Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Filmation Paradoxes

The new issue of Flip is online and the lead article is a look back at Filmation by three artists who worked there: Tom Sito, Bronwen Barry and Tom Mazzocco. The piece highlights two paradoxes that are common within the animation industry.

The first is that it's possible to work at a studio that has a comfortable environment and a friendly crew while turning out work that is, to put it charitably, of little value. Filmation is best remembered for shows like He-Man, She-ra and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. While those series may produce a nostalgic glow for a generation of children, a dispassionate look at them shows them to be low budget formula cartoons. While artists would prefer to work on good projects, the truth is that a comfortable environment is perhaps as valuable as the quality of the finished work when the project takes up most of an artist's waking hours.

The other paradox is that artists tend to be judged by the projects they work on, and that's a false standard. A great many of the Filmation crew migrated to Disney, where they were major contributors to the success of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. While resume credits are a handy way to pigeon-hole someone, they don't accurately reflect the skills of an artist. The intelligence and taste of the management, the size of the budget and the length of the schedule have more to do with the results on screen than the abilities of the crew.

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