Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crackpot Executive Beliefs 1

Executives in Hollywood are like cultists. They believe fervently in things that completely go against common sense and reason. They are like Scientologists, except that executive beliefs change faster than established religions. The religion of executives follows trends.

Every time someone comes along and breaks all the previous religious beliefs and is successful, a new crop of nutty executives displaces the last and tries to find the magic reasons that the latest new entertainment phenomena succeeded. Then for years and years they try to repeat a formula that wasn't there, until a new rule breaker like me or Mike Judge or Matt Groening comes along to dash the previous religion to bits.

The executives never come to the obvious conclusion that a normal sane person would, that when a new show comes along that destroys the previous religious beliefs, that the reason for the success is the person who made the show.

Here are just a few preposterous beliefs of current executives in animation:

Someone With Talent Who is A Natural Entertainer Needs Someone Who Has Never Entertained Anyone To Tell Him How to Do His Job

That's the justification for why you need executives in the first place. That's it. They freely admit and with great pride, that they were previously dentists, lawyers or secretaries and now they tell cartoonists how to make cartoons. They never think they need to explain why they should know better than someone who actually can do it, has done it and does it naturally and has spent a few years learning the craft.

You Can Direct And Create Cartoons With No Experience

This is a fairly modern belief. It happened after Ren and Stimpy. All the shorts programs have as their goal to find a young kid who has the latest greatest idea in the world.
They actually believe that you don't need to have ever worked on cartoons to create a cartoon.

It's as if they were hunting for the latest choreographer and they put up a sign saying, "Dancers need not apply".

This is a hugely dangerous and evil belief.
One exec actually told me, "we can't buy cartoon ideas and characters from someone who has been working in the business, because his ideas won't be fresh."

They then get some kid from nowhere who has never worked for anyone in cartoons or has very little experience, doesn't know how cartoons are made and they put him in charge of a short or series.

Of course SOMEONE has to have experience who works on the cartoon or the cartoon won't get made.

So they put an inexperieneced kid in charge of artists who have paid their dues (and would like a chance to make their own cartoons) on other people's cartoon series and all the experienced people are jealous of the guy who came from nowhere and won the cartoon lottery.

So if you plan to make a career of cartoons, you better sell a show the first couple years you're in the business, because as soon as you have learned something the execs think you can no longer be creative. But be prepared for your crew to hate your guts.

A Cartoon Character Has Inherent Value

Execs think that characters by themselves have inherent value. "This character is worth millions". They never get that the artist who is able to create great characters is the thing of value.

Bugs is a great character, right? Then why hasn't anyone been able to do a good cartoon with him in 50 years?

Because they don't have Clampett, Avery or Jones to direct him. These guys created scores of great characters.

This obvious fact of history that repeats itself over and over again is completely over the heads of executives.

You Need To Find The Next "Look"
Another modern executive belief. Because Ren and Stimpy came along in 1991 and looked "different", they expect this to happen every year at every studio.

Things tend to evolve (or devolve). Very rarley throughout history do "new" things spring into existence out of nowhere. When they actually do, all the execs and establishment do everything they can to crush them out of existence.

Instead of just wanting the cartoons to be good, and strong and funny and amusing, there is this insane search for something relatively insignificant.

An exec told me a month or so ago, again, that experienced cartoonists were doomed because they couldn't create one of these new looks, but some 16 year old kid from the Ozarks who can barely scrawl, can.

The exec admitted one drawback to this doctrine and rolling her eyes said, of course "these kids are a pain, because they have never made cartoons before so we have to hold their hands throughout the process."


"Adult" Cartoons Have To Look Like They Were Drawn By Kids
Because the Simpsons and Beavis and Butthead were so successful, the execs tried to figure out the "secret" of their success. The magic ingredient taht could be injected into every cartoon ever after.

Execs being simple of wit and illogical, looked at the most superficial aspects of the shows-that the drawings were primitive and looked like kids drew them, rather than professional artists.

From then on, every "adult" cartoon show has looked like it was drawn by 8 year olds.

They seriously believe that if you had a show that was aimed at adults but was drawn well, people wouldn't watch.

Adults Don't Like Slapstick
When I was developing the George Liquor Program for MTV, the executive in charge of my creativity kept telling me to take out the crazy stuff. Formerly from MTV, and never having worked on The Simpsons, she told me what she thought the formula was for the Simpsons: "Your cartoons are too lively and animated. Adults don't want that. That's for kids. The Simpsons works for adults because nothing ever happens. They sit on the couch and say witty things. Adults don't like slapstick."

This was at the time Jim Carrey was making hit after hit of wacky slapstick films for adults.

Anybody can write cartoons (except cartoonists)

Executives believe that anyone is qualified to write cartoons-that is anybody except cartoonists.

Secretaries, friends of execs, psychologists, film editors - this is where execs find their "writers". Not experienced real writers, let alone cartoonists with story ability who are funny-
the folks who built the animation business and created the greatest cartoons and characters in history do not qualify.

I guess they think you can only have one talent at a time.

They would also assume that The Beatles needed plumbers to write their songs for them and that Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery and a horde of other cartoonists couldn't decide for themselves what cartoons to make.

Anybody can direct voices, as long as they didn't have anything to do with creating the cartoon story

Execs believe that you need a special person to tell the actors how to act out the cartoon voices.

They don't believe that the creator of the show, or the writer of the episode or the storyboard artists, all people who have spent considerable time on the actual episodes know how the characters feel about the events in the story.

They believe that someone who has just this moment been handed a script, knows exactly how to direct the voices. Someone seeing the show for the first time, who has no creative stake in the show, because she also "directs" 15 other shows every day.

Now, maybe you think the reason this person is better qualified than the people who made the stories and characters is because she has some special training.

The voice director of course used to be an actor.


A writer?

A cartoonist?
God no!

Voice directors are usually the studio head's secretary, someone who spends most of her time under the most important desk in the studio.
After awhile, the boss wants a fresh new secretary and promotes the dusty one to "voice director".

There are many more crazy executive beliefs. In fact if you have experienced any, feel free to share your experiences in the comments-better post anonymously!

By the way, don't take my word for any of this.

Read the crazy religious beliefs of some of the most renowned crackpots in the cartoon business: