Animation Magazine

You Are Free!

Children’s animation veteran Josh Selig writes about the importance of drowning out the market noise and listening to your inner muse.

- By Josh Selig

Children’s animation veteran Josh Selig writes about the importance of drowning out the market noise and listening to your inner muse.

As soon as you ask yourself, “What do the buyers want to buy?” you’ve lost your soul. This seemingly benign question puts the cart (our industry) before the horse (you and your original ideas) and the end result is a cart full of okay shows and a depressed horse.

As most of us learn in junior high, all groups are flawed. They are Petri dishes of politics, compromise, and envy. So, one should be particular­ly careful about inviting them into your creative life. This would be like asking the Kardashian­s what you should name your baby.

Individual­s, of course, are also flawed, but less so. Due to some quirk of evolution, individual­s remain predispose­d to reach sublime creative heights, the results of which can be seen in everything from the arts to Bluey to macaroons.

This is not to say that groups don’t have value. Of course, they do. After all, it takes an army of talented artists to produce an animated show. But to create an animated show, a show that is truly unique and meaningful, well, for that you just need one good sniper.

The Right Questions

“So, if we shouldn’t ask, ‘What do the buyers want to buy?’ then what should we ask?”

Good question. You could start with, “Who am I?” If the answer is, “I am a show creator,” then you should create shows. Your

shows. Shows that are as much a part of yourself as your hands, your kids or your eyes. You should create these shows regardless of what is trending, and you should create these shows with the courage, urgency and dignity of a first responder.

“But what if the buyers are all looking for gluten-free shows and mine has gluten?”

Then be proud of your gluten. Wear your gluten as a badge of honor. Gluten is who you are. And if you pitch your gluten show —and you pitch it well — they will come. Why? Because it’s original. And, fortunatel­y, there are still a handful of folks out there who value originalit­y. Please don’t forget that the networks and streamers are just stages in need of good acts. Believing that the person who stands at the stage door is more creative than you, or knows more about what kids like than you do, would be a very big — although not uncommon — mistake. One should never confuse the intrinsic value of an original creation with the editorial role of an executive. They appear similar, but they are as different as a flower and a flowerpot.

“So, what you’re saying is that I should ignore what I read in the trades about what kinds of shows people are buying these days and just make something personal that I love?”

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Trust Your Instincts

“So, I’m free?”

You are free. You are free to follow your ideas wherever they may take you. If you want your characters to speak in jazz, let them speak in jazz. If you’d like to set your show inside a circle because you’re sick of looking at shows inside rectangles, well, great, let the circles have a turn! There are an infinite number of ways to create a show (or bake a cookie or write a song) and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we (and our kids) can finally enjoy some real variety.

“I see. But I feel afraid.”

That’s okay. We’re all afraid. Life is frightenin­g. Just be who God (or whoever) made you to be and make your own unique shows in your own unique way.

The kids will thank you. Your team will thank you. And even the buyers will thank you.

But, most importantl­y, your soul will thank you. ◆

Josh Selig is the Founder and President of China Bridge Content, a company committed to building strong creative and business ties between China and the world in the media sector. He is the former CEO of Little Airplane Production­s, a New York-based company that he founded in 1999 which was acquired by Studio 100 in 2017. He is the Emmy-winning creator of many popular children’s shows including Wonder Pets!, Small Potatoes and P. King Duckling.

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