Dear Sesame St.

Dear Sesame Street, 

We, the undersigned, would like to register our concern over the contest you are now conducting with Aniboom. We are concerned that your contest includes a solicitation of original design concepts, characters and content to be produced on a speculative basis by cartoonists, artists, motion designers and animators.

This approach, requesting new and original work to be created in competition, is one that we believe seriously compromises the quality of work that is entered into “competition” and is questionable, at best, for a reputable organization to request.

Sesame Street has long been a highly esteemed provider of educational programming for children. From its inception, it has shown respect and support for the independent animation, film, and design communities. Artists have responded by creating lasting work – that is as valuable for children and adults today as when it was first created. We applaud that work, and hope that Sesame Street will continue to push the fields of animation and film-making. As such, we also think that Sesame Street should uphold the ethics and professional behavior we’d like our own children to grow up with. Is the education we want to pass on to them that artists’ and animators’ work is not valuable? That the only way to ‘make it’ is through winning a contest?

There is a more appropriate way to explore the work of various artists. A more effective and ethical approach to commission new work is to ask a pool of talent to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project. You can then judge the quality of the artist’s previous work and her way of thinking about your project. The artist you select can then begin to work on your project by designing an original solution to your criteria while under contract to you, without having to work on speculation up front. 

Design should not be a one-way street, with artists creating work in a vacuum. We believe the best design, art and content comes at the request of a specific brief, mission or client. Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.

There are few professions where all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to compensate for their efforts. (Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay!) We realize that there are some creative professions with a different set of standards, such as advertising and architecture, for which billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In those cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving an original film or character design.  

There are many artists, animators and cartoonists who can provide you with original and highly creative new work that will far exceed your expectations, with respect for an appropriate budget and schedule. We can think of dozens off of the tops of our heads who we’re sure would love to work with Sesame Street. And we’d would love to point you in their direction.

We believe that “leveraging the power of the web” is an exciting prospect and casting a wide net can quickly provide many interesting results. But we think that more considered curation and the selection of applicants whose goals may be more closely aligned with your own can provide better results.

It’s your contest, though and you are free run it as you wish. But you will do so without our participation.
Your consideration of these professional issues is greatly appreciated. 
Cartoon Brew

Bran Dougherty-Johnson
Amid Amidi
Jerry Beck
Justin Cone
Ryan Rothermel
Lilian Darmono
Caroline Attia Lariviere
Michael Uman
Aaron Stewart
David Ahuja
Matt Owens
Joe Vaccarino
Thiago Maia
Arlan Smith
David OReilly
Steve Scott
Jonathan Notaro
Saiman Chow
Cassiano Prado
Daniel Piwowarczyk
Fernando Del Reginato
Liam O’Connor
Sean Pecknold
Guilherme Marcondes
Wes Duvall
Ira Lederer
Mario de Toledo-Sader
Adam Wentworth
Salvatore Dell’Aquila
Marck Al
Andy Kennedy

Michael Langan

Tatia Rosenthal

Will Krause 
John Canemaker
Ralph Pinel
Fx Goby
Christopher Abbey
Jim Le Fevre
Hazel Baird
Matt Hunter Ross
James Houston
See No Evil
Fabricio Lima
Syed A. Meer
Gabe Swarr

Emily Hubley

Celia Bullwinkel

Chris McDonnell
Dylan White

Christian Bevilacqua
Fons Schiedon
Ryan Uhrich
Ryan Hooks
Simon Robson
J Baab
Boca Ceravolo
Igor Sordokhonov
Howard Beckerman
Tim Finn
Julie Zammarchi
Gina Kamentsky
Josh Hassin
Brady Baltezore
Julian Brown
Jussi Kemppainen
Tom Williams
Genevieve Konecnik
Sungtae Will Kim
Jeffrey Welk
Chase Massengill
Chris West
Mark Webster
Tommy Caron
Andy Lyon
Todd Smith
Alexander Curtis
Mark Evanier
Matthew McLelland
Tyquane Wright
JJ Sedemalier
Fran Krause
Colin Sebestyen
Doug Wilson
Adam Templeton
Aras Darmawan
Stephen Kelleher
Lauren Indovina
Stephen Fitzgerald
Aleksandar Vujovic
Mike Rauch
Jon Gorman
Jessica Plummer
Charles Brubaker
Elliot Cowan
Eric Del Greco
Sarah Ramert
Tavo Ponce
Joe Lea
Dexton Deboree
Dimitri Luedemann
Ayhan Cebe
Greg Herman
Carlo Vega
Cameron Archer
Sean Callinan
Nick Cross
Andrew Kaiko
Rachel Yonda
Carlos Florez
Rex Crowle
Chad Colby
John Lane
Raf Schoenmaekers
Ash Edwards
Paul Nicholson
John Marshall
Giovanni Bucci
Tim Lovett
Lance Agena
Dax Norman
David Nethery
Jyoteen Majmudar
Bob Flynn
David Van Allen
Janet Perlman
Chuck Wilson
Igor Choromanski
John Eickholt
Jeremiah Morehead
Brent Altomare
Pasquale Ricotta
Charles Lee
Tommy Wooh
Paola Rocchetti
Marcos Guevara
Clem Stamation
Javan Ivey
Rogier Hendriks
Kasper Verweij
Harm van Zon
Reinier Flaes
Alex Ahumada
Emma Lidgey
Stuart Langfield
Joris Bergmans
Luciano A. Muñoz Sessarego
Nigel McGrath
Eoghan Kidney
Daily Dolores
Aleix Pitarch
Quba Michalski
Joel Duggan
Michael Sporn
Casey LaLonde
Jake Mathew
Adam Gault
Pablo Mateo Lobo
Melinda Rainsberger
Carole Guevin
Matt Lambert
Joe Clay
Joe Mercer
Joseph Heraghty
Douglas Filiak
Tim Rauch
Derek Kinsman
Steve May
Collin McCormack
John Grimaldi Jr.
Hannah O’Neal
Sergio Jimenez
Greg Babiuk
Jim Read
Hussain Currimbhoy
Nelson Diaz
Darren Rawlings
Jeremiah Dickey
Rusty Mills
Gavin Freitas
John Ryan
Chris Hoffman
Andy Hall
Greg Taylor
Brian Donovan
Michael Sutton-Long
Harry J Frank
Angus Wall
Steph Thirion
Fran Trachta
Wojtek Wojtulewicz
Alfredo Lopez
Greg Duffell
Tuesday McGowan
Mike Fallows
Ryan McGrath
Filipe Carvalho
Bob Kurtz
Paulo de Almada
Colin Bridges
MWCC Animation
Andy McNally
Cameron Linderman
Betsy de Fries
Jordan Montreuil
Caleb Halter
Ben Nicholson
Scott Denton
Lisa Crafts
Kevin Peleschak
Matt Hanson
Scott Schroeder
Craig Shaloiko
David Edelstein
Sara Franks-Allen
Rodrigo Redondo
Sérgio Duque
Matt Ciaglia
Jen Brogle Jones
Patrick Osborne
Steve Weinshel
Brandon Lori
Jonathan Lemon
Adam Patch
Nathan Rittenhouse
Derek Landers
David Lightfoot
Mustashrik Mahbub
Jonny Munévar
Miguel Rodriguez
Matthew Encina
Marcos Silva
Patrick Bonsu
James Coulson
Max Ulichney
Pablo Gonzalez
Eric Miller
Matt Mattson
Omar Muhammad
Francis Vallejo
Verónica Navarro
Linas Jodwalis
Janet Benn
Terry Ibele
William Joyce
Brandon Oldenburg
Adam Volker
Joe Bluhm
Jeremy William Martin
Steve Schnier
Ken Davis
Rob McDougall
Mateus Moretto
Charles Valsechi
Adam Teninbaum

Portions of this letter have been adapted from the the AIGA’s position on spec work. We believe it is high time that Motion Designers and Animators took such a principled stance on the issue of producing effective and original work for their clients. We also stand with the Belgian advertising agencies, whose recent virtual strike protesting the pitching process in their country should be applauded.

Please contact Bran Dougherty-Johnson if you would like to become a signatory on this letter. Send your name and a URL if you’d like us to link to your site. Thanks.

Cross posted at Cartoon Brew, please read the comments there as well.

Tags: ,


Thiago Maia

WELL DONE Bran, Cartoon Brew and Motionographer. It is time to fight back!
I am adding the post on See No Evil website as well.



From Joan Ganz Cooney, founder of Children’s Television Workshop, creator of Sesame Street-

“From the beginning, we—the planners of the project—designed the show as an experimental research project with educational advisers, researchers, and television producers collaborating as equal partners”.

Simon Robson

Brilliant! well done Bran, Cartoon Brew & Motionographer. This pseudo inclusive culture of ‘compete to work’ design comps has to stop before it kicks the guts out of our industry.

Lauren Indovina

Agreed. We should encourage young people to respect their talent and ideas and dismiss these so called “opportunities”. Art should not be made free, ever. Sesame Street, you know better. Bran DJ for president of the creative world.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Art can be free. I think people can work for free, do favors for their friends and make new ones by trading, bartering or giving away their talent. That is everyone’s right.

But I also think that many corporations try to tap into new talent by exploiting it, and that shouldn’t be silently tolerated.

Lauren Indovina

Sure, bartering a talent for another talent is a different story- it’s actually awesome. Doing charity work, helping a friend, doing an art show with no upfront profit, participating in a global animation project like Psst! or 20/120, etc. Anything other than this is disrespectful to the art the artist’s time and energy.


It seems to me like all the naysayers are completely dismissive of those who CHOOSE to participate. In any creative discipline spec work is what ultimately allows you to get noticed. If there weren’t a million barriers to entry or a system in place that rewards only those on the inside, crowdsourcing would never succeed. If the contests or sites are exploitative, they will fail. What we at Tongal are trying to put in a place is a meritocracy thought to give opportunity to those who don’t have it.

And for those who claim art and commerce are completely independent, they should study history. I think they will find that people like Michael Angelo, Charles Dickens, Hemingway, and James Cameron would never have gotten to where they were/are if that were the case.


wow this is lame. Not to mention 50k in cash prize doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of labor for a quality piece of animation.


Actually, only 5,000 goes to the finalists, with an additional 5,000 then being awarded to the grand prize winner. The winning animator will then “be eligible” for development deals valued at 20,000, although it’s unclear who set this value, or what it’s outcome is.


There’s contests for musicians, photographers, illustrators, athletes, all the time. I don’t see a problem with this. It could be a big break for someone who’s just starting out and trying to be discovered…or even a professional who chooses to spend the time on it.


I agree with kmfix, no one’s forcing you to participate in this contest, there are plenty of contests going at the moment – Marvel did the same thing with Aniboom, you were all quiet then.

honestly now, this motionographer website is a bit of a paradox – you guys promote each other (Matt Lambert posting about Asif Mian’s latest work, Bran Johnson posting about Ryan Rothermels in Quickies, half of this list is made of people who either write or get written about or both , obviously)

This list of talents isn’t something that is going to scare or change, even if they will cancel it there will always be some other contest – get back to your tablets and let people who don’t have the same connections you do get promoted by something, obviously these people who’ll compete are people you will NEVER write about or people who aren’t actually WORKING.

this opportunity is more realistic for them than anything you can offer.


I have to agree with jshoray and kmfix. I’m kind of new to the world of freelance motion graphics and animation and it’s crucial for me to get any kind of exposure I can ( ).

I’ve submitted to motiongraphics-dot-com and I realize they can’t showcase everyone. Xplsv-dot-tv is fine for some feedback from peers but nobody who’s hiring is ever there. CreativeCow-dot-net is also a valuable community, but again, it’s just a lot of shop talk among fellow animators and the occasional low-paying gig. These competitions seem to be the only way someone starting out can get noticed by producers, show runners, or anyone that can provide a career lead.

Why would a well-paid, already established animator even care about these competitions? Don’t they have deadlines to meet and checks to cash? Me? I have work but I sure could use some exposure. Win or lose, I’ll be in the submissions column. And that’s more than Motionographer or Cartoon Brew has done for me.

This competition is like a Battle of the Bands and you guys are like Metallica telling us, the new and unknown bands, that it’s wrong to enter. Are the unheard-of bands suppose to shun a chance at exposure, to go back to our garages and wait for Capitol Records to miraculously call. Am I missing something?

Or could it be that you are all just disappointed that Grover is just another corporate shill?


good call stefan. and for you , all of you people who write in motionographer, check out stefan’s work… its quite good actually.

and instead of running around and criticizing others, think about yourselves,

you writers are a like a gang , a corporation, you write only about yourselves or the ones you know, there had been so many talented people submitting their work to your website – you keep ignoring them, yet it seems its enough to know one of your gang leaders (Justin cone, Matt Lambert or Mate Steinforth) and thats enough to get a full post or even a quicky.

now before you rush typing hatred back to me, take a deep look inside, and a good look outside – there are of a bunch people who will back up my feelings on this –

what started as Tween with the sole purpose of promoting Motion graphics has become an inner circle which is impossible to get through unless you’re a Scad graduate or somehow associated with the writers of this board.


dude, just because you submitted and it didn’t make it to front page on motionographer doesn’t mean its unfair, you forget this is a blog, and that blogs by definition are biased. because its personal opinion. That said i think the people on motionographer are fairly open minded and are always looking to highlight impressive artist/projects/pieces. You might not agree with their taste on every post but you cannot argue the fact that the site has in many ways shaped the awareness of many talents in our industry. The fact that you are even posting on this site means you’ve been made aware of many works that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Maybe if you are honest with yourself you should know that you need to do alot more work before someone actively praise your work in public. In other words, you need to pay your dues. As to the contest from sesame street, i say, if you can afford to invest time and money to make something for a non profit organization for kids. By all means, go for it. But keep this in mind, PBS has a payroll for their staff just like every other corporation out there. The idea for this petition is to instill a sense of realism in to these contest in that despite the intent of the outcome, they are ultimately exploitive of the artist. Even Michaelangelo was “commissioned” to paint the sistine chapel. the IRONY is that in his case, he was working for GOD. The point is that we are a capitalist society and labor isn’t free. If a non-profit organization has the right to exploit free labor, well then, teachers and professors should all work for free, and we all know that it aint happening. Like the joker said, “if you are good at something, you don’t do it for free”

Lilian Darmono

that’s very well put, Ruoyu. I fumble in my comment a fair bit. I think you’ve summed up what I wanted to say a lot better than I did…..haha….!

Lilian Darmono

Also jshoray, I can testify that to bring forth my personal work to the attention of my fellow authors, is not a lighthearted exercise. I won’t do it unless I think the work is at least decent enough to merit THEIR attention. I have, on many occasion, laboured on something lovingly, but the end result is just MEH. Hence, I don’t put it forth to my ‘gang’ of friends, hoping they’d post it. That’s just plain unethical, and embarassing, to boot.


Sorry jshoray, but from my experience the motionographer staff do not keep ignoring talented people. I know for a fact that they don’t just write about themselves and they certainly do not keep ignoring talented people.

I emailed motionogartpher with a link to a film I made at uni about a year ago and they featured it the next day. I had hardly visited the site before and I certainly didn’t know any of the ‘Gang leaders’. I know many people here in Australia who have been featured in either industry and student sections because their work is just damn good. Not because they’re somehow buddies with the staff…

I don’t think motionographer is a gang. I think it’s a blog that recognizes good work, no matter who creates it.

As for this petition. I signed it. Yes, they are not-for-profit but they still have massive overheads – they need to pay staff. I just think this kind of thing, especially from a huge corporation – is in many ways exploiting talent. It shouldn’t just slip past – It should at least be challenged and put to discussion.


kmfix, jshoray, swbarron –

Please take a look at

You have to understand that situations like this hurt everyone, regardless of how many years you have under your belt. What you say is true, no-one is forcing you to do this, but you have to look at the bigger picture and realize what exactly you are giving away.

Like Doctors, Lawyers, Mechanics, and Contractors – we have a professional obligation to diagnose problems and prescribe solutions. If you’re willing to do that without pay you’re not only devaluing the work you do, but you’re chipping away at the value of our profession.

You can trade your work for “in-kind” service and you can donate your time to a worthy cause, but please demand some sort of payment for the work you do.

It’s a matter of ethics. Those of us who are out there working in the industry are not fearing that new, young designers will take our jobs when they get discovered. It’s quite the contrary; we’re helping you to educate your clients about what they’re paying for and why it’s important.


doctors? lawyers? they do an internship for extra long periods thats the same thing as an animator who just finished school and wants to break through without breaking his balls hard just so he can earn the “privilege” of making coffee & rotoscoping for digital kitchen.

“You can trade your work for “in-kind” service and you can donate your time to a worthy cause, but please demand some sort of payment for the work you do.”

exposure on Aniboom or Seasme street is some sort of payment, not enough for you? don’t participate man as simple as that.

Oh, and by the way, Joseph Kosinski made the best spec work ever for SAAB.


First off, I want to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the No-Spec initiative and its principles. And the points I’m about to make aren’t meant to be disrespectful towards anyone who has signed the petition, or the No-Spec initiative. But I have a few issues with Sesame Street / CTW being the whipping boy:

1. This is a non-profit educational organization.

2. Aniboom has these sort of contests on a regular basis and I believe they’ve been doing it for a long time.

3. They don’t seem to be looking to use this as a psuedo-grassroots marketing ploy like the public/spec creation contest system usually is. The primary reason consumer-oriented companies have these contests isn’t to get “cutting edge” ideas. They do it because they want to have thousands of people to nag their friends to to go to the website to look at and vote for their entry. It’s free brand evangelism- a big dirty trick. And often the agency putting together the campaign will hire a pro studio to make some entries, at the standard pay scale, to ensure that they have a “good enough” winning entry to air or whatever. Like I said, a big dirty trick. I understand that the No-Spec initiative doesn’t care necessarily, but I think lumping this contest in with all the other past corporate incarnations of the contest system is a little unfair.

4. Sesame Street / CTW has been hiring amazing experimental animators for literally decades to create segments. This goes back long before there was a viable professional option for these types of animators, aside from mind-numbingly operating a camera stand at a cel animation house or something comparable. There was really no such thing as a one-person commercial animation project pre-1994 because of the varied skillsets needed to complete a single project- getting it done on time was just so unlikely. So literally there are very few examples of single-person commercial animation projects from that era, outside of Sesame Street. Whether it was their intent or not, they were great supporters of experimental animators in decades past.

5. The petition should be reworked and sent to the various corporate offenders, and more importantly, the myriad ad agencies who have organized all the public/spec contests in the past years. Or to any shop that has asked you to put together styleframes for free for a pitch. Seriously. I hope someone does that. But I honestly don’t expect to see that ever happen. Because it would be bad business sense to call out or insult the hand that feeds you. I know I wouldn’t. I’m not trying to insult anyone on that list. But when you find out that the same agency that oversaw the Doritos spec superbowl ad contest is the same agency that supplied 40% of your income last year, are you going to sign a letter telling them they’re a bunch of shit heads? If you do, then I respect you tremendously. Though you might only be making 60% as much as you did last year. i don’t think Sesame Street accounted for a large chunk of anyone’s income last year, thus there’s no shortage of people willing to grab a torch or pitchfork. No disrespect, just keeping it real.

6. Because this contest is literally the least worst of this kind I’ve yet to see, I think it’s great for students.

7. By the way, I have never had any affiliation with Sesame Street or CTW. And I hate spec work, and have no problem flatly and explicitly refusing it when offered.

8. Also, maybe reword that letter and send it to all the shops that expect freelancers to work 11+ hour days with no overtime… hmm, I see an image from work from one of them right now on motionographer.

This is all a great dialogue, by the way. And again, no disrespect.

Lilian Darmono

I think doe has some good points, there. Especially about the ‘big dirty trick’, and many others. As for saying no to evil agencies and other corporations — hopefully more and more individuals would find the courage to do so when they’re approached. I think this type of public rallying to say ‘No’, would help towards that.

For me, personally, who signed this petition, I have long held Sesame Street as a near and dear, cherished childhood treasure, AND an inspiration that put me on this career path. I think it’s terribly heartbreaking and disappointing for them to take up this sort of thing. Maybe they’re not-for-profit, but okay, they still have to make sure their employees get paid. Cost of living, you know. All I’m asking (by signing this letter), is to spare us designers and animators the same consideration.

As for jshoray’s comments about us Motionographer writers acting like a gang, posting each other’s work–and never giving any consideration to the ‘nameless bands’ that is simply not true.

We get a pile of submission emails, and we all do the best we can to give each submission the attention they deserve. Not all of us can claim to be perfectly diligent in this department, but we try our best. You have to remember, this is an unpaid position, we have to balance it with everything else in our lives. Most of us stay and work on posts because we believe in serving this community.

Secondly, (and this is just my personal opinion, without wishing to blow my own horn), one of the selection criteria to be an author at motionographer is having a pretty decent folio (among other things). This is not about nepotism or elitism. It’s just a simple logic: when someone can do good work, he/she would be more likely to be able to curate/critique other people’s work by recognising what’s good and what’s not. And i can say that my colleagues on M-grapher are some of the most talented people on the planet. Having said that, there are so many many many more awesome people out there, which is why it was decided to remove the Individuals’ Cream List.

As for your opinion regarding doing spec work as the only means to gain exposure (which is more than what we at Motionographer can provide you), that is simply not true! If you love your craft, dedicate some time and effort to make your own piece, that truly speaks of who you are and what you can contribute to this visual landscape. And trust me, if it’s good enough, SOMEONE will notice. Motionographer is not the only portal to better work opportunities. Send your reel/site to enough companies out there, and if your work is good enough, you will never starve. That is what I honestly believe, which is reaffirmed time and time again by what I see in the industry.


Having read the No-Spec “Why Speculation Hurts” article, it makes perfect sense and I completely agree with it. Nobody likes to work for free and the client should be invested enough in their enterprise to care about getting what they pay for. It does take a personal and professional understanding between a designer and a client to attain the best solution. And it’s wrong for a company to sift through the muck for some lowest-common-denominator work.


However, at this early point in my career as an animator, my main concern isn’t about sticking to my guns about the ethics of the perfect designer/client relationship. It’s about making my craft KNOWN to potential clients. It’s about getting feedback and/or criticism from fellow and/or superior animators. It’s about finding a window in which to showcase my craft and the hopes that someday through the work to come, that I’m good enough to be able to afford to turn down spec work. Until that day, I really just want to make a minute-long, wacky animation about the letter P, enter it into the contest, and if nothing else, try to shamelessly drive some traffic to my website (!

I just wanna be hired…is that so wrong?


then by all means create hot shit that will get noticed!

Lilian Darmono

No it’s not wrong. We were all in your shoes once. Stephen, I think getting hired is not as hard as you think. Getting hired to do what you LOVE doing, that’s hard. I think that’s where we all want to be. And to get there, it’s better to make your own ‘hot shit’ (as carniflex put it), on your own time, than doing spec work. Pour your self and your love into it, trust me, it WOULD get you somewhere. Even us ‘veterans’ in the field still do it (have our love projects, unpaid, on the side). It’s healthy and it’s just the way we are as artists…

You may think that your position as a rookie in this industry is unimportant. But when it comes to this sort of effort to combat spec work and dodgy competitions, you guys hold the key…..which is why I’m trying to convince you that there are better alternatives to getting your career started than doing this sort of ‘spec work’.

Jesse Casey

When you’re just starting out, I think you’re better off working on your own short or making a music video for a friend’s band. That way, you can really go wild and show off your own ideas, and in the end you end up with a piece you can own, rather than having a piece that’s been restricted by the rules of the contest and in all likelihood is owned by the company sponsoring the contest.


yeh, Llian a Ruyou, how obvious that you guys would say: “Maybe your work just sucks and whats posted on is the real deal”

yet again, even though it was obvious, and lame, it was also expected.
I just did a quick search on to find out stuff, and guess what – here’s a quick out list of people who are more talented than you Lilian(and more Motion graphics than you, sorry, illustration doesn’t cut count for me) who never made front page nor quicky:
CHRIS HOFFMAN (last time written about – 2008)

Now just take a look at the post before this one:
VINICIOUS COSTA, big wow at this guy, talented, honestly, more than stafanie reinhart of sebastiane cannone, I dont think so, so : WHY WAS HE POSTED:
answer: He is part of 1st ave Machine, Asif Mian, Matt lambert good friends
being good friends with these two = post on motionographer.


so you can hate me, tell me my work sucks, god forbid whatever you do

just dont admit I’m right, cause then this whole corporate institute called motionographer comes out as a phony way for an inner circle of artists to self promote themselves.

Lilian Darmono

‘how obvious that you guys would say: “Maybe your work just sucks and whats posted on is the real deal”

I never said that. Read my comments again. I dont think Motionographer is the ONLY portal to more exposure and work.

And yes, I know there are heaps of individuals out there who are more talented than the sum total of us all combined as authors on Motionographer….thats why I already said, we collectively decided to abolish the individuals cream section…


dude i didn’t say your work sucks, i said, you need to pay you dues, that means, not dancing around one or two projects, but multiple and consistent amount of work that validate you as an artist. And yeah show us your work. If you think you got what it takes, then start your own company and start getting clients on your own, surely that will prove that you are the shit. Obviously you haven’t been around long enough how small this industry really is, if you put a few more years into this industry you will know that our industry is a tight group and EVERYONE knows eachother, its not a gang, its a community. People freelance all over the place and its natural for people to come across each other. The fact that so and so are friends shouldnt come as a surprise

Thiago Maia

Complete agree with Ruoyu about our industry. It is not a gang, it is a community and I think we should have the sense of community and help each other.
It is a small industry and people are always friendly, no matter where you live or where you are, you will always find a friend.

Motionographer is not a perfect blog like you want jshoray, or everyone want. But I think they help a lot to develop the community and it is not a pay job how Lilian said. They do it because they like and because they want help. They believe on it!
It helps everyone to see what is going on around the world, it helps people to find work, it gives the freedom for people talk and criticise about they post or other people works and to find new people.

Of course there are so many talents around the world that doesn’t have they post here, or some people we never heard. But how many times you saw a post with someone you never saw before and you discover a new talent? I believe it will be a lot.
Also, they have the student blog and I think it is great to help who is coming from University and trying to break in. And I believe in what Lilian said about spend your time doing your work, your personal project. It will be something about you and about your talent.

It is easy to criticise them “the gang”, but it is not easy to do they job here and in the same time needs to work, look for a job, send invoices, chase client and pay your bills. Everyone needs to do that and I can say that I am sure few of them doesn’t have the live that you think they have.
They are like you, me or any other person.

About some names you (jshoray) posted, I had a quick look and some of them didn’t update the reel or work in the last 2 years. So, how you want to see they work here? You follow them, but not everyone.

Peace people!


We do realise that Motionographer had no problem posting about the Radiohead/Aniboom competition, right? Or countless other music-video competitions?

As much as I agree with the war on spec work, this just seems to be the wrong target & the tone of the petition comes across as overly condescending & pious. Not all competitions are sinister in intent & after reading the brief I’m not sure that this competition is necessarily an instance where ‘more considered curation and the selection of applicants can provide better results.’.

Basically, lighten up & pick better targets.


Do not do spec. This work is a crapshoot. Sesame doesn’t realize how much time and stress is involved in design.
Companies like Pittard Sullivan went belly-up doing spec work.
I worked for a company on a major spec project, and it was painful to take their money when the producers ignored design quality and just went for bottom line.
Typical exploitation that is the trademark of NYC.
People working elsewhere, get on your knees and thank God that you do not work in motion design in this city.


Well, as the VFX Lead for The Electric Company @ Sesame Workshop I have to say a couple of things:

1.) Sesame Workshop takes very good care of its artists, collaborators and contractors, everyone is dealt with more than fairly and with a lot of, for lack of a better word, ‘love’.

2.) While I do agree with the “No spec -work” ideology… I also have to call Motionographer out on this one… you promote contests for Music Videos and other things but now you raise hackles at Sesame Workshop… one of the most benevolent Non Profits in America? Really?

3.) This contest is not for nothing… it is a contest, exactly the same thing that can be seen on CGsociety, and hundreds of other artist sites.

4.) I don’t think that Sesame shouldbe your scapegoat especially so soon after Lee Stranahan’s great letter about VFX to James Cameron… I think some might confuse the abuses and lump them together

5.) ON the flip side… Sesame has a duty to step into the 21st Century, they still have a 60’s mentality about animation, VFX and art that is something that they can and should change… and this contest could have been handled with a little more tact.

6.) I have been burned by doing spec work before… we also have a duty as artists to read the fine print… companies are in the business of making money, they are going to try and take advantage of you… that is why as artists we need to be better business people.

All of these things being said, I love the Motionographer community and I don’t believe that it is a ‘gang’ of aritsts promoting their own work… I have found several jobs, ideas, friends and contacts through Motionographer and for that I thank you…. This is a good debate, we should keep it going and come together with solutions in a truthful and constructive manner.


To me this all comes down to good work as the currency of success both on what is posted on this site and what is successful on tv.

The reason I don’t have a problem with contests like these is it gives artists who aren’t trained or already working within our industry an opportunity to get a foot in the door or make a mark, or have a driving reason to make a piece in motion if they otherwise haven’t been able to do motion work on a similar level like that before. We have seen quite a bit of music videos make debuts like this. How else are people suppose to break into an industry driven by clients asking to see work that looks like what they want if you dont have any work to start?

With a music video there is a semi abstract tone to the medium that gives it some street cred and an independent angle that makes it ok to have a DIY approach like you might get from a contest, but sesame street is a veteran brand and syndication which seems to make it more offensive of a prospect but really there is no difference.

If you dont like the prospect, dont participate and thats that. But I dont see the problem with up and comers applying themselves to something when they are starting out. Or even seasoned veterans for that matter breaking from their signature style to try something new. I am guilty of this as much as the next guy but everyones become so specialized with few exceptions, to create work based off an idea and not bartered with your accolades would be amazing!

To suggest showing examples of past work may give an artist credibility why not use a good idea as your torch that can stand on it own? If no one submits good ideas then sesame street will be left with mediocrity, but if someone submits something great they are stoked and their true enthusiasm shines through a great idea in my mind, but the choice is to them.

I agree with the double standard that appears up top, this site is great and truly the single most inspiring site for new motion work of all kinds, but if you are gonna have a problem with sesame street then there shouldnt ever be animation contest posts on this site, cuz they are all the same.

Lilian Darmono

Hey PJ,

I can’t respond to yours (and Giant VFX’s) comment about Motionographer’s ‘double standard’ in posting other animation contests here.

But I want to ask you more about what you said:
‘The reason I don’t have a problem with contests like these is it gives artists who aren’t trained or already working within our industry an opportunity to get a foot in the door or make a mark, or have a driving reason to make a piece in motion if they otherwise haven’t been able to do motion work on a similar level like that before.’

Lilian Darmono

oops–my comment got posted before I could finish typing–

my question is, pj–what do you think about the other option? As Jesse Casey put it, and I wholeheartedly agree–if you want to break into the industry, why not make your own short? If you see a particular aesthetic/style or a particular subject matter that you would love to get paid to work on, why not make something on your own, for free, initially, to get your foot in the door?

That way you’ve got absolute freedom to express yourself, and again, as Jesse put it, you’ll end up with something that you can truly own, instead of something that would probably be ‘owned by the company sponsoring the contest’….


Lilian, I think thats prob the most free and ultimately the most rewarding way to make spec work, a short of your own on your own terms with your own story (or an adapted one).

Everyone is different however. I taught an animation class to students the past few years on and off, and what I noticed is that some students can take a brief that is wide open and construct a world and story of their own, much like making a short like you suggested does. But there are some students and people that cannot for whatever reason motivate themselves to take something on from the ground up like that and need a jumping off point to get their juices flowing like some of these contests often do.

I wanted to mention this in my last post, which is your response sets me up even better for. The only real reason for a contest like this is your personal connection with what the parameters are. If you are a passionate fan of sesame street and have a clear vision you want to bring to life, then go for it. If this is just to get your work out there but you dont care either way about sesame street, you will make a bunch of work prob not win then be resentful that you did a bunch of free work.

To further my point earlier, these contests basically are only built for those ambitious enough to ignore the financial shortcomings of this scenario, and who need a starting point to push them off that creative ledge engaging themselves creatively. If anyone should have a problem with something like this, simply dont apply yourself to it.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Folks, please remember our Commenting Rules: Be civil and stay on topic. Rudeness, off-topic banter, and personal attacks on the author or other commenters will not be tolerated. In the interest of full disclosure I deleted one of jshoray’s comments which was rude, off topic and attacked me.

This is a great and healthy discussion, but let’s keep it to the topic on hand. If you have specific grievances with Motionographer please direct them to the editors at

And as always, if you’d like your work to be featured here, please send it in to As Lilian wrote, we do try to take a look at everything that comes in.


This really feels like you guys are making a mountain of out a molehill. I’m sure everyone feels the same about spec work, but this is such a poor choice in targets, that I feel like it’s compromising some of the integrity of the movement.

I’m glad GiantVFX has come forth and replied on this. And he brings up a point I wanted to mention as well: Look at the contests at They’ve been doing them for years, and have included animation in the past couple of competitions — and the results have been absolutely mindblowing. Prodigy level talents have been thrusted forth into the spotlight, and I believe one of the animation winners pieces was even featured here as a quickie once.


“The only challenge one has before admitting he had made a mistake is his own pure arrogance.”

You all work for the advertising industry, some of you did spots for Coca Cola that manipulates people their money & campaigns yet they create drinks that destroy your health, more than that, you would justify doing so by any means even though you know deep inside its wrong ethically.

You also worked for Nike, the same company that has Sweatshops all over the world , you took their dirty money and kept on being quiet.

Now Sesame street is acting just like you are, but , this time YOU ARE THE SWEATSHOP – So you moan, and whine, and make a fancy letter with the same idea repeating itself over and over.

What goes around – comes around – this is the sound – its time to get down – just remember put your name in that list and sign the petition – so you could self promote yourself in Motionographer (yes, half of you already did it) thats probably the best thing you’ll ever get out of this agenda.


oh yeh and honestly, if this was 2007 – we’d all be too busy working right now to deal with these childish issues.


Let me just say that everyone should make sure to read doe’s comment. He’s pretty spot on. Sesame Street may be high profile and it may seem like they’re selling out but they’re just doing the same shit every other company has been doing for the past five or six years. This doesn’t make it right but they’re the smallest fish in the pond and it doesn’t make sense to focus on them specifically.

Much more damaging to motion graphics are unpaid pitches and I agree that these should be the focus of our energy.

I also agree with Jesse that newbies shouldn’t rely on contests for exposure. Make a short animated film, make it your own. Most studios only care to see that you know how to make solid work, not whether you’ve worked for this or that brand. They handle the branding, you handle the execution. (at least while you’re starting out) So there’s no reason to create work that will legally be the property of a corporation when you’re done with it without getting paid.


I think saying no to design contest should be a campaign. But I never win any design contest, so if I initiate it people might think of me as sore losers, lol.

Anyway, like many have said already, this is much bigger than Sesame Street. They are just doing what even the top design Universities in the world are doing.

Thiago Maia

Worth to watch this video. We should do the same:


I have to reiterate… everyone realizes that there is a cash prize, right? It’s not for nothing.

And that all of this is directed at Sesame Workshop, a non-profit organization… one that is educating children all around the world… stepping in when countries fail at educating their kids. We have a literacy epidemic in this country and Sesame is trying to fill that gap. This anger is completely misplaced.

Sesame pays it’s artists well, better than 75% of the agencies in New York. Why are you not railing against any of the agencies, that have a track record of hiring freelancers, or small companies, using them for a few weeks to do work and then saying oops, the job went away, sorry we can’t pay you for your time and work. Or like Nickelodeon, that pays 25% of the going dayrate to awesome artists?


How do you explain Sesame Street taking ownership of all contributions so that even if you don’t win, they still own your work? They can use it in future projects without involving you and without bring any legal repercussions on themselves. Not very cool for such an ethical and philanthropic organization.

Here’s the text from the personal release for all winners AND finalists (losers):

For good and valuable consideration including participation in this program, I hereby
grant to you and your respective licensees, successors and assigns the absolute right
and permission to photograph, publish, record, broadcast, exhibit, digitize, display,
telecast, copyright, use and otherwise exploit perpetually throughout the world for all
media now or hereafter known or devised, my name, likeness, recorded voice,
performance, picture, caricature, nickname and any material furnished by me on and in
connection with the use exploitation and promotion of your television program(s) or
products connected therewith. I grant you full power to assign said rights contained
herein to anyone at your sole option.

I shall have no right of approval, no claim to compensation, and claim (including, without
limitation, claims based upon invasion of privacy, defamation, or right of publicity)
arising out of any use, alteration, distortion, or illusionary effect or use in any composite
form of my voice, picture, image or likeness.

As between us, you are the sole owner of all rights in the program recording and you rely
on my assurance that I am free lawfully to grant the right above set forth.

Jesse Casey

And this is why these contests are problematic, especially for people just getting started out that aren’t as aware of IP/ownership issues.

It’s not even something malicious that the companies that run the contests are doing. They can’t take these clauses out – they need to protect themselves in case they independently develop an idea similar to one of the contest submissions.

It’s just an inherent part of the unsolicited submission/contest model.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

It might be an inherent part of the contest model, but that doesn’t make it right. They could as easily sign a non-exclusive license for creator’s content they’d like to use or put the contest out using creative commons. This issue is exactly why we decided to call out this particular contest now.

Yes, there are other organizations out there, like the many advertising agencies who constantly ask for work on spec from design and animation studios. And there are now many, many signatories from studios on this list, who obviously feel that this is a problem in our industry. Perhaps this may snowball into calling them out as well. But the Sesame Street / Aniboom competition is an open, public contest and agency requests usually are not.


The NDA is standard legal jargon, I don’t for one second believe that Sesame intends to use a design without the consent/ payment of an artist… or they wouldn’t be giving out a CASH prize for the winners.


What, is Big Bird outside “with an eye-patch and a tin cup in the street? Fuck no!” Tell them, Harlan


They’re so cute though:


Competitions are a great way for new talent to get their names out. I think we can all agree to that.
But lets not confuse exposure through healthy competition and just plain being taken advantage of. I remember submitting work to Computer Arts Mag years back, Addy Awards, Boards and Telly awards and other numerous industry magazines and so forth. Even in my school days, I submitted photographs to Nikon who hold annual competitions. Weather they made a difference or not, I just thought it might be a way for the potential right people to get to know me.
I think those arguing that competitions are a good thing should remember that there are so many healthy organizations that hold competitions every year with the REAL intention of getting new talent’s names out there, more than you have enough work to enter.
The type of competitions we are talking about in this particular instance however, is a mere carrot being dangled in front of ambitious, young, all or nothing artists. Some Ad Agencies sometimes do this to an extent to new, small motion design companies all the time: “Just do this 60sec all 3D job for 5K and we will give you a bigger budget job next time”. Well, do you know what they do when they get a 600K job? They go to Psyop or SuperFad. In all my years working at different shops this has always been the case. Its the same equation. Dangle the carrot, there are enough people hungry and ambitious enough to do it for free.
I really appreciate all the work and talent that goes into motion graphics. I also feel really happy when I see all the work all these new young fledglings are doing. I really would like to see them paid for it. Not everyone can do it… its a talent.


I also feel quite strongly about being asked to do spec work to win the work and can definitely vouch for having been in the situation of doing the agency the favour job for peanuts on the promise of future potential and they always go to the big shop down the track when they have the money, whether it’s for the junket, the kudos of working with the bigger brand, the award chasing or simply because they can.

What bugs me a bit and why I’m only responding now….we take the high ground on this example and try to name and shame yet we are promoting a book that is celebrating work of this very nature – ‘Styleframes’ produced by Stash. I would wonder how many of the pages will feature work anyone has commissioned or paid for, how much of it was leached from false promises, pitches that went out to a variety of studios even though they knew from the outset which one was getting the gig. To me this is wrong and Stash have a cheek trying to profit from the work of people that represents the very essence of the issue we are getting on our high horses about.

Come on guys, is it just because we like Stash that we have let this slide?

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