Animation Magazine

This One Thing I Do

In which an­i­ma­tion vet­eran Josh Selig shares his wis­dom with a few en­thu­si­as­tic an­i­ma­tion his­tory stu­dents from Fal­mouth Ju­nior High.

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In which an­i­ma­tion vet­eran Josh Selig shares his wis­dom with a few en­thu­si­as­tic an­i­ma­tion his­tory stu­dents from Fal­mouth Ju­nior High.

Dear Mis­ter Selig,

We are the an­i­ma­tion his­tory stu­dents of Fal­mouth Ju­nior High. We aren’t sure if you’re still alive but, if you are, can you please an­swer some an­i­ma­tion ques­tions for us? If you don’t want to an­swer them or if you’re not still alive, can you please for­ward this email to Keith Chap­man? (He was our first choice, but we couldn’t find him and we tried re­ally hard.) Any­ways, most of us liked your show Won­der Pets! when we were lit­tle kids, es­pe­cially the duck Ming-Ming who couldn’t talk right. She was funny, but one kid in our class had to go to a speech pathol­o­gist for about one-and-a-half years be­cause of it. Ha­haha! If you don’t mind, we re­ally need your answers by Tues­day be­cause we have to do an oral re­port about you (or Keith Chap­man). — The An­i­ma­tion Gang

Dear An­i­ma­tion Gang,

First off, thank you for your lovely email. Since I am, at least for now, still alive, I thought it best to re­ply to you quickly in case things should change on that front. I’m sorry you couldn’t find Keith Chap­man. He is most likely tend­ing his gar­den and sip­ping Rémy Martin Louis XIII in Monaco — a small Euro­pean coun­try which, last I heard, he now owns. I will send him your best re­gards.

Yes, I would be happy to an­swer your an­i­ma­tion ques­tions. Hav­ing just binge-watched The Crown, I find my­self with time on my hands as well as a re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion (or, as the Queen would say, “ap­pre-see-ation”) for let­ter writ­ing. So, please send along your ques­tions posthaste!

Mis­ter Selig

Dear Mis­ter Selig,

Thank you for re­ply­ing to us. We are re­ally psyched! (^o^)

It is good to know you are still alive. Con­grat­u­la­tions. (Maybe you should up­date your Face­book page to let other peo­ple know? Just a sug­ges­tion.) Any­ways, here are our five an­i­ma­tion ques­tions. Please fill in the blanks by Tues­day when our oral re­port is due. And swear you won’t be late or we won’t have any­thing to say. We will just be stand­ing there. By the way, we can­not pay you for this :o) — The An­i­ma­tion Gang

An­i­ma­tion Gang: How come some an­i­ma­tion shows are re­ally good shows and some an­i­ma­tion shows are re­ally bad shows?

Josh: Good shows are good shows be­cause they are wellloved. This is also true for a good meal, a good hair­cut or a good dog. Things that are well-loved are han­dled with a par­tic­u­lar care and at­ten­tion to de­tail that things that are not wellloved sim­ply never get. Good shows al­ways come from the heart of a show cre­ator — a man or a wo­man who has an idea that he or she needs to share — and then they are nur­tured by a small army of de­voted artists and pro­duc­ers who spend years fuss­ing over ev­ery walk cy­cle, the de­sign of each hand or the way an ac­tor says a par­tic­u­lar word. If this del­i­cate process goes well (and it rarely does), then the love that this team feels for their show is also felt — I don’t know ex­actly how — by the kids who watch the show. For these chil­dren, the show’s char­ac­ters be­come as beloved as their close friends and fam­ily mem­bers. In my view, that is what a good show is.

Bad shows, on the other hand, rarely come from in­di­vid­u­als. They’re usu­ally stitched to­gether in con­fer­ence rooms by smart and en­ter­pris­ing peo­ple who hope to sell things — al­most any­thing — to chil­dren. And the more peo­ple who are in the room, the less likely it is that their show will be any good. Since not much pas­sion or love goes into the rais­ing of these shows, they (un­sur­pris­ingly) rarely grow up well. The end re­sult is of­ten a show that’s a bit of a Franken­stein’s mon­ster: It has good parts har­vested from good peo­ple, but noth­ing quite fits to­gether, so the show walks a lit­tle funny and may frighten small chil­dren.

An­i­ma­tion Gang: We had a guest speaker last week who said there aren’t any new ideas left. That to­tally freaked us out. Do you think there are any new ideas left?

Josh: Rest as­sured, there are still many won­der­ful new ideas left. Ideas are ev­ery­where. Shows are ev­ery­where. Your break­fast can be­come a show. Your trip to an al­paca farm can be­come a show. Even your nose can be­come a show. The world’s a messy gar­den of ideas, and they’re all grow­ing right to­wards you at ev­ery mo­ment. You just need to reach out and pluck one. (Kids, of course, are bet­ter at this than adults, and I’ve long be­lieved that hu­man be­ings peak at age four.) The peo­ple who strug­gle the most with ideas are the ones who treat them like rare bugs that they must hunt down, cap­ture and im­pale with a pin. These folks try too hard, and they think too much. This puts them out­side of the gar­den, where it is rather parched. When you know you are wel­come in the gar­den, you will never be short of new ideas. And, rest as­sured, ev­ery per­son — es­pe­cially he An­i­ma­tion Gang — is wel­come in the gar­den.

An­i­ma­tion Gang: Which per­son in­flu­enced you the most? (This can be a real one or a made up one like Poké­mon.)

Josh: Many years ago, I worked at Sesame Street. There was a pro­ducer and di­rec­tor there named Lisa Si­mon. She was very strong and she was very gen­tle. She be­lieved in me long be­fore I be­lieved in my­self. And when I strug­gled, she did not aban­don me. Lisa’s life and work made a big im­pres­sion on me and so many oth­ers. She passed away a few years back, but I still think of her al­most ev­ery day. You would have liked her a lot. And she would have liked you.

An­i­ma­tion Gang: What parts of your job do you not like so much?


Birth­day par­ties in con­fer­ence rooms. Notes that do not help shows. Pitch­ing while eat­ing.

Any show in which the char­ac­ters laugh for no rea­son ex­cept that it’s the end of the episode. Show bi­bles with­out pic­tures. Ex­plain­ing jokes.

Any­thing more than two drafts and a pol­ish. Com­edy that’s based on phys­i­cal pain.

The brevity, anonymity and nas­ti­ness of so­cial me­dia.

The need to adapt to chang­ing tech­nolo­gies whilst be­liev­ing in my heart that hu­mans will never im­prove upon the hand-writ­ten let­ter or the can­dle.

When peo­ple with power are un­kind to peo­ple with­out power.

Air­plane food.

Los­ing my phone. Talk­ing about money.

An­i­ma­tion Gang: What parts of your job do you like the most?

Josh: This one is easy. Some­times, it all just goes right. The show that you cre­ate matches the era that you live in. And the team that you assem­ble is uniquely qual­i­fied and mo­ti­vated to bring that par­tic­u­lar show to life: The writ­ers, the artists, the com­posers, the pro­duc­ers, and the broad­cast­ers. They all just get it, and so do the kids. I can­not say I have ex­pe­ri­enced this of­ten — some­thing al­ways seems to get in the way — but I have ex­pe­ri­enced it. And when it hap­pens, it’s not only my fa­vorite part of my job, it’s my fa­vorite part of my life. The act of cre­at­ing a good show (or film or song or pinch pot) is an act of God. Not ev­ery time, but some­times.

Well, An­i­ma­tion Gang, it’s late here in New York and we need to take the dogs out. Good luck with your oral re­port on Tues­day. If you de­cide to make your own shows one day, please try and do so in your own way. You need not fol­low me or Keith Chap­man or any­one else. And try not to care too much what other peo­ple think of you or your work. Too many hope­ful be­gin­ners have gone silent out of fear, or be­cause oth­ers have been cruel. For­give them, for they know not what they do. Just make your things and share your things and your lives will be for­ever full. I swear :) — Mis­ter Selig

Josh Selig founded Lit­tle Air­plane Pro­duc­tions (a Stu­dio 100 com­pany) in 1999. He is the cre­ator and exec pro­ducer of the Em­my­win­ning se­ries

Won­der Pets!, 3rd & Bird and Oobi. He has re­ceived 10 Emmy Awards for his work as a writer on Sesame Street and a Hu­man­i­tas Award for his work as head writer of

Lit­tle Bill.

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The Dog & Pony Show
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Won­der Pets!
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