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Cavalier Attitude: It’s All Animation’s Fault

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While I’m on the subject (as I was in the last column) about animation being talked of as a genre instead of a type of filmmaking (or ’method of storytelling’ as Brad Bird nicely puts it),  I would just like to say that the most annoying thing about this is the way that it’s used as an excuse for NOT MAKING ANIMATION.

Do TV execs ever use this logic: “That last live action sit-com we made didn’t do very well so we wont be making any more live action for a long time”?, or “That sitcom we made was filmed with a Sony camera and it just wasn’t funny, right then, no more Sony cameras” Do Hollywood financiers ever say: “There’s just too many movies with tracking shots, we should stop using tracking shots to tell our stories”? or “Wow, John Carter just bombed, lets not use any visual effects any more”. No I don’t think they do, they say that was a crappy script, or a boring story, or it was badly made, or poorly marketed, or whatever. They don’t blame the actual techniques involved.


Tracking camera – Not responsible for terrible films

Unless it’s animation and it bombs, then it’s animations fault. Not even the particular animation of that particular show, however good or bad that was, no, it’s the fault of animation in general. It’s the fault of the whole idea of animation, of that stupid old ‘creating a simulation of movement by displaying a series of frames’ thing. It’s the fault of a method of film making responsible for eight and a half of the forty most popular films of all time (Snow White, 101 Dalmatians, Lion King, Fantasia, Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, Shrek 2, Pinocchio and half of Mary Poppins, in case you wondered * ). It’s the fault of a type of TV show that makes up the first, the fifth and the joint eleventh longest running prime time TV series of all time (The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy in case you wondered **) It’s the fault of a type of filmmaking that created the worlds most famous fictional character (Mickey Mouse in case you wondered).


Fantasia – one of the most popular films of all time

The fact is that all the above and many more (Peppa Pig, Wallace & Gromit and Spongebob to name a few) have become international iconic properties and therefore licenses to print money (or merchandise as its called in the business). This all seems to be forgotten every time there’s a flop TV series like Bromwell High, Popetown or Full English made in this country resulting in all production of all animation being cancelled for the foreseeable future on that channel. Or every time Hollywood makes an underperforming Titan AE / Sinbad / Flushed Away / Final Fantasy / Mars Needs Moms and corporate strategies are abandoned, techniques are written off, departments are laid off, partnerships are dissolved and companies are closed down. And some of those films didn’t even even lose money. The thing is as well, all those times they said ‘no’ to animation, how many Simpsons, Peppa Pigs and Toy Storys didn’t get made?


Some animation properties monopolise their brand (sorry)

Its just all a bit predictable isn’t it. It would be nice to see some more original excuses used for not making stuff. Like “Lone Ranger’s got sand in it- IT’S ALL THE SANDS FAULT!” Heavens Gate had a gate in it***- IT’S ALL THE GATES FAULT” “Green Lantern had green in it- ITS ALL GREENS FAULT!” I guess its just that base instinct to assign blame in order to pacify fear. Or possibly like when people from Hartlepool hang monkeys who they’ve accused of being French****. In the words of Krusty the Clown and his cheering audience “Don’t blame me- I didn’t do it!” *****

Sand - Bastard

Sand – Key to the Lone Rangers disastrous box office takings?


*   According to Box Office Mojo 

**  Longest running US Primetime TV Series list

*** Probably

**** No really, they did.

***** From Krusty Gets Busted, Simpsons season 1 episode 12, (coincidentally) directed by Brad Bird.



This column is written anonymously by animation director Stephen Cavalier, whose twenty-year career can be measured as a slow professional and moral decline from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Modern Toss.

Stephen is also the author of The World History of Animation, available in all good bookshops (as they say).


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  • Aaron Wood

    Brilliantly funny article – good points made!

    • cav

      Thanks Aaron! Glad you liked it.

  • Katie Steed

    You tell ’em! Great article, thanks 🙂

    • cav

      Thanks Katie I will!
      (Hang on, tell ’em what exactly?)

  • Dennis Sisterson

    How true. Oh and John Carter bombed because it was about Mars. It wasn’t enough to change the title from ‘John Carter of Mars’ in the wake of ‘Mars Needs Moms’ bombing.

    • cav

      Goddammit now I think about it you’re so right Dennis, and theres John Carpenters Ghosts of Mars and Mars Attacks to add to the list of Mars Bombs.

      Although of course the Mars Bar has retained its popularity and name despite chocolate bar upheavals in recent years such the disturbing and controversial name change of Marathons to Snickers, which I still haven’t recovered from. Although apparently Mars Bars are different in America, and considered more an underground independent edgy snack.
      I think that speaks volumes about the Hollywood marginalisation of erm.. contemporary.. er..Ill get back to you on that one after I’ve written my book about snacks.

  • andy

    This comment has nothing to do with animation just a slight point about Hartlepool people hanging a monkey because they thought it was a French SPY. just thought I would join the pedantic worldwideweb.

    • cav

      Hells teeth once more the paucity of my research into Northern monkey folklore has let me down, when will I learn. SC

    • Steve Henderson

      Are you saying that if they knew he was a monkey they would have still hung him because they thought he was a spy? Whats a monkey spy going to do nick all their bananas?

  • Andy Sanders

    A very intersting perspective. I remember the chap responsible for Pepper Pig saying how terrified he was the whole thing may turn out to be a flop. Crazy how some take off and others don’t.

  • Alex Stanlake

    Great points. Lumping all animation into a single genre makes it even easier for people to lump it all in as ‘for kids’ too, despite the obvious success of things like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy as you mentioned.

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