Marlboros and Time

JPEG Image: Reboot Caricatures.

Every religious parable or well-intentioned moral told to the young in India begins this way:

Let me tell you a Story.

The world of 3D graphics is almost entirely empty of morality and is so far a ripe target for the well- intentioned among us. So then, let me tell you a story or two.

As of this writing, the remarkably successful Saturday morning series "Reboot" is the only fully 3D animation currently (editor's note: this story was written in 1996) in the media being created and played now on a daily basis. At last count its production company had bought another 32 Alias stations! They even have their own semi-well selling TOY LINE! I was in Vancouver when they were just starting, and talked to a top animator who had been asked to do the storyboards for their first pilot show. Got it? This guy had walked into the Reboot offices in their first week of production. This is what he had seen; two nervous guys in their late thirties, chain smoking Marlboroughs in an empty warehouse space. One of the guys (The fat one who it turns out had worked at Limelight Studios) kept stalking back and forth loudly in cowboy boots, occasionally laughing hysterically, and just as occasionally looking angry and punching the walls, hard. The animator thought he was in the wrong room. The fat guy really looked dangerously nuts, so the animator turned around and started to leave.

I swear this is true.

"Hey, are you Tony?" the skinny guy sitting on a lawn chair over by the windows shouts.

"Uh, yeah."

"We want to talk to you." The fat guy realized someone has entered, stops stalking, and jerks around, staring wildly at Tony the Animator.

It turns out, after a crazed, roundabout conversation, that Tony got the following info - these guys had convinced someone at the NETWORK that they could produce a really cool 3D TV series that would blow everybody away the instant they viewed a second of it. They had then bought ONE computer. And then, since neither of them could DIRECT, DRAW, WRITE, DESIGN, or EDIT, they proceeded to subcontract the above duties to anyone who was available. The least talented and thus most available animators, directors and storyboard artists in Vancouver did a flurry of overpaid, deadline intensive crapolla which was promptly rejected by not only the NETWORK but the Reboot execs themselves. The pilot was by unbreakable contract to be ready in exactly 15 days, so after a single overnight design session with one artist, they had begun animating it. Having no storyboard or direction ability, they had taken the movie ALIENS, stopframed it, and simply reproduced a sequence from it, shot by shot, line for line, the ALIENS characters substituted with their own they had bought from Text Engineering (A distributor of 3D datasets including human bodies) and to which were added hats and clothing colors from their previous night's design session. This was to be their pilot episode. Unfortunately, they still had no designs for the rest of the show; the city, cars, hi- tech devices, etc. This was what they wanted Tony the Animator to do.

As the work had to be done AT ONCE, Tony had to say no, because he still hadn't had lunch yet. They didn't want the work that afternoon. It had to be done in the next hour. Tony left quickly, and later that week heard the follow-up story. To secure Canadian film grant money, the two Reboot guys had phoned every talent agent in the country looking for available animation directors. They eventually contacted the agent of the guy who had directed the miserable Spielberg animated Jurassic Park Co-Video Cartoon release. The director had heard about the Reboot troubles and told his agent NO WAY. The agent said back to his impulsive but talented director that rather than refuse, just make them an offer that is so outrageous they can't possibly meet it. Laughing all the time, the director typed in on this Fax Computer the most impossible conditions he could make up, including being ferried back and forth to London England first class every week to visit his girlfriend, a free SGI computer to keep and work on, a monthly salary of $150,000.00, total creative control, part of the toy sales, and an ironclad 6 month contract with payments in advance.

They agreed, and sent him a check for $400,000.00.

If I was making this up, it would have a cute, moral punchline. I am not making it up, and like a classic Indian fable, there are many conclusions you can draw from it, and just as many questions it demands answers to. Is Reboot a good series? Who is crazy here? Is this the way to make a 3D Animation? Who ends up making more money - The NETWORK, the execs, the director, or the Canadian Government? Remember that the Canadian Government is fronting half the capital for the director's salary in the form of a film grant, but gets back half in income taxes. And MORE in taxing every other phase of production, plus the now large salaries that they didn't originally aid...

The conclusion here is that the future is owned by those who ACT. Those who DO... even if they're crazy, untalented or without money or vision. These Reboot guys said, "YES, we will make a pilot. We can't draw, direct, or even model a cube, but we'll DO IT." And all it took was guts and a few cartons of Marlboros.

Original story submitted by Lono.

See also, the RESPONSE from Christopher J. Brough, Reboot's Producer.


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