Tag Archives: life experience

How The Iron Giant Changed Me As A Human Being

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This may surprise some people (even those who know me personally), but I have actually known who Brad Bird was for most of my life, long before I even saw The Iron Giant for the first time.  I was first exposed to his name when I was 8 and The Simpsons first came on, for which Brad served as Executive Consultant, and on occasion director for at least two 1st season episodes.  My parents have been taking me to the movies since I was a baby, and because my dad worked in the film business, we always stayed for the end credits.  Even at an early age I started to recognize names that would show up again and again.  Not just big names like Steven Spielberg, but I’d catch on to actors, writers, directors who would frequently show up.  I recognized Brad’s name from The Simpsons simply because I thought Brad Bird was kind of a funny name.  Over time, I started watching The Simpsons, and Brad was responsible for directing the season 1 classic episode, Krusty Gets Busted, where Krusty the Clown is framed for robbing a convenience store, and it was the introduction to the villainous Sideshow Bob.  It’s a funny episode for many reasons, one of them being that once Krusty’s goofiness is behind bars and Sideshow Bob takes over, he turns the show into an overly-intellectual droll literary hour.  But it’s a great episode and it got my attention as a kid.  After awhile I started to discover more of Brad’s work, eventually seeing Family Dog, the animated short film from Spielberg’s Amazing Stories series, and I began to think, “man, this guy’s pretty good.”

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But everything changed for me on August 6th, 1999.  It was the day The Iron Giant was released into theaters.  I was 17 years old at the time.  There was some pretty bland advertising surrounding the film.  As most of us know, the film bombed at the Box Office in part because of Warner’s failure to properly market the film.  But I didn’t have doubts going in, because I had heard Brad Bird was directing it, and from what I knew of the past works he had done, there was a chance the movie was going to be good.  By the time the end credits rolled, the word “good” for this film was an understatement.  Even “great” seemed low on the scale for a film like this.  At the time when I saw this movie, it was the single most life changing film I had ever seen.  It shattered all my expectations of what I thought an animated film should be.  It was a film so beautiful, so powerful in its message, story, and animation, that I never looked at animated films the same way again after this.  Before this film, I had been a Disneyite.  I based much of what I wanted for myself as an animator, like many people, through Disney films.  Pixar had not yet established itself, although Toy Story came out before The Iron Giant and I loved that movie.  But it was in no way the pinnacle life altering film that The Iron Giant would become for me.  Before when I was into Disney movies I had my sights set on becoming an animator and working for Disney as one.  After I saw The Iron Giant, I decided I wanted to become a storyteller,  a director, and a filmmaker.  The thing that attracted me the most to this film were its moments of darkness.  The Giants transformation into a killing machine is frightening and real, and it shook me out of my skin when I saw the sequence played out.  This was a character that had suddenly lost all hope in himself.  This is someone who lost all faith in the world and turned on a murderous spree.  True, in the movie, we never see the Giant actually kill anyone because the consequences would be too great and there would be no turning back for him if he actually ended someones life.  It’s only Hogarth who manages to stop him and bring him back from the abyss.  But what that sequence also showed me was the things you could do in animated films that Disney could not go.  There were people who already knew this if you had watched a lot of Japanese Anime, which tackles far more serious adult subjects for animation.  But this was the first American animated feature I had seen that was a family film, but took on serious adult themes, with serious consequences attached to the characters actions.  The Giant’s nightmarish transformation was unlike anything I had seen in an animated film.  It made me want to tackle darker themes in my own work and my own storytelling.

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My sense of humor has always been on the dark side, as have been the themes I wanted to explore in films.  In a way, it always felt edgy and cool to me because American Animation rarely ever tackled these areas, or at least, they used to until after The Little Mermaid came out, and it’s like it all suddenly stopped because everyone had their eye on animation as a moneymaker, and nobody wanted to do anything that would scare children and families away.  What’s interesting is the Iron Giant helped me unlock my love for films I saw growing up as a kid that were filled with dark themes, such as Pinocchio, The Adventures of Mark Twain, The Secret of Nimh.  Even films like The Brave Little Toaster had plenty of moments with frightening imagery, and it was great because these movies were never afraid to scare kids.  The simple truth is, unlike what most adults want to believe, kids love to be scared.  It’s not about always protecting our children, because as kids…the thing is…what frightens us also intrigues us at the same time.  Scary images are burned into our skull because it forces us to ask ourselves why the images frighten us.  What is it about watching an animated character in serious peril, or being attacked by a giant monster that makes us want to know where that monster inside us comes from.  It frightens us because we know that monster exists in all of us, and we see it exposed when we watch a film that traumatizes our minds.  I was much older when I saw The Iron Giant, but the killing spree frightened me just the same, knowing that myself or anyone that I loved could become a killer, or could be knocked off course from wanting to be the beautiful soul that they are.

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The soul however is the deeper layer to what The Iron Giant is.  I watched a seminar once taught by voice actor, Crispin Freeman, entitled Giant Robots and Superheros, which analyzed the mythological aspects and cultural differences where the Japanese like to write stories about Giant Robots and Americans like stories about Superheroes.  The Iron Giant brings the best of both worlds and takes it a step farther.  Here is the notion of a giant robot having a soul.  A machine having a soul and wanting to be more than it’s limitations.  It’s interesting because at the same time this film came out, there was another film that examined this aspect, called The Matrix.  That was another film combining machines and spirituality, where in that case the machines became self aware and wanted to turn against humanity, and the human, Neo discovers in his avatar form that he can bend the Matrix to his will, and eventually merging with it.  The Iron Giant is more family fare than the darker Matrix films, but at the same time the human element finds its way into The Giant.  Through his own spiritual journey he finds not only mentorship through a 9 year old boy, he also discovers Superman, and discovers in himself that is what he wants to be, an empowered being who uses his abilities for goodness in a harsh world.  The giant instantly relates to Superman because he is also misunderstood by those around him who fear him as a threat.  He is conflicted by his machine body, his ego telling him what he really is, which is an engine for destruction.  But he finds he doesn’t want to be that at all.  He wants to grow beyond everything he was designed for.

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There was a story where during the finale of the film when the Giant sacrifices himself to save the town, somebody in a story meeting for the film asked why didn’t the Giant just take one of his rockets and destroy the missle from a safe distance.  Brad’s point was that the Giant wouldn’t do that because it would mean turning himself into a gun, which is not what he wants to be.  The message, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, becomes the center of the Giants whole purpose of being.  When I heard those words for myself as a teenager, it became the center of my own being as well.  They were powerful words I wanted to live by.  It led me down a hard road later in college, because I found myself drifting from the Disney animation status that I thought I wanted from the beginning.  I discovered that I came into conflict with my own desires as an artist when animation was suddenly not as important to me.  I have always had to struggle with my drawing, I couldn’t keep up with my peers at the time, and overall it made it a struggle for me when I felt I wanted a job vs. what I wanted for myself.  In a funny way, I could take The Iron Giant as an example of someone going through the same thing, as he was a being that was in conflict with what he was built for vs. the being he wanted to become, in a decision made on his own.  He fights and struggles because his body that he was built to be wants to keep him down and conformed, but his “soul”…and his awakening into his own being is the thing that transforms him and makes him the defining hero he always wanted to be.

What I have learned from this film, and what it has taught me has always been about following your guiding light…your intuition and your spirit to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.  This includes deciding how you want to approach your career, what you want to contribute to humanity, deciding the people you want to fall in love with, deciding what you want to take a stand for and what is most important to you.  It’s never about following a particular crowd or a religion because many times a religion forces you to fall back on your own body.  On the one end, its meant to keep you safe and keep you grounded.  But it can also keep you afraid an in the dark from the person you always want to become.  It can also tell you there is no other way except what is meant to keep you in line and in fear of following your path.  They are the voices in your head telling you not to go off into the woods because they are dangerous, they are full of turmoil, and you can damage yourself far greater when you let go of a chosen belief.  The conflict comes when you do go out into the woods, and the voices in your head are constantly telling you to come back, that you are putting yourself in danger and that you cannot survive on your own.  It’s why in The Iron Giant, when the Giant thinks Hogarth is dead and all is lost that he falls back on his “machine” life and turns into a weapon of destruction.  He doesn’t know yet that the choice is always within him, but because he lost Hogarth, there was no one left to make the choices for him accept himself.  And that can be a frightening thing.  When we hear the words, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, it is exactly that.  There is no fear in deciding on the person you want to become.  We can get angry and conflicted when we suddenly find so many voices making the choices for us that we don’t want there anymore, which is what can lead to anger and a need to strike back.

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After I saw The Iron Giant, I wrote Brad two letters.  The first one I wrote to him because I was about to become an Eagle Scout.  I asked him in a letter to send me a congratulatory card with my Eagle Scout packet.  When you reach that level as a boy scout, you can ask for congratulatory letters from The President, Senators, or people you admire.  Brad’s card was the most important one in there, because for me having accomplished becoming an Eagle Scout, his card defined the person I wanted to become.  Brad has always been that symbol in my mind and my hero for all time and I have continued to aspire to be the image of what Brad is to me and the person I want to be.  He’s my “Superman” so to speak.  Later on I wrote Brad a second letter just asking him about being a director and how to become one, and he returned with a 2 page letter reply talking about schools, and what it’s like to be a filmmaker.  He even ended the letter with the simple words, that no matter where you go or where you end up, never forget the sage advice of young Hogarth Hughes, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”.

What is the film that most defines you as a person or as a filmmaker?  I think we all have it in us.  The Iron Giant was that film for me.  It made me want to be more than the sum of what people in everyday life expected from me.  I had to have faith in myself first to find that place for me and decide this is what I want.  The search continues throughout our lives as we go from one thing to another, working to follow our path until we find the direction that most defines the person we want to be.  It’s what we spend our whole lives searching for, choosing to be who we want to be no matter where the world drops us.  It’s up to you to decide what is most important for you and whether your own path is guiding you there.  If it isn’t, it could be time for a self examination to get yourself on track.  If you can do that, however, that you will discover that the universe is putting you in alignment, and the life you always wanted for yourself will have been laid out for you all along.

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REVIEW: The Bad News Bears (1976) Dir. Michael Ritchie

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It’s hard to imagine a film like the Bad News Bears being made today. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine any film made today that actually talks to kids seriously about the pressures and the real pain of growing up during middle school. The pain is made real in “Bears” through a Los Angeles Little League team who are not only troubled because they consistently lose at ever game, but each kid is equally troubled in their personal lives with real, serious issues. Issues such as child abuse, bad coaches, kids with eating disorders, a loner rebel child who deep down really is lonely, a small boy with anger issues, a kid who can’t stand up for himself, a black kid pressured by his family to be an athlete, a girl pitcher, trying to shed the image of being a tomboy and on the brink of puberty….the list goes on. This is a comedy of course, and the kids do and say hilarious things throughout the film that make them more real. But underneath the comedy is a story of deep pain and struggle as each kid tries to overcome their own personal issues. They try to overcome it together, as a team, in their struggle to reach the championships, make something of themselves, and tell the world who they really are.

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Leading the way is Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) with plenty of problems of his own as an alcoholic and constant smoker. He was also a former player for the Major Leagues. When Buttermaker starts out with the team, they are as low as he is as losers. But as they say sometimes, misery loves company, and amazingly he has a way with talking to these kids, never talking down to them and treating them as equals. The kids of course have no problem talking back to him when they think he’s a pain in the ass, or they just want him to shut up so they can do their thing. But for all of Buttermaker’s personal struggles, he brings a good amount of compassion and support for these kids. One of my favorite scenes in the film is in the beginning. After a disastrous game, the young black boy Ahmad runs off. He strips his uniform off down to his underwear and climbs up in a tree feeling ashamed and embarrassed by the loss. When Buttermaker finds him, he climbs the tree and talks to him. Ahmad starts talking to him and telling him about his struggles at home, that his older brothers are better athletes than him, and he deals with harsh pressure from his family to be an athlete too soon. Buttermaker’s talk with him is beautiful and real, and he manages to tap into the little bright essence of the kid still in there (the confidence in himself), to where Ahmad even admits at the end, “I am pretty fast, aren’t I?”

What’s great about this movie is Buttermakers personal transformation as the film goes on, because when the team starts to pull itself up and win games, Buttermaker actually starts getting more abusive towards the kids. His personal ambition to win (not just for the team but a personal need to show everyone he’s not a loser drunk and a failure), he does a lot of terrible things. He tells the star player to catch every fly ball to ensure they will win, leading the other kids to get angry at that boy. He tells a kid who’s shy to let himself get hit by the ball when he’s at bat so he can walk. The kid is afraid and doesn’t want to get hurt. There are several scenes throughout the film that are harsh, with kids being brutal to each other, bullying, and calling each other names. Another one of my favorite scenes is when the fat kid Engelberg is up to bat, and the pitcher kid from the other team taunts and bullys him through the game. But then in the middle of the game, we witness the pitchers father (his coach), slap him down in the middle of the field, to the point where the boy becomes enraged at him and lets Engelberg walk the bases. It’s an incredible turning point for both characters.

I can’t go on though without talking about my favorite character in the film, Tanner Boyle, the young hot headed kid who is also the fighting spirit of the team when everyone is ready to give up. When everyone is ready to quit because the team is being bullied at school, Buttermaker hears that Tanner “took on the entire 7th grade”. He sees Tanner, with a cut lip, and says, “You wanna quit too, Tanner?” and Tanner’s response, “God no, I wanna play ball!” Tanner pushes around 8 year old Lupis, until some older bullies harass Lupus. Tanner steps in and takes a beating to defend him, and even though Lupus is grateful, Tanner still knocks Lupus telling him not take any guff and stand up for himself.

Another one of the great performances is Jakie Earl Haley as Kelly, the punk kid who smokes and rides his mope-head. He also turns out to be the star athlete of the team, but what’s great is how his transition into working with the team is something he’s not comfortable with. It’s very hard for him. There’s a sad moment where after a win, he asks around the other kids if they want to hang out with him and his own teammates ignore him, because they’re a little afraid and don’t understand him. It’s made even worse when Buttermaker forces him to make all the catches to ensure the team will win, which turns him into an outcast among the team who think he’s trying to get in the way of their game.

The story is so tight that it manages to capture the struggle and difficulty of every kid on the team. Two of them are a couple of Hispanic kids who don’t speak English, and really have nobody except themselves to hang in there. But while their is a lot of sadness and frustration among the team, there are absolute hilarious moments throughout the film. One of the most hilarious gags is the pan showing the opposing team being sponsored by Pizza Hut on their uniforms, and then we pan to the Bears, whose sponsor is Chico’s Bail Bonds. There was also another line by Ahmad that was brilliant when he describes how tough Kelly is: “That kid’s a loan shark! I borrowed a nickel from him once, and if I didn’t pay him a dime by the end of the week he threatened to break my arm!” There’s also a fantastic performance by Tatum O’ Neil who plays Amanda, the 11 year old pitcher of the team, who constantly fights with Buttermaker, when he nudges at her like an overbearing father. There’s even a telling moment when Amanda even tells him off, “Who do you think you are?!” and Buttermaker tells her, “I’m you’re coach!” Another powerful sequence came at the championship game, where the opposing teams coach gives his kids a pep talk, “You kids are the best team I ever coached”, and then during the game rips them to shreds on the field throwing in everything from verbal to physical abuse.

I imagine this film started the genre of the underdog little league team movie. It’s no surprise what I expected by the end of the film the Bears would lose the championship. But really, that’s the whole point of the movie. It was never about winning. The real win was the personal transformation among the kids, as well as Buttermaker. The end of the championship game is brilliant with the opposing player holding the large trophy and in a condescending way tells the Bears, “It was a good game, sorry for all the fighting”, to which we get Tanners perfect rebuttal, “Hey Yankees, you can take that trophy and shove it up your ass!” You wouldn’t think to expect any of this from a little league comedy, but it’s not just the humor that sells you on these kids. There are some incredibly powerful, moving sequences in this film, moments of tragedy and sadness, and there are also scenes that are just heart tugging and beautiful. And most importantly, this all happens because the players are treated as real kids with real problems. They endure all the suffering ever kid endures at that age when growing up, entering puberty, and learning early on what teamwork really means, and what it means to become a man (for both the kids and Buttermaker). Parents may be turned off by the kids bullying each other and the harsh language, but this really is a film all kids need to see, because it speaks directly to them. It’s rare these days to encounter a film that talks to kids seriously and treats them as equals, especially a film about kids struggling with their parents expectations that are forced on them. Kids struggle through all of that and the harsh bullying to find and understand who they are inside. There’s kids brutalizing each other, calling one another faggots, niggers, assholes. Kids smoke, drink alcohol, and are beaten. And yet it is one of the most honest and direct Family films you will ever see. Yes, this is a Family film. It deals with the realities all kids face. They need to see this movie as much as their parents.

The script was written by Bill Lancaster, who also wrote the script to one of the greatest 80’s horror films, John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. He wrote very few scripts in his career, but they are two of the most awesome contributions to cinema anywhere. The Bad News Bears is available on Netflix Instant, so no excuses! Go check it out!

More Important Than Any Reward

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I’m not crazy about the Oscars or most awards ceremonies for that matter. I was invited to the Annie Awards this year (The “Animation Academy Awards”) with some friends and we were there for about an hour before we finally decided to just get up and leave. It was a horrible show. There was one screw up after another, technical difficulties, problems with the teleprompter. The animation that was actually nominated for awards….a lot of it was just crap. Seriously awful, loud and obnoxious animated shows were being rewarded with almost no pleasing aesthetics to the designs and animation of the characters (If there was any place we could reward mediocrity even more…). Then there was also one surprising thing my friend pointed out that I have to agree was strange. The whole event was run by voice actors. Not animators. A voice actor hosted the show. The awards were presented by voice actors. And the awards show itself was started 40 years ago by….a voice actor. And then the life time achievement award was given to a voice actor.

So to tell you the truth, I found myself kind of dumfounded when the Oscars rolled around this year, and for the first time in its history it was hosted by an animator, Seth MacFarlane. The huge juxtaposition between the awards shows and the irony of it all is just so…funny. It’s possible for an animator to host the Oscars, but not their own awards show. In a strange way the Annies is an awards show animators never decided for themselves they wanted in the first place. Somebody else did it for them. On the surface it might be seen as an act of good will by the voice actor that started it. But if anything, the show should have been started by a voice actor so that animators could take it over and embrace the awards show as their own thing….if that’s what animators really wanted and asked for. But after 40 years of this ceremony, voice actors are still running the show. Why? And at what point will animators have enough self-worth to decide what they want for themselves instead of having an outside influence decide for them?

The Annies feel like they are finally being taken seriously by the Academy as an influence for the Oscars for Best Animated Feature and animated short. But this is exactly the problem though. There is this desire for approval that is VERY STRONG in most animation artists. There’s this desire to want to be taken seriously by the rest of Hollywood. But the rest of Hollywood doesn’t really get animation beyond seeing it as a medium for children, nor do they care. And animators themselves aren’t doing very much to change that. They’ll convince themselves American animation is more mature now. But why does the rest of Hollywood still not want to take it seriously? It was a major thing when Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film nominated for an Academy award. But now that we have a “Best Animated Feature” Oscar, it all but ensures that animation will continue to be segregated as separate from the rest of Hollywood. One of the reasons I don’t care about awards shows like the Annies or the Oscars is that Hollywood doesn’t really care either. It’s almost like they set up the Animated Feature Award just to shut us up, and pretend like they’re actually taking us seriously. But then the placement of the presentation of the award during the Oscars is at the beginning of the show, at the bottom of the totem, to get it out of the way and move on to the “more important awards”. That should tell you how much the Academy could really care less, by not even having an animated feature award placed closer to the “Best Picture” award.

As far as the Annies go, animators should have been given the capacity to run it themselves, and it never should matter to begin with whether or not they are taken seriously by the Academy. At one time, it didn’t matter. But the Annie Awards are set up and geared towards pleasing another outside influence. And it’s started by an outside influence: actors instead of animators. What’s the real motivating factor here? The animation community was better off celebrating their own, with their peers and people who do take them seriously. So to be blunt, I can’t stand these award shows, which only serve to fuel more frustration, leading to shows that are about nothing but pandering and inspiring boredom.

Much of my realizations and feelings about the Annies and the Oscars were summed up recently. But before I came to this realization about my real feelings about these awards shows, I have an interesting story to share, that at first may not sound like its related to what I’ve just said. But there is a connection.

I was invited to go to the Oscars this year. Back in December, my best friend and his girlfriend were visiting from New Mexico. My friend’s girl is the relative of a very famous, prestigious Hollywood icon. This year her family was invited to the Academy Awards ceremony, and I got the invite to go with my friends. Now, here’s the thing. For all the complaining, I have to admit to some degree getting invited to the Oscars is a pretty exciting thing. When you’re working to get into the business, there’s the potential to meet a lot of people. The actual awards show I really couldn’t have given a crap about. But the opportunity to meet a lot of people high up in the Hollywood chain was something I looked forward to.

So over the next few months till February, my friends were getting pumped up for the Oscars. I also had a few animator friends who would be at the ceremony who had some animation work that was nominated. It was bound to be an interesting night. The week before the big event, I rented a tux, paid for it and picked it up 4 days before the event. Somebody suggested to me that I should make some business cards as well for any potential people I meet. So I threw in an extra $20 cards and a few days to quickly get some business cards made. Everything was all set, and my friends were on the train Friday, on their way to Los Angeles from New Mexico.

Friday night around 9pm, I got a phone call from my friend. I was listening to my friend as she spoke, but I already had a feeling I knew what was coming. She found out there had been a mistake with our tickets. Something happened when our reservations were mailed to the Academy, and through some error, our ticket reservations ended up in the wrong department. It turned out we were not going to the Oscars after all. This was discovered all at the very last minute as my friend and her dad were on the phone arguing with obnoxious Academy people. Despite the fact that they were related to this prestigious film icon, it was no sale and there were no seats left. We lost our chance to go.

My friend apologized profusely to me on the phone, saying that definitely next year it would happen, but what really happened on my end is when I listened to my friend…I wasn’t really upset at all, and not terribly disappointed. Granted, I paid for a tux I couldn’t get a refund on, as well as put $20 ahead in paying for business cards…it was more amusing what just happened to anything. My friend continued to apologize on the phone, and I just said, “It’s okay, hon. It’s no big deal, that’s just the way it happens. It’s alright.” In the back of my mind, I thought at the time…well, the universe works in strange unexpected ways. Maybe this will work out.

The next day I contacted some friends of mine closely connected to people in the Academy and tried to explain the situation. But I didn’t get an answer back in time, and when Sunday finally came it was pretty much a sure bet our trip to the Oscars was dead in the water. My dad offered to return my tux, and I said, “yeah, go ahead.” Again, I wasn’t upset, but admittedly I felt a bit of disappointment that the trip didn’t work in our favor this time.

In the meantime, my parents decided to have a small Oscar party at our house. When talking with my friends while they were staying with us, I mentioned to the girlfriend about her 5 year old nephew Andy, and asked if he’d like to come over during the Oscars and play with my 6 year old cousin Kyla. We managed to arrange it and the kids came over to play while the adults sat in the living room to watch the Oscars. I had no real interest in watching the Oscars ceremony for all reasons I stated above, so instead went and hung out with the kids in my room for a little bit. Kyla and Andy were meeting for the first time. In the back of my mind I was praying in some way that this would work out, because I really liked both Andy and Kyla, and I was watching them to see how they got would get along. At one point my aunt just reassuringly came in and said, “they’ll be all right. Come out and watch the Oscars.”

I went to the living room to watch the show a little bit, but got bored pretty fast. So I told my dad I was going into my studio to do a little work. I started working, when I heard Kyla from my room go, “Lets see what Mike’s doing!”, and the two kids stormed into my studio. I was amused, so I stopped working and showed them my animation program I was working with on my Cintiq. And then I let them draw on my Cintiq. The two of them would take turns, so when one of them was using the Cintiq, for the other I set up a little art space where they could draw on paper. Kyla and I had made our own movies together, so I worked with Andy to help him make his very own animated cartoon. He was thrilled to see his drawings move. Both kids started tossing ideas back and forth to each other, some of which were very funny! Sometimes they would argue a bit, but then one would concede to what the other wanted. One was more flighty and imaginative, and the other was more grounded, but I watched as the two of them helped each other out. When the Oscars were over and the kids went home, I later found out my cousin had a great time with him and wanted to see him again. At the party after my cousin left I went to Andy and said, “You we’re very nice and polite to my cousin, so thank you. Would you like to play with her again sometime?” Andy in a funny posture, looked up and thought for a moment, then turned and said “Yeah, I think I’d like that!”

When I thought about this entire situation afterwards, looking back on the build up and the money I had spent to go the Oscars, only to have the situation change entirely so I could spend my evening helping to bring to kids together as friends, I came to this conclusion:

Everything happened exactly in the way I wanted it to.

I’m not talking about “what was meant to be”, or that “it was really my purpose not to go to the Oscars and help these kids be friends”. I’m say that deep down without needing to articulate it, the universe gave me exactly what I wanted. I never really wanted to go the Oscars to begin with. I don’t like awards ceremonies. At home, I didn’t want to sit in my living room pretending to wish I was there when I really could have cared less. And when those two kids showed up to my house, it was my deep down desire for those two kids to meet and become friends. I really wanted it for my cousin, but also for Andy, who I spent time with at Disneyland with her aunt and my friend. The two of them may not realize it right away, and their likes and dislikes are very different. But their personalities complimented each other. Only time will tell how it plays out between the two of them. But I think what I discovered in that moment is how powerful a persons “Will” deep down inside to make something happen can be, whether its something you want or don’t want. When I look back on it, everything that did happen was exactly what I wanted to happen. That’s a pretty damn powerful realization! It’s the notion that underneath all your perceptions of the things you think you want are really in fact all the things that other people want. Hidden beneath all that is the real you, that knows all the things you truly want, and it’s a matter of allowing yourself the realization that you have the power to give yourself what you want any time you want.

So coming to this realization as an animator, and looking at the entire animation community as a collective, it made me contemplate on an awards show like the Annies, and the fact that it was an influence by the will of somebody who was not an animator at all (instead a voice actor). But the torch was never passed to the animators. It’s a showcase for voice actors. Animators never really asked for this and the community is acting on it simply because somebody else told them this is what they wanted. If this is what the animation community really desired, an actual animator somewhere would have done this long before the Annie awards started. To be perfectly honest, when you look at what animation was like before the Annies started, the work content was so much better! The nine old men, the WB animators, UPA, Jay Ward, all those people who started this medium….I don’t think they really cared about awards. They just did it because its what they loved. Our will as people, whether its in a community or if it’s the entire world, is very powerful. To think how powerful it is when one person imposes their will versus an entire community working together for the same desire. But being interconnected, it’s the desire deep down we all feel that we have the power as animators to change the industry if we want to. If I can search for my own realization, my deep down true desire for what I want that isn’t the influence of anyone else but me…there is the possibility to achieve that desire for happiness. Not just in yourself, but for all the people around you who chose to share in that desire as well.