Article in Technology / Animation / Character Animation
How do you tell a complicated story simply? Refer to the renaissance masters! In this case, those are the masters of animation. In the 40's and 50's animation was used to popularize and explain concepts from civil defense to wall street investment. This "golden age" of animation was my inspiration.

During the 40s and 50s thousands of industrial and institutional films were produced. They were sponsored by American businesses, charities, educational institutions, and advocacy groups. They were message driven with strong calls to action.

But whereas major studio (Disney, etc) releases of this period are now revered as “classics”, “sponsored” content films have have been ignored because they are somehow suspect as propaganda.


Public Domain

Working Dollars (1957) This is an example of animation called into the service of industry. It explains how the stock market works through the eyes of an everyman. Paid for by members of the New York Stock Exchange. Producer: Sutherland (John) Productions, Inc.

Quoting extensively from THE FIELD GUIDE TO SPONSORED FILMS[1]:

“Sponsored films are as old as film itself. From the earliest years of cinema, motion pictures have been produced to record, orient, train, sell, and persuade. Though it is estimated that 300,000 industrial and institutional films have been made in the United States—far more than any other type of motion picture—the film type is little known. Almost every major company, national business association, and educational institution produced or commissioned titles intended for staff, customers, or the public. Today these films are valuable both as documentation of past places, events, and practices and as examples of changing styles of rhetoric...

Sponsorship is the common thread that links films funded by for-profit and nonprofit entities, and it runs through both works made for internal viewing (such as training films) and titles targeting customers, business partners, and the public. Sponsorship also implies the packaging of information from a particular corporate or institutional perspective. Finally, sponsorship denotes direct institutional support, generally through funding, though occasionally through donated services or other nonfinancial assistance. Sponsored films encompass advertisements, public service announcements, special event productions, cartoons, newsreels and documentaries, training films, organizational profiles, corporate reports, works showcasing manufacturing processes and products, and of course, polemics made to win over audiences to the funders’ point of view.”

The BestThinking Story as Cartoon

It was into this historical context that I plunged myself. Not surprising then, that my visual vocabulary owes a lot to this renaissance period of animation discussed above.

In the early background studies you can see the flattened spaces, arbitrary color breaks and simplified shapes define that era.

Our everyman,Blinker, is transparent in all his actions, because he uses his real identity (his identity and his credentials have been verified). Those he meets at the beginning of his trip, Mooogle and Tikipedia, are not transparent. Once he goes thru the door into the BestThinking "playground", he meets others whose discussion is transparent.


Our homage to Google <1> begins with Blinker bumping into the big toe of the Mooogle Sphinx. He asks a question of the oracle and is overwhelmed with a deluge of answers. Hilarious consequences ensue.

The use of symbols in Flash makes an otherwise colossal task, very manageable. I used walk cycles, talk cycles, and thought cycles to simplify the timeline structure. Even at that I ended up with a 2400 frame, 22MB .fla file, though it exported to a very web-friendly 850K.


A gentle poke at our good friends at Wikipedia <2>, begins with Blinker examining the monolith spewing out ever changing answers. Upon further examination Blinker meets the Wiki Warriors, the editors who maintain the monolith. Hilarious consequences ensue.

In order to make use of all of my cycles (see above) for this section I had to also use masking. In this section Blinker moves behind, thru and away from objects. So here I am running masks, transparency and full screen redraws at the same time - no wonder older machines complain. One solution which I am considering is restructuring it slightly so that I can deliver it as QuickTime. Thoughts anyone?


THE FIELD GUIDE TO SPONSORED FILMS by Rick Prelinger National Film Preservation Foundation San Francisco, California © 2006 by the National Film Preservation Foundation


The Animator's Workbook, by Tony White, Watson-Guptill, 160 pages - This is my second reference, it doesn't have to be beside my bed, but it should be in the room somewhere.
The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams, Faber & Faber - Williams is THE MAN, keep it beside your bed.
A filmography of John Sutherland at the Hollywood Animation Archives
Google: organizing the world's information
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
Working Dollars, 1957, can be found on Internet Archives



Amid Amidi, Cartoon Modern (New York: Chronicle Books, 2005)

Greg Carter Credentials Verified

About the Author 

Greg Carter
During the past 20 years, I have explored most of the niches offered in the developing digital technology: multimedia developer, website dev

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