Skip

Heard it through the grapevine
May 12, 2014 6:38 PM   Subscribe


 
That's cold, Chilly Tee.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:48 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I don't quite know how much to trust an article about stop-motion animation that misspells Henry Selick's name throughout the piece. Something about this seems one-sided, or at least off.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:55 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Thank you for this. I was actually thinking of doing a post on Vinton several months ago while researching his 1992 Easter Special.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:01 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Back in the 1990s, I used to see a shrink whose office was in the same NW Portland neighborhood as Vinton Studios. Every week I walked down a sidewalk into which some disgruntled person had carved the timeless words, "Will Vinton Is A Dick." Every week I wondered what Vinton had done.

Also, I wonder who the intended audience of this piece is, that the author had to explain parenthetically that Cannes is "the 'creme de la creme' of festivals'."
posted by gingerest at 7:02 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


That Mark Twain clip tho. I both do and don't want to know what context is missing from that that supposedly redeems it.
posted by bleep at 7:09 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


That Mark Twain clip? If it was from Czechoslovakia you all would be talking about the simple, primitive rendering of stark horror and cruel beauty.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:13 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Haven't seen it in awhile but I did like the Adventures of Mark Twain, also I've liked almost everything I've seen of Vinton's.
The writing on the story is a bit schlocky though, the last line kinda made me want to headdesk.
posted by edgeways at 7:18 PM on May 12


Vinton directed a short that was part of Dinosaurs!, one of my favorite VHS tapes as a kid. It was special to me because it made the dinosaurs seem so real. Jurassic Park may have blown it out of the water a few years later but for a dinosaur-mad first grader I loved it without reservation.
posted by graymouser at 7:37 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was just a clusterfuck of "wrong", "biased", and "mysteriously bitter ". My fiancée works for Laika, so i'm gonna take some time to digest this a bit before responding in detail. Regardless, ugh. That's some bad journalism.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:09 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Interesting perspective of a not-untypical Hollywood story. Can I tell you how Jay Ward lost all rights to "Crusader Rabbit", quit animation to be a realtor and ultimately returned with creative partner Bill Scott to bring us "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and all that followed? Of course, Jay Ward Productions has since been absorbed into one company, then another, then Dreamworks that made the "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" movie possible.

One interesting aspect of all of it is how one of the Designated Villains, the Trust Fund Baby Travis Knight, has been so receptive to solidly creative people like Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman, making "Coraline" possible, and when I heard that Graham 'Grickle' Annable, whose kooky, spooky, ooky work I have followed since his animated short-short "Space Wolf"*, was co-directing and had a hand in character design for "Boxtrolls", I was willing to accept whoever made that possible, even if he was a Neo-Nazi Jihadi Climate-Change-Denier Jaywalker... or a Trust Fund Baby.

Of course, those of us who fondly remember Art Clokey and Gumby weren't too thrilled with Vinton trademarking the term 'Claymation'. The animation business is tough, many anvils have been dropped on many real-life creators, and the area of 'stop-motion' (which I never considered adequately descriptive) is even worse. Even those crackin' good Brits at Aardman haven't had it easy (but they're working on a "Shaun the Sheep" movie for next year, which I totally approve of and look forward to).

*which taught the shoulda-been-obvious lesson that werewolves should NEVER become astronauts
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:09 PM on May 12 [9 favorites]


[for the record: Vinton did a lot of amazing work, and The Adventure of Mark Twain is fucking magical. As benito.strauss suggested, that's some serious svankmajer level awesomeness.]
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:12 PM on May 12


Foop, yer the goddamn animation history king. And our group has been laughing over Space Wolf for years now, and it's nice to see the Grickle guy's still kicking.
posted by JHarris at 8:22 PM on May 12


That was interesting but odd. I guess the author wanted me to sort of dislike Travis Knight, you know, for Reasons, but honestly he came off as a pretty decent character throughout that whole narrative.

Hell even Phil Knight's role did not seem that monstrous to me at all. Dude invested a bunch of money, it was mishandled, and instead of just torching the thing he poured in even more and more money and brought it back to life.

Also, Coraline is just a wondeful film.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:44 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


This read as a totally unbalanced hit piece. Putting front and center the guy's unfortunate juvenalia... Eck. Just inappropriate.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:59 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


As someone who never really knew much about the history of Claymation, I thought the article was slanted, but still interesting, and the videos kicked it over the edge for me deciding to post it. I do think author was putting way too much spin on some parts.
posted by fings at 9:10 PM on May 12


That was interesting but odd. I guess the author wanted me to sort of dislike Travis Knight, you know, for Reasons, but honestly he came off as a pretty decent character throughout that whole narrative.

that's why it was a bad article. the story is just another example of how big capital drives out little capital in any industry. Laika can lose on a project and has deep enough pockets to keep going without bringing outside investors with different agendas, priorities or culture.... which I guess is what happened to Vinton. it doesn't matter if Travis Knight is a bad person or not, the point is that, no matter how creative or innovative they are, odds are after boom and bust the little guy loses.

it's not the way capitalism is supposed to work.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:13 PM on May 12


That is such a badly proofed piece. Just a quick skim through comes up with:
  • Vinton, a doe-eyed freshman, was in its thralls.
  • Vinton harps on the process:
  • commercial advertising came to compromise over 50% of Vinton Studios’ business
  • “Chilly Tee” struggled to cut it in the inhospitable streets of Portland.
  • the studio’s commercial division took huge hit
  • There were LA-type agents and executives brought it,
  • As  disney executive
  • a planned animated featured fell through
  • When film critic Bill Desowitz asked new new chief

  • posted by unliteral at 9:14 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


    Of course, those of us who fondly remember Art Clokey and Gumby weren't too thrilled with Vinton trademarking the term 'Claymation'.

    Came here to point out that Clokey is who I immediately thought of when I saw "father of claymation". Yeah, it's cool that this dude got an Oscar and stuff, but he also ruined a pretty sweet Marvin Gaye song for me.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 9:22 PM on May 12


    That is such a badly proofed piece. Just a quick skim through comes up with:

    unliteral - reading your comment too quickly, I assumed that what followed the colon was your synopsis.
    I was starting to wonder if you had suffered a stroke while typing.
    posted by 445supermag at 9:23 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


    "it doesn't matter if Travis Knight is a bad person or not, the point is that, no matter how creative or innovative they are, odds are after boom and bust the little guy loses."

    Laika really are the little guys*, in terms of animators that a typical person might see in a theater, though...

    *it's sort of right there in their name.
    posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 9:24 PM on May 12


    This reminded me a little of the Lisa "Rainbow Gulag" Frank story... who knew all the behind-the-scenes intrigue that went on these rainbow, unicorns and singing raisin companies....
    http://www.metafilter.com/134763/I-didnt-even-know-she-was-a-real-person
    posted by KOBKOBKOB at 9:34 PM on May 12


    California Raisins tho
    posted by dhammond at 9:59 PM on May 12


    Wow, no love for Will Vinton here. When I was going to animation festivals in the '80s, Vinton was amazing. Some of the early stuff doesn't hold up so well, especially when we've been spoiled by the much smoother Aardman flicks, but "Dinosaur" is still pretty funny. I can't find the original on Youtube, but here it is embedded in a later production.

    Whether the article is good or not, it's sad that Vinton was forced out of his own company. And for what it's worth, after the success of Coraline, Selick also left the company, which doesn't say much for Knight's ability to keep top talent.
    posted by zompist at 11:04 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


    Retaining a stable roster of feature directors has never been part of the laika vision. They're really not a big enough outfit to even consider that sort of thing.
    posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:10 PM on May 12


    The word on the street (speaking as a Portlander who used to work on indie films like Drugstore Cowboy) is that Will Vinton was an asshole who got the Oscar from the skills of his talented, messed up early partner and milked it for money but lacked any talent of his own.

    The California Raisins certainly are strong circumstantial evidence to support this narrative.

    The apocryphal story is that Vinton told his staff that, if there was a fire at his studio, they should grab the film cans and leave ASAP, leaving fireman to go back for any people.
    posted by msalt at 11:31 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


    I interviewed for and was offered a position in the editing department of Vinton amidst the fray, and it was pretty weird. This was when they were in their hiring frenzy in the 99-2001 era. For reasons that defy all logic now, I turned it down. I think "success" wasn't really my thing, as evidenced by my penchant for turning down all kinds of jobs for which some people would chew off a digit or four.

    Regardless of my career in self-sabotage, I had a lot of friends who worked for Vinton during The PJ's and Gary and Mike, and Vinton was experiencing the exact same growing pains that I witnessed at a post house I worked at: the new managers, many of whom had never set foot in an editing suite, and didn't know squat about the technical side of the craft, were calling the shots and bringing in a culture and model that didn't fit with the creative houses.

    Where I worked, I witnessed a similar takeover on a much smaller scale. When the new owners took the reins, the editors and designers were relegated to being little more than line cooks, their opinions irrelevant, because the vision became about something completely "other." Everyone knew we had to make commercials to stay afloat, but once the suits--in "business casual" of course-- took over, only contracts with clients like Nike and Adidas were desirable. Pro bono work for indies ceased, no-one did cheap work on music videos, PSA's were done for. Long lunches ensued, people talked about golf after playing nine over lunch, and the editors, production managers and designers--upon whose backs the company had thrived--were cast into the sea. Most of them were let go in a massive die-off in 2000. Only a few who cottoned onto the vision of a new post house remained, when it threw off the mantle of "post production" altogether, and began doing corporate environments instead.

    Vinton was sharing this weird parallel path. There was a collective frenzy at the time; it felt like it was all going the way of the dot-bomb: money flooded into projects which the financiers didn't understand, expected the unreasonable from their totally alien investment, and when the business didn't quite match up with their expectations, took it over, scraped it off, and started over.

    And in truth, I can't fault anyone for these trajectories. Artists and creatives are notoriously crappy at business; it takes a canny MoFo to keep a creative vision alive with living wages in the best of circumstances. In the worst of times, one has to look for succor where one finds it: business. But the culture of business versus creativity are naturally at odds, and have been forever. The Medici's knew the score: pay for brilliance but under terms that make the creatives beholden. When they stop delivering the message you desire, give them the ax.

    Everyone wants what creatives have: vision. But few businesses can run on the hope and steam generated by a bunch of really talented nut jobs. The hard shift between being a Vinton and becoming a Laika is going to necessarily be built on the bodies of those that carved the path and it's pretty horrible.

    I don't like it because I'm in the nut job camp, but I recognize the truth of it. I can't fault Phil Knight, because in the end he kept a good thing going and made it more available to a wider audience. And isn't that what everyone wants? I can't fault Will Vinton because the guy was a self-made animator with not a whit of business knowledge. And look what he built!

    Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty need each other to exist, and so indeed does art and commerce: generating nothing but friction down the well-worn line.
    posted by readymade at 11:39 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


    As someone who spent a number of years collecting paychecks from both Will Vinton Studios (during the late 90's PJ's/Gary & Mike bubble), then later from LAIKA in the late 2000's (I was elsewhere during the transitional period, and haven't worked there in almost four years), I feel...feelings about this article.

    I don't even know what to say other than that it's very strange to see how someone can get so many of the basic facts completely correct, yet write something that feels so incorrect.

    It's the grudgy axegrinding, I guess. I suspect his sources of perhaps some bitterness?

    And for what it's worth, after the success of Coraline, Selick also left the company, which doesn't say much for Knight's ability to keep top talent.

    Henry Selick may be a creative visionary, but he is also a gigantic asshole who made literally hundreds of people's lives miserable on Coraline. There were some people at LAIKA who were sad to see him go, but a great many who were quite happy.

    posted by dersins at 12:31 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


    I don't even know what to say other than that it's very strange to see how someone can get so many of the basic facts completely correct, yet write something that feels so incorrect.

    This reminds me of Tanner Colby's fantastic takedown of Bob Woodward's Wired:
    Whenever people ask me about John Belushi and the subject of Wired comes up, I say it’s like someone wrote a biography of Michael Jordan in which all the stats and scores are correct, but you come away with the impression that Michael Jordan wasn’t very good at playing basketball.
    posted by Banky_Edwards at 4:03 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


    Footnote: The Adventures of Mark Twain is an extraordinary feat of animation and storytelling.
    posted by Hogshead at 5:11 AM on May 13


    Banky_Edwards, I love this bit of Colby's:
    If you want to know why someone was a cocaine addict for the last six years of his life, the answer is probably hiding somewhere in the first 27 years. But Woodward chooses to largely ignore that period, and in doing so he again misses the point. In terms of illuminating its subject, Wired is about as useful as a biography of Buddy Holly that only covers time he spent on airplanes.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 5:34 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


    dersins: "Henry Selick may be a creative visionary, but he is also a gigantic asshole who made literally hundreds of people's lives miserable on Coraline."

    I suspect this is not an uncommon thing for any industry-changing creative visionary. I'm pretty sure the same would've been said of at least one person I worked under if anyone had ever been insane enough to put him in command of a feature. *coughjohnk*

    I never had anything to do with the Vinton/Laika scene but damn the outline of the story in that article sounds familiar, and so does the outline of the other take on it being mentioned in comments here.
    posted by egypturnash at 11:12 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


    Why is a data mining startup's blog running articles about the history of stop-motion animation? I guess it's tangentially related to "business" but it's just really strange.
    posted by Small Dollar at 8:12 PM on May 13


    egypturnash: "I suspect this is not an uncommon thing for any industry-changing creative visionary."

    They aren't all assholes though. I've been lucky enough to work with one or two who are visionary, uncompromising in their pursuit of something really damn special, and yet genuinely nice to work for. It helps if they've been through the trenches themselves as something other than a solo auteur.

    (And actually, my wife worked for Selick on "Moongirl" and really liked him, so there's that.)
    posted by otherthings_ at 9:40 PM on May 13


    Really, what's to say that the percentage of industry-changing visionaries who are jerks is any different from the percentage of normal people who are jerks? And really, there are far more visionary-jerk wannabes, people who tell themselves it's okay for them to trod on others because they know the best way, than actual visionaries, jerk or otherwise.
    posted by JHarris at 10:06 PM on May 13


    In an unexpected development, Laika has just "spun-off" their advertising division, Laika/House. L/H was pretty much the only concrete link to Vinton at this point, and it'll be interesting to see how L/H's new incarnation will develop without the Knight family connection.
    posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 6:10 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


    « Older Meet someone for a STR   |   When Unlimited really meant Unlimited Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



    Post