If I can thank SCAD for anything the first thing on my list would be the chance to go to Japan. It was an absolutely amazing opportunity. Like the best things in life not only was it enjoyable, but educational.
Though the land of the rising sun is world renowned for their anime it certainly isn't a place for animators. I had been suspicious of the treatment of employees in studio Ghibli for some time and my fears were confirmed. As tough as the film market is in the United States it's easy to assume that it would be twice as hard in Japan. The long nights with no pay that workers experience here is a daily grind for the Japanese. Studio Ghibli is a place that takes advantage of the bright new dreamers, wear down all the passion they have into making a film until finally they burn out. Truly it is a market where only the strong survive. I think most the students I know in SCAD would never make it there.
If people are curious about where I got this information it is in fact a very reliable source. One of the guest professors on the trip, the infamous Mark Schultz, was able to meet with his friend Geoff Darrow. Darrow is currently working on an animated version of his comic Shanghai Cowboy at MadHouse. I'm not sure how hush hush the project is, so the only thing I'll mention is that you should anticipate the most awesome crab ever. His experience at MadHouse however has not been much of an enjoyable one. When Mark and Professor Gotto entered the studio they say it was one of the most depressing places they had ever laid eyes on. Cubicles the size of outhouses, people passed out on the floor, and a general negative energy. Geoff explained that this was a very common sight in Japan and that workers collapse in studios because they work all night long. Animators only get paid by scene, and crap pay at that. Anyone working there are hardcore fanboys that do it because they love it, not because they can support themselves. A high percent of employees still live at home with their parents because their salaries are so low.
Not everything that I heard from Geoff was bad news. He also had some rare gems of valuable quotes, and an interesting back story on how he got in the industry. He was also so kind to show our class some of his production originals for Shanghai Cowboy and sketched a self-portrait for me! I may upload that here later.
I'll leave you with a few of Geoff Darrow's quotes:
" six legs and big claws equal big laughs"
" People on an airplane-not funny. Now you put a bear on that airplane, that's funny"
"In animation everything is black and white. People are either ugly or attractive."