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
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Examples from characters in fiction:
Anime & Manga
Kuronuma Ryuzo in Glass Mask is 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.
Atlas Shrugged has done abyssmally in terms of ratings and sales. But yet, they're on their way to making an Atlas Shrugged: Part III.
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.
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.
In The Artist Georges 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.
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 mainstage 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" (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 awsome 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.
Game ModRed Alert 3 Paradox has the Electrical Protectorate, a race of software programms 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.
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.
Tokyo does currently have a fast-growing jazz scene, well worth checking out.
The animefilmMetropolis, based off an Osamu Tezuka manga (Which was itself based loosely off a film by Fritz Lang), uses the same music with a very similar impact.
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 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 war is 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 windowframes 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.
Sora No Woto takes place in the fictional town of Seize, who is shot by shot the real Spanish town of Cuenca. Also, when it comes the time to have a German speaking character in the show, they used a voice actress who was raised in Austria and spoke fluent German.
The love and effort Eichiro Oda pours into each One Piece chapter is astounding. With all the little details in both the art and storytelling, it's easy to see that he loves writing manga.
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.
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? 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.
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.
Dave Sim's Cerebus The Aardvark is probably the crowning example. Sim spent a quarter 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.
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.
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.
Actually, 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 you in court. Even doing this for free might land you in a lawsuit.
The Crimson Badger, the first book of The Urthblood Saga, is a good example. This monumental Redwall fic of 87 chapter 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.
Pick a Pixar movie, any Pixar movie. They had to tone down the water for Finding Nemo because it was too real-looking. Pixar mentioned that they learned during the filming of Toy Story that the story has to come first. They had a 60% or 70% finished movie when they sat and watched it... and were revolted. With a deadline looming scarily close, they tore it completely apart, and made the amazing movie we know today.
Speaking of Toy Story, Toy Story 2 was originally intended to be direct-to-video. But Pixar actually set out to make a movie that was just as good as the first, and Disney milked it with a theater release as a result. Pixar is very well-known for this.
Originally in WALL-E, the story had it that EVE got electrocuted by AUTO instead of WALL-E, and WALL-E fixes her while in the Garbage Chamber. A preview screening caused Andrew Stanton to realize it didn't fit the emotional flow he wanted to convey. Despite the fact that the scene was 95% complete and the film was only a few months away from release, the animators started from scratch and completely redid the scene, so that WALL-E was electrocuted, and EVE's motivation was about helping WALL-E, rather than just achieving her directive, which makes the story better.
When a director completes a film at Pixar and has finished promoting it, they usually take a year off to relax and perhaps find inspiration for their next film. After Finding Nemo was finished, Andrew Stanton took a small team of writers and artists and spent that year planning the general story and working on the design of the characters of WALL-E, so he could work without deadlines or pressue.
In fact, here's something from John Lasseter concerning that:
"Yes, we worry about what the critics say. Yes, we worry about what the opening box office is going to be. But really, the whole point of why we do what we do is to entertain our audiences. The greatest joy I get as a filmmaker is to slip into an audience for one of our movies anonymously, and watch people watch our film. Because people are 100 percent honest when they're watching a movie. And to see the joy on people's faces, to see people really get into our films...to me is the greatest reward I could possibly get."
For Up, the producers actually flew the animation team to Venezuela, to the mountain range that serves as the inspiration for Paradise Falls in the film. The crew went on an exhausting (and potentially life-threatening) all-day hike up the mountain, but it was worth it for the magnificent views they got at the top, which inspired most of the film's imagery. Then a sudden storm rolled in, and they were trapped on top of the mountain for hours, while strong rains and wind slammed them. Eventually a helicopter was able to rescue them.
Walt Disney himself as quoted above. Despite not being actually talented enough to draw, he did push the technology and art of animation to new levels, such as making the first synchronized sound cartoon and first Technicolor cartoon. His debut feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was considering extremely risky at the time for being the first ever animated feature film; people thought it would be a huge failure and that animation couldn't be long enough for a feature length film. Snow White became a huge box office success at the time, which gave Walt enough money and success to produce Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi, all three considered classics that still hold up today for the intense amount of detail in the animation, high artistic merits (especially Fantasia) and the impressive special effects for the time. However, those films did not make enough money to keep the Disney Company financially afloat, so they had to make wartime cartoons for the United States in War World II, as well as Dumbo, a much safer film. Walt never made another movie as ambitious as Fantasia again (Sleeping Beauty was close). If Fantasia had been an economic success, who knows what else Walt would have done.
The Sinbad animated film team went to an incredible amount of effort to make sure that the CG models for the ships and cities were accurate to a tee, once again regarding a film that was intended for children. Pity they didn't put as much effort into the script.
Or look up the whole "He's from Babylon, not Greece" matter.
In The Fall of Gravity is a extremely well animated short that is made by this trope. The whole film was done by one guy, he did everything from the sets to the figures he's animating. What's more impressive is that he built facial mechanisms never before seen in stop-motion specifically for the film, controlled by cables instead of wires or replacement mouths. it really must be seen to be believed.
The Prince Of Egypt was a huge artistic undertaking for Dreamworks. For example, there were 1,192 scenes in the movie. 1,180 of those scenes featured special effects. And not just things like fire tornados or the Red Sea parting (that 7-minute sequence alone took 318,000 hours of rendering), but wind, sand, rainwater, and lighting. The animators also spent two weeks traveling around Egypt to get a sense of the architecture and art style for the film.
The writers consulted with over a hundred religious officials from varying sects to make sure they got as close to the heart of the story as possible.
For Coraline, they made more than 20 puppets, each one taking months to make. And since it uses puppets instead of clay, they had to make thousands of mouths that they painted individually and replaced between frames.
The average production speed is only seconds a day, assuming no mistakes are made. The film is 100 minutes long.
Most of the flowers in the garden scene really lit up. It's not digitally enhanced.
The lady who made the costumes actually knits them, using the same techniques that would be used to make full-sized clothing but with needles the size of human hairs.
The hair for the characters had to be "injected" one by one.
The scene where the Other World "disappears"? They did that in stop-motion too.
They wanted to shoot the movie in 3D, but the sets were too small to fit 2 cameras side-by-side. So what did they do? They shot each frame twice from different angles with a single camera. The result was a movie with some of the most highly-regarded 3D effects ever.
Don Bluth was always all about doing it for the art. He probably wasn't expecting to make much off of Banjo the Woodpile Cat when he began the side project from his garage while still working for Disney and barely had the budget to cover its production, and his mission while making The Secret Of NIMH was to bring the quality animation from the golden age back to the cinema. He succeeded... for awhile at least.
The Thief And The Cobbler: Dear Lord. You don't spend 26 years trying to get a movie made unless you're sure it'll be worth it.
Sadly, the film was ripped out of Richard Williams' hands after he failed to meet the deadlines once he was finally able to find a company to distribute the film. The project was given to Miramax Family Films, who completed it without Williams, practically destroying all of his work by giving the main characters voiceover narrations and thoughts, adding half-assed musical numbers, and also randomly placed modern-day jokes to try to copy the success of Aladdin (ironically, Aladdin's top animators were very familiar with Thief; some had worked on it over its long production).
The Recobbled Cut, made by a fan, fits this too. It's a close approximation of what the original film would have been like. It uses the original audio, rediscovered footage, unfinished animatics, and even rough sketches to flesh out the runtime.
In Kung Fu Panda, the directors proposed the famous rope bridge fight and were delighted at seeing the animators blanch at the idea. That was because that meant that such a scene had never been done before and it's that attitude that helped create the film and made Dreamworks Animationgrow its beard.
The 2006 independent animated feature Romeo and Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss. Ex-Disney animator Phil Nibbelink, disillusioned by the "big industry merry-go-round", decided to spend 4 1/2 years of his life to make this film, drawing all 112,000 frames of animation by himself, by a Wacom Tablet onto flash. The voice acting was all handled in a recording studio he built in his own basement. He also deliberately made the film a G-rated kids flick to contrast to the lack of such animated films coming out at the time.
Film - Live Action
One of the great early examples is Lillian Gish – in the climax of Way Down East, DW Griffith required her to lie still on a very real ice floe for hours on end while her hair and right hand were submerged in below-freezing water. Thanks to the stunt, Gish's hand would be partially impaired for the rest of her life, but she contributed to what is considered one of the most exciting climaxes in cinema history.
Darren Aronofsky turned down a chance to direct the newest Superman movie so he could direct The Fountain, despite knowing that it wouldn't make anywhere near as much money. He still insisted on getting it made, even after the studio cut half of his budget, forcing him to do the whole movie (an epic sci-fi film that includes a big portion set in space) without any CGI at all. When it looked like the studio would never approve the movie, he wrote it as a graphic novel and got Vertigo Comics to publish it. Whether or not you like the movie, it's undeniable that Aronofsky cared about it. A lot.
It has also come to be considered, both in cinephile circles and out, a masterpiece on all counts and is constantly in the top three (frequently the top spot) in lists of the best movies ever made. It is even (although very loosely) the model for the comedy Tropic Thunder which serves as a ridiculously apt deconstruction of the Hollywood film industry at large.
James Cameron has made a career out of never compromising on his vision. His reputation as a perfectionist paints him as a primadonna director (with stories to back it up), but actors who have collaborated with him often, like Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver, state that it is precisely that that what makes him stand out - a director who stays true to his vision of a film with no compromises and staves off Executive Meddling:
It might be hard to believe today, but Titanic was a film of epic proportions which frankly had most of Cameron's producers worried. This thing cost $200 million to produce. Cameron even got the same companies (that still existed) to provide authentic recreations of the interior pieces, right down to the china that got smashed when the ship was tipping over. Finally, although (not without reason!) scathingly sarcastic about people calling him on the night sky being wrong in one scene, he still had it corrected for the subsequent DVD release.
Not "people", one person: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, teacher, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. He is as perfectionist as Cameron about *his* profession. To his credit, he tells the story of badgering Cameron about "the wrong sky" in Titanic and Cameron's scathing reply with humor and relish, especially the part where one of Cameron's special effects people called Dr. Tyson to get the *right* sky for the Director's Cut of the film.
When making The Terminator, he actually called weapons manufacturers to ask about how to make a "Phased Plasma Rifle, in the 40 watt range". Understandably, they were confused. Later on in production, when executives barred Cameron from filming a key scene where the T-800 picks up on Kyle and Sarah's trail, the director snuck out with a camera and Arnold Schwarzenegger to the back of the hotel set and shot the scene anyway.
During the production of Aliens, Cameron wanted to show a military unit that worked cohesively and acted like a group of friends. To that end, he brought the main cast up to England for a multi-week military training course, which allowed the actors and actresses time to get to know each other - which forged believable friendships. Later on, during the shooting of the hive sequence, Cameron fired his cinematographer, Dick Bush, for not lighting the hive set in the "right way".
Cameron spent close to a decade continually refining the script for Avatar, even stating that he left it in his office desk for months at a time while he brainstormed new ideas. His team also spent three weeks rendering the opening shot of Pandora, down to the leaves on the trees.
The Lord of the Rings, the movie version. For those of you who don't already know about the insane efforts went to to make this adaptation, just remember this: part of the budget was dedicated to a couple of guys making chain mail. That's right. A couple. By themselves. By hand. They actually rubbed off their fingerprints in the process because normal costumes just weren't going to cut it. As you can see below, they were taking the motto of Tolkien straight to heart.
Or Dwarvish. Or the Black Speech. And every damn word is context appropriate. Howard Shore should get a CMOA for this one.
And the various inscriptions and other writings seen in the movies (the inscriptions on swords and other weapons are authentic Elvish; longer texts, such as books, are just English transcribed into an appropriate alphabet, but still a lot of work). There are even decorations inside some armour, which would never be seen by the audience.
When the hobbit scale doubles are used instead of the actors, you figure they're just wearing the same outfit as the actor but in a smaller size, right? Not quite. They're wearing the same fabric - but woven at a tighter weave. So if you measured how many strands of the material were in, for example, a collar, it would be the exact same number as in the full size costume. The weave on a square inch of fabric from the double's costume would be smaller in the same proportions as the double was to their actor. The mind boggles. Especially when you consider that this, like most of the scale trickery in the movie, was never supposed to be noticed by the audience (that is to say, you'd only notice it if it was wrong).
The very fact that all three films were made simultaneously over the course of 18 months before the first film was released, with additional reshoots for the films after each film was released year-by-year, is a great surprise in this age of next week sequels.
Apparently Peter Jackson approached New Line with trepidation, trying to convince them that he'd need two films instead of one (the previous production company having asked for one film only) to cover the whole "trilogy". New Line responded that if there were three books, there should be three movies.
And when you hear that there were pick ups, entire CG sequences and full orchestra re-composing and re-recording for the DVD releases of extended editions, you realize how much effort went in to making this one of the best film trilogies of all time.
Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, Andrew Serkis's work on the trilogy and "King Kong." Painstakingly crafting memorable Motion Capture performances even knowing that no one would ever actually see him on screen. Going to Africa to study gorillas in the wild on his own time and money to make sure he played the most convincing gorilla he could. And in the process, he almost singlehandedly elevates Motion Capture to a full-fledged art form. All For The Art.
Pan's Labyrinth used extensive puppetry for its special effects as opposed to the CG animation which is far more the norm in modern circumstances. Suffice to say, puppets are a lot harder to do than CG.
Used to a lesser but still greater than normal degree for the Hellboy films, which made extensive use of puppetry, optical illusions (Krauss' head) and contortionist/actor Doug Jones (Abe, Angel of Death, Chancellor...etc.).
Team America, although these two movies are about as far apart from each other thematically as can be possibly imagined.
The Silent Hill movie only used a few CG effects (been a while, but I remember the bugs and the fog). All the monsters were done with live actors, which arguably makes the effect that much creepier creepier.
Mark Hamill has commented before on the fact that George Lucas seemed down in all of the interviews that he gave around the time that the original trilogy was made on account of the fact that he wasn't able to do things the way that he'd envisioned. As unfaithful as people feel the rereleases may be, they're closer to Lucas' original vision than what was initially shown in cinemas (Except the Han Shot First thing, that was the MPAA).
The underwater scene on Naboo in Episode I? Trisha Biggar used vintage fabric for Obi-Wan's robe, and it shrank in water. They had to make and destroy a robe for every single cut.
2001: A Space Odyssey had Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke spending enormous efforts into making everything as realistic as possible. The earth moving equipment seen on the Moon would actually work on the real Moon. Quite a few experts from NASA and IBM were asked to help design the sets.
That's just the kind of guy Kubrick was. The interior of the B-52 (top-secret at the time, believe it or not) in Dr. Strangelove was so realistic that the military launched a brief inquiry into how the movie makers had gotten the inside information. note What they did was look over diagrams of the insides of non-classified bombers, and then extrapolated on those designs based on the size and shape of the B-52.
Kubrick also insisted that the table in the war room be covered in green baize like that on pool or poker tables to symbolize that the leaders were playing a giant game of poker for the fate of the world. The only thing is, the movie is in black-and-white.
Clarke published a few lines from his diary from pre-production in the introduction of a re-issue of the novel. They include "rang Isaac Asimov to ask him about the biochemistry of turning herbivores into carnivores." (Asimov, besides writing science fiction, was a professor of biochemistry.) And they never even did anything with that...
Kubrick required the compositing work to be done by a team of British animators painting traveling mattes by hand, frame-by-frame, to mask out each element, rather than using bluescreen. When production ended, most of them signed onto Yellow Submarine in order to work on something colorful after spending two years painting little black blobs.
Instead of storyboarding the docking sequence, multiple model sequences were shot so Kubrick could EDIT THEM DOWN.
In the original script, Bowman and the other astronauts go to Saturn (this is also where they go in the book). Kubrick ended up changing it to Jupiter because the crew wasn't able to make a model of Saturn he was satisfied with.
Also, when Kubrick did The Shining, the scene wherein we see Jack's manuscript, and all we see is "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." typed over and over again?" Each page was individually typed.
And he also shot the pages for four other languages, too.
Actors gaining or losing weight for film roles certainly qualifies (when prosthetics could just as easily be used, especially nowadays), with Robert De Niro's work on Raging Bull the most famous example... but Peter Sellers arguably went the extra mile by gaining weight for Being There because he felt it looked right for the character - despite chronic and worsening heart problems and a subsequent hatred of how he looked on screen. It's hard not to think that his admitted difficult time losing the weight as fast as he could afterwards may have hastened his death (see also Cue Irony).
Christian Bale deserves mentioning. He had lost weight for his part in The Machinist (IMDB says 120 pounds on his 6 foot+ frame). Then Christopher Nolan told him he'd have to become bigger to be Batman. Bale did so and went up to about 220 pounds.
Whereupon he was told they didn't mean that much bigger and he had to shave some off again. And then he lost it all again to play a crack addict in The Fighter (and jumped out of windows for real).
Christian Bale certainly went to extremes for The Fighter, but so did Mark Wahlberg: the film was stuck in Development Hell for a long time, so he ended up training for the film for five years, working with trainers during his off time on his last six films. He also refused a stunt double and did every fight scene for real.
There must be something in Wahlberg DNA that makes them take the Method approach: Mark's brother Donnie Wahlberg dropped 43 pounds for his incredibly brief (but pivotal) role of a ravaged, haunted psych patient in The Sixth Sense. Most people are shocked to realize it was him.
While watching the "Lady in the Red" scene in The Matrix some may notice same people passing besides Neo and Morpheus more than once. Production goof? Nope, all extras in the scene are actual twins. They searched all over Sydney for twins and brought them in to demonstrate how Mouse, writing the Agent training program, got lazy and just copy-pasted same models over instead of making unique ones. How many people do you think notice that?
Richard Donner's work in Superman went notoriously over-budget, and got him fired. His main concern was to make the best, most believable film he could. It could be argued Bryan Singer's issue with Superman Returns was that he was trying to emulate that instead of making his own film (which he promised to do next time).
John Milius's movie adaptation of Conan the Barbarian was very, very, very good for a character most people treated as a joke and expected to get something lighthearted and campy. Instead, they got something dark, edgy, philosophical and yet still a good adventure movie. It had plenty of changes from the original stories, but it still stands up as an individual story and has actors that are either excellent, hammy or both. Sadly, Milius was not brought back to work on the sequel.
He researched ancient civilizations and designed art histories for all the obscure R.E. Howard civilizations that Conan passes through, shrugs at, and burns down...he designed a workable house on wheels for the family of drifters Conan gets directions from...he built a life size Wheel of Pain...he had Arnold bite the head off a real vulture carcass!
If you were a studio executive, would Eraserhead put dollar signs in your eyes? But somebody made it. And all his movies are exactly what he had in mind. Except Dune.
That's just the beginning. It took five years to finish, working on weekends and vacations, and with Lynch putting up all the cash. There's one sequence where Henry passes through a door. A full year passed between shooting him outside the door and him walking through it.
This is especially evident in his version of The Fly - he has admitted to disliking the original, mainly because he was aware of its fallacies even as a kid, so he wanted to make a film that wouldn't annoy any entomologists in the audience. Is it any wonder this version is widely considered better than the original?
Primer features the most complex (read: impenetrable) time travel plot in film. It was written by two engineers and requires a large chart to understand completely.
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow was the culmination of a life's work, and was filmed twice - the first time, so that the actors could see how it would look like with the CG in place before they filmed the "real" version.
Jude Law had said that it was his dream as an actor to work alongside Sir Laurence Olivier. A pity he had been dead for 15 years. Instead, the director dug up decades-old test footage of Olivier, and spent God only knows how long piecing together sound clips in order to give Olivier a posthumous "cameo" as Big Bad Dr. Totenkopf.
John Travolta wanted to make a film version of Battlefield Earth for years, and it was only after years of effort, and agreeing to a discount salary for his performance, that it finally got made.
The production of Heaven's Gate became a disaster thanks to Michael Cimino's adherence to this trope. For an example, he demanded 50 takes of at least one scene, and refused to start shooting for another until a cloud he liked rolled across the sky. Sadly, in this case the attention to detail did not pay off. The film was extremely delayed, went badly over the budget, is one of the least profitable movies of all history, and on top of that is also considered one of the worst films ever made.
The Warren Beatty film Town And Country had similar problems due to Beatty insisting on re-takes of almost every scene, which caused the 40 million dollar budget to double, and more then likely contributed to the film's financial failure at the box-office, and resulted in Beatty not doing any more films since.
The Wicker Man (1973) qualifies on two points. Screenwriter Anthony Schaffer and director Robin Hardy put in a lot of research into Celtic myth and legend while devising the plot - they knew next to nothing about it at the start. Also, Christopher Lee was so keen to see it finished and released, he waived his fee for playing Lord Summerisle to keep the budget in check, and then called round all his friends and associates to drum up support, and hit the talk circuit to promote the film.
Doomsday. On a budget of $30 million, they made a completely insane, Rule Of Cool driven action movie that uses as many practical effects as it can. Yeah, the Bentley driving straight through a fucking bus at ninety miles an hour? They really did that. Then there's the props. The crew designed and made about a hundred different hand-to-hand weapons, a couple of guns, several punkish "mutant," cars, and a special suit of armor so it would look like it was makeshift. Finally, the two APCs in the film were designed and then built completely from scratch.
The Dark Knight has the famous scene where a truck is turned upside-down by wires, finally crashing on the ground with a loud noise. Do you think they used CG to do that scene? Noooo! It was a real truck that was really thrown in the air, shot in a real street. They could do that stunt only once, ignoring if the final shot would be cool or not. And it was awesome.
The Bat-pod?... fully functional.
Heath Ledger locked himself in a room for a month with a copies of such comics as The Killing Joke, writing the Joker's journal, in order to fully understand the character.
The scene of Joker walking away from the exploding/collapsing hospital was 99% real; the only CG used was the windows shattering. Needless to say there was only one opportunity to get the shot.
And they only CGI'd the windows because some hoodlums stole half the glass out of the building. They didn't have the time or the money to re-outfit a building with new windows.
It doubles with Enforced Method Acting since the bit where the Joker stops and starts smacking the detonator wasn't in the script. One of the explosions failed to go off on time, but Ledger stayed in character while waiting for the explosions to finish, so the scene could still be used in the film. Which turns an Unflinching Walk scene into one of the funniest reactions in the movie.
Apollo 13. The research they put into it was downright impressive. There's a "Making Of" feature in the collector's edition which has the director recounting when someone told him that man wouldn't go so far from Earth again for a hundred, hundred fifty years. By that time everyone involved would be dead; they would just have the old stuff, the stock footage, and documentaries. And this film. It had to be right. The director said he laughed it off, but it really does look like he took it seriously.
Upon watching the launch in the movie, second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin (then working for NASA Public Relations) apparently turned and asked the movie crew where they get some of the footage as he was unaware that there had been a camera in that particular location. There wasn't - it was just so authentic that he'd been fooled.
Some actors have done things for the money, just so they could afford to satisfy their passions for what they wanted to do. Peter Sellers, mentioned above, is only one example.
Ewan McGregor is a second. He only does big budget American films so he can afford to do indie Scottish ones.
Christopher Eccleston has a similar attitude, except in his case, the Hollywood roles pay for British theatre and TV (the latter roles he chooses mostly based on his admiration for the writer), as well as charity work in his hometown and support of local bands by appearing in their music videos.
Likewise George Clooney. Each Ocean's X movie allows him to make another Syriana.
Every American action-comedy film Jackie Chan makes allows him to make another Hong Kong drama piece.
Knowing he was dying of stomach cancer, Raul Julia let his kids choose from a set of scripts what would undoubtedly be his final film, as a gift to them. That film was Street Fighter, and dammit if he didn't do everything to make it work.
The Passion Of The Christ had a complete lack of spoken English, the spoken lines done in Latin and Aramaic (both languages now considered "dead"). He also fronted $30 million for production costs and $15 million for advertising out of his own (not-insubstantial) pocket. The film was distributed through his own Newmarket Films, as none of the established film distribution companies wanted to touch it, thanks to the controversy surrounding the film. As it happened, said controversy helped make the film a blockbuster in the end.
The Wachowskis have made absolutely no excuses for Speed Racer, and probably never will. They said they were going to make a live action version of a cheesy-yet-revered anime, and that is exactly what they gave us. Not "The Matrix with Cars" as oh so many critics expected (and demanded), but an honest-to-God live action anime. It is quite possibly the incarnation of pure awesomeness... Or at least the incarnation of pure Speed Racer.
On the note of the Wachowski siblings: Their adaptation of Cloud Atlas is one of the most expensive independent films ever made.
Christopher Walken will accept any role that is offered to him, regardless of the paycheck. He just plain loves making movies.
Akira Kurosawa was incredibly meticulous in the production of his movies. Every shot was done over and over until it was perfect and he once removed the roof from a house for a single shot. That is dedication. Also: draining a town's entire water supply to get rain shots right and having an actual castle built only so he could burn it to the ground for one shot.
This can sometimes be a trap for directors who have too much power and influence, especially if they have done it for the art in the past and seen great success. This is what capsized the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s; such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola and most notoriously Michael Cimino bet the farm on deeply personal labours of love and lost their shirts. This happened again in the early 1990s, when well-regarded directors like Barry Levinson and Rob Reiner failed to learn from history and saw their flourishing careers self-destruct.
However, it's not always just actors, writers, and directors who feel that art should transcend the profit motive. Sometimes, it's producers and movie studio executives themselves who put creativity over profitability. A prime example of this is Irving Thalberg, director of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Three instances of this suffice:
The first instance of this involved the 1925 silent film, The Big Parade. Although preview audiences responded favorably when they were shown the rough cut, Thalberg decided to expand the scope of the picture as director King Vidor had created a war picture without many scenes of war. He had Vidor restage the famous marching Army column sequence with 3,000 extras, 200 trucks and 100 airplanes, adding about $45,000 to the negative cost of the film. After Vidor moved on to another project, Thalberg had other battle scenes shot by director George W. Hill.
The second instance of this involved the 1933 Wallace Beery-Marie Dressler film, Tugboat Annie. After seeing a preview of the film, Thalberg asked director Mervyn LeRoy if a scene could be improved by making Beery's shoes squeak. LeRoy agreed, but detailed how it would be economically prohibitive to re-shoot the scene as the sets had been dismantled and the cast had dispersed. Thalberg responded, "Mervyn, I didn't ask you how much it would cost, I asked you whether it would help the picture." The scene was summarily re-shot.
Last, but not least, the final instance of this involved the Marx Brothers. At the time, the brothers were in a rut as they had just left Paramount over creative differences and financial issues and were considering exiting the film business, when Thalberg signed them to a five picture contract with MGM. When the brothers joined MGM, one of the provisions in their contract was that before filming would commence on any of their pictures, they would first go out on the road and perform their material on the vaudeville stage in front of live audiences, allowing them to work on comic timing and to learn what earned laughs and what did not. Many people, including Groucho Marx, believed that this helped to strengthen many of the routines. In addition, Groucho repeatedly said that their first two films, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, were the best they ever made. Unfortunately, Thalberg's immediate superior, Louis B. Mayer, MGM's vice president of studio operations, did not think that the Marx Brothers were funny at all and was beyond ill-pleased when Thalberg offered them a five-picture contract. When Thalberg died in 1936 while A Day At The Races was still in production, Mayer used his position as studio chief to deny the brothers their favorite gag writers and limit the budgets of their remaining films.
The Marx Brothers issue wasn't the only bone of contention between Mayer and Thalberg. The two men just in general usually fought over what content the studio would release, with Thalberg pushing for more literary fare and Mayer pushing instead for more glitzy, crowd-pleasing films, and if it wasn't for Thalberg's connections with Nicholas Schenck, president of MGM corporate parent Loew's Theaters, he probably wouldn't have lasted long at MGM.
Fitzcarraldo is about a man trying to haul a ship over a mountain. To make it, Werner Herzog actually hauled a ship over a mountain. With help, but still.
That's not the half of it. In the real event Fitzcarraldo is based on, that ship was originally disassembled before it was hoisted up the mountain. Herzog had his ship hauled up in one piece. Herzog is a crazy man.
He also deliberately filmed in the middle of the jungle instead of a mile or two from civilization, because the movie wouldn't "feel right" otherwise.
For Gangs of New York they actually built what was essentially a full scale complete replica of the Five Points in 1800's New York in Italy just to film the movie. All of the costumes and props were painstakingly created to be historically accurate too. According to one of the extras on the DVD, George Lucas visited the set and complained to Scorsese that it could all be easily done on computers for much cheaper. But Scorcese was doing it for the art, and Lucas was ignored.
And Daniel Day-Lewis is sort of the king of this trope—for one thing, he practiced tapping his eye with the knife until he could do it without flinching (because his character has a glass eye). He also stayed in character on set all the time, as usual.
Michael Fassbender lost over thirty pounds to play the role of a hunger striker in Hunger; one interviewer pointed out that the weight he stopped (58 kg, about 128 pounds) was the same weight that his character, Bobby Sands, reached in his last diary entry before he died. (Incidentally, Fassbender has been compared to Daniel Day Lewis by some critics.)
A smaller example, compared to all of the above, but when Bill Murray agreed to play Herman in Rushmore, he also kept the budget down by agreeing to do it for union scale wages, which comes to about $300 per day.
When Disney denied Wes Anderson the money for a helicopter scene that would have cost $75,000, Murray paid for the shot out of his own pocket.
Bill Murray is like this a lot, he refused to let his name appear in marketing for Zombieland to hide the surprise, and has admitted he only did Garfield because it was written by Joel Cohen and he read the name and thought it was it was Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers. At which point he signed up without reading the script. It was only after he was actually there reading his lines did he realize it sucked.
Bruce Willis appeared in 12 Monkeys entirely because he wanted to work with Terry Gilliam. To keep the film from going over budget, he agreed to a significantly reduced salary to be paid after the film was complete.
Meryl Streep learned German and Polish for her role in Sophie's Choice. Maybe not completely fluently, but certainly to an astonishingly adept level. And she begged the director for the role on her hands and knees. It has been cited as the greatest acting performance ever put to film.
Meryl likes doing this. For Music of the Heart, she learnt the violin. Not to professional standard, perhaps, but far beyond what anyone would have expected of her.
Christopher Nolan wrote the script for Inception immediately after his success with Memento. He then spent the next ten years revising the extremely complex story until he was satisfied that everything made sense and was the best he could make it.
In addition, he took on The Dark Knight Saga in order to gain experience with handling a blockbuster production so he would be ready to perfect what was needed for Inception when it was done. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were warm-ups!
Charlize Theron in Monster. She gained 30 pounds, wore prosthetic teeth, and generally made herself a lot more plain/uglier for the sake of the movie.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, you know that where the Kraken chops a ship in freaking half? Yeah? They really did that. They got a huge slab of concrete, and painted it green, and then CHOPPED THE FREAKING SHIP IN HALF.
Penelope Cruzlearned Italian for her role in Non ti muovere. Even more shockingly, she actually managed to make herself unattractive with a false nose and teeth.
Zack Snyder has said he only agreed to do Watchmen because if he turned it down there was a chance of someone who didn't love the source material making it. His goal was to compress large amounts of detail into every frame of the movie and during the editing process he was constantly battling with the studio execs over the length (he declared himself to be "Gatekeeper of the Easter Eggs").
Steven Spielberg asked not to be paid when he made Schindler's List, which he considered his most personal project.
This is actually true for Spielberg (and Lucas on Indy) on most of his projects. He takes no director's fee, instead he gets an ample part of the gross. It was something he did once a movie went overbudget which worked in the end. Considering the money his films usually takes, lets just say that he doesn't have to worry too much.
Hard Candy. This is a film with a very low budget, from a first-time director, and with very strong sexual themes and implied torture. This is not the kind of film one signs on to make for a quick buck. In addition, Ellen Page (and this is before Juno) was chosen for her Bifauxnen look over several 14-year-olds who looked older than they were.
Kevin Spacey wanted to keep his name off Se7en (at least until the end credits) for suspense purposes. In addition, Brad Pitt refused to promote the film unless the ending, as planned by director David Fincher, ended up in the film. You know the one. In the end, it did.
Similarly, Edward Norton requested not to be credited for Kingdom of Heaven, as his character is constantly masked until after his death, when his leprosy-ravaged face is revealed.
Before they filmed Battle: Los Angeles, the cast were put through several weeks of real military boot camp to get them to operate like Marines. Not only that, but each actor was given the same kind of training that a Marine of the rank they were portraying in the film would have received. Aaron Eckhart even said that he and the cast tried very hard to use correct military jargon and terminology, such as calling a helicopter a "helo" instead of a "chopper", and would redo a take if they made such a mistake.
John Cusack does popular schlock and unchallenging movies on a semi-regular basis. He does these in part to fund movies like Max, a film that puts forward the notion that even Hitler was redeemable at some point.
When Taylor Lautner heard that he was being replaced for Twilight New Moon on account of not having a good enough physique, he immediately started doing a rigorous exercise routine on a daily basis in order to bulk up for the role, the execs were so impressed that they decided to keep Lautner after all.
Latuner also did all of his own stunts in Abduction he learned how to fight, ride motorcycles and everything.
Megan Fox insisted on doing her own stunts in Jonah Hex, only using a stunt double for one scene which would've been too dangerous for her to do by herself.
Whether or not you like Moulin Rouge!, it's clear that every person involved in that movie is giving it their all.
After Star Trek: The Motion Picture went over budget, was panned by critics and audiences, and just barely made a profit, Paramount just wanted a sequel to be more profitable, even if the series just turned into a Franchise Zombie. So they brought on TV producer Harve Bennet for the next movie, mainly because he promised he could do it on a fifth of the last film's budget. Instead of just making a slapdash sequel, he brought on the best people he could with the money he had, including Nicholas Meyer to direct. The result was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a monster critically hailed hit that made the Star Trek film franchise one of the longest and most successful film series in Hollywood history.
The upcoming war film Act of Valor takes this to a whole new level, the main characters are all played by REAL U.S. Navy SEALS(who were between deployments at the time of filming) all the tactics used in the film are REAL, REAL live bullets were used for most scenes, and in one scene a REAL truck gets blown up with a REAL RPG.
Kevin Pollack insists that he only works on projects that he thinks will be good, and has managed to get into some major hits like A Few Good Men. While Juwanna Mann seems like an obvious cash grab, he signed on because the lead role was originally going to be played by Will Smith.
In Safe House the scene where Denzel Washington is being tortured by waterboarding? That wasn't faked, Denzel insisted on doing it for real so it would be more convincing.
Sucker Punch: Zack Snyder himself doesn't even understand WHY he did that movie, but he did it anyway, the amount of work which went to all the levels of reality, the girls clothes, the girls training, the camera angle editing, and the phrasing of the words in the story. All for the art.
Seriously. The studio wanted the film post-converted to 3D, but Snyder refused. He didn't film Sucker Punch for 3D, it's a more mental movie, and he felt converting it would make an inferior film. What makes this especially odd is that he claimed not to know why he made such an odd film, saying "That is basically my comment on the film as well; "Why are you making this movie? You need to make a movie more commercial. It shouldn't be so dark and weird.""
Jackie Chan: after all the broken bones, the organ injuries, and life threatening misses...and even (by his own honest admission) the occasional Money, Dear Boy offer, almost all of the work he does, he does for the love of bringing his brand of physical entertainment to the world. Continuing a shoot with a broken leg using a rubber shoe-sock over his cast? done, rolling over a circular saw? check, jumping from building to building with little to no safety mechanisms? all the time.
Michael Bay took on Pain and Gain because he loved the story so much (the film was also his Playing Against Type project, as he is known for his explosion-heavy popcorn movies). He also chose to take scale pay instead of his usual salary (the actors doing the same) so he could make the film the way he wanted to instead of doing a more compromised, studio-friendly version (the final budget was $25 million, less than half the average for a studio film).
For Iron Man 2 Mickey Rourke improvised a lot of Vanko's characteristics, such as his toothpick habit, his fondness for cockatoos, and his tattoos. He paid for the cockatoo with his own money, learned to speak Russian, and visited the infamous Butyrka prison to interview the prisoners there, who he described as very polite.
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. 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. Unlike Jordan, such details are not used as repetitive filler, but 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 scrupulously check 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 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.
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.
Back when it premiered in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a budget that approached that of a major Hollywood movie. And this was a show on first-run syndication. Granted, it's made a ton of money through (cue irony) syndication and now DVD sales, but nobody knew it was going to be that big a hit at the time.
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.
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.
Actually, 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.
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.
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.
Any brony music counts as this. Many artists like So Greatand Powerful, Living Tombstone, Sherclop Ponies and Wooden Toaster let people download their songs for free.
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.
Forge World, a company that makes high-end models for Warhammer 40000 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 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.
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.
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.
Mod communities are encouraged to the point where they offer Garry's Mod, a mod for mucking about with physics objects in HL2, free on Steam. They also include the Source SDK with every Source game bought on Steam.
Valve happily hires people whom have shown promising work and projects. Portal's developers were originally students at Digipen, and Team Fortress 2's developers were originally struggling to maintain an indie company until Valve took them under their wing, much like Left 4 Dead's devs. They hired Adam Foster, the guy behind the Minerva: MetastasisHalf-Life 2 maps, who is now working on Portal 2, as well as Makani, who did a fanart of the Team Fortress 2 announcer that the company took a liking to, and have now made it canon with their update, which contains a comic she did.
The Orange Box was 5 games for a measly $30, and nowadays it's usually sold for $5.
The developers that made Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines stayed on for months after the company filed for bankruptcy without pay to release a patch that added a lot of content back into the game and fixed a whole host of bugs.
Black Mesa is a prime example for the modding community. All the effort of an officially licensed game, but entirely free to the community. Everything is polished and well done. The best words to describe it: "A labor of love by fans of Half-Life."
The Team Ico Series. Neither Ico or Shadow of the Colossus sold very well, but Sony continues to fund and support Team ICO because ICO and SOTC were met with universal acclaim from the press and gamers alike. They are considered two of the very best games on the PS2 and any conversation about "games as art" will inevitably include a discussion of these particular examples.
Telltale also provides an arguably negative example of this trope. Part of the reason they switched from the point-and-click interface to the much-maligned directional arrows found in Escape from Monkey Island and Grim Fandango is because it's very hard to do cinematic angles with the traditional point-and-click. They have worked on ways to incorporate the mouse into the control scheme, but not everyone is happy about it and this has led to accusations of them being more concerned with visuals than with gameplay.
They also get a lot of (perhaps deserved) flack for their puzzles being incredibly simple. It's pretty clear they care more about telling good stories than constructing challenging games. To be fair, they ARE pretty damn good at the former so many are willing to forgive them that.
Metal Slug. How many run and gun shooters were there back then- or even today that do as much random stuff as Metal Slug? Enemy conversations, animated chin movements, fifty different ways of watching the exact same tank explode? Nobody asked for all this - somebody just really wanted to make a detailed shooter.
If you have the chance, try going to the first stage of the first game. Early on, you get the Flame Shot and you can pass through a destroyed part of an airplane fuselage. Firing it will actually lighten up the area around you. This, in a fully 2D game with no added lighting effects of any kind, is just another mark of how incredibly detailed a game Metal Slug is.
Super Smash Bros started out as a fun, but relatively simple brawler featuring Nintendo all-stars - a concept so inherently fun that messing around with it wasn't really necessary. The reason it's on the list is for its sequels, namely the trophies - both Melee and Brawl feature trophies of countless characters from Nintendo's past, all with descriptions of several sentences. It's a subset feature of the game which many people don't even look at. For those who do, it's hard to shake the feeling that somebody out there really, really admires Nintendo's history.
There's a video series on YouTube about The History Behind Smash Brothers, which reveals that nearly everything in the game, from random parts of the stages to every item to the characters' fighting moves is a reference to the games on which they are based. The music is filled with random bits from various games, the stages have multiple references to older stages from the original games, and the moves, even quickest and most random, are from older games. The sheer amount of it is staggering.
The best example of this might be Mr. Game & Watch's moveset. Every single attack he has is a reference to one of his games, including the moves that would usually be a generic punch or kick on a different character.
Project M. Why would fans spend years working (without pay) on such a massive mod of Brawl? Because they loveMelee and its community. Most mods fall under this.
Cave Story may not seem all that impressive to big brand name releases like Metroid and Castlevania, but consider this - the entire game, and the "Studio Pixel" responsible for it, consists entirely of one person.
Over the course of 5 years. During the time he graduated and started to work.
In a similar vein, Team Shanghai Alice, which is one guy named "ZUN", made the Touhou Project, a whole series of Shoot 'Em Ups that has become perhaps the best known among the anime crowd. The one series alone spawned dozens, if not hundreds of doujin circles, creating music, videos, and manga.
Xenosaga required loads and loads of manpower in order to pull off the technical feats it could - especially when you consider that it was a first-generation PS2 title. But man, did we really need that many cutscenes?
On the other hand, Xenogears,Xenosaga's predecessor, suffered from budgeting and timing problems, leading to the infamous second disc featuring the protagonists relating much of the story in walls of text. However, it says a great deal about the creator that the story continued to shine and grow even more detailed and complex.
The Monkey Island games feature an enormous amount of detail - especially impressive when we consider that the early games only had something like sixteen colors.
Nintendo says they put their top teams onto their casual video games - Wii Sports and the like. Most developers scoff at such an idea. Those games are inexpensive enough to be almost guaranteed a profit. Nintendo does have potboiler games, but they don't seem to think casual games are potboilers.
Given how many other companies have tried and failed to duplicate Nintendo's success with casual video games, this seems to be a case of Much Harder Than It Looks.
The MOTHER series. There's a good reason why only three MOTHER games have ever been made, and why they have such a devoted fanbase. All Shigesato Itoi wanted from this series was the chance to experiment with telling a good story in a new, different medium. All that's likely to bring him back to the series is feeling that he has a new story to tell for it. Actually, this extends to most things Itoi has ever done and the purpose of his current work, the Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun.
You want an example? In EarthBound, Welcome to Corneria is completely averted. Completely. Every single NPC in the game has at least one dialogue change, and often more. Never mind that most of these NPCs are in towns you'll never visit again once you're done with your business there. MOTHER 3 does the same thing.
And then there's Mother 4. Not to be deterred by Itoi's official statement that the Mother series is finished, some die hard fans have started work on what seems to be an incredibly professional sequel for no reason other than their passion towards the series.
Chrono Cross, meanwhile, ventured in a completely different direction for the sole reason that its creators felt Chrono Trigger was so good that trying to replicate it would merely be redundant. Both written and directed by Masato Kato, the head writer for Trigger, Cross features a more personal and ponderous narrative and explores the themes of its predecessor from very different perspectives; the game incorporates a number of incredibly ambitious ideas (such as an absolutely huge roster of playable characters, complex and branching storylines, and high-minded philosophical themes) that few, if any games have attempted since. By far the most done-for-the-art aspect of the game, however, is the soundtrack: even though he had just quit Square Soft, Yasunori Mitsuda was hired to score the game simply because Kato considered him an indispensible part of the Chrono formula. The decision to compose two different songs for each area - one for each dimension - was made at the last minutes, simply because Kato and Mitsuda thought it would be a good idea. The singer and lyricist for the ending theme, a relatively obscure artist by the name of Noriko Mitose, was chosen despite Square Soft PR's wishes for a more popular and marketable singer, simply because her style was deemed right for the game.
In most video games, incidental NPCs - even named ones - generally have no voice acting, two-dimensional personalities, and don't ever get up to much of anything. Not so in Psychonauts. Every single character in the game - and there's gobs of 'em, around 30 or so - is fully voiced, with their own quirky personality, and their own mini-story they follow through the course of the game - such as the Love Triangle between Nils, J.T., and Elka, Quentin and Phoebe's garage band, and Mikail's search for the camp's bear population, which somehow leads to him and Maloof becoming the camp's local mobsters. It must be seen to be believed.
This level of character detail is more or less a staple in Tim Schafer's games. In fact, rumor has it that he managed to flesh out each character in the game so well was by creating fake accounts for each character on a social networking site and playing out their lives through them.
Just one of the many examples from Nethack: There exists an enemy named the Quantum Mechanic. Upon death, it will sometimes drop a box. Inside the box is either a live cat or a cat corpse. If you check the source code, you'll find that the contents of a quantum mechanic's box, unlike all of the other boxes in the game, are not determined until you open it, just for the little extra joke that most people will never find. (Considering that the Nethack community is the one that coined the phrase The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, though, it's not that surprising.)
And the game is free, people!
To elaborate: Nethack has been developed by computer nerds with too much time on their hands since the 80's, has been ported to pretty much every operating system known to man (yes, even the iOS). And even though Nethack has ceased active development, people are STILL MAKING PATCHES AND VARIANTS of the game.
Victor Ireland of Working Designs was clearly Doing It for the Art. Not everyone liked all of their art, but they put a phenomenal amount of effort into localizing relatively obscure Japanese RPGs, even in the days before Final Fantasy VII brought RPGs into the United States mainstream.
Working Designs's staff went out of their way to rewriteGratuitous English into more natural-sounding English. Furthermore, they lobbied to keep the PS1 port of Ray Crisis 100% intact, right down to a minigame for an accessory not released in North America.
Odin Sphere is an incredibly detailed game for the Playstation 2 that is made to have story book-fairy tale aesthetics. From background to foreground, it has tons of detail (every limb has its own animations) that only adds to the fantastical nature of it's setting. The entire design team consists of eleven people.
The whole backstory of Final Fantasy XII: imagining a whole functional world with dozens of ethnicities, political subplots, more than a thousand NPCs, secondary characters who are more detailed than main characters from other games, detailed work on the different countries' architecture, clothing fashions, it feels like Square was trying to say "Yes, we can make something else than milking fanboys with remakes and spinoffs." Even unfinished and compromised (Vaan was not the original main character) it's still impressive.
A lot of work went into the bestiary, especially how much information they provided about all the monsters, and the small articles about different areas of the game. A lot of time and effort obviously went into what a lot of games usually throw in as a basic monster list.
The DS Dinosaur King game looks like your average Pokémon clone, and is a licensed game. However, it has some of the best 3-D effects on the system (80+ dinosaurs in full 3D), puts effort into reconstructing the dinosaurs as accurately as possible (feathers on the ones which had them), uses many dinosaurs which otherwise would not be in a game, and has a Pokedex-clone which goes into depth in terms of dinosaur classification.
Dwarf Fortress - a world simulator/game written entirely by one guy that attempts to realistically simulate, among other things, the effects of hand-to-hand combat on individual layers of skin, but uses ASCII graphics. Additionally, it is impossible to win.
One joke on the Bay 12 forums held that Toady wouldn't be done with the game until it represented a perfect simulation of reality down to the quantum level. The next response to that involved dwarven nukes. The Bay 12 Forums are a fun place.
Primal: A tribute to old-school hard graphics problems.
Planescape: Torment featured an incredibly complex and detailed non-linear plot exploring existential themes. The dialogue is a few books worth and features superb voice acting. Many critics have compared Torment favorably to literary works, a stunning achievement for the ghettoized genre of video game fiction.
The Legacy of Kain series likewise featured a rich and complicated story fleshed out with hours of surprisingly eloquent dialogue that would not appear foreign in a work of Shakespeare's.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was in development for almost 2 years, just so developer Cing could make the comic book style character animations, which were done frame by frame.
Last Window was being developed while Cing was facing bankruptcy. While the game was being translated for an EU release, Cing did file for bankruptcy. The game is arguably even better than the first
The Conduit, a FPS for the Wii, started in development without a publisher (meaning they had nobody to actually sell the game to stores yet), because the developers were sick of what they felt was developers shafting the system (they were known for making licensed games for years, but that was more what's known as Paying Their Dues). From the interviews and the extensive soliciting of ideas and feedback, it's clear they were thrilled to finally get to do it for the art.
Too Human suffered from this, with years of prolonged development (and the issue that led to the lawsuit over the Unreal 3 Engine) making it one of the most expensive games ever made, possibly in the top three.
The Myst series, to varying degrees. Myst was a complete gamble: nobody had done anything like it before, Cyan didn't know whether the available tools were up to it, and they had no idea whether it would sell. They didn't even have work premises when they started on it. Myst II: Riven not only pushed the boundaries of rendering technology, but also featured a complete invented language with novel glyphs (which was entirely non-essential to the plot and gameplay). While being considerably less of a financial gamble, the following sequels have all followed the same philosophy of lavish and intricate design and production.
The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess. Nintendo delayed the game's release for six months to polish the graphics, when it knew full well that the game was likely to sell well as it was (assuming the graphics were all that was unfinished). In addition, there are tons of areas that the average player is never likely to go near; the "world map" is much, much bigger than they needed to make it.
Ocarina of Time was also famously delayed for about a year, with a major overhaul of the plot, so that it would be the best game ever made.
The Metroid series in general goes to great lengths to make things atmospheric when they could have just given you a map and said "shoot this".
Super Metroid has aged incredibly well due to such attention to detail. Samus has an Idle Animation consisting simply of her breathing. While wearing full body Powered Armour.
Metroid Prime—rain droplets appearing for the briefest of seconds on Samus' visor, her involuntary jerking her hand to protect herself when she takes heavy fire, being able to see the bones of her arm when wearing the X-Ray visor, and that's without taking into account all of the fluff info you can find out by scanning, like what sort of rations the Space Pirates eat. These little details helped make Prime into one of the most atmospheric games ever.
Shenmue. Each and every character has their own personal schedule and voice acting, along with a lot of information about them you can't even find without the player's guide. There are tons of buildings you can enter that have no point in the game world other than to be entered and looked at (compare to Grand Theft Auto, where if a building can be entered it has to have a point). There's a mode which has completely authentic weather for the year. No wonder it was the most expensive video game of its time.
Shantae, a Game Boy Color game. It was released near the extreme end of the handheld's lifetime (2001!), and was put out by the then-unknown WayForward Technologies. The main character was based on random sketches from the creator's wife. The game features crazily detailed and fluid 8-bit animation, using a truly insane number of sprites (in some areas, Shantae is built out of several sprites so she can utilize multiple color palettes), and was done up in classic, "hardcore" Metroidvania format despite its cutesy cover. Did the game sell well? No. Did critics adore it? Yeah! For years, WayForward has been trying to make a sequel—they just haven't found a publisher who'll bite... Untilnow.
The English localization of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is said to be NIS America's biggest undertaking to date. To start, more than 70,000 lines of written dialogue and 10,000 voice samples had to be translated, which is far greater than any other localization in their history. A Wii port was commissioned to Idea Factory just for the North American release. To somewhat minimize the inevitable Subbing versus Dubbing debate, the game's first run shipped with two discs for the PS2 version, one containing the English dub and the other with the original Japanese audio (both otherwise containing the same game). Subsequent shippments, if any, will only contain the English audio disk; but given how large the voice data is that two dubs apparently couldn't be included on one disc, they could have easily left out one or the other entirely. In addition, some names were changed in the dub, but the original names are preserved in text in the Japanese version, rather than simply sharing the same script. It speaks to NIS America's faith in the American Sakura Taisen fanbase that all of this effort is for a five-year-old game that consists mostly of Dating Sim segments, a genre that has very little following in the Western market. Shame that Segacouldn't be bothered to bring it over themselves.
The PlayStation 2 port of Ketsui was canceled. Why? The PS2 lacked the power to properly handle the background changes on the last level. Arika canceled the game to avoid an inevitable Porting Disaster.
The same situation can be said for the canceled WiiWare of Super Meat Boy. Why was it axed, you ask? Nintendo would not increase the service's 40mb file limit and Team Meat — itself a two-man team — is not willing to stoop down to a file-size-induced Porting Disasternote The Steam version is around 230mb, for the record. that would have had, in their own Word Of God, no Dark World (read: half of the game), no bosses, no leaderboards and a far smaller soundtrack.
The Xbox360 version of DoDonPachi: DaiOuJou BLACK Label ended up being a Porting Disaster. Why? After an investigation at Arika at Cave's request, the source code was being held by a management company and 5pb., the company in charge of the 360 port, stole the source code from the PS2 version. Normally, a company would sue 5pb. into next week. What did Arika do instead? After an apology from 5pb.'s CEO, Arika's CEO, Ryo Mizutani, forgave them and Arika Vice President Ichiro Mihara is now helping 5pb. make a better port of DDP: DOJ.
Thunder Force VI utilizes two different languages for in-universe text and speech, neither of which are Japanese or English. One of these languages is Tangut, an ancient language somewhat related to Chinese, and the other is Mongolian, an uncommon language to employ as a Gratuitous Foreign Language. And the even better part? The omake material has translations into Japanese and transliterations into katakana and roman characters for the in-game speech.
Thunder Force Gold Pack 2`s version of Thunder Force IV has the Styx from Thunder Force III available to use, through a secret code. When you play as the Styx, look at the font for the HUD: it's the same style of Thunder Force III`s HUD text.
Gran Turismo 5 appears to be invoking this trope. It has been in development since some time in 2005, and has apparently had every developer in the employ of Polyphony Digital working on it at the same time, during some of the development cycle anyway. The reason for that? It has one thousand individual cars. Extreme attention to detail is apparently the prime directive of Polyphony.
Most of the cars (labeled "standard cars" in-game) were copied from Gran Turismo 4 and the PSP Gran Turismo game, however, including such iconic cars as the Bugatti Veyron.
Part The Elder Scrolls series. While most of the developers is doing for the money, the enormous and detailed world and back story shows that at least someone put a lot more effort in to the games than they had to.
They have readable books, not just one or two pages, but usually in the 10s. In fact, every book you pick up in that game almost always has a unique story/information in it. All the in-game-books and notes of Morrowind put together amount to 1241 pages!
"It will take 4 million sales at full price to recoup the development costs of Red Dead. The good news is they [Rockstar] are not expecting to make money with Red Dead Redemption. At this point, that project is just supposed to prove that the San Diego studio can make a great quality AAA title."
One thing that really stands out about Mabinogi is that every NPC with a name and a face has his or her own music. Every single one. And it's pretty good music, too. Someone must've really been feeling creative.
Katawa Shoujo is a Visual Novel being done entirely by a worldwide group of amateurs to be distributed for free, simply because the developers wanted to turn an idea and characters (a game where all the potential love interests were disabled schoolgirls) from an omake page from a doujinshi into reality.
Metal Gear. Hideo Kojima in general not only shows off his work quite a bit (even though some things turn up wrong) but put most of that info into the game. The amount of things found in the CODEC conversations is vast...to say the least.
Like the Pokémon example above, Sonic Team took a trip to Central America to get inspiration for Sonic Adventure's storyline, which ended up having much Mayincatec influence.
Fangames, fangames, fangames, fangames. The whole concept embodies this trope, and while many are never finished or of terrible quality, nothing is more satisfying than finding one that's authentically good. The Sonic the Hedgehog series is lucky to have quite a few of these, including Jamie Bailey's Sonic the Hedgehog: Time Attacked, and Sonic Robo Blast 2. The later is still in development after ten years of work by a team of talented individuals, which is an even more impressive feat than one individual working on a game for the same amount of time. While they are taking their sweet time, it is worth it.
Final Fantasy I. After several mediocre at best attempts to make profitable video games and losing money on all of them, the designers at Square decided they only had one more chance to make a game before being bankrupt, and instead of using the last chance to try and come up with something guaranteed to make money, they instead decided make a game they would want to play, leading to the most ironic title in video game history.
Super Robot Wars, especially in Z, where the artists gave the older shows some truly awesome Retraux effects simply to show that, yes, they still love the oldies that much.
Billy Vs SNAKEMAN is an anime Affectionate ParodyMMORPG almost entirely created by one guy (some artwork is commissioned from independent artists) whose day job is owning an anime store. The game also has an elaborate backstory (above and beyond what comes with the plots getting parodied), and occasionally parodies some utterly obscure anime.
Alan Wake deserves it's place here. Remedy, the developers, went out halfway across the world to sit down and take thousands of pictures of a small pacific town surrounded by forests and mountains just so they could capture the appropriate feel of it. As a result, they created one of the most atmospheric games out there.
Metal Black was a Shoot Em Up by Taito. Hiroyuki Maruyama, the president of G.rev, started the company and did subcontracting work for Treasure and Taito to generate revenue just to make a Spiritual Successor called Border Down. Why? He just really liked Metal Black.
If the notes in the Mega Man Original Complete Works art book are any indication, it's obvious that Keiji Inafune cared a lot about the Mega Man series. After all, it might not have gone beyond the first game without the dedication of people like him.
Halo: Reach wasn't planned from the beginning like the rest of the trilogy was. That, and Forge World speak for themselves.
Koji Kondo had to force Mahito Yokota to scrap all 28 musical pieces the latter had composed for the first game because Kondo didn't think they fit. Once they got the soundtrack's direction sorted out, though, Yokota soldiered on once again, and his extra efforts yielded what is generally considered one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.
Some of the fan made mods for Civilization 4 are hugely detailed with thousands of man hours of work going into them. For free. Particular shout out goes to Rise of Mankind, which some have called the real Civilization 5, and Fall from Heaven, a dark fantasy mod that takes the basic gameplay elements and changes everything else. Again, they did this all for free and don't even take donations.
Radiata Stories has over one hundred and fifty recruitable NPCs, each of which have their own unique back story. The game keeps a twenty-four hour clock mechanic, and every character has a schedule they keep to. Characters will spar, go shopping, visit the doctor's, go to the bathroom, get plastered at pubs, you name it. Every character has a unique schedule suited to their personality. One fun thing to notice is what time characters go to bed and rise: one dedicated monk checks in at 8 p.m. and wakes at 5 a.m.; another drinks his nights away until 2:30 and doesn't get up until noon.
Mortal Kombat really deserves a mention here. Not only because of little touches like the continuity references sprinkled throughout the game for the fans to enjoy but because of the dedicated team members who are as integral to each game's development as much as many of the characters are. Ed Boon, John Vogel and Steve Beran are just a few of the developers at Midway — now Netherrealm Studios — who give so much for their game series. It has to be said that, in spite of whatever mixed reactions people may have had to the MK games over the years, it takes a lot to do things like add six-hundred and seventy-six unlockable extras in Deadly Alliance, including a lot that are only there to make the player smile.
Spiderweb Software seems to be aiming for this, but getting tripped up by its perpetual financial difficulties. Geneforge is a very unusual series best described as a westernized Shin Megami Tensei, and it's never really sold all that well, but the people who like it like it a lot. Avernum . . . well, it's a popular series, but apart from its setting Beneath the Earth it's pretty obviously an Ultima clone minus the moral philosophy that made Ultima so different from other Role Playing Games. Even the chief developer seems to have qualms about having made a series where, in his words, you "look around for people who look different from you, break into their homes, kill them, take their stuff, sell it, and use the money to buy better weapons to kill a higher class of people who look different from you." Between 2005 and 2009 it alternated between releasing Avernum and Geneforge sequels, the latter of which became increasingly dark and, to a certain extent, artistic, and the former of which soured on the fans a bit, but still sold far better than Geneforge. (As of this writing, both series have been discontinued in favor of a new IP, Avadon, so it'll be interesting to see whether Spiderweb has finally managed to strike a balance between what the creators want to make and what the masses want to purchase.)
The background lore of Sword Of The Stars is rich enough to put Role Playing Games to shame. Just check out the official forums, where writer Arinn "Erinys" Dembo addresses lots and lots of fan queries. Most developers would be content with short backstories, never mind actually building on the existing lore in response to fans.
As Warren Spector explained in this post-release article, the original Deus Ex was a game he was trying to get off the ground for six years, and was stymied time and time again by publishers who didn't want a "cross-genre" game and a concept that couldn't easily be defined (the game combined elements of an RPG, simulation, FPS and an adventure). With the formation of Ion Storm's Austin branch, Spector finally had the chance to realize his vision, and the end result? Well, the game actively accounts for players trying foolish or, in some cases, counter-intuitive plot choices (ex. going against your employers earlier in the game nets different dialog and more plot information); a massive amount of backstory written by the production team, even for areas the player never visits, was written (some of which was utilized in the sequel, Invisible War); a 500-page design document drafted months before game production even started, and a unified production team that focused on their work in the face of the bad press spiraling out of the Daikatana debacle.
Localization example: in 2010, XSEED Games formed a partnership with Falcom to localize some of the latter's games on the PlayStation Portable. Three of them are from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky trilogy, which is known for having thousands of lines of text...per game. (Although no specific publishers were confirmed, that alone was apparently enough to have other publishers refuse to translate it.) Although the trilogy is popular in Japan, XSEED has to deal with a market in which gamers are either aren't familiar with the series or associate The Legend of Heroes name with Bandai's (later Namco Bandai) Blind Idiot Translations of the previous three installments. Needless to say, it takes balls for a game localizer, and a fairly new one at that, to localize that many games under such circumstances.
In 1997, Looking Glass Studios began work on System Shock 2, the sequel to the 1994 game (which sold decently, but wasn't much of a moneymaker). The team hired for the project only had a year to complete their project, working with an unfinished graphics engine (the Dark Engine, which would be used in the Thief series of games). They had to endure staff walkouts, which arguably made the remaining team members become closer as a result. The game also codified many elements of the action genre in one game - branching character paths, an open-ended gameplay experience, a constantly-changing environment, RPG elements and a extreme infusion of horror - something unheard of at the time. The game ended up being regarded as one of the scariest video games ever made, resulted in critical accolades and awards that continue to this day, received a Spiritual Successor in the form of Bioshock and Dead Space, and the creators still release materials related to the game (Ken Levine released design sketches and concept art, while composer Eric Brosius released the entire soundtrack to a fansite) more than a decade later.
Everything done by CyberConnect2. The .hack Franchise is known for creating a fascinating World in it's Fictional MMO known as, well, The World. The Naruto games they make do their very best to capture the essence of the franchise in it's action, art direction, overall style, and makes them legitimately good licensed games.
Then there's Asuras Wrath by the same people, of which the creative process was a painstakingly long 1 and a half years of world building and story creation, and that was before the Game itself was developed to Tech Demo level, plus the enriched, well researched Asian Mythology aspects of the game, mixed with Science Fiction and Space Opera, to craft a unique and interesting world, and with similarly beautifully designed characters and monsters. And the sheer Scope of the game. All of this, combined with the above examples from CyberConnect2's other games, just because the CEO of CyberConnect2 genuinely Loves what it is he does, making games.
After all development for Fallout New Vegas was officially completed, including the patches and DLC, project director and lead designer Joshua Sawyer released a mod for the PC version that rebalanced the game and all of its expansions in many respects, making it more challenging overall. Changes included making the necessity meters in Hardcore Mode fill up faster, made healing items rarer and gave them weight, decreased the rate at which the Player Character gain experience, and altered how much weight could be carried.
In a tangentially related instance, during the development of the original Fallout, many members of the QA team worked weekends for free as the game entered crunch, forgoing the extra pay that would come with working offhours and overtime.
The Resident Evil remake has a nice touch that has probably not been seen in the ten years since: Wesker's boots are detailed to the point where it's shown that the top holes are not laced through. Each character also wears a watch this is designed differently, and at the time of the game being made you could actually buy the watches.
Nintendo wanted Rare to cancel Golden Eye 1997 after numerous delays. The choice was made not to inform the development team and allow them to continue working. The game's acclaimed multiplayer was also implemented within a month in secret: the team highly suspected that if they'd told management about it, they'd be forced to cut it from the game to get it out the door faster.
After a year of tweaking and a virtually total overhaul of game mechanics, Arcen Games decided they simply couldn't make the core components of A Valley Without Wind fit their vision. Their solution? Start working on the sequel. Oh, and so their paying customers don't get cheated out of what Arcen wanted to give them in the first place, everyone who owns a copy of AVWW with be given the sequel for free, and so new players won't be deprived of an entire first attempt that many current players like nonetheless, the first game will come free with the sequel. A blog post on the matter pretty much said it isn't the customer's fault they strayed during the first development process, so they shouldn't be punished for it.
Sumo Digital. the creators (well, most) of the SEGA Superstars crossover games, Tennis was meant to be a Sonic only game, but Sumo managed to convince SEGA to use various SEGA franchises because they believed the variety would make for a more interesting game. And as their philosophy to recreating some games which haven't been seen in a long time is 'what you remember most about them', this results in a TON of fanservice and attention to detail. It helps they're essentially Promoted fanboys of SEGA. While they admit they do keep turning a profit in mind, they mainly consider what franchises can bring to the table to create a fun and memorable game.
And both fans and SEGA have been impressed by their passion; it was reported that when the team showed their recreation track of Skies of Arcadia in Transformed to the game's original producer, she came close to tears due to how faithful and nostalgic the result was. They've even admitted if this convinces SEGA to revive some of their games, they won't be complaining.
The creator of L.A. Noire was certainly convinced that it was his magnum opus. The work put into definitely shows, the developers looked through thousands of photos of 1940's L.A. in order for it to be accurate. The open-world gameplay was probably intended to show off their work, from the L.A. landmarks to vehicles. Most of the landmarks aren't an integral part of the core storyline, but are re-created in loving detail. One example is how one player found his great grandfather's restaurant, a local landmark, accurately recreated in game. The developing team, also utilized cutting edge technology in order to recreate realistic facial expressions in order to enhance gameplay. Most inaccuracies found in game are actually done for the Rule Of Cool.
When Toys For Bob were creating Star Control 2, their bosses originally wanted to shove the game out the door still woefully incomplete to meet budget guidelines. The developers instead spent 6 months of unpaid work using their own resources to ensure the game would be properly complete.
Brain Age: Concentration Training's Music Appreciation mode has 33 original music tracks whose only purposes are to be appreciated and help you relax.
Really, any webcomic fits this trope. Almost no one starts one expecting to make a profit.
Well, if one is serious about becoming an illustrator, artist, or writer of some kind, this would be a good sample piece to get started. Webcomics don't give out instant money, but they certainly can help an aspiring artist. And there are also those who wrongly believe they would get money, though they typically don't last long.
It's not that you can't make money if you are really good, it is more that if you are that good you could have made money more easily through more traditional channels (like working for Marvel or something). It is people who set out to make money making webcomics who weren't already good enough to work for a major comic company that are doomed to fail. Those people who do make money off webcomics were either already successful artists, or people who were good enough to be successful artists but didn't know it (thus coming as a pleasant surprise when they get to quit their day job).
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 Comics Irregular. Attention Deficit Creator Disorder, crammed with massive reference and explanations needed to just make a pun work, 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 as charity. Still no profit.
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.
One of the DVD commentaries for Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog is the appropriately titled Commentary! The Musical. In it, Felicia Day takes the time to tell us, and remind herself, that it's "All About the Art". And not about the hunkyco-star, awesome shoes, or promoting her own web series.
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.
Olan Rogers has about amassed just over 100,000 views for the most viewed New Prime video, and yet he continues to spend many months at a time working on each one. It shows. Oh, and there's No Budget.
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 ten years 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).
Brain Scratch 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.
Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. He has turned down the offer he got from Dream Works 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 Brothers, 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 Brothers; 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 Dead 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), 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?
They did goof on the planes, though. Every German fighter we see is an Me-109, and an outdated marque at that, when Fw-190s would have been more appropriate by June 1944.
Other goofs include the fact that British and Canadian rather than American troops took Caen, and the battle to take Caen took place a considerable period of time after the D-Day landings.
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, 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 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 Mighty Orbots' artists, produced in the 1980s, actually studied from 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 the page quote, 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...")
Oban 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. 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.
Not only is Povenmire fine with having his work on YouTube, but he actually reads the comments and responds to some of them.
"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 Shelleys 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 "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.
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 loophole (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.
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.
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.
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 Alien 3 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.
Steve Blum has revealed he has taken an extreme pay cut for the 2012 Toonami relaunch, since he wants to keep anime alive in the US and he it is something he just really wanted to do.
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; 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.
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. However, these guys have done reviews or made episodes when they were sick or broke and have still kept at it.
Noah Antwiler did a game review back in 2007 on a horrible E.T Atari game right after having his wisdom teeth taken out (2 operations) and stoned out of his mind on vicodin because the fans begged him to. That's dedication to your art. And after "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 comission. That's pretty impressive.
The people at Gucci liked John Wayne's films so much, they gave him a Bowie knife. Yes, a Gucci-made Bowie knife. Wayne like it so much he kept it in his top desk drawer up to his death so he'd see it every time he'd sit down to write to fans.
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 the battle with lymphoma, all of his remaining unsold paintings were treated likewise.