“If you can type, you can make movies.”
This isn't meant to be a fire-starter (or maybe it is) (edit: a heated debate has indeed sparked). Amid raises several points:
"I’ve long felt that the amount of effort invested into TV animation is disproportionate to the quality of work that appears on the finished screen. Too many production dollars are wasted on menial artistic tasks that could more efficiently be handled by a computer."
"Dialogue-driven shows that are visually formulaic (i.e. Fairly Oddparents, The Simpsons, Family Guy, most pre-school and “Adult Swim” series) could easily be replaced with automated production systems. Crazy talk? Consider South Park, a half-hour show that uses automated systems to deliver finished episodes in as little as two weeks and doesn’t suffer with audiences one bit."
So really, what he's getting at is that so much of the animation on TV amounts to talking characters with repetitive movements (or no movement at all) that could be handled by trained technicians (not necessarily requiring a trained animator's touch). Amid posits that animators would be freed up to create truly unique material that requires an artist's hand, instead of tediously moving arms, choosing from a series of mouth shapes, canned expressions, etc...tasks that could in many ways be orchestrated by an editor/technician trained in the software. I don't believe any of this discussion is meant to slight the animators currently working on the shows (edit: it has). He simply puts the question out there: what is stopping this from coming to fruition?
I encourage everyone to chime in on this. Admit it, we're looking into auto-lipsync apps to handle the brunt of our educational games that feature talking heads because it is tedious and time-consuming to have to do something by hand that is so repetitive. We're always looking to optimize our processes by building organized libraries of characters and their parts. The philosophy built into Flash is all about cutting corners and creating efficiencies, so at what point do you need one artist to get the ball rolling, and then hand over the brunt of the work to smaller teams that know how to work the software?
This doesn't need to be the case. But it goes to show that certain forms of entertainment don't require the unique talents of individual animators. I would argue that there is a growing market for storytelling and animation where the hand-made (human) element is more evident. Both visually, and in the writing. I would argue that we offer it up at FableVision all the time, and it's why people flock to us. It's also what makes Animation-ish what it is—compare our version of the "anyone can animate" mission to that of Xtranormal and the differences are plain to see.
That's where I've landed. Discuss, or just think about it :)
EDIT: So, after an mere afternoon, Amid is definitely drawing criticism and protest from many an animator over at Cartoon Brew. Many of them working on shows targeted in his post, defending that they've been unfairly labeled as technicians when they are in fact animators. Definitely worth checking out the comments in the post. It's also important to note that some of his comments on shows have been labeled inaccurate or over-generalized (South Park is actually made by a small army of animators who work incredibly hard and fast for 2 weeks).
Some have asked if he purposely baited everyone (if he's half joking). I don't think so; this isn't the first time Amid has taken a point of view that has riled people up. But I still think it's a debate happening in the animation field worth highlighting over here at Creative Juices. For me personally, I think the more you give over to the computer, the more likely that processes can and will be automated. I also agree that the technology to do what he suggests is definitely coming, especially in the realm of CG.