Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pretty Pictures

When you're wandering around the wasteland of Development Hell, you'll see a lot of mirages. A mirage is a image, usually beautiful, that isn't real. Some say it's a reflection of reality, some say it's mere imagination and some say it's pure madness. I say it's an illusion but, like a dream, it can be captured. In animation development, the mirages appear after you've completed your first script. After reading and rereading that document, the new investor may get a vision of the final film. Heck, he'll usually have many visions! In his mind's eye, the film is already done and he's receiving his Oscar or Emmy in front of cameras. To us ol' veterans, the film's just begun. The next thing on the list of "things that must be done" isn't sending out invitations to the Awards party but to capture the "mirage" on paper. In other words, we have to establish what the "look" of the picture will be. What "style" of art work will represent the story we want to tell.

This process is becoming less and less common these days, even in television production. Often times, some type of art work will immediately follow the "idea" before the pilot script is written. Unless the mirage is as clear as the presidential images on Mount Rushmore, these initial drawings are preliminary and soon left behind. Some times these "pretty pictures" are necessary to entice additional money or to inspire a writer. Usually, they are merely unchanneled energy and consume vast amounts of money with no return on the investment. They wind up as expensive toys or gifts disguised as "exploratory" art work on the budget. When you purchase a large "coffee table" book of animation illustrations from successful Disney or Pixar features, you will notice a lot of this type of art work. The uninitiated investor must realize that the combined cost of this non-production art work may exceed the budget of of thirteen half hours shows produced for network television!

As a trustworthy guide, I must recommend against that expenditure. Save that money for choosing the art director or key designer for the overall series. Pick a style that best suits the vision of film maker: new wave, retro, classic, comic book, engraving, illustrative, water color, opaque paint, cut out, sketch line, bold outline, etc. Look at several styles that specifically refer to the audience and market you intend to attract. Once you've reached a decision on the "look" of the series, go ahead and don't look back! The temptation is to redesign and redesign until the money runs out and then runs over. Choose a qualified guide, make a decision from excellent choices and then, live with it. Pretty pictures will cost you a pretty penny. Put that art work on the screen not in your den. Make your vision a reality NOT a mirage.