Online animator forum AnimationNation Thursday held its annual animator walk-out in Burbank, Calif., just down the road from Walt Disney Studios. The event offers toon toilers a chance to meet, show solidarity and discuss the state of the industry. Attendees included master character animator James Baxter (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), ASIFA Hollywood president Antran Manoogian and animation historian Jerry Beck.
AnimationNation founder Charles Zembillas, who teaches at the Animation Academy in Burbank, emceed the event. Before turning the mike over to attendees, Zembillas got a bit choked up as he expressed his gratitude for all the friends he has made through the site over the years.
The meeting saw the birth of the first Uncle Awards. Eric Hedman, an animator from northern California, came down with four bowling trophies reserved for figures in the industry who haven’t been afraid to shake things up.
Hedman told a story about meeting someone’s uncle, who happened to be retired Disney animator David Hilberman, and recounted how he was amazed to see that the legendary co-founder of UPA was still painting and drawing. Hedman commented, "It’s inspiring to know that people will create even if they aren’t getting a paycheck."
The first recipients of the Uncle Awards were Roy Disney, Stanley Gold, Don Bluth and John Lasseter. None were there to accept the awards, but the gesture was appreciated by all. "Next year, I hope to see at least one of the four winners be an Aunt," Hedman concluded.
Jerry Beck and Steve Worth used the opportunity to inform members of a couple of interesting projects in the works. Worth discussed ASIFA’s efforts to create an animation museum and a virtual archive that will house countless video clips and scanned images of everything from pencil tests to animation cels. The project will require an initial investment of $50,000 to get computer workstations in place and will rely on volunteers to contribute archival material and spend time scanning materials.
The main focus of the archive, according to Worth, will be the people behind the cartoons, people like Ub Iwerks, who created Mickey Mouse but remains relatively unsung. Worth said he didn’t mean to make a 2D vs. 3D issue, but stated that 2D will continue to develop a thrive "but we have to remember our roots and the people who came before us." We will cover this effort in more detail in an upcoming issue of Animation Magazine.
Beck announced plans for a 2D Expo, which may get off the ground as early as late June. "Computers, stay out!," quipped Beck as he described the event consisting of panel discussions and a networking/exhibit hall. A focus will be animators who have worked for large studios but are now making a go of it on their own. More inforation will be posted on the ASIFA Hollywood website (www.asifa-hollywood.org).
The overall message of the day was that it’s easy to get cynical and bitter with the current state of animation employment, but it’s important to stay positive and proactive.