob clampett short, Hare Ribbin. It also has Witch Hazel, another favorite character of mine. Great reference material all around! :) Looney Tunes DVD 5

Mitch K said...

What's wrong with sticking pupils outside of eyes? I know it doesn't follow the form that way, but sometimes it can look cool or accent where a character is looking. It doesn't really have to flatten things out if your pupil actually sits on the form, but protrudes out. After all, eyes are somewhat like this because of the shape of the lens.

Jorge Garrido said...

You know, John, you're always praising Rough Draaft to the skies, but I don't see it in their work. They look pretty much like any other modern overseas animation factory to me.

I mean, Drawn Together? The Simpsons? Maybe they're really good at using the bland "drawings" they send overseas.

It sounds like using a redwood to make a toothpick.

JohnK said...

>>
I mean, Drawn Together? The Simpsons? Maybe they're really good at using the bland "drawings" they send overseas.<<

they follow what they are instructed to do. Some shows are bad on purpose.

RobochaoXX said...

Other countries should get new training instead of the same ol' boring techniques.

Inbetweening every single thing smoothly may be impressive but it is repetitive. Teaching antic, swooshes, spins, and all that other cool stuff that good animation uses would be a great idea.

That's my problem with Phineas and Ferb. It's smooth but the animation doesn't go anywhere. I'm not seeing anything interesting being done.