November 18, 2005
Sometimes the nice-to-haves in life coexist nicely with the must-haves. Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I have been working as a technical writer for several years. In 2004, I had the good fortune of landing a position at Toon Boom Animation, right here in Montreal, which is the location of many animation houses and leading animation software companies. Working (a must-have) at one of these companies was always a nice-to-have that seemed out of my reach.

Animation has always been a compelling art form to me, but I've noticed that many people who share the same passion are invariably drawn to learn something about the people behind the scenes. When I was younger, each new fact I learned about the creators at Termite Terrace or Disney Studios created a deeper respect for them and the images that flashed across my screen.

Like many who tried to learn something about animation history, I eventually read about various work conflicts between management and creators that have become much more than a footnote in animation history. These moments are significant, and brought about great change within the industry, but also created an "us-vs-them" mentality in the workplace.

Yesterday, however, I realized how we don't often hear the stories about the companies that recognize the entire team because the events of say, the 1941 strike, or the trials of Richard Williams' Thief and the Cobbler. Many people who work in an animation-related company enter situations on guard because they look back on what has been learned from the past.

Let's have another look: I'm happy to say that I spent Thursday afternoon with my colleagues celebrating the strides made by Toon Boom - the company, the team - and Joan Vogelesang, CEO and President of Toon Boom (pictured above, holding the company's newly-minted Emmy in that special way), let us know how much she appreciated the work of each and every one of us, and our involvement in Toon Boom being a leading supplier of animation tools.

What is remarkable is that this special event did not even have to take place for me to understand that I am valuable, as is each employee who works here and makes a contribution. It is shown to us in many ways throughout the year on a daily basis, in our ability to provide feedback and ability to join the discussion on how to move the company forward.

I realize I am now one of the people behind the scenes, although I can't even draw a stick-figure. Animation has always been about people, and everyone has their role to play. The stories mean a lot, but the conditions under which people work also has a significant effect on the final outcome and quality of a product, too. Take the lessons from the times things haven't gone so well in the animation industry, but for each one of those, remember something about the companies who took the time to recognize their own and take heart.
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