With the release of blockbuster animations, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in the 1980s, Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. and every other major animation studio began hiring artists and designers from every corner of the globe. European artists swarmed Los Angeles, studios hired kids out of college, some even before graduation. Big production houses began to explode by increasing staff numbers, buying property and paying magnificent salaries. These artists quickly became hot commodities.
But soon things began to feel formulaic and studios fell into that trap. The big studio system lost sight of the story element and concentrated too much on the slickness of the production. With bigger budgets nobody wanted to take a chance with the creative process. In this scenario, independent studios & production houses started making movies and benefitted from the audience’s demand for something different.
Where in the animation industry scenario are they now? When did this change affect the wave of independent production companies and satellite studios that are now cropping up in all parts of the world? Independent artists are setting up studios in their homes and animators, who used to work for big production houses, are appearing as production heads of their own studios.
By the year 2000, studios found cost effective ways of producing their work and began looking overseas, leaving many artists out of work as the staff requirements decreased. At the same time, films like Toy Story made money at the box office and larger studios realized that collaborating with some of the new, slick CGI studios would be quite advantageous. Soon, independent studios, more popularly known as the indies, such as Lions Gate Films began putting out their own films. During the first decade of the millennium, the independent production company influx was the most prominent trend that had captured the attention of mainstream audiences across the world.
Indie production companies are now emerging in great numbers, as technological progress has created an entirely different setup of the animation studio. It is certainly more efficient to set up a studio where all the ingredients of production could comfortably be installed on one workstation. Indeed it seems the crop of indie production companies has grown with studios continuing to have smaller budgets.
Diversification added to this process as well. Consider the vast number of options available today. DVD , video games, commercials, internet, wireless, to name just a few; and the new, emerging consumer arenas such as e-learning and ethnic entertainment target markets, the scope for indie productions is growing each day.
No one is certain where the story will end. Perhaps this new renaissance of indie productions will give birth to its own laundry list of lessons to be learned and challenges to be faced. But one thing is for certain; this is just the beginning of a new era for the animation story.