When dealing with media, sometimes it is difficult to overcome the feeling that, however much you may love a TV show, the only reason it exists is to make money. Sure, it might have great writing, acting, animation, but when it comes right down to it, it got produced because someone wearing a fancy suit thought a bunch of other guys wearing fancy suits could make money off of it. This feeling is even more overbearing when you consider all the TV shows you don't like—and likewise can only come up with the profit margin being the reason why anyone produced those horrible things.
But sometimes, there are shows which transcend the profit motive. It's not necessarily the case that they're good shows, but someone obviously cared a lot about it and put their absolute all in. There are details which, frankly, make no sense for the genre formula. Why bother having a superhero show that has accurate Nazi war equipment? Why write a book set in a fantasy universe with accurate descriptions of Medieval fashion? Why include hours of speech in made-up languages? Why devote hours of expensive CGI work to making the twin brothers in a corporate drama look identical? Why, when you know simply from the brand name alone a product is going to make massive moolah, bother working at all, why not just phone it in and take a long nap?
The answer to this is simple. Not all of us need money to justify effort. A lot of people are honestly just Doing It for the Art.
This trope spreads across all genres of known media—its main hallmarks are when the creator of a work is clearly putting far more effort into the project than necessary. Indeed, sometimes the amount of work being put in is a little creepy. Sure, it's a great vision and all, but does anybody need that much detail? It should be noted that this trope only really makes sense when applied to pop culture. The definition of this trope is that a work is better than one could reasonably expect, whereas one expects commitment and seriousness from culture such as literary fiction or art cinema, defined by being done for its own sweet sake, that is never expected or intended to make money. Saying Joyce went to more trouble than he needed to in the composition of Ulysses, for example, is missing the point of that kind of endeavor.
This trope often applies to niche media, since oftentimes with more popular works the creators must work with the general expectation that they need to create something better than sliced bread. Yet it also crops up more obviously in media where we generally have a set of diminished expectations—want to know why the Western Animation section is so huge? Because the Animation Age Ghetto makes the really good ones stand out more.
Now the obligatory Tropes Are Not Bad warning, or in this case Tropes Are Not Good. Doing It for the Art does not equal quality work.note If it did, then this trope would have been put in the Sugar Wiki a long time ago. Some examples here are of people who genuinely tried, but were just not talented enough—Sturgeon's Law still applies, regardless of the creator's motives. (In which case this trope would be some kind of consolation, as in, "That movie sucked, but at least they cared") Conversely, doing it for money does not equal lack of quality. A Christmas Carol was just something Dickens threw together for a quick buck. One of the greatest stories in literature was just for some easy cash. It's not the only one. Indeed, some writers' hackwork is preferred to what they regarded as important stuff, sometimes because doing it for money was the only way they let down their pretensions. Also, if somebody lets their success get to their head to the point where their "vision" hurts the quality of their work, it can quickly slide into a Protection from Editors situation. However, the romantic ideal represented by this trope can lead to a backlash against creators who are perceived to be doing something solely (or even partially) for reward, possibly by people who assume that doing something for money means you don't put your effort into it for artistic reasons as well.
In film analysis, someone who does a lot of this is called an auteur, as opposed to the metteur en scene, who is the journeyman director who makes someone else's movie. Within the artists' circle, this practice is called "Art for art's sake". Of course if it does actually make money, well that's just a perk.
The same motive appears in a far less benign (and more explosive) form in For SCIENCE.
Contrast with They Just Didn't Care and Pandering to the Base.
Contrast and compare with Money, Dear Boy, Awesome, Dear Boy, and So My Kids Can Watch.
See also The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, The Producer Thinks of Everything, Shown Their Work, Easter Egg
Also, as with Shown Their Work try to keep this from becoming Gushing About Shows You Like.
Osamu "God of Manga" Tezuka continually revised his work (and removed stories from circulation that he felt weren't up to par), created experimental works just for the hell of it, and is even said to have died saying "Please, God, let me work!" Tezuka in fact had a license to practice medicine (which would've guaranteed financial security), but turned it down because he wanted to draw comics instead. Realize that when he did this, there was no manga industry, so Tezuka was turning down a guaranteed career (as a doctor) in favor of something that could've just as easily crashed and burned.
Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Though he hated the weekly format of the manga, the Executive Meddling, and being obligated to make his work a Franchise Zombie, his works never declined in quality—in fact, it became even more complex and interesting—and he always took special care about making sure no plot holes were created.
The music of Cowboy Bebop, rather than going for the J-Pop music that's the norm for such anime, elected to go for classic jazz performed by composer Yoko Kanno and her band The Seatbelts. If you really want to be impressed, consider the fact that Jazz is not a popular art form in Japan (though Tokyo does currently have a fast-growing jazz scene, well worth checking out).
Birdy the Mighty. Especially the Decode series, which produced two series of stylish, fluid animation and engaging, sympathetic characters despite poor sales.
Gunsmith Cats actually sent its entire animation studio to Chicago to make sure they got the setting right, and instead of using stock gun noises they used recordings of each gun being used that they made themselves.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind—When Hayao Miyazaki originally pitched the idea, producers refused to risk money making a film not adapted from a current hit, so Miyazaki reluctantly made a manga out of it. Even after the Nausicaa movie was greenlit, made, and became a hit, he continued to create the manga for the next dozen years in between working on his other hit films.
Miyazaki's former boss and fellow Studio Ghibli director Isao Takahata fits this trope even more. Takahata only makes films when he wants to (to date he hasn't done anything since 1999), and tends to take subjects way out in left field whenever he does make a film. He also doesn't seem to care about targeting demographics, thus we end up with Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and Only Yesterday.
Studio Ghibli itself fits this to an extent. They have the lowest output of any major Japanese animation studio as well as by far the highest overhead (although their films usually pull in enough money to make it worth it), their production time on movies rivals Disney in length, and it took them over twenty years to regularly feature films from anyone other than the two directors that started it.note They actually tried passing the torch in the mid-90's to Yoshifumi Kondo, who directed Whisper of the Heart, but Kondo unexpectedly passed away not long after that film's release.
Ghibli was the last animation studio in Japan* other than the makers of Sazae-san to go digital and abandon traditional ink-and-paint cel animation, switching only out of necessity. Even today, they avoid Conspicuous CG as much as possible, preferring to hand-draw everything they can.
Vinland Saga. Not only did the author make it because it was always his dream to create a kickass Shonen series, he also had a deep fascination with the Vikings and wanted to make something that portrayed them as they were, more than just killers and thugs. He even went on a trip to Iceland to research Viking Culture in greater detail, to give his artwork that authentic tinge, and it shows.
ARIA. The detail that goes into the buildings, geography and events is truly staggering. Also, the anime production team traveled to Venice every time they started a new season—even for the one episode OVA! And if that weren't enough, there's also large amount of high quality music by names like Eri Kawai, Senoo and Choro Club.
Mahou Sensei Negima!. The Omake from the compiled volumes shows just how much work Ken Akamatsu put into the backgrounds alone, even enormous hand-drawn crowd scenes. This includes creating a fully rendered CG tower for the Kyoto arc, even though it only appear a few times in the extreme background. And the surprisingly good Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit for the spells, complete with accurate mythological references. The bonus material includes many a Wall of Text explaining the languages and mythological beings that are mentioned. There's also a metric buttload of Shout Outs, including cameos by various anime and Video Game characters in the aforementioned background scenes. He's very thorough; way more so than was necessary.
Thorough to the point that the Omake of volume 9 contains the full mechanical specs of Takamichi's car. Said car appears for one frame and is never seen again.
Speaking of the mangaka himself, Akamatsu's efforts to legitimize (or "purify") scanlations and "piracy" with his own online manga service speaks much of his dedication to both the art and readers.
The manga version of Genshiken features very intricate and detailed backgrounds, and references to real media to go with the otaku theme of the series. Example: "The Champ of Fighters" = The King of Fighters
Say what you will about the pacing, but 110 OVA episodes of Legend of Galactic Heroes would not be possible without the enthusiasm (read: obsession) of the original novelist, Yoshiki Tanaka.
This video demonstrates the amount of detail the animators of Durarara!! went through in order to ensure that every detail of their fictional Ikebukuro would mimic almost every aspect of its Real Life counterpart.
Giant Robo The Animation: The Day the Earth Stood Still was made over a period of nearly 6 years, ran massively over budget, and the finale was practically financed out of the production staff's own pockets. And it was worth it.
All for a series which was already deemed a commercial failure by the third of its seven episodes. The team kept plugging away at it anyhow. While it went unloved in its homeland, it was a big hit in North America, and is considered a classic among English-speaking fans.
This is one of the defining traits of Imagawa. Giant Robo and Shin Mazinger are both incredible stories that tanked in Japan, and ''G Gundam would have been a shameless set of 22-minute toy commercials had he not held his ground.
In the infamous Endless Eight episodes of the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, each episode is animated from scratch, despite the plot and dialogue of each being nearly identical. The voice actors even claim that they did eight recordings.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. You do not get much more committed to a work than when your director dies partway through, causing a series that could really be wrapped up in just three months to drag of for three years and keep going at it and refusing to let any of that lessen the quality. To say nothing about the realistic nature in which it was portrayed.
Mamoru Oshii, who is known for making bizarre, off-kilter films notorious for being disorientingly complex and EXTREMELY contemplative. He became enmeshed in disputes over "artistic differences" in his FIRST PROJECT, and since then has never made a movie that was about anything other than what he damn well felt like (which makes his latest endeavor all the more baffling...).
When Oshii set out to do The Sky Crawlers, he and his crew traveled to Ireland and Poland where the movie is set to photograph not only the scenery or buildings, but also radiators, electric sockets and window frames to get everything to look authentic.
Katsuhiro Otomo. AKIRA is obsessively, painstakingly detailed like you wouldn't believe, and is known as the epic manga for a reason. The film is this way too.
Even though he was working for several studios in California at the time, Crispin Freeman decided to play the role of Zelgadis again for the Slayers Premium movie (all of the franchises' movies were licensed by Texas-based ADV Films, whereas NYC-based Central Park Media had recorded the television series, hence a different voice cast), going to Texas on his own dime. Slayers Premium is only half an hour long and Zelgadis only has about twelve lines total.
Taken even further when he does a twenty-minute commentary on the series.
Anime dubbing in general tends to be like this. Ask any voice actor in a convention. They'll tell you that anime voice acting is the lowest paying work in the industry and is also one of the hardest (due to the processes involved). They suggest that while the issue of money (and lesser extent, unions) should not be ignored, they advise aspiring new voice actors to do anime voice work just because you like it, not in for the money.
This trope is one of the reasons why certain VA's normally based in LA (or, more rarely, NYC) are willing to work with FUNimation (which is located in Fort Worth, Texas) in the first place, being that it's a Right-To-Work State, thus cheaper prices and in general a more open environment compared to LA and NYC (One of the advantages is that you can actually call up the company doing the casting auditions and have your name put on a list. Then, on audition day you go there and take your shot in person).
Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto. No, really. Reading the personal history segments he puts into the volumes reveals just how much he loves being a mangaka, and how much effort he put into getting to that point. And the biggest reason he came this far is For the Art, his love of drawing is what convinced him to be a mangaka in the first place.
Tite Kubo, creator of Bleach. Much like Oda and Kishimoto, he loves his work as a mangaka. He has stated that he draws and writes what he loves, and that to write something he did not like would be a sin. His foreword in Volume 55 is proof of this, where he stated that the entire story of Bleach was done for the sake of the Final Arc, a final arc he had been drafting and preparing for the past five years. Call him whatever you want, but this is a man who writes what he loves.
The attention Hidekaz Himaruya puts to both his works and audience says a lot about his dedication, whether it's in the research or his sincere appreciation for the fandom's support even during the 2011 earthquake.
And if this recent Q&A blog post is anything to go by, he's also notably open in letting his fans have their way with his work, including scanlations.
Koichi Mashimo founded his own studio, Bee Train, just for this. After a lengthy hospital stay from a skiing accident, he formed his own company to nurture the creative talent of it's staff and not be driven just for profit.
Animation-wise, the entireanime genre is this, compared with Western Animation in the U.S. and Canada: while in the former countries, traditional animation is a dying breed and CGI animation is becoming more and more common, Japanese animators are notorious for sticking to their guns and still using traditional animation. There's a few Japanese CGI films and series, but most of the time are experimental works and never intended for being used for replacing traditional animation as a whole.
In Japan, CGI animation is normally restricted for animating non-living stuff, like vehicles, ships, robots, etc. And sometimes, some animation studios like Sunrise are notorious for never using CGI in some series, like Gundam, when the titular machines are always being traditionally animated and never being rendered in CGI, with some few exceptions.
Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark is probably the crowning example. Sim spent a quarter of a century working so hard that his marriage broke up and he spent time in an asylum.
Mark Waid's Kingdom Come is oozing with DC comic book lore, symbolism and biblical references among other things.
Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is just dripping with cultural references. Actually, most of what Alan Moore does belongs here—Watchmen was originally just supposed to be an integration of newly acquired trademarks into the DC Universe, but Moore just didn't know when to quit.
Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. It introduces multiple new characters with their own backstories and speech patterns practically every arc as well as tying them into later stories. It's dripping with symbolism, historical and mythological references (a lot of which most readers wouldn't notice). That's just the writing. The art is equally full of things that they didn't NEED to do but did anyway.
The cover for the third issue of JLA/Avengers. They could have simply put a generic cover with a dozen characters doing something vaguely heroic, but instead decided to draw every character who had, to that date, been a member of either team, no matter for how short, including staff, reservist and honorary members. EVERY! ONE! OF! THEM!◊ Kurt Busiek meticulously researched the history of both teams to compile a list of 208 characters for George Perez to draw, making a beautiful piece of art and every geek in comicdom happy.
George Perez does this all the time. For Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marv Wolfman told him to draw a cover with Lex Luthor, Joker, Brainiac, and maybe a few others if he felt like it. When Wolfman got Perez's cover, he discovered Perez drew every goddamn villain he could think of. Perez REALLY likes what he does apparently.
When Fabian Nicieza was writing Nomad (a Captain America spinoff that ran from 1992 to 1994), he wanted it to be more mature than your average Marvel comic book. Not only that, but he said straight out that he wished to sell Nomad to the same audience that read Sandman.
The Alternative Comics publisher Fantagraphics can certainly qualify, releasing over 100 titles a year ranging from more popular examples like Love And Rockets to more esoteric examples like ”Abstract Comics: The Anthology”. All edited and released by a staff of Twenty. And they’ve managed to stay in business since 1976. For example, when they faced a cash shortage due to co-founder Kim Thompson’s Author Existence Failure, their Kickstarter campaign to make back the money to release the titles was funded in FOUR DAYS because they just built up that much goodwill in the comic community over the years.
Along with the praise and encouragement they'll hopefully get from readers, this is a prime motivation of many fanfic writers, as they're unlikely to get any financial rewards for their efforts. However, the only reason fanfic is allowed to exist by the copyright holders in the first place is that there is no money being made by the fan artists. The instant a dollar gets exchanged, it could land the fanfic writer in court. Even doing this for free might land them in a lawsuit.
Kalash93 of fimfic produces three kinds of stories. He writes some for attention, some at the request of others, but most of his are written purely because that's the story he wants to tell, damnit.
The Crimson Badger, the first book of The Urthblood Saga, is a good example. This monumental Redwall fic of 87 chapters and 400,000 words was mostly written in the late nineties before the author had ever heard of the Fan Fiction community, and was convinced that no one but himself would ever read it.
The Lord of the Rings and all related books written by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's no exaggeration to say that the saga represents his total life's work note Well, slightly, considering that Tolkien also was the youngest ever professor at the University of Leeds, was a Professor at Oxford (twice), spoke twelve languages, and wrote the best Modern English translation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and an academic critique of Beowulf which completely transformed perception of Old English literature. It's just that detailed. And to think that the entire world, complete with intricate mythology, fleshed-out characters and delightful poetry served one purpose: to serve as backdrop for the out-of-whole-cloth-created languages that the English professor had constructed. Boggles the mind, it does.
The original publishers count as well, deserving credit for backing a work of genius even though they thought they might lose money on it. (The first print run, 3,500 copies, sold out within six weeks.)
L.E. Modesitt's Saga of Recluce fantasy series also uses highly detailed and accurate descriptions of mundane activities such as woodworking and blacksmithing. Such details are used as metaphors for and illustrations of both character development and the mechanics of magic in his world.
Gustave Flaubert wrote only three completed novels during his life due to being the perfectionist's perfectionist. Besides his famously agonising search for le mot juste—'the correct word', or the exact word(s) needed to produce the effect he wanted in any given scene—he went and scrupulously checked every fact (down to attending medical examinations to ensure his medical histories were correct).
Similar to the examples above, Dune contains a sprawling universe adorned with myriad details and complicated histories, economics, and ecology. Frank Herbert loved to show his work.
Many Science Fiction writers do this. There are stories of Heinlein sitting at his kitchen table with a sliderule, pencil and graph paper trying to work out how fast his spaceships would be moving and how much fuel they would need.
Luigi Serafini's enigmatic Codex Seraphinianus. Twenty some years agone and still nobody can figure out the language. Great art though.
The Harry Potter books. Before the first book came out, J. K. Rowling spent seven years World Building and planning out the six sequels she had already planned to write. And for much of this time, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. She turned down various offers for the movie rights and only relented when Warner Bros. agreed to her conditions, which included following her storyline and averting the Fake Brit trope. And like Chuck Jones, she has been quoted as saying she didn't actually have children in mind when she wrote the series and was really just entertaining herself.
The success of the Harry Potter franchise has made her rich enough to never have to write another book in her life...not that that's stoppingher.
Cormac McCarthy certainly seems to take this view towards his career. Though he has always been critically acclaimed, his audience has expanded significantly since he started out, growing from just a few thousand readers to millions of them—but in spite of this, he claims that he'd be just as happy if he'd stayed relatively unknown, and that getting the chance to write is its own reward.
"Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."
It went so far that he let Warner Brothers give him a percent of the net rather than the gross. Hollywood Accounting at it's best, he's not upset despite the 'billion dollar' it's made for WB with him seeing almost nothing off DVD sales.
Which turned out to not only have been Crazy-Prepared, but Properly Paranoid, since the actress playing Talia Winters got written off the show when she felt her character wasn't getting enough airtime.
JMS put so much thought into how Starfuries would work (placement of thrusters for maximum maneuverability, the pilot stands to lower his center of gravity, et cetera) that JPL, who were big fans of the show, asked if they could use his basic design to build vehicles for construction in space. JMS said they could, on the condition that they're called Starfuries.
He had the storyline so thoroughly plotted out ahead of time that he refused to let actors ad-lib their lines, for fear it might cause discontinuity, or wreck a bit of Foreshadowing, etc.
Sherlock was originally created because writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were gigantic fans of Sherlock Holmes and frequently discussed what a modern adaptation of the books would be like. They did not expect it to become popular and actually had a very small promoting budget during the first series.
The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Twilight" features a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' opening scene of the Earth being blown up. Originally it was simply going to be the Earth blowing up like planets in Star Wars, one minute it's there, next minute, fireball. The effects supervisors just weren't happy with that and so they came in on their days off and re-did it to the final product. Now, you actually see the oceans boil and fault lines actually crack, as if the Earth spontaneously combusts into dust. When asked who authorized the extra work and why, they said they did it for free. Just because.
Both The Wire and Damages apparently have this as their motive for existing. Neither were major successes with the public, and both are unapologetic in the extreme for what they are.
Day Break seemed to have been this. Unusual for a TV show, the entire season was written out and filmed as a whole like a movie and then broken up into 13 episodes, allowing for a great deal of continuity and tricks that might have otherwise been difficult or even impossible to do.
The Muppet Show always had Jim Henson and company going that extra mile for the series, but the Harry Belafonte episode really counts; Belafonte insisted on an especially meaningful closing number and Henson was game. The end result is the number, "Turn The World Around," which features specially-built Muppets based on actual tribal masks. It's a profoundly moving, spiritual performance that Henson always felt was the finest of the series. In fact, Henson liked the song so much that when he passed away in 1990, his family requested that Belafonte perform the song again at Henson's funeral.
Patrick McGoohan was, at one point, the highest paid star on TV. That he turned down both The Saint and James Bond and the millions he might have earned for another series of Danger Man in order to make The Prisoner speaks volumes. He also made sure that he supervised every element of the show, often rewriting and reshooting segments (when he wasn't the credited writer or director that is), all in order to make a highly personal statement about the nature of freedom.
Chris Morris is known for the lengths he will go to to achieve his effects and his sheer guts and bravery (even memorably mocking drug dealers to their faces). His agent has commented that she doesn't tell Chris what his fee will be for any one programme...because he's likely to negotiate it away to pay for extra filming.
Frank Herbert's Children of Dune has the song "Inama Nushif", which is sung entirely in the Fremen language.
"Unreal. Brian [Tyler] actually searched through Herbert's books and deciphered enough of the fictional Fremen language to write this powerful song. A song that drives my favorite moment of the film."—Director Greg Yaitanes.
The lead actors of Emergency!, Randy Mantooth and Kevin Tighe, went through the paramedic training of the Los Angeles County Fire Department at the time in order to accurately portray their roles. Had they not skipped the final exam, they would've been fully certified paramedics.
In general, anyone who makes machinima could be said to be doing it for the art, since the medium is generally chosen based on a fascination with said medium.
Rooster Teeth—before they even begin to write a series, they study and pull apart the game they use, sometimes for months beforehand, as they did with Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction and Halo 3.
Halo fan Phillip Kang worked on his machinima film, Halo: Eye of the Storm for two years before finally releasing it, with each shot taking approximately 5 hours to capture, due to having to replay the same campaign stage over and over to try and make each shot as perfect as it could be, due to not being able to control the AI.
Darren Hayes collaborated with Robert Conley for a secret experimental album released under the pseudonym "We Are Smug". This album was created after leaving Columbia Music and being an independent artist, and sits between "The Tension and The Spark" (his last album with Columbia, where he started to play with electronica) and "This Delicate Thing We've Made", his first independent album that is itself an example of Doing It for the Art. The album was originally released online for free for one day - 8 May 2009, his birthday - and is now available on Amazon and iTunes.
Frank Zappa made music for his own amusement, but managed to have a successful career because he was so hardworking and labels supported him. He was neither a rock star or an avant-garde jazz composer, he was just himself.
Within the punk community, Ian MacKaye and his band, Fugazi, became practically legends for this. During the 90s, when Alternative Rock was exploding into the mainstream, they refused many a contract from major labels, preferring to stay on their own indie label, Dischord, and thus retain their creative freedom. Some of the labels even offered to buy Dischord, but that was never an option, either. That's not all: you might expect a band that makes it a point of ethics to only play shows for $5 to go broke quickly, but because their shows sold so well and they toured so rigorously (especially in the early 90s), Fugazi was one of the few indie bands of the era to be consistently profitable, meaning they managed to be both commercially and artistically viable, and they did it all their own way.
Obscure bands, especially in extreme metal circles. A piece by a tech metal band has a groove, riff or time signature change once every 10 seconds or so. They also have songs that last about 8 minutes. And they don't make much money, as they have fans numbering in the thousands.
OK Go is rather well known for this, with their humble YouTube roots and quirky but awesome music videos. In their "This Too Shall Pass" music video, they had what is arguable one of the longest running and most complex Rube Goldberg machineEVER. They also flat out refuse to work with sponsors that attempt to exert creative control, which is why the aforementioned music video is sponsored by State Farm.
This is, arguably, the entire reason Gorillaz was conceived. The creators Jamie and Damon were sick of watching over-sensationalized, shallow performers on MTV, so they invented a fictional band as an experiment to break down the sarcomata.
Jack Conte, working by himself or in Pomplamoose, is clearly devoted to the art of the videosong. While he is recording himself singing or playing, he simultaneously runs a video camera and makes videos entirely made of studio footage.
Mago de Oz' leader Txus Di Fellatio had a contract to play for the Real Madrid but at the last moment he declined and formed the mentioned band, and he's a drumer not because he likes the drums (he hates them) but because he can't play anything else nor sing and his two options where to be a drumer or no not make a band.
Vanessa Carlton. Her music has a lot of classical influences, thanks to her mother's piano lessons and her father's love for 1970s rock. Every song is a labor of love for her.
Back before They Might Be Giants were, indeed, giants of the alternative rock world, they had the Dial-A-Song program, whereby you could just phone John Flansburgh's answering machine and hear a song that they'd recorded for fun.
It lasted well into their popularity and the new millennium, still at their local Brooklyn number. "Always busy, always broken" and "Free when you call from work" were its slogans.
Whilst music videos are generally made for publicity, several music video directors (such as Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry) see it as a medium without the narrative restrictions of film. And sometimes, doing it for the art works in favor of promotion.
Remember The White Stripes' video for "Fell in Love With a Girl"? Michel Gondry actually filmed the band members, then converted the footage to pixels all before using stop-motion lego to create the thing.
Rush's third album, Caress of Steel, left their continued existence in doubt with the relatively poor sales of their odd concept album, including a pair of multi-part epics, was pressured by their label into making a commercial, mainstream album that played it safe and ensured that they would stay afloat. Figuring that they may as well go out with style, they released 2112, half of which was dominated by the title 20 minute, 7-part epic song; the polar opposite of what their label demanded. When the prog rock concept album managed to propel Rush to mainstream stardom, they were allowed to do whatever they wanted. More than one huge song followed, with "Camera Eye" on Moving Pictures being their final inordinately long song.
While the results of her efforts are universally regarded as awful, there's no doubt Jan Terri qualifies for this trope. She had no budget (or talent) but goddammit, she made those videos anyway.
The KLF didn't want anyone to think that their commercial success was a compromise of their ideals, so after The White Room album was released they announced their retirement from music (by terrorising the Brit Awards with a machinegun full of blanks) and then went on to erase all the material for their unreleased Black Room and remove their entire back catalogue from sale. Then, just to make sure their message was crystal clear, they burned a million pounds.
Charles Ives was a successful insurance executive, so in his musical pursuits in his spare time, he composed to please only himself, not patrons or critics. As a result, his music was wildly original. "Iconoclastic" is the standard adjective used to describe Ives. Many of his most famous works were not performed until decades after they were composed.
Robert Fripp. He's dissolved his group, King Crimson, on multiple occasions just as they were about to make it big, only to bring it back with an entirely new sound. Fripp has frequently stated to the effect that aiming for success would be anemic to the music.
Art-pop duo Pepe Deluxé delayed the completion of their album Queen of the Wave, because one song, "In the Cave", was composed specifically to be performed on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which was undergoing extensive repairs at the time. They waited six years for the organ to become playable again; the song they played on it was two minutes long.
Doors singer Jim Morrison was said to be this. When he found out the rest of the band allowed car company Buick to use "Light My Fire" in a commercial, Morrison was furious and threatened to trash one of Buick's cars on television in protest if the commercial aired nationwide.
Buckethead seems to be doing this. His music has never been mainstream, although he did once get more fame being temporarily in Guns N' Roses. None of his albums are widely popular, however, and he's more well known as an underground musician. He also seems to compose whatever he likes, without regard to fan demand or getting more sales and a wider audience.
Emileigh Rohn, the woman behind Chiasm. Despite being busy as a molecular biologist, she still tries to find time to compose and release an album, even if it takes her years.
You wanna talk about doing it for the art? Look no further than Tool's album Lateralus. The entire album is just a cascade of talent and effort, and every song is in and of itself a work of genius. It's most obvious with the title track, which is about the Fibonacci sequence. Yeah, the Fibonacci sequence.
Any Brony music counts as this. Many artists like So Great And Powerful, The Living Tombstone, Grottomatic, Sherclop Ponies, and Wooden Toaster let people download their songs for free.
British drummer Bill Bruford has been known to leave or dismantle often very successful projects, including those connected with his solo career, if he feels the music has become creatively stagnant or uninspiring, unhealthy or from the get-go, felt a different career path would challenge him or inspire him, or the project has reached a peak and could only repeat its formula with diminishing returns. He caused a lot of controversy in 1972 by leaving Yes (after a huge buyout of his contract) at the height of their artistic and commercial success, just after recording Close To The Edge, to join King Crimson in time to record and tour behind Larks Tongue In Aspic, and his interests in jazz-influenced improvisation led him and Allan Holdsworth to leave the Supergroup UK to form jazz-fusion group Bruford, reputedly because the other members insisted Holdsworth and Bruford play their parts just like they did on the record.
In the mid-1940s, when the cast album of Oklahoma! became a hit, every major record company in America started to bid for the rights to record original cast albums of Broadway musicals. Under producer Goddard Lieberson, CBS not only recorded the musicals that were big hits or near-hits, but also recreated on LP many musicals dating as far back as the 1920s. Ethan Mordden called Street Scene "the first Absolutely Guaranteed Flop to get an album"; though its operatic score had to be heavily abridged to fit on twelve-inch 78's, such technological limitations no longer applied to The Most Happy Fella, whose expansive score was recorded with nearly all the dialogue on 3 LPs. Anyone Can Whistle had already ended its one-week Broadway run, but Lieberson nevertheless chose to record the original cast album, which helped give Angela Lansbury the opportunity to play her Star-Making Role in Mame.
Calvin and Hobbes became known (later on, at least) for the high degree of realism and accuracy in its occasional depiction of dinosaurs. Bill Watterson also insisted on doing the inking himself, and many of the Sunday strips were done in watercolors. Also, he stopped the comic's run once he ran out of ideas, to stop it from becoming a Franchise Zombie. And there is no official merchandising, either.
Furthermore, Watterson took a year-long sabbatical from drawing the comic at the height of its popularity, due to artistic differences with his publisher. He only came back on the condition that he'd have a reserved block of space for the Sunday comic, instead of the usual modular format that allows individual newspapers to rearrange the panels as they see fit.
Peanuts: One man, doing all the writing, drawing, and inking, for fifty years, only stopping when he was too ill to continue (by which we mean that he died the day after he retired).
And not only the comics—Schultz was also pretty involved with the TV specials and movies, especially the original Christmas special.
John Popadiuk, full stop. The decline of Arcade Games and arcade pinballs in the end of the 20th century have sent pinball designers either consolidating into the few remaining companies or moving on to other fields. But not John Popadiuk, who not only continues to dedicate himself to keeping the spirit of American Pinball alive, he's also started his own studio for creating hand-made custom tables for a truly devoted audience. His first table, Magic Girl, took over two years to create and had a production run of only thirteen tables... all of which were pre-sold, sight unseen, for $15,995 each.
WhizBang Pinball, formed by veteran pinball developers Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres. Their first game, Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons, is a Retraux electro-mechanical pin, taking two years to produce four tables that resemble stacks of wooden creates. They've since released their plans and artwork to the pinball community, encouraging fans to make their own machines, and are looking at teaming up with Stern Pinball for a limited run to meet the demand of die-hard collectors.
Pro Wrestler Jim Fullington, better known as the Sandman. Has been independently wealthy for more than a decade, and still goes out most every night and gets the living hell knocked out of him due to love of the "sport," and his love for the fans.
Forge World, a company that makes high-end models for Warhammer 40,000. They not only make special tanks and variations, including the always-favorite Super-Heavy Tanks, Flyers, and wallet-rapingTitans, but will also do shuttles and support vehicles that have little to no actual combat value, and about half a dozen "pattern" conversion kits, which are sets to make your standard tanks look just a little different. These guys just love making tanks for the Imperial Guard (and to a lesser extent, the other factions as well).
One could also argue that it's actually the people buying the kits who are in it for the art, and Forge World themselves are just exploiting a market that is willing to pay a lot of money for their models. Or they are one and the same.
Take a look at a card from the Yu-Gi-Oh! CCG. Then another. And another. Chances are, you'll see familiar monsters popping up in the artwork of each other's cards, or spell or trap cards that might not even apply to them. Look at enough of them, and you'll notice a pattern...a pattern that tells a story...a story that is much deeper and involved than you'd ever expect from a mere card games. The card game's wiki does its darndest to chronicle these stories, which includes knights falling into corruption (or salvation), Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, survival in an Alternate Universe, and a battle for control of Hell itself.
Magic: The Gathering. Forget the elaborate World Building. Forget the year of playtesting put into each of the quarterly sets. Forget that nearly every set has a unique identity without resorting to cheap gimmicks. The true sign that Magic is Done For The Art is the official web site. The "Daily MTG" section alone is around half a million words a year of behind the scenes insight, pointing out easter eggs, All There in the Manual, strategic advice, tournament coverage, and previews of upcoming releases, with little if any Phoning It In.
The amount of detail that went into Unglued and Unhinged is staggering. There are jokes on top of jokes on top of jokes. This article details a bunch of jokes that you would never notice in the finished product. The most mind-boggling is a canned ham, a fake tie-in product that appears as a thumbnail on the booster box, which is covered in jokes that are too small to read on said box.
Think of all the math and story details that go into your favorite tabletop roleplaying games. Now remember that anyone who can come up with those game mechanics or that setting does so knowing fully well that they'll not only never get rich off of it, they'll probably not be able to afford to do it for long.
Tarn "Toady One" Adams, is the sole developer (his brother Zach helps plan and design gameplay elements) of Dwarf Fortress, an insanely complicated and detailed sim game. In an interview with the New York Times, he described it as his "life's work" and that it's entirely likely that it could be a full twenty years from now before he releases what he would consider v1.0. He has reportedly turned down six- and seven-figure deals to license just the name because he doesn't want it to detract from his creation.
Tom Siddell sprinkles Gunnerkrigg Court with surprisingly accurate references to subjects like mythology and Medieval western martial arts, though it's unclear how many are simply subjects he was already interested in. However, it is known that Tom researched lock picking specifically for the comic. He even bought a set of lockpicks, because he wanted to depict it accurately, even though the subject has only come up on twopages.
When Sluggy Freelance began, it followed the standard four-panel, black-and-white format of newspaper comics, complete with the triple-sized, full color strip on Sundays. As the years went by, Pete Abrams began using color a lot more frequently, as well as often doing several strips each week that were double, triple, or even quadruple the normal size. All while sticking to a daily update schedule. Compare a week's worth of strips from early in the series to a week of strips from the "That Which Redeems" arc.
All the works by David Morgan-Mar and The Comic Irregulars. Attention Deficit Creator Disorder crammed with massive references and explanations needed to just make a pun work, yet free of Schedule Slip and they are doing it as a hobby! That's something you don't get to see often. Since he's using copyrighted material, there are no ads or merchandise funding the site hosting. It all comes out of his own pocket. Even now when DMM has ads and merchandise for mezzacotta, he intends to make zero profit and give all the money earned to charity.
Girl Genius as well. Just take one look at the comic, from the amount of detail in the backgrounds to the thought put into even the most minor characters, and it becomes pretty clear that the Foglios have been working up to this their entire lives.
FreakAngels, a webcomic produced by acclaimed comic writer Warren Ellis and drawn and inked by Paul Duffield. They turn out six full-colour, elaborately detailed pages (which can consist of anywhere between three and six panels each), all at once, every week. The only time they take a break from their schedule besides holidays is to let Duffield have a brief rest from the strain of producing that much quality artwork on a regular basis (and such breaks are only for a week).
David Herbert has said that he doesn't care if his comics don't make much, as long as he can pay the artists for their hard work. Other than that, if he never made a cent from them, he'd still be happy.
He's actually losing money from the advertising and production of Gemini Storm and with only just over a thousand Living with Insanity readers and no merchandise, it's unlikely he'll make the money back any time soon. And yet LWI is still going, Gemini Storm is getting a second issue, and he apparently has some other projects coming soon.
Hussie himselfonce said that to most people, even if they make no money from it, stuff like this is a job to them, whereas for him MSPA is a lifestyle, and he spends the majority of every day working on it; even though most of it is planning, that's still a ridiculous amount of dedication.
Harvey Morenstein can't be making much money from this gig so far, so given how expensive buying five different birds for one meal must be, it'd almost have to be this.
Homestar Runner. It was quite some time before the creators realized that they could make a penny out of it, and it was done as a labor of love. Now, they make enough money off of merchandising for it to be their entire livelihood.
After it started picking up steam, The Brothers Chaps were offered, multiple times, TV shows and movie deals for Homestar Runner. Each time, they've said no. The closest they've come is the Tell Tale games, all of which have either Mike or both Chaps working with Tell Tale extensively on lines and story.
Similarly, JIM, the creator behind the Neurotically Yours series, was offered several times to have his creation put on TV shows or on a more broadcasted network on the Internet. JIM had turned down every single offer purely because every contract he read over had something in it that meant he would have less control over his creations and he didn't want to have his characters changed beyond his control.
Marble Hornets was made on about a total of $500, which is about enough to buy a camera, Sony Vegas, and a suit. It's made by Something Awful goons balancing schooling and living on part time jobs, using only weekends and time off to shoot. Troy has personally been offered TV and film deals, only to turn them down because the Internet is more fitting.
There's definitely plenty of Author Appeal in the Whateley Universe, but this is a universe, crafted by a group of authors, built so the 'just bugs me' moments of most comic books are handled, with incredible attention to detail everywhere. Over a hundred stories, dozens of full-length novels, and it's all free on a website.
Consider the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. For over ten years it did everything the Whateley Universe does in terms of addressing all the problems with standard comic book stories, had even more attention to detail, contained nearly ten thousand characters, each with detailed, in-depth back-stories and artwork...and the overwhelming majority of this was created by one person (Jack Butler, creator of the original Evil Overlord List, whose only reward for his efforts was a divorce, a heart attack, bankruptcy, and the satisfaction of a job very well done).
BrainScratch Commentaries are a group of people that do commentaries over numerous video games. Each member always records their game footage off a video card or capture device to get the best quality out of their videos and to have their footage look legit when playing off the actual video game console rather than using emulators or shaky cameras. The only time the crew uses emulators is when they can't get a physical copy of the game or their recording glitches out.
Man at Arms is a show where a Hollywood blacksmith makes replicas of various fictional swords. In a recent episode, he imported over a thousand dollars worth of material from Argentina so he could make Sokka's Space Sword out of actual meteorites.
Hanna-Barbera was still able to make beautifully drawn cartoons (thanks to Ed Benedict's brilliant character designs) and colorful backgrounds despite a low budget. Had they not use their budget wisely, they would have made their cartoons ugly like Filmation (a studio which had both a low budget and awful animation.)
The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi. He turned down the offer he got from DreamWorks Animation to pitch a movie, due to the ridiculous way they treated him and attempted to manipulate his ideas. He was also so insistant on keeping the original content of his cartoons in, he purposefully slowed down production of The Ren & Stimpy Show so the censors would have less time to go over them. It worked, but ultimately got him fired. (Needless to say, the Spumco staff is generally Doing It for the Art — after John K was kicked out, the majority of the crew left alongside him). The unbelieveably high quality of Spumco productions (with John K's rule to never draw the same expression twice) is not unheard of either — especially that all of it is done for TV. However, as evidenced by this blog post of John K's, it's also quite evident the economical thinking is not absent.
Every shot of The Boondocks has detail unheard of even for anime. Thus, Aaron McGruder has produced only 3 seasons in 5 years.
The same can be said for The Venture Bros., though the detail isn't nearly the same. What also deserves mentioning is that while most shows have a significant staff of writers, every episode but one was written by creator Jackson Publick and/or Doc Hammer.
Another example from The Venture Bros.; Publick and Hammer, during the long hiatus between seasons one and two had worked out exactly how to open the show, seeing as Both Hank and Dean were dead. A montage, set to the song "Everybody's Free" by Aquagen and Rozalla. The problem was, to license it would cost a seventh of the budget—not for that episode, the entire second season. To which the creators said "Worth It."
The DCAU team has always had high expectations of themselves, but they really outdid themselves in Justice League Unlimited. They animated nearly every single hero and villain in the DC Universe, most of whom are not well known and very few of whom even have lines. But the lengths they did to are even more well illustrated in the episode "The Savage Time", where for no reason whatsoever, they have very accurately drawn Tiger Tanks. How many people watching the show are even going to notice the tanks? How many can even tell that they actually did the research? They can, and apparently that's all that mattered.
It wasn't just the Tigers in "The Savage Time"; though the detail's not great, the soldiers Jon Stewart is with are carrying appropriate weapons (M1 Garand, Thompson SMG, M1918 BAR), and Savage's car in the movie is similarly underdetailed, but unmistakably a closed-top Mercedes-Benz 700k. The German soldiers carry MP40s at one point. The fire rate for weapons are off, certainly, and no one reloads, but Rule of Cool factors into that. Plus, they put some effort into it; I mean, how many people pay attention to a freaking staff car?
While outside of the DCAU, Batman: The Brave and the Bold demonstrates the same attention to detail as the DCAU producers, writers and animators. Every single episode is jam packed with references big and small to the DCU's history, either in the form of characters who vanished after the Silver Age (or in at least one case, only appeared in a single issue!) or storylines or even panels. An episode featuring the first full apperance of Superman is chock full of these, referencing everything from Superdickery to the Christopher Reeve films to Superman: The Animated Series to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It's this clear love of the character and the DCU that has made a show that could have been a disaster into a show that is widely adored by comic fans.
For Avatar: The Last Airbender , the creators flew all over the world to find inspiration and art references for architecture and landscaping, studied martial arts in order to create realistic combat sequences, and hired someone with a PhD so that all the Classical Chinese ideographs seen in the series would be accurate. They also hired consultants for these things.
The background posters that Sokka walked past one episode were seen for less than ten seconds, yet they still included a realistic poster for a theatre company (foreshadowing for another episode), and a poster for an town meeting about air quality (referencing the industrialized Fire Nation) and all the gambling being done on the streets. All in archaic Chinese.
The creators of ReBoot had a lot of risk involved with their project. They predated the Toy StoryPixar CGI revolution by a full year. It was an untested medium and the equipment to do it was not cheap. On top of that all the voice-acting, writing, directing and music was done in the same studio, instead of being farmed out to different companies like most shows. The results were a really tight story with great voice acting and animation that was groundbreaking.
The artists who worked on Mighty Orbots, produced in the 1980s, actually studied classical and Japanese animation in order to be the best they could be. Notable mainly because of the Animation Age Ghetto. When you could get away with stuff like Pac-Man, GoBots, or The Care Bears, studying classic film for inspiration is, well, a little weird.
As seen by Chuck Jones' quote on the quote page, the animators at the "Termite Terrace" studio producing the Looney Tunes shorts for Warner Bros. between the mid-1930s and 1946. Helping the anarchistic spirit along were a succession of humorless bosses that more or less invited open rebellion. Founder Schlessinger won unwitting immortality as the inspiration for Daffy Duck's trademark lisp ("You're dethpicable!"). The Warner Bros. themselves really didn't know or care what was going on in their animation unit, leaving hands-on oversight to bean counter Eddie Selzer. Recounting the genesis of the classic "Bully For Bugs", Jones recalled the day Selzer showed up at his door as he and writer Mike Maltese were hashing out story ideas, and bellowed: "I don't want any pictures about bullfights! Bullfights aren't funny!" Then Selzer marched off, leaving his dumbfounded staff staring at each other. "Well," Maltese said, "Eddie's never been right yet..."
Jones explained that What's Opera, Doc? took several months longer to make than their usual cartoons (it featured a hundred-odd separate scene cuts) and his staff fudged their paycheck records, billing the extra time onto quickly-made cartoons.
Ōban Star-Racers came about solely because Savin Yeatman-Eiffel wanted to make it. Deciding working for another company would not give him the creative control he needed, he founded his independent own animation studio, spent years raising funds and years more perfecting the animation in cooperation with Japanese studios. Yeatman-Eiffel worked hard to secure the best talent available (including Yoko Kanno and Taku Iwasaki for the soundtrack, and French sound engineer Jerome Wiciak for sound effects—a dozen tracks were created simply for the Whizzing Arrow's engine noises), wrote the scripts for all 26 episodes in several languages and worked personally with the voice actors, and years were spent polishing the show to a mirror shine. The result is a children's series of extremely high quality, combining a story of exceptional depth and consistency with excellent characterization, a great soundtrack and consistently breathtaking animation.
Transformers has so many incentives to suck—it's Merchandise-Driven, for small children, and about robots that transform into cars. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's funny and engaging and a bit meaningful, and there's no other reason than that the creators, against all odds, care about what they do. Sometimes.
Ted Turner proposed Captain Planet as a serious effort to help the environment. Can't fault his motive, if nothing else. It's just that this trope is no match for the faults of a Clueless Aesop or Space Whale Aesop. Done with good intentions, but written with all the quality and nuance of political propaganda, rather than a serious discussion of real problems.
While Phineas and Ferb may not have astounding animation or horribly intricate detail, if you compare it to, say, Dog With A Blog, you'll see a massive difference in effort. Phineas and Ferb is built on Once an Episode, yet almost every piece of that has been averted or subverted. Phineas and Ferb makes obscure socio-cultural references in full knowledge that their primary demographic won't grasp them.
Dan Povenmire is even perfectly happy with his work being uploaded for free on video sites. He even reads the comments on the videos on YouTube and responds to some of them. The episodes continue to be created in HD, despite them never being aired this way, and it really says a lot when he talks about how Disney doesn't market them as such because they think the kids don't care and the adults won't buy it.
"The truth is, we make this cartoon for ourselves," said Marsh. "We don’t make it for children; we just don't exclude them, which is something that John Lasseter once said. When you get to writing the jokes and finalizing the content, you just want to make sure you don’t do anything that's going to make you cringe as a parent or that’s going to alienate the younger viewers."
And, going further than the intricate net of Catch Phrases, Continuity Nods, Running Gags and such, we get the music. If you look at the lyrics, you see a beautiful mesh of rhyme schemes, alliteration, internal rhymes, tasteful repetition, and probably half the list of literary devices your high-school English teacher taught you. There are artists/bands whose lyrics aren't this well thought out.
In addition to doing his Gold Digger animation singlehandedy, series author Fred Perry also does a number of sketches and shorts using licensed music such as "Stacy's Mom", "You Are a Pirate", and the intro to Guardian Heroes. He actually got the rights to use said music officially.
Moral Orel could have easily just been a straight up Take That to religion in general and Christianity in particular. It turned out to be a smartly written, insanely dark character drama by the 3rd season. Same goes for the creator's other show, Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, which uses people's photographs folded into puppets so they could be as accurate as possible.
Jonny Quest. One of the animators working on "Shadow of the Condor" was a World War I airplane buff, and the Fokker Dr.1 and Spad are gorgeously drawn.
The Wacky World of Tex Avery creator Brody Dowler described it as a "homage to the brilliant, hilarious and groundbreaking animator Tex Avery and the wonderful squash-and-stretch cartoons of his era". While they certainly got the squash-and-stretch elements down, the humour left a great deal to be desired.
During The Eighties, most cartoons were 30-minute toy ads, and it was virtually unthinkable to go about it otherwise. Robert Mandell deliberately misfiled the memo and blew out as many stops as he could afford. Broadway actors as his voice talent, a truckload of Del Ray sci-fi authors as writers, Toyko Movie Shinsa doing the animation, arena rock bands for the soundtrack, some of the earliest attempts to weld CGI and cel animation...and throwing the lot into a Space Western that looks like the bastard offspring of a time-traveling Firefly and the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The end result is a one-season wonder called Galaxy Rangers.
Considering the Merchandise-Driven nature of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, it would have been easy to just crank out another saccharine show for little kids. Lauren Faust specifically set out to create a show that kids and parents could enjoy; the level of detail put into the art and animation (especially considering it's flash animation), and the surprisingly strong writing and characters have quickly made the series one of the biggest surprise hits in recent years.
The songs especially qualify. Hearing musical numbers that sound almost like something out of a big-budget Hollywood movie or Disney film, with complex instrumentation, clever rhymes, and even a handful of Genius Bonuses that only make sense to one well-versed in musical terminology (how many eight-year-olds are going to recognize the foreshadowing at the end of "BBBFF"?), all coming from a Flash-animated series about cartoon horses... well, what else could they be doing it for?
Ed, Edd n Eddy's animation drawing up until the last season was hand-inked and hand-painted, and even then, Danny Antonucci and his staff would always try to give it that hand drawn look. Not to mention Mr. Antonucci had a hand in writing and directing nearly every episode, and he and his crew have managed to come up with all kinds of different stories and gags with such a minimalist cast. And the crew would always tell the kind of stories they wanted to tell and ended it the way they wanted to.
The team of Gargoyles went to insane lengths to make the show as realistic as possible. Greg Weisman keeps up an ongoing blog to close up every possible plot hole (and every question, if it does not ask for spoilers, will be answered), and has done so for 15 years now. The foreign language is accurate, the historical people are accurate, the magic is consistent, the gargoyles have (by the standards of Hollywood) a believable biology rather than just being magic, and every single character is complex to unbelievable levels.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The amount of work put into this series really shows how much the crew cared about it, even just observing from the surface. But when you start noticing and then paying attention to such trivial things like posters on the walls of clone barracks or clubs, the elaborate details on spaceships, bugs crawling around on branches, garbage thrown away on the lower streets of Coruscant, and dozens of other tiny-little background details the creators have sneaked in - despite the fact that most viewers probably wouldn't register any of it on the first time viewing - it becomes mind-blowing! Then consider that all of this is made in CGI, with a relatively low-budget when the series was only starting. And when their budget and technological assets increased as the series progressed, they did even more with it.
Going even further, they had assets to use from Lucasfilm's archives. For instance, during the production of Season 3 episode "Wookiee Hunt", the crew had a meeting with Peter Mayhew to make sure they got Chewbacca's appearance (while working within the art style), characterization and body language accurately.
The Disney Imagineers put excruciating amounts of detail into the designs of rides, gift shops, and just the ambient scenery at the theme parks (at least much as they can achieve with the budgets they are given). Many of the "authentic-looking" props in period-specifc areas like Frontierland and Main Street, USA are actually authentic antiques, not replicas. "No one will ever see it" is not considered a good enough excuse to skimp. The policy is to create something that Walt Disney would approve of, and he was such a stickler that he would rather indefinitely postpone the opening of an attraction than let it open before it was perfect.
A really great example of this is The Haunted Mansion. The hearse drawn by invisible horses? Real (though, despite popular urban legend, it's not Brigham Young's hearse). The stretching pictures? Actual paintings, they spend weeks on one animatronic in the attic before scrapping it for something else completely when they didn't like how it looked.
The guys at OAFEnet seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge about any subject they cover, but they've gone on record as saying that it's only because they've done the research. Whether it's rewatching a film just to identify a single prop, or reading large chunks of a comic book character's previous appearances, they put in hours of behind-the-scenes work under a daily deadline, all for a site that just reviews toys. This is also a case of Shown Their Work (like when the review spent a paragraph on how a bear trap works) but they fill their articles with enough on-topic minutiae to make any nerd ecstatic, and always seem to have more when someone asks for it.
Andy Kaufman legitimately didn't care how people reacted to his work so long as they reacted to it, which allowed him to do most of what he did because he wanted to. At the same time, he did fine work on Taxi despite the fact that he agreed to do it only after he was convinced it would be good for his career.
Turner Classic Movies. A commercial-free cable network dedicated to showing huge swaths of deserving movies that would otherwise never again see the light of day.
Shout! Factory, a DVD publishing company that has secured the rights to an astonishing number of films and television shows which many assumed were Lost Forever or would never be released due to rights issues. This is a company that has gained a reputation for being very flexible with production companies and always being gracious to their fans (most notably, taking requests for what shows and/or films people want released on their official forums, and actively attempting to secure the distribution rights). The most notable case occurred with Mystery Science Theater 3000—after the DVD boxsets were discontinued by Rhino many years before, fans assumed it was time to go back to tape circulating, only to find out that Shout had secured the rights to the whole series and would be releasing them all in vanilla and collector's edition sets. Among other shows, they've saved SCTV, ReBoot, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, many of the Transformers series, many classic animated series from the 80's and 90's, and scores of cult television shows from the last 30 years. They genuinely love their jobs, and work as hardcore fans who just happen to have a DVD publishing company.
Just one example of how far Shout! Factory is willing to go: for years, MST3K fans assumed the Gamera episodes would never be officially released. After all, one of the Rhino DVD sets had to be yanked and rereleased with a different episode due to copyright issues with a Godzilla film, and the owners of the Gamera rights were even less pleased with Best Brains. And then Shout put all the Gamera episodes out on one collection.
Charles Lauzirika is a sci-fi fanboy who was put in charge of 20th Century Fox's DVD production team, and has created some of the most well-known DVD sets and film documentaries of all time. Notably, during the production of the Alien Anthology, he not only fought to get the uncut version of his Alienł documentary "Wreckage And Rage" released (which required an epic amount of wrangling with FOX executives for close to a decade), but he also went back to the "workprint" edition of the film that was constructed for the Alien Quadrilogy release in 2003, assembled every member of the supporting cast whose voices couldn't be picked up on the temp track, and had them re-record all of their lines. He also served as the producer of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, in which he brought Harrison Ford's son in to replicate his father's dialogue for voiceovers that were hard to hear, and had Joanna Cassidy reshoot her famous run through the glass windows so continuity errors from the original film could be corrected.
The revived Toonami has basically no budget, which meant they couldn't get Sally Timms as SARA or Peter Cullen doing the promos. So why is Steve Blum back as TOM, despite taking an extreme pay cut? Because he really, really wanted to be. In fact, he led the charge for its return when the April Fools' broadcast revitalized the fanbase. Working for slave wages is not an issue for him.
Many authors will demand a certain number of reviews to update their work, or say "review or I'll stop". Not all Fan Fiction is done for the art but this is actually a dying practice, at least for decent stories. The fandom for any given show's large enough that one author writing one story can, and is, ignored for jackassery.
Averted with Troll Fics. Actual good parodies of fanfics, though, could be pain-stakingly researched on what cliches to include, what the fandom usually groans at, etc. Well-done trolling is harder than it seems, and for little gain.
The Parthenon sculptures. Most temple sculptures were only carved in full detail on the front, because the back would never be seen; however, the Parthenon sculptures were carved in full detail, front and back. Chances are no-one saw that for thousands of years.
The Pantheon, a temple, and later church, in Rome. The dome, aside from being a perfect hemisphere with a diameter of 43.3m (142 feet), implies an imaginary, second hemisphere, the pole of which touches the floor exactly. Given the size of this space, a considerable margin of error would have been considered acceptable, but the architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, wanted it to be perfect. And this in 126 AD.
The art critic and historian Robert Hughes notes in his book Rome that the Pantheon would never be built today: no-one would insure it, no-one would even propose it, because no-one would think that you could make something like that safely out of poured concrete. And they'd be dead wrong: Thanks to a unique and brilliant design, the Pantheon has stood for nearly nineteen-hundred years, and shows no signs of collapse.
Similarly, Antoni Gaudi designed his Sagrada Familia in ridiculous detail, carefully outlining each decoration, even the ones no human would ever see after the construction is complete (like little dove figures in small niches at 100 m altitude). When asked about that, Gaudi replied "Well, of course, these are for the angels to see." Now, there's a man who did it for the art. And Gaudi is not the only one doing it for the art when it comes to the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi started working on the church in 1883. It is currently about 50% complete. It has been largely funded by voluntary donations. It will, hopefully, be finished in 2026—in time for the centennial of Gaudi's death.
Creators of Gothic churches would also care to create statues that were perfect on all sides—even if no humans would ever see the backsides, God still would. During Baroque, this approach changed.
Averted by many early great masters of Western art, who did most of their work, now hanging in major museums, for commission.
A lot of web critics and abridged series creators, Linkara, Spoony, The Angry Video Game Nerd, Little Kuriboh, Team Four Star, hbi2k, and most of the team at TGWTG.com (to name a FEW) do not earn much (if anything) for their work. Yet they still do it. Religiously. And they work their asses off to do it. These guys have done reviews or made episodes when they were sick or broke and have still kept at it.
A huge majority of YouTube Poopers work as hard as possible on their videos without expecting any compensation whatsoever. While it is on one hand a product of the circumstances note YouTube Poops would no longer be protected under fair use if the majority of them were profited uponit is generally agreed that making money off of the hobby would completely undermine its purpose.
Noah Antwiler did a game review back in 2007 on a horrible E.T. Atari gameright after having his wisdom teeth taken out (2 operations) and while stoned out of his mind on vicodin just because the fans begged him to. That's dedication to your art. And after his "Health update" v-log...to think he's been keeping up with everything as well as he has been—getting through Kickassia, going to conventions, putting on heavy costumes, practically melting under hot lights—with a heart condition that makes him feel like he's dying if he overtaxes himself. SO BRAVE.
Every single piece of free software ever. The developers don't expect to be paid. They just write it because it's what they want to do. The bigger projects tend to have paid developers as well, though for the most part they were working on it beforehand.
Extreme example: MAME and MESS are not only free, but they're distributed under a license which forbids selling the programs, or using any of their source code in something which will be sold.
GoogleDoodles; sure, the site's text can just be the same every single day, but numerous artists take upon them to draw something to relate to various countries' events, celebrity birthdays and such.
The Human Genome Project was dedicated to mapping out the complete sequence of the human genome. Such information could give any given pharmaceutical or genetic testing firm a virtual monopoly on many product sectors, or lead to unscrupulous biological warfare or eugenics experiments. Instead, it was published online.
deviantART. Some of the works on there clearly took weeks, and the vast majority of them were not done on commission. That's pretty impressive.
The critically acclaimed restaurant Schwa is easy to miss in Chicago. The restaurant is one of many 3-story buildings, no more than 20 feet wide, in an ordinary neighborhood, just opposite a tire shop with fake palm trees. Inside, there is only room for 30 people, and no more than two people can sit at a table. There are no waiters or staff, beyond the chefs themselves, who are dressed in casual clothes and talk casually to the customers. There are no decorations, there is no wine selection, and metal and hip-hop music plays in the background. Most days, the owner Michael Carlson barely breaks even. This is because every single cent the restaurant makes goes into making the most innovative and creative food anywhere in the entire US. No expansions, no remodeling, no fancy facades or gold-plated silverware. The man even served a party of 20 of the greatest chefs in the world on the house. His passion drove him to exhaustion and a premature exit, but he reopened Schwa a year later, and kept on going. He is practically the face of Doing It For The Culinary Arts.
Bob Ross donated all of the paintings he created for The Joy Of Painting to charity fundraisers. When he lost his battle with lymphoma, all of his remaining unsold paintings were treated likewise.
Examples from characters in fiction:
Anime and Manga
Kuronuma Ryuzo in Glass Mask does this. His in-story nickname is Ogre General because of his strict, uncompromising perfectionism. He's perfectly willing to spend five years to try and put on the perfect play, if that's what it takes. The financing guys are not particularly appreciative.
Most of the major characters fit this. Maya never actually seems to even think about the pay when considering a role, and only ever seems to have money when someone else is managing her finances.
In Pokémon Special, White, the president of a Pokémon talent agency, always makes sure that her Pokémon actors get the best possible treatment and that her clients are satisfied even if it means she fails to make a profit and has to camp outside in a tent. However, she is shown to be worried about her finances.
New micronation character Kugelmugel in Axis Powers Hetalia appears to do everything for the art, including declare his independence. He also seems to spend his time pondering what exactly constitutes art. This is based off only one appearance, so further developments may change it.
Macross 7: Nekki Basara, lead singer and performer of the band "Fire Bomber". Although he enjoys performing in large venues in front of thousands of people, he honestly doesn't care about riches or fame, and in fact seems perplexed as to why some of his fellow band members do. As far as he's concerned, it's all about the music; everything else is of negligible importance.
Arturo Domingo in The Auteur is a parody of Doing It for the Art. A washed up, artistic porn director whose fame has been eclipsed by his former star, who has become a Cable TV porn icon.
Johnathan Switcher in Mannequin couldn't hold a regular job due to his need to be expressive.
In The Artist George Valentin, in refusing to do 'talkies', claims in an interview that he is, in fact 'an Artist', and that silent acting requires artistry, while sound will actually degrade the medium. He's wrong, of course, but the film itself pays tribute to that artistry.
Angier and Borden in The Prestige are very dedicated to creating and performing acts of magic. Part of the reason Angier wanted to steal The Transported Man trick is because it would make a great show. Borden was constantly shown trying to push the limits of the art of magic.
Durnik: Always do the very best job you can. Garion: But that piece goes underneath. No one will ever see it. Durnik: But I know it's there. If it isn't done as well as I can do it, I'll be ashamed every time I see this wagon go by—and I'll see the wagon every day.
Earlier in Sherlock Holmes's career, he would take cases for free because he saw the detective work as a variation of this.
A forger that Fisk tracks down in Rogue's Home fancies himself to be a talented artist. He even considered the documents he forged to be works of art, which is why he hid his signature in them.
In The Princess Bride Inigo's father, Domingo, was possibly the greatest swordmaker in the world. He hid out in a tiny village and kept his skills secret because he didn't want people to come offering money for his swords. He wanted to create a sword which was a work of art. He did have a less-skilled friend work as a front man and bring him the good ones though.
Live Action TV
Geoffrey Tennant in Slings and Arrows. The first season features this prominently, but in the final season, his dedication to his vision sees him hiring a terminally ill heroin addict, getting the production booted from the main stage to the studio theatre to out of the festival altogether, alienating nearly everyone involved, losing his job, and then finally putting the show on in a church basement.
In the Supernatural episode "Hollywood Babylon" the writer of a movie killed executives who he believed bastardized his script. Even if the script was supposedly bad the writer was clearly doing it for the art.
Natalie Rhodes of Castle goes well beyond the call of duty, to the point of trying to seduce Castle for the sake of getting to know her character. The rumor about her living in her crawlspace for a week to prepare for a horror movie about a crawlspace was just a rumor, though. It was actually a month.
The Harry Belafonte song "Sing For the Song" is about this.
In their typical fashion, Knorkator manages to both play this trope straight and lampshade it in "Warum" (German for "why"), one of their most emotional and least comical songs.
Why stands an old man at a river of pure gold
Why are you desperately searching for that you don't want to find
Why is the lamb born, just to be eaten by the wolf
Why are swords drawn where no enemy is left
And why does the queen cry, alone and quiet on her throne
And why does nobody come to her, all alone in the light of the moon
Because this awesome melody demands pain, longing, and poetry
So it can carry great words, to make this song touch your heart
This little exchange between Lucy and Schroeder in an early Peanuts comic.
Lucy: Schroeder, do piano players make a lot of money?
Schroeder: MONEY? Who cares about money?! This is ART, you blockhead!! This is great music I'm playing, and playing great music is an art!! Do you hear me? An art! (pounding on the piano) Art! Art! Art! Art! Art!
Lucy: You fascinate me!
In Seminar, a group of four acquaintances and wannabe writers hire a famous writer turned editor to give them a series of lessons on how to be better writers. However, most only see it (or even getting a particular book published) as a career stepping stone, and only one, Martin, feels he's truly doing it for the art. However, this is also a transparent excuse for Martin to feel self-righteous and look down his nose at others.
In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the adults in the Golden Ticket tour group question Willy Wonka as to the actual purpose of the elaborate Chocolate Room. Beyond the waterfall, which of course mixes the chocolate, none of it has a practical application; as Mr. Salt asks, "Well if it isn't for anything and it doesn't makes money then why on earth does it need to exist at all?" This leads into an I Am What I Am song for Wonka, "Simply Second Nature", that's specifically about this trope — the room and, in fact, all of his creations as a confectionier are created out of a personal, restless desire to make the world a lovelier place in his own way, and this is more important to him than whether a given "work" will make money or not. (This makes the backstory detail that he became a reclusive artist after greedy rivals stole his work rather more poignant than in other versions.)
Game ModRed Alert 3: Paradox has the Electrical Protectorate, a race of software programs who inhibit robot chassis' designed in the style of The Fifties. They don't look like this to give people the impression of how robots should look like, they do this because they learned that's how people think robots look like and actually like doing it.
Garrett in Thief treats his thievery like this. Sure, it pays the bills, but the real reason he steals is pride. In The Metal Age, he needs to break into the Bank, and gleefully mentions he's always wanted to do this ("Now I know I'm a master thief, breaking into the Bank Vault..."). Then in Deadly Shadows, he notes that he's been dying for a good excuse to break into the museum ever since they declared their security to be thief-proof.
In Roommates, Rakesh's main motivation for doing pretty much anything is that he thought it would make good art. He says that he follows nature's example: nature doesn't ask you if you like its flowers, or expect you to pay it anything in return; it merely blooms because it feels like it.