Friday, June 29, 2007

More Thoughts on Creativity

Being creative can often be difficult. Last time I wrote about the frustrating situation we all run into so often when we find that our latest great brainstorm has already been done before. But sometimes being angry or frustrated is a real creative blessing. Historically, many great cartoon ideas have come as the result of anger or frustration. Chuck Jones documented in many of his autobiographical writings how many of his most famous creative works were the direct result of the anger and frustration he and his coworkers experienced with their interactions with Warner Bros. studio executives. The “suits” in the front office were constantly making life difficult for the various Looney Tunes cartoon units. But rather than these obstacles being a negative, they helped to spur on great creativity. This same sort of thing helped to spawn the highly creative cartoons of UPA in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Many of the directors and cartoonist that produced the landmark cartoons at UPA were former Disney creators who were rebelling against the Disney way of making animation. Later in the 1960’s the cartoons of Jay Ward and Bill Scott like Rocky and Bullwinkle also benefited from anger and frustration for their creative inspiration. This time it wasn’t internal to the studio but rather external anger and frustration at the system. At that time TV was the expanding new frontier for cartoon making and TV was controlled by Madison Avenue advertisers and the big cereal companies like General Mills and Kellogg and Post. They dictated which shows were produced and how they were produced and even what was appropriate subject matter and what wasn’t appropriate. The guys at Jay Ward productions were very funny creative folks but they had to work with in the watchful control of their sponsors. They also were constantly being squeezed financially by impossible budgets and forced to farm out most of their cartoon production work to Mexico. The animation production work was often substandard and embarrassing but they had to use it or get canceled. So, they made the best of it by writing some of the funniest material every made. They also constantly poked fun at Madison Avenue and the cereal companies in their cartoons. Everything from an economic collapse of society brought about by counterfeit cereal box tops to the emotional trauma created when a metal eating mechanical mouse chewed up all the TV antennas in Frostbite Falls and no one could watch TV anymore. This created a national crisis for the boys in advertising because not only were people not watching TV shows they weren’t watching the commercials.

So if there are things in your world that anger or frustrate you, don’t necessarily think of those things as negative but rather use that anger to fuel your creativity.