Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Working on Arthur

ArthurI left Marsupilami to go work on the Arthur Christmas Special.

The Saturday before I started working on Arthur.... there was a HUGE scandal that hit the animation industry called the "CINAR Scandal". I will get back to the scandal in a later Blog.

So on Monday morning when I started working on Arthur.... the atmosphere in the studio was not a happy one.

Many were worried for their job and their future. It was the beginning of some dark times for animation.

Since I had worked on "The Busy World of Richard Scary", there were some changes made in the studio. Once a week all the designers would meet with the director to discuss the show they were working on.... in this case the Arthur Christmas Special.

Ironically enough.... it seems that it is something that was started by the "Big Shot" who took over Marsupilami.

Strangely enough...... we had no such meeting with "MR Big Shot" on Marsupilami.

Ultimately those meetings became a thing of the past since it would be too time consuming. It would mean half a day wasted on such meeting for everyone.

It used to be that only the supervisors would meet with the director.... so everyone else would still be working while th meeting was held....but now with everyone on the team attending the meeting.... that would mean more questions.... and too often more useless questions that made the meeting go on forever and ever. So it would end up too time consuming and would not really help in the end.

So after some time.... it went back to only the supervisors having meetings with the director.

At the time.... little would I know that Arthur would end up being the series I would have worked the most on.

I worked on the Christmas Special as a character designer.

Then I worked on the series as a character designer. then once the design was finished.... I worked on layout & posing for the rest of that season. Arthur won 2 Emmy Awards for that season.

Then I worked on some licensing for Arthur.

Then I worked on a new season as a layout & posing artist.

And finally last summer, I worked on storyboard corrections on Arthur.

Although I much preferred to work on a series like Bob Morane.... I must admit that I had some fun working on Arthur. I did not expect too.... but I had some fun with some of the people I was working with.... and heck I even had fun drawing the little guy.

But while I was working on the storyboard corrections..... some days I would end up drawing Arthurs ears a thousand times or something like that. On some boards sometimes you would have to redo lets say Arthur's ears, or some other detail throughout the whole board.

So at the end of the day after drawing Arthur's ears a thousand times.... you get a little sick of drawing them ears.

Sadly as the years went by, they would hire less and less people to do the same amount of work with less and less time.

For example they would hire half the amount of people, give them half the time they used to give them, but expect them to do the same amount of work with the same quality as before.

That is something that happens not only in animation but in all TV productions in general.

They try to cut down their cost as much as they can to maximize their profits until the quality becomes so crappy that people stop watching the show, and ultimately the show gets cancelled.

But so far.... the quality on Arthur has been good enough that they kept on producing more shows..... at least so far.

I don't know if they will make more Arthur episodes.... but we can expect that if they do make more episodes.... the people working on the show will probably have less people, less time and less budget to do the same amount of work... if not more.

Sadly that is how it works wayyyy too often.

Also as time went by... part of the production like layout & posing was no longer done here.

Although that is not just on Arthur... that is something that happened pretty much in every studios in Montreal.

AFAIK.... there no longer is any layout & posing done here in Montreal. :(

Which is sad.... I loved working as a layout & posing artist.

Why is layout & posing no longer done here???

About 10 years ago.... a layout & posing scene paid around $65 or $70 per scene. Depending on the project or the studio. But at the same time, it would cost about $3 to have the same scene done in China. And $3 that was the price paid to the studio in China. The Chinese studio would then turn around and give only a part of that to the artist actually doing the work. I wish I could say that they were giving $1 to the artist.... but it probably was much less then that.

Already, pretty much all the animation done in Canada was actually done in China. But more and more.... so was the layout & posing.

And it got even worse when India got into the game. At some point, many animation studios in China closed their doors since even they with their extremely low wages could not compete with what the studios in India were charging.

How do you compete with people offering such extremely low prices??? Sadly I don't have the answer to that one.

I don't know about you, but here in Canada.... NO ONE can survive by earning $1 a day. NO ONE.


As I said I have no idea wether there will be more new Arthur TV episodes.

For about 5 years now whenever there is a new season of Arthur being produced, we expect it to be the last season of Arthur.... and so far there has always been a new season after that.

So who knows.... maybe there will be some new Arthur episodes produced at some point.

We will have to wait and see. ;)


cash_gorman said...

I ran into the same thing working as a production artist/image tech for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. Outsourcing is a big problem and a big contributor to the problems with the economy and not one really addressed by the powers that be. If you don't come up with a way to keep jobs in the country, of course there's going to be fewer car purchases, home foreclosures, etc. So far, the only new job projects I've heard come out of the stimulus package: working on the roads.

Jim Shelley said...

@cash_gorman - man, I'm right there with you! My wife lost her graphic designer job at Time Warner Cable during a recent round of layoffs and so far I don't see a durn thing in the stimulus package that looks like something that might help her. :(

Anonymous said...

I just watched episode of Arthur and I am looking at how much people are in layout crew.Out of approx 20 people working now there is 5 in a current layout crew.These people have to pump out 30 layouts per week in flash.Arthur got lots of line millage and it is painfully slow to do in flash.Budgets are slashed and they ever try do do a show with 4 people.Imagine workload of 20 distributed to 4 people.


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