Remember how I said yesterday, talking about Hellboy: Sword of Storms; "The lighting schemes and the animation itself were also fairly lacklustre. These things tend to be outsourced, and I sort of get the feeling the people at the drawing boards were thinking mainly about paychecks. I believe that's why a regular Japanese television series like Haruhi Suzumiya looks enormously better than a top of the line, American television animated project like Hellboy: Animated--everyone cares more, down to the lowest grunt, and the people in charge are more in tune with the people working under them."
Well, to-day an anonymous person sent me a URL to the Hellboy: Animated production diary blog. Two paragraphs from this entry read;
Okay, let's talk mutation. No, the X-men are not crossing over with Hellboy but it's time to face the reality of the animation process. When I watch a show like Justice League Unlimited or Teen Titans, every episode looks great to me. The are some stories I like more than others but technically, everything looks good to my eye. Not so when you talk to the guys on the production, they definitely have their favorites and gnash their teeth at the fluctuating quality...because they know what they sent and can see the differences in what comes back.
Long ago, I resolved myself to the idea that the design style of a series or movie is not what you send overseas but what comes back. We are lucky to be working with Mad House Studios in Japan who have done great work in both in features and television. We've started talking back and forth about the mood and quality level of what we expect. Sadly, we can't just keep working until everything looks perfect; there are realities of time and money. But with constant communication we have enough of both to make these things look damn fine.
Seems I was right. And apparently there was the added problem of time constraints, and the distressing fact that this guy actually thinks Teen Titans looks good (I like Justice League Unlimited a lot--its style's not as over the top as Teen Titans, but it's still only a watered down version of the great Batman: The Animated Series' look). Sure, he talks about "constant communication", but what's that really worth when you're short on time, you don't speak the same language, and the Pacific Ocean's between you?
Looking at Mad House Studio's credits (the ones where they're most central to production--most big animation projects in Japan get help from all the big studios) isn't very illuminating, as I see many good looking projects and bad looking projects, which may be explained by staff changes and the amount of passion for different projects. Though I see that they're involved in a number of CLAMP adaptations, which might explain why the CLAMP comics are always better than their animated counterparts.
Anyway, if American animated projects are ever going to be interesting again, either more American directors are going to need to learn Japanese and really get in bed with some people over there, or America needs to cultivate some home-grown talent. Maybe I oughta write a letter to Lou Dobbs about this?