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Can Digital Animation Change the World?

Alex Cosper working on animation in July 2012

In recent years I have become attracted to digital animation, starting with the Pixar film Cars. It had been the first movie I had seen in a long time that wasn’t based on a predictable plot or script. It gave me hope for the movie industry, although not so much for Hollywood since Pixar Studios is outside of that limited aquarium, based in the Bay Area. What I like about Pixar is they actually have changed the world by raising the bar on digital animation, in addition to expanding subject matter to more humanistic themes instead of just the same old "shoot em up" and romance formulas. For awhile it seemed blockbuster films were like a broken record stuck on mundane formulas funded by Wall Street hedge funds that lacked both variety and substance. 

After Pixar enlightened the world, the internet and digital technology began to alter the world as software platforms migrated to the cloud. Now anyone can make animated films, just as anyone can make music or websites. That doesn’t mean anyone can make decent art that attracts an audience, but at least the playing field has been leveled to allow creative minds to experiment with free animation tools. In the old world, these tools were heavily guarded by the elite so that even the most artistic people were shut out unless they happened to find the right agent who had connections with the right gatekeepers. 

Blender.org offers an amazing platform that lets animators develop their talent for free. Without it you may have to pay thousands of dollars for animation software. Blender is robust and can provide enough solutions to make a creative animator thrive. But it’s also time-consuming to learn. It’s one of those platforms that requires filling your head with constantly evolving code and complex programming tools. But not all animators want to be code writers or learn comprehensive software. Why can’t there just be more programs that do the programming for you and let the artist spend more time on the actual art?

Luckily, there are emerging platforms that not only empower artists, but give them the means to change the world. XtraNormal.com offers one of those platforms that lets you create animated films easily for free. You can also invest in their premium tools once you exhaust the freebies. Although they supply the animation, the characters and settings, the artist chooses the characters and writes the script. Just like with songwriting, it’s the words that have the power to change the world.

I began to experiment with XtraNormal after seeing several animations it spawned on YouTube. A lot of these animations have used profanity to get attention but I’ve found profanity to be an overdone burnout, especially in music. Using profanity simply for the sake of getting attention misses the point of its power to emphasize important messages. So I wanted to do something different. I decided to make animations based on stories from the corporate radio world to showcase some of its lunacy. 

So I created animations about the radio industry, where I spent twenty years of my career. Although most of the several stations I’ve worked for were independently owned, I have a lot of friends who either still work or have worked for corporate radio chains that bought out the radio industry the past decade. Using their stories, I created scripts that humorously explain why the radio industry has gone so far downhill in importance with society. It’s mainly because of the flawed mentality that it’s "just a business." I circulated the cartoons to radio industry professionals who have given them a thumbs up as comic relief for the thousands of people laid off by the industry that is deep in debt from reckless spending and poor management. I’ve been featuring these animations on my sites SacTV.com, PlaylistResearch.com and TangentSunset.com. This is only the beginning of my exploration into animation, as I intend to take this journey into deeper levels.

As a kid, drawing cartoons was my earliest ambition before becoming more interested in radio and music as a teenager. But now that I’ve outgrown and cured myself from "radio disease," I am becoming more interested in changing the world with animation. Cars is a good example how art can imitate life and then influence life to imitate art. Just last month Pixar owner Disney opened a new ride called "Cars Land" at their park adjacent to Disneyland called California Adventures. I don’t think my animations will change the world on such a grandiose level as that, but I do think there’s a chance my art can wake up the confused and frustrated bosses of the radio industry. I believe this type of animation has the power to radically disrupt the status quo in a peaceful, intelligent and humorous manner.

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