Trail 01: "ENDANGERED SPECIES" ~ The Rise, Fall and hopeful Rise again of 2D animation.
I began making "Endangered Species" in 1999. However it wasn't finished until 2002 - ironically the year that CEO Michael Eisner shamefully closed down the legendary traditional animation department at the Walt Disney Studio - as the film had predicted! This is because I could already see the writing was on the wall when I first started production and felt it was only a matter of time before it happened. Nevertheless, I started it as a last-ditch plea to save 2D animation in America. History now reveals of course that the ploy didn't work, as now the USA - once world leader in traditional hand-drawn animation - is not even in the game anymore! The rest of the world still makes 2D animated films, but alas the USA - or more specifically, mainstream Hollywood - has lost all interest in it's once great heritage. Much of my frustration about the topic came out in this introductory interview about the film, filmed by one of my students while the film was still being made...
As for the film itself, I was greatly surprised - and more than a little hurt if the truth were known - that when it was finished not one significant animation festival or group showed interest in screening it. Despite the fact that it was a unique teacher/pupil project in 2D animation, and that the great tradition that Walt build had just been decimated, no-one else seemed to share my frustration at what was happening. Although now on reflection almost a decade and a half later I do believe that some films, like rare wine, can mature with age. I hope that "Endangered Species" will prove to be one of them, at least with it's historic perspective. There was a great deal I would have like to have improved about it at the time. But in terms of time and money I was restricted by the students' term time, as well as a $0 budget! However, aside from these shorcomings I still believe that it is a fair testament for the glory days of this magical artform. I barely scratched the surface of what I would have loved to have covered. Specifically, I saw it as a wonderful, full length animated documentary on the topic - to be animated in it's very own, hand-drawn medium. But nevertheless, I am still very proud of what we all achieved at that time, so very much against all odds...
Realistically - as just a tiny, tiny cog in the much greater wheel of the 2D tradition itself - ‘Endangered Species’ has given me the opportunity of accumulating some knowledge of the very best of past achievements, so that I might share them with you now. Studying and analyzing techniques at the feet of some of the great, ‘grand masters’ of the artform - then re-creating in my own way what I've learned within our very different modern environment - gives me a greater opportunity of presenting the subject-matter in a far deeper and more profound way. I therefore hope that much of the joy and excitement I gained in doing so will somehow be communicated to you through this course. One can barely imagine what the future master animators will create with their new technology, having first gained an understanding of what the great giants of the past achieved, as to be explained here.
I wish you well with your studies.
Tony White. :)