There was some good, and bad, news this week as two
people were sentenced for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars.
The good news is that they will get prison time of between 5 and 8 years. The
bad news is that the investors whose money they took, have lost everything as
they were duped into backing what they thought was the next Pixar. This begs
the question: Do Animated Features Turn People Into Suckers?
Animated films are spectacularly hot at the moment. They’re
everywhere, and are making serious bank at the box office and beyond. The world
and his dog are itching to get in on the action, and in just a few short years,
we’ve seen the playing field jump from a handful of players, to more than a
It has never been easier to set up your own studio and have
a relatively decent chance at making money at any time in the artform’s history
save for the very beginning. Seemingly the people who backed Gigapix believed
so too because that’s what they were told. As the Hollywood
According to federal authorities, “those who were
solicited to invest were told that Gigapix was an animation company similar to
Pixar Animation Studios, and that Gigapix was developing projects expected to
generate large profits when the company went public.”
Although the old adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true
then it probably is’ should have been ringing in the ears of the people who
handed over their hard-earned money, the evidence in front of them is
exceptionally hard to ignore. Animated features are having a very successful
run, and the grosses in the mainstream media can make for a persuasive
Some of the blame rests on Pixar; they established and
cemented the CGI aesthetic which has become the dominant style. It’s almost
stupidly easy to make a film appear as if Pixar made it. The problem is that as
far as Joe Public is concerned, that studio has a golden goose within its
walls, and anyone making a CGI film that looks even remotely similar to a Pixar
one probably does as well.
Filmmaking in general and animation in particular has long
suffered from a shroud of mystery that separates them from the general public.
There are many intricacies that are concealed from the public (for good
reason), but which are needed to form a full and complete picture. While a
brand like Disney is known and trusted, anyone else that decides to peddle
something with similar looks, can do so and make a killing. The ‘mockbuster’
industry is real, profitable, and takes great advantage of both the ignorance
of consumers, and the fact that all CGI tends to look similar to the untrained
While it’s easy to giggle at grandma accidentally buying ‘Chop Kick Panda’ for a
birthday or Christmas present, it’s another thing when she puts her life
savings into a company that proclaims to be the next Pixar. Which illustrates
all to clearly how people, in a way, seem to wear blinders when it comes to
animation. It’s not that they lose all forms of common sense (George Lucas’
recent feature ‘Strange Magic’ proves that point), but plenty of consumers
continue to buy into the profitability of animated features as if it’s an
This isn’t a major concern per se, but I suspect that
it does hamper the development of animation into a quote/unquote ‘respectable’
artform in the eyes of the public. If they cannot decipher the difference
between a Pixar film and a knock-off, or a respected studio and a shady upstart,
then the industry and artform as a whole can develop a tarnish that may be hard
to shake off. Given that the animation is much more cyclical than live-action,
and more tight-knight, the impact of one negative event can have widepsread
consequences. Even DreamWorks current woes are enough to put a lot of people on
edge, and they’re a healthy, responsible studio!
Is it an education problem? A variety problem? A simple
marketing problem? In the case of Gigapix, it’s clearly a common sense problem.
Yet the question remains as to how people continue to be oblivious to various
aspects of the animation industry that are less than glorious.