The Future of Canadian Animation Resources, and maybe the future of animation in Canada too!

By Mike Valiquette

We got a little chatty on Twitter this week, with a bit of a rant about creator-driven content and creative control in the Canadian industry. It took off a bit, so I thought I’d share it here too, for those who are interested.

We opened with a comment about the site itself. It’s old and shabby and honestly, I’m just not that excited by it anymore. We’re a glorified job board, and that’s still important, but we need to do more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things started to heat up around here though:

 

The rant continued like this:

ok, that’s an oversimplification, I should apologize for that. It’s not like we don’t have a say. There’s plenty of examples of artists who steer their careers. But how many cool projects, potentially viable projects, do you think die at the pitch stage? We have a narrow market.

We make more animated programming than any other country in the world, but too often, I hear the complaint that something just looks and feels “Canadian”, and they’re not paying a compliment. Granted, Canadian cartoons are getting better, for sure, but until we start taking risks, and I mean real creative risks, we’re not going to be free of our service economy. Who in Canada would ever greenlight Over the Garden Wall? Or Steven Universe? And don’t assume it’s necessarily the broadcast execs, there’s plenty of people working at broadcasters who’d love to, but their hands are tied by corporations that are used to doing business a certain way. it’s mind boggling. We have to just accept that the current architecture is geared towards a service economy. So maybe it’s just time to build a new architecture?

Animation in Canada is healthy, we have jobs. So maybe we need to multi-task a bit? Work our jobs, and coordinate our efforts when it comes to new systems and structures to put creators more in charge of their own future? The shift from a service driven model to a content model.

None of this is new, none of it is revolutionary, but it’s going to need a revolution. The people who control your paycheck are doing it, and there’s no reason we can’t too. And maybe, in the doing, gain control of our own paycheck.

This is the one that seems to have really gotten people talking.

 

After launching as a bunch of risk taking mavericks, Nelvana crashed and burned. They rebuilt themselves by playing it safe, adapting known properties from kids books and working in a factory style pipeline. Rock & Rule destroyed them. So the lesson was learned, don’t try that kind of crazy shit. Franklin saved them. So that’s our model. But the risks have changed. Audiences and viewing habits are different now, technology has made production massively less expensive. Rock & Rule cost 8 million USD in 1983, that’s about 20 million now. That same production, if you’re smart, could be done for 5 today. That’s a pretty low risk in the bigger scheme of things.

The cost 10 million USD. Amazing movie with a proper budget. In comparison, Spark, the Nut Job 1 and 2, and Space Chimps all had budgets around 40 million USD, and only one of those made any money. Sadly, Spark made less than a million. Those aren’t odds I like.

But imagine an animation industry that took that same financial risk, 160 million dollars, and made 16 10 mill movies? Or 32 5 mill movies? Once you apply that logic you have to reconsider what the motives of the decision makers are. You’d want to increase your odds, right? Spread out the risk, maybe create sustainable success. Instead let’s put all our money into a handful of films that we hope will compete against Disney/Pixar, or at the very least trick parents into thinking they’re going to a Disney/Pixar. And that’s not even TV, where we have a decades old system of service work and playing it safe. We run around talking about shows when we have no idea what that means. Big Canuck media Co’s should be competing with CN and Nick, not with each other. But instead we avoid risk, reinforce mediocrity, and scratch our heads when we don’t have a Spongebob. It’s cultural, and it won’t change unless someone actually does it, but the likelihood of that happening is slim. I’m happy we have hits like Paw Patrol, we need those. Paw Patrol is an example of a hit, yes, the same way Dora was. But that can’t be all we can make, can it? Why can’t we make Steven Universe? Rick & Morty? We get close, the ideas are there, but then they get fed into the system and come out SAFE.

Watch this interview with if you want to understand the kind of trust Cartoon Network puts in its creators That would NEVER happen in Canada.

The answer is money. It always is. The model is different in the states, and the one we have here could use some changing. But the people making and controlling the money aren’t big on change, so maybe it’s up to us, the actual community who wants change, to do it ourselves.

It would be great if someone would put serious cash into an Indie Fund. Startoon was interesting, it tried a few things, and the success of it is still coming. But maybe we start small. Raise some money. There are systems we can use and our community is mostly here. But we have to make it real, we have to actually do it. So let’s try. The Indie Fund. I’m going to start it. We’ll look at our fundraising options and roll out a campaign. And then we’ll make something, something that otherwise wouldn’t have been made. We’ll take the risk.

We should have all kinds of shows! Weird funny cartoons, amazing action series, adult animation, all of it! Want some examples?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All this ended up with an idea, a way to maybe take some control of our own work lives and use Canadian Animation Resources to help.

 

So that happened. And it needs to keep happening. I think this is something I can get excited about. But I’m going to need help.

So all that means this. Change is coming. On here, for starters. That’s something I can control. And if you guys are on board, that change can extend beyond this website and maybe become something real. But that’s up to you.

Talk soon.

Mike

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5 Responses to “The Future of Canadian Animation Resources, and maybe the future of animation in Canada too!”

  1. just fyi

    Spark didn’t cost anywhere near $40 million USD — no idea where you got that number.

    #80762
  2. Rob Barton

    Wow, I’m really excited about this! I thin k an indie fund would be a great idea. Lets get something produced, then put it out there and let the viewers tell us what they want to see!

    #80772
  3. Love it… Ive been having the same dream.
    Thank you for giving voice to this.
    As someone in the animation world in Canada, I’ve seen many a compromised project and production company.
    And it makes me sick.
    I want to create a series i can be 100% proud of.
    And would love to do it in Canada.

    Please add me to a mailing list and keep telling me how I can support.

    T.A

    #80774
  4. I’m loving this idea! I’d be more than happy to be part of that movement

    #80777

Cartoon Awesome!