There comes a day when, sitting for a haircut, we get a long look in the mirror and see one of our parents looking back at us. Horrified, we look away. But forced to sit in there, we steal glances; that little eyelid sag, the onset of a jowl/turkey neck combo. We're aging. Like farting in an elevator, we can't escape it and hope to God no one else notices.
So what's this have to do with animation, old man?
I'm fast approaching 40 years of working in the business. I often meet with show runners and recruiters who weren't even born when I started out. I don't have a problem with that, but I've noticed a pattern in these meetings. After some chit-chat about their new project, they'll say, "So. You worked on A Goofy Movie?" surprised to see that I'm not only still alive, but working. They gush about the film as a precious piece of their childhood. I give them a couple of anecdotes, and the meetings end on smiles and laughter.
Then I never hear from them again.
As I said, this happens over and over, leaving me to only speculate. Even though I'm a better artist than back then, it seems I've been designated as Ye Olde Guarde.
After actress Angela Landsbury died, there was an article floating around social media about how, on Murder She Wrote, she hired veteran actors who could no longer find work. "Aged out" was the term it used. But unlike athletes who actually do age out, these actors could still act. They hadn't aged out, they were shut out by the industry because they had aged. The article, and those who commented on it, missed this point entirely. They praised Ms Landsbury for doing what they saw as charity, oblivious to their own ageism.
Yes, I worked in the 20th century, on paper, with pencils. But when seemingly overnight the entire industry computerized, I made
the leap, as did most of my peers. And we keep on leaping with each new software advance. It's like a Squid Game challenge -
miss a leap and die.
Of all the prejudicial "-isms" out there, ageism is the one bias that everyone will experience if they live long enough. Yet it is the most accepted - not only in the animation industry, but in society at large. We dismiss our elders, perhaps to dismiss our own mortality.
I would warn young readers that their day of sitting at the barber's mirror will come. But who reads blogs anymore?