Being someone that has always wanted to start their own animation company I have always had a respect for those entrepreneurs that have already done it. There is of course Walt Disney, but there is also the less known people such as Will Vinton. I learned about Will and his studio a few months ago, and was surprised I never heard of him before. Starting your own company there are so many decisions that you have to make on a daily basis, and any of those decisions could be the one that causes your company to fail. Will made a wrong decisions that cost him his studio. Will Vinton is credited with coming up with the term “Claymation”, and was even trademarked by him. He won an Oscar, and several Emmy Awards for the work that his studio did. Even if you don’t know him you might know his work. His company Will Vinton Studios made many classic claymation feature films, TV series, TV specials, and short films. His commercial work is what I remember the most, and it includes the California Raisins, the Domino’s Pizza Noid, and the M&M’s Red, Yellow, and Green characters. Will’s company was doing really well, and taking on many more projects. Many felt his studio was growing to fast, and that is how he lost control of it. By the end of the 1990’s the studio was seeking funds for more feature films. One of the key investors was Phil Knight, the owner of the shoe company Nike, Inc.. Part of the deal for Knight to invest more was that he would require a larger stake in the company. He also got his son Travis a job at the company as an animator. Travis previously had a failed career as a rapper under the name Chilly Tee. You might be thinking I’m getting off subject, but this is where things went wrong. In 2002, Will Vinton ended up losing control of Vinton Studios when Phil Knight became the majority shareholder in the company. Eventually they decided that Will was no longer needed, and he was fired from the company he started. Phil Knight ended up putting his son Travis in charge of the company, and the company was later renamed to Laika. You may know Laika for their feature films Coraline, & ParaNorman. This story sounds very similar to the story of Steve Jobs with Apple computers, but the difference is Steve was able to come back and retake over his company. When I read about this a couple of months ago there was no happy return for Mr. Vinton, but I read an article this morning about how he is trying to make a comeback. His new company Vinton Entertainment announced a co-production deal with Gnosis Moving Pictures for a series of animated features directed by Vinton. You can learn more about these projects check out this article, but this is not the focus of my post.
The end of last week was really busy, and I did not have a chance to write my blog post until now. I was on set for the commercials I’m post supervising on, so that took up a lot of my time on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It was a great experience to see how everything worked on the live action side, and I was surprised at the number of people on the crew. You would think I would’t be surprised coming from the animation world where there are around 300 to 400 people on a crew, but I guess I thought it be a smaller crew since it’s a commercial and not a movie. I was trying to remember back to my film classes in college to remember what all the different positions on a film crew did, but things have changed since then. For example the focus puller did not stand next to the camera to adjust the focus. Instead he had a monitor that he watched with a handheld device that remotely adjusted the focus. Many of the positions were the same, but they never introduced me to who was doing what, so it was all a guessing game to figure out who was doing what. I tried to meet as many of the crew that I could, and find out what roll they played on set. It was a very good crew, and a great group of people that I would love to get to work with again. The footage turned out great, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like after all the effects and SFX are added. This week my focus is on trying to make sure we hit all the deadlines for the After Effects work we are doing on the commercials. It is a very quick turnaround, but as long as we don’t get a lot of notes we should be able to hit our dates. We are working on a few clips each week, and this will go on for the next few weeks until we finish all of them.
When I thought about how my first week after leaving my job at DreamWorks would go I envisioned a much less active week. I figured it would mostly be me trying to get some of the basics in place so that I could eventually start finding clients. In reality it has been a pretty active week, and that gives me a lot of hope for the future. I was hired on as the Post Supervisor for a series of Toys R Us commercials my good friend Hashi is co-producing/Directing and doing his After Effects magic on. They are in the fashion of his Action Movie Kid videos that he has been doing with his son. If you have not seen them yet you should check them out. It will be exciting to get to work with Hashi, and see him take his craft to the next level. There are 3 shooting days at the end of next week, and then I will mostly be working from home making sure we get all After Effects work done on time and delivered to the client.
Happy 4th of July!
I’m now officially independent from DreamWorks Animation. So not only will I be celebrating the United States’ Independence today, but also my own. This week has been great because for the first time I have been able to be open to tell people what my plans are, and I have been getting some interesting reactions. Some people look at me like I’m crazy, and you can see the eye roll and thought bubble saying “never going to happen!”. On the other extreme are the people that get really excited, and start talking about exchanging contact information so that they can come work with me. Most people seem to fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. I guess these reactions are to be expected, since most people do not try and start their own animation company. I also ran into some people that opened up to me about their own entrepreneurial efforts that they are secretly working on.