Cartoonist…Some politics and censorship but its a swell job

Greetings. I make cartoons. It’s hard to pin down a label on exactly what I do, because I’ve done everything from drawing props (yes, there is a guy who’s job it is to draw the shotgun Elmer Fudd is holding), animating, and storyboards to creating my own show. I live in Los Angeles and am currently employed by one of those mega-giant- ultra media corporations. But so are most other people who make cartoons.

Before I got into the animation business I went to art college and had a slew of awful jobs like Burger King dishwasher, bus boy at a weird Chinese restaraunt that got busted for having illegal immigrants living under the kitchen, and a tour guide/janitor at a fake cave in Colorado. The cave job almost requires another story in itself.

Art school actually paid off for me, in that I managed to get an internship into a real animation job, unlike the rest of my peers. If I hadn’t gotten the internship I would have been screwed because in Hollywood it’s all about who you know. Even in Cartoon Hollywood.

I’ve been in the industry about four years now- not long considering that many of the people I work with have been around since the Flintstones era. I enjoy working on cartoons. I like drawing and I like getting paid to have ideas. It’s also exciting to see something you’ve made on TV. The pay is very good and, depending on the job, I get a lot of freedom to do what I want. The people are generally nice, or at least pretend to be. I can’t say that I hate any of them with particular intensity.

Of course, there is a down side. Like every job, there is a lot of political stuff going on. On one job I had for a failed Prime Time series, every drawing I did had to pass through sixteen people before it was approved – including art directors, writers, network executives, and celebrity voices. If you can consider Peter Akroyd a celebrity. Then there are the usual cliques and backstabbers that you can probably find in every job.

Censorship, usually masquerading as “standards” is another problem. You have a bunch of slack-jawed hillbilly grandmas 600 miles away who feel like they just have to find something wrong with your story or they won’t be doing their job. On the last show I worked on we had a list of “Top Ten Words You Can’t Use”. This list quickly grew to over 100 words long. Some classics are “cockpit”, “peanut”, “idiot”, “fat”, and “swarthy”. “Butt” was ok for awhile, then forbidden, then reinstated.

Another downside is that work on a show usually only lasts three to nine months. This means that in a dry year you might make really good money for a few months and then nothing for the rest of the year. I usually like my boss, because these days my boss is me, and if I do get a boss I don’t like he’ll be long gone in three months anyway.

I don’t think I’ll be quitting anytime soon, but I would like to eventually branch out and maybe drift into a different career like writing. In five years I hope I’ll still be directing my own show.

All in all, it’s been swell so far. Can’t complain. Get my name and my drawings on TV, occasionally get invited to some sort of Hollywood event. Even got my picture in the LA Times once. If nothing else, I can look like a bigshot asshole in front of all the gum scrapers at my ten year high-school reunion.