Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the Tunaphone

This is a Charlie the Tuna Telephone. From 1987. Why was this popular? Who wants to talk into a fish?

Last year I got fired up with the idea that cel phone animation was the coming thing. But you know what? I don't think so any more. I don't think people want to just look at their phones. They want to do things with them. Just sitting there looking at your phone seems kind of sad, doesn't it?

That's why the iphone games are taking off. That's what I think.

But I'm getting emails from art students who've decided animation is what they want to do, and they want advice. Sounds as if animation is a popular course of study on campus these days, the way marine biology was a few years ago.

I don't know what to tell them. The way the world is now, it seems like a terrible choice to me. (Have you considered entymology?) There are so few ways to make money with animation, other than teaching more students.

But sometimes a bubble of interest can be foreshadowing some new format that we can't quite identify, and maybe these students are right in front of the wave. I don't think it's just more games on phones that will be coming along, but maybe some whole new manner of interactive animation. I usually tell them to learn Flash, because it's a way in to interactive animation, even if the code language has become a bear.


Namowal said...

That is a weird phone. The next time I'm critical of one of my ideas, I'll have to remember that someone green lit the Charlie Tuna Phone.
I don't have an iphone myself, but from what I see most of the applications are toy-like things. Have you thought of making a cartoon that viewers could alter- perhaps dressing the characters or picking the background (this just popped in my head so beware!)
As for advice to aspiring animators, remember that in the 21st century even "responsible" career choices are vulnerable to becoming outsourced or obsolete. Also...
...when I was in college my folks (politely) steered me away from art and animation. "Get a teaching credential" they told me. "You can always use it."
So I sold out and got a teaching credential. Two problems:
1. At the time California wasn't hiring many new teachers so I had to be a sub.
2. I found the job stressful and unfulfilling.
The final straw came when I discovered (at the last minute) that a permanent position promised to me was going to someone with more seniority.
Disgusted I went back to school, got a 2 year degree in computer animation (actually mostly modeling and texturing but that's another story). This led me to my work in visual effects. It's not always glamorous- I spend a lot of time doing stuff like checking for dust, grain, black levels and mistakes...
...but it's WAY more fun than teaching!
So even though I never became a "real" animator, steering myself in that direction was the right thing to do.
p.s. Hope I don't sound like a rambling know-it-all. I get goofy when I need sleep.

Linda said...

Sitting there looking at your phone is not sad at all!!! Yesterday I discovered I could download Kindle books onto it. This is phenomenal!

Remember the hamburger phone from Juno?

iPhone games are taking off for sure. But are there any that captivate you? I think we need to make some. And as for the whole new manner of interactive animation--very exciting to wonder about.

p.s. But Namo, you are SUCH a rambling know-it-all. I'm envious of your job.

stray said...

I saw students drawing on their phones to send messages during the tornado scare.

We worry on campus about degree programs training kids for jobs that will not be out there in the changed economy. It's so hard to say.

I notice more animation on TV ads, and there are movies....

I must be counting on something myself, starting the MFA in illustration in July!!!

Sometimes you just have to do what you want, no?

Mean Jean said...

I applied for the animator position for the original production company of Barney back when it was still all family-owned and operated. (I had VERY little experience on a Mac Quadra doing faintly animated illustrations for telecom applications for a trade show booth. Infinately boring stuff.)

Anyhoo, to refresh your memories because I know you were all glued to the early Barney shows, the animation consisted of sparkles and wavy lines whenever Barney changed from stuffed animal to "real".

There are many reasons to be grateful that I didn't get the gig. It was a FAMILY shop as in they will either gang up on you or force you to take sides and then cut your throat. Reason 2, they were soon bought out and did away with most of the local talent. And D, it was Barney.

Sally said...

I don't have an i phone either, so it's unlikely I'll start programming for one.

Namowal, what a path you went down to get where you are now. Parents often urged daughters to get a teaching degree, "something you can fall back on", in the past. One reason teachers were possibly much better in days gone by is that women weren't being considered for business jobs and so many very smart gals were teachers.

I always thought I could fall back on painting cels, but even that is vanished.

Linda, do you hold your phone when you read from it, or prop it up?

There's no question that 3 d animation is a going concern, but 2 d, I'm not so sure.

I found everyone's comments so interesting.

stray said...

Pat thinks reading books on iPhone would be OK. It sounds really difficult to me. I think I would have to hold it, not prop it up, because I'd have to constantly be moving the text so I could see more than two words at a time.