Foundations, Jello, and Ugly Babies

foundationIt’s been a very busy couple of months. We visual developed and produced English and Vietnamese pilot episodes for the International Humane Society, and have been eyeball deep in development and preproduction for an educational series for another international non-profit organization (which I’m dying to share but we need to keep it confidential until we finish producing season one).

All of this development reminds me of the last mission trip I took. For an entire week, we dug and poured the foundation of a church in the Dominican Republic. In previous trips, we built entire structures or did all of the finishing, but on the last trip all we did (as far as construction) was build the foundation and it was literally the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

Development for Animation is very much the same. It’s awesome work and we all love the blank canvas, but it moves slow and you have to get it just right. You have to consider the end game and make sure what you are measuring for the foundation is going to be adequate. You also have to dig hard and make adjustments as you go. Like concrete, it takes time to set. Like rebar, you must carefully build the skeleton correctly and make sure it’s going hold up under the pressure.

At the same time, development is like nailing jello to the wall. It’s formless and playable and doesn’t initially feel like it’s going to amount to anything. You have to trust the process and follow your gut.

John Lassiter and Ed Catmull of Pixar have both talked about how every one of their movies starts out as an ugly baby. The idea is that parents love their kids but new borns are usually messy odd looking creatures and it takes time to get cute. It takes time for a show to find it’s center, for characters to feel like they fit, for environments and backstories to feel cohesive.

But what a fun ride it is. I’m blown away that I get to do this for a living. It’s not easy work but it’s passionate work. Passion means suffering. You love something enough that you are willing so suffer to see it happen. So whatever creative work you are doing, enjoy the ride. It’s a journey not a destination. If you are just starting your creative career or education you may feel like the work is hard and progress is slow, but you are laying a great foundation for the future!