Thursday, February 26, 2009

Goals of A Shorts Program 2



Shorts, past and present - is there a difference?
The best most financially fruitful shorts programs all happened in the 30s and 40s.
Disney's shorts program allowed them to experiment with technique and develop their skills to the point where they could eventually create and make animated feature films and in the process push the whole medium forward.

Warner Bros.' shorts program developed the greatest Directors and created the most and best cartoon characters in history.

When I was a consultant for Fred Seibert at Hanna Barbera, I told him all this stuff and he decided it would be a good idea to start a shorts program of his own - to discover new talent and new characters for HB and the Cartoon Network.
searching for a simple formula to shorts success

It wasn't done as efficiently or logically as the old shorts programs of the 30s, and none of the modern shorts programs have been as successful as the classic ones that inspired them.

Today every TV studio has its own shorts program. Why? Because every other studio does, and studios copy trends without stopping to try to understand them. I've witnessed a lot of money wasted because of inefficient strategies and vague goals.

Maybe I can shed some light on why shorts programs yielded better results in days of yore by giving some details about not only the goals of a shorts program but how best to achieve them, following the models of classic Disney and Warner Bros.


1)To Discover Talent
Finding star talent is an immediately obvious goal of a shorts program, but it's not so obvious how to go about doing it - or hanging on to it.

There is more to discovering talent than just finding talented people. The people need experience and the ability to make some mistakes and more...I'll get into it in my next shorts post.


I can also relate some of my own experiences and lessons learned from study, practice and trial and error.

20 comments:

Matt R. said...

I know you've talked about monetary concerns when talking about shorts -- how HB went from a huge budget with their theatrical shorts to a minimal budget for their televised cartoons. What kind of funding do TV shorts get now, and how does it compare to when HB had to switch?

Mr. Semaj said...

I hope Disney can go somewhere with their current shorts program, though going by a slip up with last year's Glago's Guest, they seem to be backing out again.

David Germain said...

That's great how you put up a picture of Tex Avery today on this his 101st birthday.

Yes indeed, we do need an little experimental animation studio AWAY from all the executives. At the Oscars, one of the winners said something to a similar effect. I think these guys won for 'best documentary short subject' or something like that. Anyway, one of the things they said was "we'd like to thank our producers who did what all good producers should do, they left us alone". I heard some groans from the audience at that point, probably all from those overpaid executives who get their grubby hands on projects and ruin them.

Bec said...

Hi John, I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have been studying your posts ever since. The wealth of knowledge here is amazing and I've just started putting it all into practice with the Animation School Lessons. I can already see my work improving- and it beats learning how to use Software in Uni...

Really looking forward to this next post!

Bec

nktoons said...

This is a "holy grail" of a topic. Can't wait to see your thoughts......

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

Wow, I've been waiting for this post for a while. By the way, Glago's Guest WAS finished, but withdrawn from Bolt at the last moment. This dramatic short was later replaced with a Car-Toons short by John Lasseter.
Not that that's a bad thing.

HemlockMan said...

Yow. This is really going to be interesting...

John S said...

The "whats wrong with cartoons/comics/modern culture" type of posts are my favorite! Especially when you offer up possible solutions. I hope you do more of these.

ArtF said...

a good studio shorts program, done correctly, would go a long way in bringing back the apprentice system to animation, and that, can only be a benefit to everyone involved.

Brubaker said...

Cartoon Network is going to give the shorts program a try again with "Cartoonstitute". The producers are Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti (who both had their shows picked up thanks to Seibert's other shorts programs).

CN states that they're hoping they can pick up couple of shorts into series.

I'm pretty optimistic. Some of CN's newer comedies are actually funny. Hope Adventure Times lives up the hype.

smirkstudios said...

This is definately a topic that could prove useful to the up and coming. I myself am attempting animation for money, but it's too hard when all I know is how to just get by. I've been breakin out the ol' skecthbook again, and also reviewing my past completed sketchbooks too see my progress. It's kinda like you said before... I'm way better with a pencil than a wacom.

I'm carefully studying what you say, and using construction is very helpful in porportioning a character correctly and then moving him around. Can't wait till the next post! I'm addicted! (me and 300 other followers lol)

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

"Cartoon Network is going to give the shorts program a try again with "Cartoonstitute". The producers are Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti (who both had their shows picked up thanks to Seibert's other shorts programs)."

So, with this new series, why has CN waited for so long to reboot a shorts program again?
What was wrong with their What-a-Cartoon! series? Or their World Premier Cartoon series before THAT?
Were they bored with it or something?

smackmonkey said...

Ralph Bakshi made a stab at finding and training new talent back about 30 years ago. He didn't have a shorts program but did end up with a little bit of success. Knowing Ralph it was probably just a way to get cheaper employees.

Still, Bakshi is not too impressed with how today's animation artist is so desperate to get into a big corporate scenario at a time when the "big" studio is becoming less and less relevant or even necessary to create a cartoon. I see his point.

Ted said...

How are you defining financially successful? High golden age cartoons are great, and may have been financially successful over the long term due to merchandising and syndication, but they were almost certainly not financially successful on their own terms (Disney was underwriting the cartoons with other revenue streams at some point, for example); they were tied into block booking and after the death of block booking in 1948 were forced to self justify costs, and, thus increasingly simple and cheap shorts, and then none at all.

Brubaker said...

"So, with this new series, why has CN waited for so long to reboot a shorts program again?
What was wrong with their What-a-Cartoon! series? Or their World Premier Cartoon series before THAT?
Were they bored with it or something?"

Actually WAC lasted a bit longer. It was retitled "Cartoon Cartoon Show". They ordered about a dozen new shorts, aired at random with reruns of their older stuff.

This also led to "The Big Pick". Cartoon Network aired a bunch of pilots and told the viewers to decide which one should become a series. "Billy & Mandy" and "Kids Next Door" got the most votes and got turned into a series that lasted for years (Billy/Mandy in particular ran for 6 years)

Brubaker said...

Oh, and why are they doing this again? Well, long story short a new management entered CN and cancelled ALL the shows that began before "Chowder" (a good thing. Alot of them were downright terrible)

With only two original CN comedies (the other's Flapjack), I guess CN is desperate for new ideas.

Rick Roberts said...

smackmonkey, I agree. Ralph's speech at Comic Con made alot of sense. I'll starve for two years, maybe more, but I'll work and make artwork and eventually get some results.

Rick Roberts said...

"I guess CN is desperate for new ideas."

That is the artists' time to thrive. CN is actually making some right moves for the first time in years. Now if they would only just play classic cartoons again.

Rick Roberts said...

"Billy & Mandy" and "Kids Next Door" got the most votes and got turned into a series that lasted for years"

Two of the worst shows that ever came out of the network, especially the latter. I really couldn't tell if Kids Next Door was trying to be funny or serious.

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

"Well, long story short a new management entered CN and cancelled ALL the shows that began before "Chowder" (a good thing. Alot of them were downright terrible)"

Thank goodness, new management. Bill and Mandy/Kids Next Door/etc... were humorless, joyless affairs indeed.
By the way, who is this new management? Anybody have info on their background and reputation among animators?