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Doing It for the Art

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No sale, bud.

"I don't make movies to make money, I make money to make movies."

When dealing with media, sometimes it is difficult to overcome the feeling that, however much you may love a TV show, movie, video game, etc., the only reason it exists is to make money. Sure, it might have great writing, acting, animation, etc., 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 media that 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 motivation 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 only really makes sense when applied to pop culture. The definition of this 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 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 consider that Tropes Are Tools. Doing It for the Art does not equal quality work. If it did, then this page would have been put in the Sugar Wiki a long time ago. Some examples here are of people who genuinely tried, but just weren't talented enough — Sturgeon's Law still applies, regardless of the creator's motives. (In which case this 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. 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 motivation 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!.

Compare and contrast with Awesome, Dear Boy, Money, Dear Boy, One for the Money; One for the Art, and So My Kids Can Watch. Contrast with Pandering to the Base, Propaganda Piece, Contractual Obligation Project, and Creator's Apathy. See also Serious Business, Developers' Foresight, Easter Egg, The Producer Thinks of Everything, Shown Their Work, and Written for My Kids.

As with Shown Their Work try to keep this from becoming Gushing About Shows You Like.

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Example subpages:

Other examples:

  • This Honda commercial, CG, right? It could've been, but why not do it for the art instead?
  • HBO's iconic 80s movie opener; so much so, there was even a short documentary produced about it. All of the effects in the logo probably could've been achieved with CGI, but instead, Liberty Studios—the company behind the logo—went all out with making it using practical effects. The entire city landscape was an actual model that was 10 feet wide and 30 feet long, with so much stunning attention to detail that it took over three months to fully construct, and during the making, smoke was pumped through in order to give it the appearance of a three-dimensional environment. The music that scores the opener was produced with a 65-piece orchestra. The HBO logo was made with brass, and the laser effects were achieved with light and camera tricks. Other than some superimposition effects for the family at the beginning as well as the ending title cards, practically no computer effects were used to create the opening. No wonder it's such a favorite of many!
  • That Squatty Potty commercial with the baby unicorn pooping ice cream could have very easily gotten by with CGI, but the creators decided to go all-out with a full puppet instead.

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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. What's also notable is that he had already become very financially successful with his previous work Dr. Slump, and yet he chose to keep going with another work.
  • The music of Cowboy Bebop, rather than going for the J-Pop music that's the norm for such anime, elected to go for classic jazz performed by composer Yoko Kanno and her band The Seatbelts. If you really want to be impressed, consider the fact that Jazz is not a popular art form in Japan (though Tokyo does currently have a fast-growing jazz scene, well worth checking out).
  • Birdy the Mighty. Especially the Decode series, which produced two series of stylish, fluid animation and engaging, sympathetic characters despite poor sales.
  • Gunsmith Cats actually sent its entire animation studio to Chicago to make sure they got the setting right, and instead of using stock gun noises they used recordings of each gun being used that they made themselves.
  • The half-hour film Voices of a Distant Star was created almost entirely by Makoto Shinkai. The only thing he didn't do by himself was the voice acting on the commercial release.
  • 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.
  • Vinland Saga. Not only did the author make it because it was always his dream to create a kickass Shonen series, but 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 a large amount of high-quality music by names like Eri Kawai, Senoo and Choro Club.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: The Omake from the compiled volumes show 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 appears 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.
  • The manga version of Genshiken features very intricate and detailed backgrounds, and references to real media to go with the otaku theme of the series. Example: "The Champ of Fighters" = The King of Fighters:
  • Say what you will about the pacing, but 110 OVA episodes of Legend of Galactic Heroes would not be possible without the enthusiasm (read: obsession) of the original novelist, Yoshiki Tanaka.
  • This video demonstrates the amount of detail the animators of Durarara!! went through in order to ensure that every detail of their fictional Ikebukuro would mimic almost every aspect of its Real Life counterpart.
  • Giant Robo The Animation: The Day the Earth Stood Still was made over a period of nearly 6 years, ran massively over budget, and the finale was practically financed out of the production staff's own pockets. And it was worth it.
    • All for a series which was already deemed a commercial failure by the third of its seven episodes. The team kept plugging away at it anyhow. While it went unloved in its homeland, it was a big hit in North America, and is considered a classic among English-speaking fans.
    • This is one of the defining traits of Imagawa. Giant Robo and Shin Mazinger are both incredible stories that tanked in Japan, and G Gundam would have been a shameless set of 22-minute toy commercials had he not held his ground.
  • For the Pokémon movies, the director Kunihiko Yuyama travels the world in order to capture the feel of the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures Ash and co. will visit. For Pokémon Heroes' Altomare, the director visited Venice. In Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, he toured castles in Germany. For Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, he visited Barcelona, Spain. For Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior, he visited the fjords of Norway. For Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, he visited temples in Greece. For Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, he visited the Netherlands.
  • 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.
    • The first season was packed with work done simply for the artistry. Including valid C++ code, SQL commands used in a way that no one can understand anyway, photo accurate recreations of the setting, and tiny details hinting toward coming (that is to say previous) episodes.
    • Also, the novels. There's no other reason (well, except Author Appeal) to put explanations and diagrams of college-level math.
    • The start-up of the old Windows 95 computer in alternate-world Nagato's classroom during the Disappearance movie as well. They could have simply made it a generic affair, but it was done accurately from start to finish, correct opening sound, GUI and all included.
  • 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 on for three years and keep going at it and refusing to let any of that lessen the quality. To say nothing about the realistic nature in which it was portrayed.
  • Hideaki Anno, entirely. He founded Studio Gainax with some college buddies in order to make off-kilter stuff like Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Gunbuster, and Otaku no Video simply because they loved anime—then he suffered a breakdown due to lack of creative control over Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. His iconic work, Neon Genesis Evangelion was created primarily as an expression of his own struggle with manic depression, as well as a rumination on various philosophical topics of interest to him. He even admitted his astonishment when the series became one of the most popular and iconic anime of all time. He is notoriously dismissive of Fan Dumb and starting with Evangelion, every other one of his works has been a massive "fuck you" to otaku. He walked out on the next series he worked on because of creative disputes with the original author, and simply abandoned anime altogether in favor of bizarre live-action films until leaving his company to form his own production studio. If all that isn't Doing It for the Art, we don't know what is.
  • 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.
    • When Oshii set out to do The Sky Crawlers, he and his crew traveled to Ireland and Poland where the movie is set to photograph not only the scenery or buildings but also radiators, electric sockets and window frames to get everything to look authentic.
  • Most anything involving Yoshitoshi ABe qualifies. Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze don't seem to be commercially inspired, despite their success — and shows like Haibane Renmei and Niea_7 are clearly works of love.
  • 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.
    • Eric Stuart CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT to voice Gourry again for Slayers Revolution.
    • 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 they like it, not for the money.
      • This trope is one of the reasons why certain V As normally based in LA (or, more rarely, NYC) are willing to work with Funimation (which is located in Fort Worth, Texas) in the first place, being that it's a Right-To-Work State, thus cheaper prices and in general a more open environment compared to LA and NYC (one of the advantages is that you can actually call up the company doing the casting auditions and have your name put on a list. Then, on audition day you go there and take your shot in person).
  • Joshua Seth came out of voice acting retirement to reprise Tai in Digimon Adventure tri..
  • Composer and songwriter Yuki Kajiura spent ten days in Peru as she prepared to write the music for El Cazador de la Bruja.
  • Sound of the Sky takes place in the fictional town of Seize, which is shot by shot the real Spanish town of Cuenca. Also, to voice 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 Eiichiro 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.
  • It may be a huge victim of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny, but the effort that went into making Science Ninja Team Gatchaman has to be seen to be to be believed.
  • Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto. No, really. Reading the personal history segments he puts into the volumes reveals just how much he loves being a mangaka, and how much effort he put into getting to that point. And the biggest reason he came this far is For the Art, his love of drawing is what convinced him to be a mangaka in the first place.
  • Tite Kubo, creator of Bleach. Much like Oda and Kishimoto, he loves his work as a mangaka. He has stated that he draws and writes what he loves, and that to write something he did not like would be a sin. His foreword in Volume 55 is proof of this, where he stated that the entire story of Bleach was done for the sake of the Final Arc, a final arc he had been drafting and preparing for the past five years. Call him whatever you want, but this is a man who writes what he loves.
  • The attention Hidekaz Himaruya puts to both his works and audience says a lot about his dedication, whether it's in the research or his sincere appreciation for the fandom's support even during the 2011 earthquake.
    • And if this recent Q&A blog post is anything to go by, he's also notably open in letting his fans have their way with his work, including scanlations.
  • Koichi Mashimo founded his own studio, Bee Train, just for this. After a lengthy hospital stay from a skiing accident, he formed his own company to nurture the creative talent of its staff and not be driven just for profit.
  • Animation-wise, the entire anime genre is this, compared with Western Animation in the U.S. and Canada: while in the former countries, traditional animation is a dying breed and CGI animation is becoming more and more common, Japanese animators are notorious for sticking to their guns and still using traditional animation. There's a few Japanese CGI films and series, but most of the time they're experimental works and never intended for being used for replacing traditional animation as a whole.
    • In Japan, CGI animation is normally restricted for animating non-living stuff, like vehicles, ships, robots, etc. And sometimes, some animation studios like Sunrise are notorious for never using CGI in some series, like Gundam, when the titular machines are always being traditionally animated and never being rendered in CGI, with some few exceptions.
    • On the other hand, Studio Nue (the owners of the Macross franchise) are notorious for using CGI for many of their later series, like Macross Frontier, Genesis of Aquarion and Aquarion Evol, but only for the robots.
    • Yet other studios Take a Third Option, by going full CGI but making it look hand-drawn. It's easy and cheap to entirely use CGI that clearly looks computer-rendered, and often not of good quality, but when Japanese studios do it, there is a strong tendency to mimic the hand-drawn look that makes anime so unique (which is not easy). An example would be the Animated Adaptation of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, which is entirely done with CGI, but apart from the unusual fluidity of movements looks as hand-drawn as other works, just a little cleaner.
    • That's not to say studios don't embrace what 3DCG has to offer. Take for example Sanzigen Animation; right down to the studio name,note  they're committed to making series in fully rendered 3D, with video game cutscene quality.
    • Making a CG show look hand-drawn is sort of standard for anime, but bringing characters into fully 3D space takes arguably a lot more effort. Stand by me Doraemon, the only Doraemon film to use a 3D style, goes above and beyond to look almost Pixar-like in quality and attention to detail, in addition to having a plot that tugs at any Doraemon fan's heartstrings. It all paid off, becoming the highest-grossing film of the franchise to date (and for a franchise as popular as Doraemon in its home country, that says a lot).
    • The season 2 opener for Osomatsu-san has the brothers try out different animation genres and techniques to figure out the best way to become a "proper" series. Jyushimatsu is the only one to come back rendered in CG— but rather than make a cheap model and barely animate it, the team uses film quality, high framerate, expertly rendered, smooth CG to make his gag work. And they didn't even cel shade him to match style! Did they have to put that much in for a 1-minute gag? No, but if he had to exhibit the technique as "proper", they needed to make it live up to the title.
  • Musou Kakyou: A Summer Day's Dream and Fantasy Kaleidoscope are professional, extensive Touhou Project fanime.
  • Hirohiko Araki stated that the reason part 7 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure moved from Weekly Shonen Jump to its sister seinen magazine Ultra Jump was that he wasn't satisfied with the restrictions of a weekly shounen magazine or just "drawing manga for his own benefit", and wanted to tell a more challenging, ambitious, adult and psychological storyline. As a result of this, Steel Ball Run is widely considered the best-written and most engaging storyline in the entire franchise.
  • The One-Punch Man anime is done by Madhouse on what is reportedly a very average budget...and yet they are creating amazingly detailed and beautifully animated scenes for the show, far above what that budget should be able to allow. All indications are that they're doing it simply because they love the concept of One-Punch Man and just want to bring it to life in anime form.
  • Red Line: It took seven years of hand-drawn animation to make this movie.
  • For the anime adaptation of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Science SARU didn't have legal permission to use footage from Future Boy Conan in the first episode. They got around this by painstakingly recreating scenes from Conan from scratch; not only did they trace the scenes frame by frame and recolor them, but they even recreated the music and sound effects.
  • Blade of the Immortal mangaka Hiroaki Samura personally redrew many pages so that the English-language release could be presented in the left-to-right English reading order without "flipping" the pages (i.e. mirroring them horizontally, a then-common practice which tends to cause Bad Export for You, especially with text). The series ultimately ran for 30 volumes this way.
  • The dubs of Ace Attorney and Sakura Wars the Animation had their ADR directors and scriptwriters do optional research playing the games.
  • Like Eric Stuart before him, Dan Green exited retirement to reprise Yugi and Atem in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, and Mewtwo in Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution.

    Comic Books 
  • Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark is probably the crowning example. Sim spent a quarter of a century working so hard that his marriage broke up and he spent time in an asylum.
  • Mark Waid's Kingdom Come is oozing with DC comic book lore, symbolism and biblical references among other things.
  • Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is just dripping with cultural references. Actually, most of what Alan Moore does belongs here—Watchmen was originally just supposed to be an integration of newly acquired trademarks into the DC Universe, but Moore just didn't know when to quitnote .
  • 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 Pérez 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.
  • The 2013 run of Young Avengers written by Kieron Gillen has become famous for innovative layout design by artist Jamie McKelvie, especially the double-page spread for each issue. Gillen himself has joked that the main reason for their collaborations is mainly to show off Jamie's art.
  • When Fabian Nicieza was writing Nomad (a Captain America spinoff that ran from 1992 to 1994), he wanted it to be more mature than your average Marvel comic book. Not only that, but he said straight out that he wished to sell Nomad to the same audience that read The Sandman.
  • The Alternative Comics publisher Fantagraphics can certainly qualify, releasing over 100 titles a year ranging from more popular examples like Love and Rockets to more esoteric examples like ”Abstract Comics: The Anthology”. All edited and released by a staff of Twenty. And they’ve managed to stay in business since 1976. For example, when they faced a cash shortage due to co-founder Kim Thompson’s Author Existence Failure, their Kickstarter campaign to make back the money to release the titles was funded in FOUR DAYS because they just built up that much goodwill in the comic community over the years.
  • Ultimate Marvel: The main thing of the Ultimate Marvel, from day one to its very end, was to take creative risks and try things that would never be attempted in the prime universe. Some of those attempts were lauded successes, such as The Ultimates (The Avengers as a state-sponsored group), others were largely failures such as Ultimatum (a Kill 'Em All event, even killing for good all the X-Men's sacred cows), but the risks have always been taken.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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 official merchandise is extremely rarenote ; Watterson was open to producing an animated series at one point but ultimately decided against it because he couldn't get used to the idea of Calvin or Hobbes having a voice, as it would inevitably fail to match the voices readers had imagined for them.

    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 50 years, only stopping when he was too ill to continue (by which we mean that his final strip was printed the day after his death and had been drawn just a few weeks before). And not only the comics — Schulz was also pretty involved with the TV specials and movies, especially the original Christmas special.

    Fan Works 
  • Fanfiction, Fan Art, and other Fan Works. People have spent over a decade on some longer series, or occasionally on one very long standalone story. They can spend quite a bit of time researching various elements like any other author. Since it's fanfiction, that also includes the need to carefully pore over the canon they're writing about in order to depict it accurately, and learning fandom-specific terminologynote  in order to write a good summary for the fanfic and make it easier to search for. Then, good parodies of fanfics are harder than they seem, and for little gain: they can be painstakingly researched on what cliches to include, what the fandom usually groans at, etc.
  • The Crimson Badger, the first book of The Urthblood Saga, is a good example. This monumental Redwall fic of 87 chapters and 400,000 words was mostly written in the late nineties before the author had ever heard of the Fan Fiction community, and was convinced that no one but himself would ever read it.

  • The Lord of the Rings and all related books that were written by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's no exaggeration to say that the saga represents his total life's work note . 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 a backdrop for the out-of-whole-cloth-created languages that the English professor had constructed. Boggles the mind, it does.
    • The original publishers count as well, deserving credit for backing a work of genius even though they thought they might lose money on it. (The first print run, 3,500 copies, sold out within six weeks.)
  • L.E. Modesitt's Saga of Recluce fantasy series also uses highly detailed and accurate descriptions of mundane activities such as woodworking and blacksmithing. Such details are used as metaphors for and illustrations of both character development and the mechanics of magic in his world.
  • Gustave Flaubert wrote only three completed novels during his life due to being the perfectionist's perfectionist. Besides his famously agonizing search for le mot juste — 'the correct word', or the exact word(s) needed to produce the effect he wanted in any given scene — he went and scrupulously checked every fact (down to attending medical examinations to ensure his medical histories were correct).
  • Similar to the examples above, Dune contains a sprawling universe adorned with myriad details and complicated histories, economics, and ecology. Frank Herbert loved to show his work.
  • Many Science Fiction writers do this. There are stories of Heinlein sitting at his kitchen table with a slide rule, 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 Worldbuilding and planning out the six sequels she had already planned to write. And for much of this time, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. She turned down various offers for the movie rights and only relented when Warner Bros. agreed to her conditions, which included following her storyline and averting the Fake Brit trope. And like Chuck Jones, she has been quoted as saying she didn't actually have children in mind when she wrote the series and was really just entertaining herself.
    • The success of the Harry Potter franchise has made her rich enough to never have to write another book in her life...not that that's stopping her.
  • 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."
  • While Malazan Book of the Fallen is profitable to the publisher nowadays, it took quite a while to get there. It took even longer for Steven Erikson to even find a publisher who was willing to take the entire series as planned because it was such a massive undertaking and he wasn't willing to compromise. Erikson is citing his frustration with the publishing system's aversion to risk-taking in the preface of Gardens of the Moon.
    Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat. Write with balls, write with eggs. Sure, it's a harder journey but take it from me, it's well worth it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Like the Transformers live-action film, a lot of the CGI in Firefly was done to fit in the shots instead of making the shots to fit the CGI. Beyond that, the amount of detail that goes into everything — from backgrounds, to slang, to minor plot points that don't become important until six episodes later is simply amazing. This was Joss Whedon and Tim Minear's baby. And it was killed after fourteen episodes.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003). They employ people whose job it is to cut the corners off of paper to make them into the series' distinctive octagonal shape.
    • When they realized they were running out of music budget for the series finale, Ron Moore, the other producers and composer Bear McCreary himself pitched in to pay for the orchestra.
  • Babylon 5 (The creator of the show also wrote 4/5ths of the 110 scripts and took the job of executive producer just so he could get the creative control he wanted. There's also over 10,000 posted public comments from the five year run of the show.)
    • 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 dollars' it's made for WB with him seeing almost nothing off DVD sales.
    • With season 3, he became the first person in the history of American TV to write a full-length season single-handed. And then did it again with season 4.
    • And because he wanted to flesh out everything beforehand, he took what had to be an unprecedented step of Crazy-Prepared by giving every character a "trap-door" in case anyone had to be written out due to Real Life Writes the Plot, so that every exit made sense within the story instead of having to make it up as the show went along.
      • 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 didn't expect it to become popular and actually had a very small promoting budget during the first series.
  • When Andrew Robinson was cast as Garak in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he actually wrote a detailed back-story for his character, and presented his "character bible" to the series' producers. Apart from some elements that went counter to the previously-written Cardassian history, the producers approved Robinson's efforts, which became part of Garak's character. Many of his notes which didn't make the series proper, went into the Expanded Universe novel "A Stitch in 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 (2006) 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 (1967) 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.
  • Most producers and writers, and even actors on Doctor Who see the show as their lifelong dream, but special mention has to go out to Russell T Davies, who tried for sixteen years to get it back on the air. Say what you want about his storytelling, but he really loved the show.
    • This trope even extended to actors who weren’t even fans of the series before appearing in it. William Hartnell took to the series like a fish took to water, going to the extra effort of labelling many of the dozens of levers on the TARDIS console so he knew which one to use for a specific purpose and had great faith in the future of the show, which couldn’t be said for the other shows he previously appeared in. Jon Pertwee enjoyed doing the show because he finally got to have the chance to play a suave action hero rather than another comic character, also developing friendships with the other cast members and crew, and Tom Baker thought the entire idea behind the show was cool and was more interesting than his own personal life.
    • Not forgetting all the other people who worked on bringing Doctor Who back after its hiatus and those who work on the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, such as Nicholas Briggs for Big Finish Doctor Who. It helped keep Doctor Who alive before its return.
    • The Doctor Who Restoration Team, the people responsible for the remastering on the later VHS releases and all the Classic Series DVD releases work for free so that people can see the show in the best possible quality.
  • Chris Morris is known for the lengths he will go to to achieve his effects and his sheer guts and bravery (even memorably mocking drug dealers to their faces). His agent has commented that she doesn't tell Chris what his fee will be for any one programme...because he's likely to negotiate it away to pay for extra filming.
  • Frank Herbert's Children of Dune has the song "Inama Nushif", which is sung entirely in the Fremen language.
    "Unreal. Brian [Tyler] actually searched through Herbert's books and deciphered enough of the fictional Fremen language to write this powerful song. A song that drives my favorite moment of the film."Director Greg Yaitanes.
  • The lead actors of Emergency!, Randy Mantooth and Kevin Tighe, went through the paramedic training of the Los Angeles County Fire Department at the time in order to accurately portray their roles. Had they not skipped the final exam, they would've been fully-certified paramedics.
  • Some Project Runway contestants have had a tendency to do whatever they wanted artistically, even if they risked losing. Austin, Stella, and Sandhya really stand out in this category, and even more moved into it at least once for a challenge with a weird inspiration or one where they had immunity.
  • Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million contract to continue Chappelle's Show because of the changes that would come with the money. He instead preferred to do impromptu stand-up.
  • Yes, Minister: Nigel Hawthorne, who played Sir Humphrey, was required to perform some of the most convoluted Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness ever brought to screen, big or small. However, in spite of being forced to perform lines like: "The relationship, which I might tentatively venture to aver has been not without some degree of reciprocal utility, and perhaps even occasional gratification, is emerging a point of irreversible bifurcation and, to be brief, is in the propinquity of its ultimate regrettable termination.", he never once resorted to using a cue card, but insisted on actually learning his lines. The writers were shocked and awed.
  • The first season of RuPaul's Drag Race UK was noted by many fans to have a much less tense atmosphere than the original American series. This is because the UK show airs on The BBC, which forbids game shows from giving cash prizes. The winner's only prize is a trip to Los Angeles to film a spin-off webseries similar to Alyssa's Secret. Since not as much was on stake, the queens were able to just enjoy each other's company and showcase their talent on TV rather the fights and cutthroat attitudes that have come to define the US version.

  • John Popadiuk, full stop. The decline of Arcade Games and arcade pinballs at the end of the 20th century have sent pinball designers either consolidating into the few remaining companies or moving on to other fields. But not John Popadiuk, who not only continues to dedicate himself to keeping the spirit of American Pinball alive, he's also started his own studio for creating hand-made custom tables for a truly devoted audience. His first table, Magic Girl, took over two years to create and had a production run of only thirteen tables... all of which were pre-sold, sight unseen, for $15,995 each.
  • WhizBang Pinball, formed by veteran pinball developers Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres. Their first game, Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons, is a Retraux electro-mechanical pin, taking two years to produce four tables that resemble stacks of wooden crates. They've since released their plans and artwork to the pinball community, encouraging fans to make their own machines, and are looking at teaming up with Stern Pinball for a limited run to meet the demand of die-hard collectors.
  • One of the notable aspects of Big Guns is how its backbox is noticeably taller than those of most other pinball games. Why? Because artist Python Anghelo insisted he needed the extra height to accommodate his castle artwork.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Pro Wrestler Jim Fullington, better known as the Sandman. Has been independently wealthy for more than a decade, and still goes out almost every night and gets the living hell knocked out of him due to the love of the "sport," and his love for the fans.
  • CM Punk believes that pro wrestling is one of "the original arts that America has given to the world" and his career was built around making that as sincere as possible beyond the usual aspirations of personal fame and recognition.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forge World, a company that makes high-end models for Warhammer 40,000. They not only make special tanks and variations, including the always-favorite Super-Heavy Tanks, Flyers, and wallet-raping Titans, but will also do shuttles and support vehicles that have little to no actual combat value, and about half a dozen "pattern" conversion kits, which are sets to make your standard tanks look just a little different. These guys just love making tanks for the Imperial Guard (and to a lesser extent, the other factions as well).
    • One could also argue that it's actually the people buying the kits who are in it for the art, and Forge World themselves are just exploiting a market that is willing to pay a lot of money for their models. Or they are one and the same.
  • Take a look at a card from the Yu-Gi-Oh! CCG. Then another. And another. Chances are, you'll see familiar monsters popping up in the artwork of each other's cards, or spell or trap cards that might not even apply to them. Look at enough of them, and you'll notice a pattern...a pattern that tells a story...a story that is much deeper and involved than you'd ever expect from a mere card game. 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 Worldbuilding. 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.
    • Two full expansion sets were nothing but over-the-top cheesy humor — Unglued and Unhinged — were done strictly because the developers wanted to do something silly. It doesn't help that the main impetus behind both was Phil Foglio.
  • 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 full 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.

  • Pacific Overtures. A kabuki-inspired historical pageant about culture clash and gunboat diplomacy featuring an all Asian-American cast was never going to be the next big Broadway commercial hit, but Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim never shied away from making shows purely because they challenged and inspired them creatively.

    Web Animation 
  • All Fanime, period. A lot of time and effort is put into videos that few people will ever see, and the whole production is often written and animated by one person.
  • A huge majority of YouTube Poopers work as hard as possible on their videos without expecting any compensation whatsoever. While it is, on one hand, a product of the circumstances note it is generally agreed that making money off of the hobby would completely undermine its purpose.
  • Rooster Teeth—before they even begin to write a series, they study and pull apart the game they use, sometimes for months beforehand, as they did with Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction and Halo 3.
  • Halo fan Phillip Kang worked on his machinima film, Halo: Eye of the Storm for two years before finally releasing it, with each shot taking approximately 5 hours to capture, due to having to replay the same campaign stage over and over to try and make each shot as perfect as it could be, due to not being able to control the AI.
  • Homestar Runner. It was quite sometime 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 Telltale games, all of which have either Mike or both Chaps working with Telltale extensively on lines and story. (Eventually, they said yes to animating careers that had nothing to do with Homestar whatsoever.)
  • 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.

  • 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 two pages.
  • When Sluggy Freelance began, it followed the standard four-panel black-and-white format of newspaper comics, complete with the triple-sized, full-color strip on Sundays. As the years went by, Pete Abrams began using color a lot more frequently, as well as often doing several strips each week that were double, triple, or even quadruple the normal size. All while sticking to a daily update schedule. Compare a week's worth of strips from early in the series to a week of strips from the "That Which Redeems" arc.
  • All the works by David Morgan-Mar and The Comic Irregulars. Attention Deficit Creator Disorder crammed with massive references and explanations needed to just make a pun work, yet free of Schedule Slip and they are doing it as a hobby! That's something you don't get to see often. Since he's using copyrighted material, there are no ads or merchandise funding the site hosting. It all comes out of his own pocket. Even now when DMM has ads and merchandise for mezzacotta, he intends to make zero profit and give all the money earned to charity.
  • Lackadaisy creator Tracy Butler did not have to maintain the accuracy of the architecture, clothes, and phrase choices of the 20s, but chose to, and is sticking to it.
  • 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.
  • Howard Taylor, in over twenty yearsnote , never missed a single day of Schlock Mercenary, for any reason. Whenever technical issues threatened to break this record (including an explosion at the data center that houses the comic), he used stopgap measures such as putting it in the blog, just so us loyal readers could get our daily dose of Schlock from SOMEWHERE on time.
  • FreakAngels, a webcomic produced by acclaimed comic writer Warren Ellis and drawn and inked by Paul Duffield. They turn out six full-color, 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.
  • Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi and its related comic Grim Tales from Down Below. ESPECIALLY the latter.
  • MS Paint Adventures. Andrew Hussie updates almost every day, including holidays (holidays often have larger updates). He famously once said that he was going to take a break...only to post eighty pages. Andrew is so obsessed with his story that he can recap most of the material from memory without rereading.
    • Hussie himself once 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.
  • Dan Shive of El Goonish Shive puts extra effort into certain aspects of making strips. He makes sure the composition of the scenes he puts his characters in are realistic even if its only for one panel. He researches things for the comic like obscure facts about World War II. He even ensures that when a character exposits seemingly meaningless Magi Babble as part of a montage, everything he says actually has a basis in something real In-Universe.
  • For Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, writer and artist Wayne Vansant made multiple trips to Ukraine and interviewed dozens of people who were there in World War II. The equipment and settings are accurately drawn, and the battles and atrocities shown are (or are based upon) real events.
  • xkcd:
    • 1110: Click and Drag is, simply put, a single webcomic frame with the dimensions of 165888 x 65536 pixels and the populated size (disregarding fillers) of around one gigapixel. You explore it by, duh, clicking and dragging.
    • 1190: Time, a graphic story updated once per hour over the course of four months. (The author's site only contained the latest image, but numerous fan-made browsers were created.)
    • 1446: Landing, a shorter variant of the former, updated every five minutes over 12 hours during the Rosetta landing, in real time.

    Web Original 
  • This trope is the reason why a card game is developed as story material for Chaos Fighters.
  • 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.
  • Hardcore Gaming 101 is a video game overview site that consists of reviews on obscure/cult classic games, interviews, podcasts, vlogs, self-released books (all of which are available for download for free) - all made on pure enthusiasm and with little to no money in return, for more than a decade of regular updates.
  • The SCP Foundation setting is made up of nothing but fan-submitted content. It's all available for free and no one makes any money off of it.
  • The Avocado is an entirely non-profit website (its URL is, relying on donations to cover operating expenses. All content on the site is created by the site's users, just for the joy of creating something or to start a discussion in the community.
  • In the days before the release of The Last of Us Part II, Jason Schreier of Kotaku wrote an article that touched on the darker side of this trope. Developer Naughty Dog had a habit of perfectionism and only hiring the best, most driven people to make their games as good as could be, which meant they'd be willing to put up with twelve-hour-plus workdays and coming in sick to work on the game. They were never asked to work overtime week after week until they were hospitalized because they'd do it anyway. Some employees found it impossible to do it for the art in the extreme crunch, to the point that most game animators refuse to work with Naughty Dog at all.
    Schreier: Many who have worked at Naughty Dog over the years describe it as a duality -— as a place that can be simultaneously the best and the worst workplace in the world. Working at Naughty Dog means designing beloved, critically acclaimed games alongside artists and engineers who are considered some of the greatest in their fields. But for many of those same people, it also means working 12-hour days (or longer) and even weekends when the studio is in crunch mode, sacrificing their health, relationships, and personal lives at the altar of the game.

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, anyone? Done out of Joss Whedon's own pocket as a response to the TV Strikes, with the cast and crew being paid almost entirely out of any profits it made from iTunes sales and ads and eventual DVD sales. And it's insanely popular.
    • 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 hunky co-star, awesome shoes, or promoting her own web series.
    • Joss sometimes gets this reaction from people who have had the pleasure of working with him. When Joss called Nathan Fillion to pitch the idea, Fillion said he saw the caller ID and answered the phone with "the answer is YES!"
  • Epic Meal Time: 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.
  • The film used to shoot the faux Grindhouse trailer The VelociPastor was scratched manually in a black room. Then it was baked in an oven.
  • 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. Though there is a movie being made now that it's over, starring Doug Jones as the Operator.
  • 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.
  • BrainScratch Commentaries are a group of people that do commentaries over numerous video games. Each member always records their game footage off a video card or capture device to get the best quality out of their videos and to have their footage look legit when playing off the actual video game console rather than using emulators or shaky cameras. The only time the crew uses emulators is when they can't get a physical copy of the game or their recording glitches out.
  • Man at Arms is a show where a Hollywood blacksmith makes replicas of various fictional swords. In an early episode, he imported over a thousand dollars worth of material from Argentina so he could make Sokka's Space Sword out of actual meteorites.
  • The main reason Matt Santoro makes YouTube videos is because he enjoys it, not because of the money.
  • Early in his run when he wasn't seeing much money coming from The Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker was selling birthday gifts and Christmas presents so he could keep living.
  • The first season of The Katering Show was made with an arts grant and the stars and director didn't get paid at all. The second season had backing from The ABC but even then, the money was basically all on screen. Their joke about the difference between the two seasons being that they were "on minimum wage now" wasn't far off the mark.
  • 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 (to name a few) do not earn much (if anything) for their work. Yet they still do it. Religiously. And they work their asses off to do it. These guys have done reviews or made episodes when they were sick or broke and have still kept at it.

    Western Animation 
  • Hanna-Barbera was still able to make beautifully drawn cartoons, thanks to Ed Benedict's brilliant character designs and colorful backgrounds despite a low budget.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi. He turned down the offer he got from DreamWorks Animation to pitch a movie, due to the ridiculous way they treated him and attempted to manipulate his ideas. He was also so insistent 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 unbelievably 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 economic thinking is not absent.
  • Every shot of The Boondocks has detail unheard of even for anime. Thus, only 4 seasons have been produced in 9 years.
  • The same can be said for The Venture Bros., though the detail isn't nearly the same. What also deserves mentioning is that while most shows have a significant staff of writers, every episode but one was written by creator Jackson Publick and/or Doc Hammer.
    • Another example from The Venture Bros.; Publick and Hammer, during the long hiatus between seasons one and two had worked out exactly how to open the show, seeing as Both Hank and Dean were dead. A montage, set to the song "Everybody's Free" by Aquagen and Rozalla. The problem was, to license it would cost a seventh of the budget—not for that episode, the entire second season. To which the creators said "Worth It."
  • The DCAU team has always had high expectations of themselves, but they really outdid themselves in Justice League Unlimited. They animated nearly every single hero and villain in the DC Universe, most of whom are not well known and very few of whom even have lines. But the lengths they did to are even better illustrated in the episode "The Savage Time", where for no reason whatsoever, they have very accurately drawn Tiger Tanks. How many people watching the show are even going to notice the tanks? How many can even tell that they actually did the research? They can, and apparently, that's all that mattered.
    • It wasn't just the Tigers in "The Savage Time"; though the detail's not great, the soldiers Jon Stewart is with are carrying appropriate weapons (M1 Garand, Thompson SMG, M1918 BAR), and Savage's car in the movie is similarly under-detailed, 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?
    • To emphasize how edgy and dark Batman: The Animated Series is, the animators painted on black paper instead of white paper. The result? A truly atmospheric show that threatened to put the Animation Age Ghetto in the naughty corner.
  • While outside of the DCAU, Batman: The Brave and the Bold demonstrates the same attention to detail as the DCAU producers, writers, and animators. Every single episode is jam-packed with references big and small to the DCU's history either in the form of characters who vanished after the Silver Age (or in at least one case, only appeared in a single issue!) or storylines or even panels. An episode featuring the first full appearance of Superman is chock full of these, referencing everything from Superdickery to the Christopher Reeve films to Superman: The Animated Series to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It's this clear love of the character and the DCU that has made a show that could have been a disaster into a show that is widely adored by comic fans.
  • For Avatar: The Last Airbender, the creators flew all over the world to find inspiration and art references for architecture and landscaping, studied martial arts in order to create realistic combat sequences, and hired someone with a PhD so that all the Classical Chinese ideographs seen in the series would be accurate. They also hired consultants for these things.
    • The background posters that Sokka walked past one episode were seen for less than ten seconds, yet they still included a realistic poster for a theatre company (foreshadowing for another episode) and a poster for a town meeting about air quality (referencing the industrialized Fire Nation) and all the gambling being done on the streets. All in archaic Chinese.
    • Constellations that are seen in the sky of "The Waterbending Master" are the same as those seen a season later on a star map in "The Desert". You'd need to be Neil deGrasse Tyson (or a very detail-oriented fan) to notice.
  • The creators of ReBoot had a lot of risk involved with their project. They predated the Toy Story Pixar CGI revolution by a full year. It was an untested medium and the equipment to do it was not cheap. On top of that all the voice-acting, writing, directing and music was done in the same studio, instead of being farmed out to different companies like most shows. The results were a really tight story with great voice acting and animation that was groundbreaking.
  • The artists who worked on Mighty Orbots, produced in the 1980s, actually studied classical and Japanese animation in order to be the best they could be. Notable mainly because of the Animation Age Ghetto. When you could get away with stuff like Pac-Man, GoBots, or The Care Bears, studying classic film for inspiration is, well, a little weird.
  • As seen by Chuck Jones' quote on the quote page, the animators at the "Termite Terrace" studio producing the Looney Tunes shorts for Warner Bros. between the mid-1930s and 1946. Helping the anarchistic spirit along were a succession of humorless bosses that more or less invited open rebellion. Founder Schlessinger won unwitting immortality as the inspiration for Daffy Duck's trademark lisp ("You're dethpicable!"). The Warner Bros. themselves really didn't know or care what was going on in their animation unit, leaving hands-on oversight to bean counter Eddie Selzer. Recounting the genesis of the classic "Bully For Bugs", Jones recalled the day Selzer showed up at his door as he and writer Mike Maltese were hashing out story ideas and bellowed: "I don't want any pictures about bullfights! Bullfights aren't funny!" Then Selzer marched off, leaving his dumbfounded staff staring at each other. "Well," Maltese said, "Eddie's never been right yet..."
    • Jones explained that What's Opera, Doc? took several months longer to make than their usual cartoons (it featured a hundred-odd separate scene cuts) and his staff fudged their paycheck records, billing the extra time onto quickly-made cartoons.
  • Ōban Star-Racers came about solely because Savin Yeatman-Eiffel wanted to make it. Deciding working for another company would not give him the creative control he needed, he founded his independent own animation studio, spent years raising funds and years more perfecting the animation in cooperation with Japanese studios. Yeatman-Eiffel worked hard to secure the best talent available (including Yoko Kanno and Taku Iwasaki for the soundtrack, and French sound engineer Jerome Wiciak for sound effects—a dozen tracks were created simply for the Whizzing Arrow's engine noises), wrote the scripts for all 26 episodes in several languages and worked personally with the voice actors, and years were spent polishing the show to a mirror shine. The result is a children's series of extremely high quality, combining a story of exceptional depth and consistency with excellent characterization, a great soundtrack, and consistently breathtaking animation.
  • Although it is easy (and not unusual) to simply dismiss any Transformers product as Merchandise-Driven, some works, such as Transformers Animated or Beast Wars, are well-liked for their appreciation of the mythos and written with the Periphery Demographic in mind. And there's the live-action movie above for a different implementation of this trope.
    • 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, the average Disney Channel sitcom, you'll see a massive difference in effort. Phineas and Ferb is built on Once an Episode, yet almost every piece of that has been averted or subverted. Phineas and Ferb makes obscure socio-cultural references in full knowledge that their primary demographic won't grasp them.
    • Dan Povenmire is even perfectly happy with his work being uploaded for free on video sites. He even reads the comments on the videos on YouTube and responds to some of them. The episodes continue to be created in HD, despite them never being aired this way, and it really says a lot when he talks about how Disney doesn't market them as such because they think the kids don't care and the adults won't buy it.
    • See this interview as well.
    "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 singlehandedly, 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 it officially.
  • In an episode of Futurama, one of the writers actually created and proved a brand new mathematical theorem just for the episode. Now that is doing the research on a whole new level, just for the art of it.
  • Moral Orel could have easily just been a straight-up Take That! to religion in general and Christianity in particular. It turned out to be a smartly written, insanely dark character drama by the 3rd season. Same goes for the creator's other show, Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, which uses people's photographs folded into puppets so they could be as accurate as possible.
  • Jonny Quest. One of the animators working on "Shadow of the Condor" was a World War I airplane buff, and the Fokker Dr.1 and Spad are gorgeously drawn.
  • The Wacky World of Tex Avery creator Brody Dowler described it as a "homage to the brilliant, hilarious and groundbreaking animator Tex Avery and the wonderful squash-and-stretch cartoons of his era". While they certainly got the squash-and-stretch elements down, the humor left a great deal to be desired.
  • During The '80s, 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.
  • Musical numbers in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic contain elaborate instrumentation and rhymes, as well as a handful of Genius Bonuses that only make sense to one well-versed in musical terminology. For instance, how many eight-year-olds are going to recognize the Foreshadowing at the end of "BBBFF"?
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's animation drawing up until the last season was hand-inked and hand-painted, and even then, Danny Antonucci and his staff would always try to give it that hand-drawn look. Not to mention Mr. Antonucci had a hand in writing and directing nearly every episode, and he and his crew have managed to come up with all kinds of different stories and gags with such a Minimalist Cast. And the crew would always tell the kind of stories they wanted to tell and ended it the way they wanted to.
  • The team of Gargoyles went to insane lengths to make the show as realistic as possible. Greg Weisman keeps up an ongoing blog to close up every possible plot hole (and every question, if it does not ask for spoilers, will be answered), and has done so for 15 years now. The foreign language is accurate, the historical people are accurate, the magic is consistent, the gargoyles have (by the standards of Hollywood) a believable biology rather than just being magic, and every single character is complex to unbelievable levels.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The amount of work put into this series really shows how much the crew cared about it, even just observing from the surface. But when you start noticing and then paying attention to such trivial things like posters on the walls of clone barracks or clubs, the elaborate details on spaceships, bugs crawling around on branches, garbage thrown away on the lower streets of Coruscant, and dozens of other tiny-little background details the creators have sneaked in - despite the fact that most viewers probably wouldn't register any of it on the first time viewing - it becomes mind-blowing! Then consider that all of this is made in CGI, with a relatively low-budget when the series was only starting. And when their budget and technological assets increased as the series progressed, they did even more with it.
    • Going even further, they had assets to use from Lucasfilm's archives. For instance, during the production of Season 3 episode "Wookiee Hunt", the crew had a meeting with Peter Mayhew to make sure they got Chewbacca's appearance (while working within the art style), characterization and body language accurately.

  • Editing any type of Wiki, including this one. There's no profit, and it's usually done anonymously or under a pseudonym.
  • The Parthenon sculptures. Most temple sculptures were only carved in full detail on the front because the back would never be seen; however, the Parthenon sculptures were carved in full detail, front and back. Chances are no-one saw that for thousands of years.
  • The Pantheon, a temple, and later church, in Rome. The dome, aside from being a perfect hemisphere with a diameter of 43.3m (142 feet), implies an imaginary, second hemisphere, the pole of which touches the floor exactly. Given the size of this space, a considerable margin of error would have been considered acceptable, but the architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, wanted it to be perfect. And this in 126 AD.
    • The art critic and historian Robert Hughes notes in his book Rome that the Pantheon would never be built today: no one would insure it, no one would even propose it, because no one would think that you could make something like that safely out of poured concrete. And they'd be dead wrong: Thanks to a unique and brilliant design, the Pantheon has stood for nearly nineteen hundred years, and shows no signs of collapse.
  • Similarly, Antoni Gaudi designed his Sagrada Familia in ridiculous detail, carefully outlining each decoration, even the ones no human would ever see after the construction is complete (like little dove figures in small niches at 100 m altitude). When asked about that, Gaudi replied: "Well, of course, these are for the angels to see." Now, there's a man who did it for the art. And Gaudi is not the only one doing it for the art when it comes to the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi started working on the church in 1883. It is currently about 50% complete. It has been largely funded by voluntary donations. It will, hopefully, be finished in 2026—in time for the centennial of Gaudi's death.
  • Creators of Gothic churches would also care to create statues that were perfect on all sides—even if no humans would ever see the backsides, God still would. One gothic Cathedral, Chartres (whose architect is unknown and is regarded as a collaboration by pious villagers), is invoked by Orson Welles in F for Fake as an ideal of this belief, noting that it rendered hollow most artistic pursuits as vain and self-fulfilling, his own works included. 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. Though even then, they hardly phoned it in. Michelangelo was initially not enthused about the Sistine Chapel commission and if he had done a simple ceiling fresco, he could have gone to his more fulfilling work in sculpture; instead, he decided to go overboard.
  • 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 while stoned out of his mind on Vicodin just because the fans begged him to. That's dedication to your art. And after his "Health update" 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.
  • 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.
  • Google Doodles; sure, the site's text can just be the same every single day, but numerous artists take upon them to draw something to relate to various countries' events, celebrity birthdays and such.
  • The Human Genome Project was dedicated to mapping out the complete sequence of the human genome. Such information could give any given pharmaceutical or genetic testing firm a virtual monopoly on many product sectors, or lead to unscrupulous biological warfare or eugenics experiments. Instead, it was published online.
  • DeviantArt. Some of the works on there clearly took weeks, and the vast majority of them were not done on commission. That's pretty impressive.
  • The critically-acclaimed restaurant Schwa is easy to miss in Chicago. The restaurant is one of many 3-story buildings, no more than 20 feet wide, in an ordinary neighborhood, just opposite a tire shop with fake palm trees. Inside, there is only room for 30 people, and no more than two people can sit at a table. There are no waiters or staff, beyond the chefs themselves, who are dressed in casual clothes and talk casually to the customers. There are no decorations, there is no wine selection, and metal and hip-hop music plays in the background. Most days, the owner Michael Carlson barely breaks even. This is because every single cent the restaurant makes goes into making the most innovative and creative food anywhere in the entire US. No expansions, no remodeling, no fancy facades or gold-plated silverware. The man even served a party of 20 of the greatest chefs in the world on the house. His passion drove him to exhaustion and a premature exit, but he reopened Schwa a year later, and kept on going. He is practically the face of Doing It For The Culinary Arts.
  • Bob Ross donated all of the paintings he created for The Joy of Painting to charity fundraisers. When he lost his battle with lymphoma, all of his remaining unsold paintings were treated likewise.
  • Bill Cunningham (March 13, 1929 – June 25, 2016) was a fashion photographer who made it his personal mission to be as independent a voice as possible and made a point of seeking out people on the street who showed a strong sense of personal style, no matter how quirky, rather than celebrities following the latest trends. He lived an ascetic life and spent many decades living in a tiny studio (without a kitchen or bathroom) at Carnegie Hall that was filled to the brim with fashion books and boxes of photographs and negatives while sleeping on a board balanced precariously on top of it all. For most of his life, he would only work freelance for publications that offered him editorial freedom and would often work for free because his employers would have nothing to hold over his head in the event of a disagreement. He was so firm in his belief that he would never be beholden to anyone that he wouldn't even accept food or drinks when he was out photographing events. This philosophy, combined with a sharp eye, meant that he was highly respected within the fashion community; well-known fashionistas like Anna Wintour lived in fear of him ignoring them on the street because it meant that they were falling out of style. As he got older, however, he compromised somewhat by taking a job with the New York Times as he realized that he needed health insurance and a pension towards the end of his life.
  • Ingeborg Refling Hagen (1895-1989) lived this trope, and even more awesome, taught a number of people to do it with her. Being a hardass on the philosophy of "free art" as a concept, she, and a bunch of dedicated students, managed to work for free, to produce difficult and rather long stage plays, lasting up to 10 hours (or the better of a day). The audience came from miles around to watch this for free, and the actors, some of whom were on stage for almost the entire time, earned nothing besides the experience. This theatre made history more than once. The motto was: "The theatre on behalf of the poet - the poet on behalf of the people". For the art indeed.
  • Shia LaBeouf has become rather well-known for making several controversial decisions all in the name of art. For example, when he was accused of plagiarizing a script for the film he wrote, he plagiarized his apology, then plagiarized his apology for that. He wore a paper bag on his head to a film premiere reading "I'm Not Famous Anymore," and set himself up at an art exhibit where he allowed patrons to do anything they wanted to him. Most recently, he has appeared in an artful music video for Sia's song, Elastic Heart, filmed himself performing multiple monologues that a class of English college students wrote, and hosted a stream where he re-watched every film he ever starred in, face cam included.
  • 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-specific 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.
  • The designer interviews for the Transformers toylines are always fascinating because everyone involved seems to love the source material and working on it. The engineers even love just coming up with designs, even ones that might never be seen, such as a Soundwave whose minions leap out of his chest in sequence and transform in mid-air or Rhinox as a voyager, just because he could use the extra mass and design budget, or a line of real-life military vehicles at 1:24th scale, which would result in toys the size of computer towers that would cost over 60 dollars apiece. And, in defiance of rising petroleum costs and geometrically increasing complexity, a Transformer purchased in 2011 costs about the same as it did in 1996.
  • 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 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 to be 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, Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans assumed the Gamera episodes would never be officially released. After all, one of the Rhino DVD sets had to be yanked and re-released 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.
    • WKRP in Cincinnati is another prime example. After TV reruns and 20th Century Fox's season 1 DVD release scoured the episodes of nearly all the licensed music integral to the show — the latter seeing low sales because of this — Shout! came to the rescue and put out all the episodes with approximately 85 percent of the original soundtrack.
  • Discotek Media has licensed many older anime that may have otherwise never seen the light of day. Among many other things, they also managed to find the TMS dub of Magic Knight Rayearth, which was thought to have been lost, and include it on the Blu-Ray release of the series.
  • 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 Alien³ documentary "Wreckage And Rage" released (which required an epic amount of wrangling with Fox executives for close to a decade), but he also went back to the "workprint" edition of the film that was constructed for the Alien Quadrilogy release in 2003, assembled every member of the supporting cast whose voices couldn't be picked up on the temp track, and had them re-record all of their lines. He also served as the producer of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, in which he brought Harrison Ford's son in to replicate his father's dialogue for voiceovers that were hard to hear, and had Joanna Cassidy reshoot her famous run through the glass windows so continuity errors from the original film could be corrected.
  • The revived Toonami has basically no budget, which meant they couldn't get Sally Timms as SARA or Peter Cullen doing the promos. So why is Steve Blum back as TOM, despite taking an extreme pay cut? Because he really, really wanted to be. In fact, he led the charge for its return when the April Fools' broadcast revitalized the fanbase. Working for slave wages is not an issue for him.
    • The entire crew working on Toonami are doing this entirely out of love for the block. The block is maintained by a mere six people and none of them are getting paid extra to work on it.
    • This is also the only reason Steve Blum still dubs anime, which pays nothing compared to voicing video games and Western cartoons.
    "It doesn't pay the bills, you can't survive off of it; but I love working in that environment, I love the people that I'm working with in that environment, I love the passion that people have for anime and I love the fans."
  • The reason why video releases for The Criterion Collection command premium prices is because each film's restoration and/or transfer is supervised by some of the best film engineers in the industry, and it allows for the company to produce carefully-curated sets for prestige films. Compared to "barebones" video release, each Criterion edition often includes a full-color booklet that features essays or remarks from the director discussing the historical or cultural significance of their work, long-form video documentaries that are often praised by fans for their thoroughness, and (for older films) featurettes focusing on the restoration techniques used to bring said films up to the highest digital quality.

Examples from characters in fiction:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kuronuma Ryuzo in Glass Mask does this. His in-story nickname is Ogre General because of his strict, uncompromising perfectionism. He's perfectly willing to spend five years to try and put on the perfect play if that's what it takes. The financing guys are not particularly appreciative.
    • Most of the major characters fit this. Maya never actually seems to even think about the pay when considering a role, and only ever seems to have money when someone else is managing her finances.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, 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.
  • Rohan Kishibe of Diamond is Unbreakable went on record to state that the only reason he works as a mangaka is because he wants people to read his work, not because of the fame or money it could bring; writing manga that other people can enjoy is all that matters to him.
  • New micronation character Kugelmugel in Hetalia: Axis Powers appears to do everything for the art, including declaring his independence. He also seems to spend his time pondering what exactly constitutes art. This is based off only one appearance, so further developments may change it.
  • Macross 7: Nekki Basara, lead singer and performer of the band "Fire Bomber". Although he enjoys performing in large venues in front of thousands of people, he honestly doesn't care about riches or fame, and in fact, seems perplexed as to why some of his fellow band members do. As far as he's concerned, it's all about the music; everything else is of negligible importance.
  • In Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, this is subjected to a Decon-Recon Switch. Midori Asakusa and Tsubame Mizusaki both share a strong passion for animation, and found the Motion Picture Club with friend Sayaka Kanamori in order to let them make the kind of material they want. However, their very same passion becomes an obstacle multiple times along the way, with Mizusaki's emphasis on highly detailed character animation bogging down the pace at which she can work, to the point where she spends two weeks working on a single cut at one point, and Asakusa's inability to accept the idea of outsourcing labor (due to her own difficulties at socializing and a perceived inability to properly convey the ideas she envisions) forcing her to undertake far more work than necessary. However, thanks to Kanamori being around to keep the two in check while still making provisions for their own wishes, Asakusa and Mizusaki are able to get their projects actually finished (albeit at the last minute) while still having room for the kind of artistic expression they strive for.

    Fan Works 
  • This is the core and bedrock of Octavia Philharmonica's character in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. When she becomes Princess Luna's Court Musician, her joy comes not primarily from the wealth and fame the position brings, but from the fact that there is no audience in the world with more experience of classical music and more ability to understand and appreciate her work and from the fact that as Luna's Court Musician she has the time and resources to learn fields of music she would never otherwise even have heard of.
    • In The Court Musician Of Equestria, Octavia is contrasted with Thrash Metail. Where Octavia is devoted to music, Thrash just wants fame and fortune, as shown by his willingness to resort to mind-control spells to make his audiences believe that his work was good. This becomes clearest in the final confrontation between the two of them, where Octavia asks if any of his music from before he found the Guitar of the Sirens still survives, stating that if he ever was, even in the slightest, a true musician, he'd want to be remembered for his own work, however mediocre it might be. Thrash replies that he burnt the records. They didn't bring him fame and glory, so they were worthless to him.

  • 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.
  • Jonathan Shields from The Bad and the Beautiful, even to the point of betraying his friends, not minding flops because he liked them, and holding back a vital release due to not meeting his standards.
  • Johnathan Switcher in Mannequin couldn't hold a regular job due to his need to be expressive.
  • In The Artist George Valentin, in refusing to do 'talkies', claims in an interview that he is, in fact, 'an Artist', and that silent acting requires artistry, while sound will actually degrade the medium. He's wrong, of course, but the film itself pays tribute to that artistry.
  • Angier and Borden in The Prestige are very dedicated to creating and performing acts of magic. Part of the reason Angier wanted to steal The Transported Man trick is that it would make a great show. Borden was constantly shown trying to push the limits of the art of magic.
  • In BASEketball, this is Coop's philosophy when founding the NBL. By creating a league where teams don't relocate and all players are paid the same, he hoped to create an environment where the athletes are motivated by pure passion for the game.
  • In Airheads, Chazz explains to Ian that his goal in life is to make a song that people will remember. Chazz's passion for the music ends up helping Ian to remember why he fell in love with rock and roll in the first place.
    Chazz: I'm average and screwed up enough that I might just write a song that will live forever. And then it's all going to be worth it.

  • Durnik in The Belgariad explained to Garion:
    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 a 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. Unfortunately, this ends up backfiring because when the nobleman who hired him to make the sword started quibbling over the price, Domingo calls him a fool for haggling over a piece of art, which Domingo worked himself nearly to death on. The unamused nobleman takes the sword and kills him. We all know how that ends.
  • Willy Wonka has shades of this, from insisting upon waterfall-mixed chocolate to making unusual sweets such as the Everlasting Gobstoppers and the chocolate robin's eggs that Grandpa Joe mentioned. Even the Wonkavision machine is this—he sees it as a way to make his confections even more widely available than they already are.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a Darker and Edgier example that mixes this trope with For the Evulz. Some of his more despicable acts are done because according to him, he has torturing and killing others down to a literal art form.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Despite being an SNL ripoff, most of the writers on this metaseries are making quality "cutting-edge political and social satire".
  • Geoffrey Tennant in Slings & Arrows. The first season features this prominently, but in the final season, his dedication to his vision sees him hiring a terminally ill heroin addict, getting the production booted from the main stage to the studio theatre to out of the festival altogether, alienating nearly everyone involved, losing his job, and then finally putting the show on in a church basement.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Hollywood Babylon" the writer of a movie killed executives who he believed bastardized his script. Even if the script was supposedly bad the writer was clearly doing it for the art.
  • Natalie Rhodes of Castle goes well beyond the call of duty, to the point of trying to seduce Castle for the sake of getting to know her character. The rumor about her living in her crawlspace for a week to prepare for a horror movie about a crawlspace was just a rumor, though. It was actually a month.
  • In Winter Begonia, this is Shang Xirui's main motivation for the stuff he does—he doesn't care if it doesn't make money, or if it's not popular, he just wants to perform what he wants to perform to an audience.
  • In Witchblade, Irish indy rocker Conchobar has turned down a lot of record deals because he prefers being a small-time troubadour to being a rock star.

  • The Harry Belafonte song "Sing For the Song" is about this.
  • In their typical fashion, Knorkator manages to both play this trope straight and lampshade it in "Warum" (German for "why"), one of their most emotional and least comical songs.
    Why stands an old man at a river of pure gold
    Why are you desperately searching for that you don't want to find
    Why is the lamb born, just to be eaten by the wolf
    Why are swords drawn where no enemy is left
    And why does the queen cry, alone and quiet on her throne
    And why does nobody come to her, all alone in the light of the moon
    Because this awesome melody demands pain, longing, and poetry
    So it can carry great words, to make this song touch your heart
  • Porter Robinson's "Musician" is a Decon-Recon Switch of this, beginning as an anthem about the enjoyment of creating and sharing emotions with the world, but then zigzagging between ripping into how much of an uphill battle it can be — both regarding burnout in the artistic process and outside discouragement for not having a "real" job — and celebrating it anyway, because creation is simply that important.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • 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!
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's tendency to make grotesque snow creations as deliberately subversive art that others find disturbing and unappealing is periodically commented upon. In one strip, he makes a hideous snow creature as a counterpoint to the more typical snowmen another kid made. When Hobbes comments on Calvin's "willingness to put artistic integrity before marketability", Calvin has a moment of realization and then builds a regular snowman.

  • In Seminar, a group of four acquaintances and wannabe writers hire a famous writer turned editor to give them a series of lessons on how to be better writers. However, most only see it (or even getting a particular book published) as a career stepping stone, and only one, Martin, feels he's truly doing it for the art. However, this is also a transparent excuse for Martin to feel self-righteous and look down his nose at others.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the adults in the Golden Ticket tour group question Willy Wonka as to the actual purpose of the elaborate Chocolate Room. Beyond the waterfall, which of course mixes the chocolate, none of it has a practical application; as Mr. Salt asks, "Well if it isn't for anything and it doesn't make money then why on earth does it need to exist at all?" This leads into an I Am What I Am song for Wonka, "Simply Second Nature", that's specifically about this trope — the room and, in fact, all of his creations as a confectioner are created out of a personal, restless desire to make the world a lovelier place in his own way, and this is more important to him than whether a given "work" will make money or not. (This makes the backstory detail that he became a reclusive artist after greedy rivals stole his work rather more poignant than in other versions.)

    Theme Parks 
  • In the former Disaster! attraction at Universal Studios Florida, Frank Kincaid describes in heavy detail about how he loves to make disaster movies because it's a subject that greatly fascinates him.

    Video Games 
  • Steve Scott from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, who treats porn like this.
  • Game Mod Red Alert 3: Paradox has the Electrical Protectorate, a race of software programs who inhibit robot chassis' designed in the style of The '50s. 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.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Clayface cites this, claiming that standing in for The Joker was "the role of a lifetime".
  • Garrett in Thief treats his thievery like this. Sure, it pays the bills, but the real reason he steals is pride. In The Metal Age, he needs to break into the Bank and gleefully mentions he's always wanted to do this ("Now I know I'm a master thief, breaking into the Bank Vault..."). Then in Deadly Shadows, he notes that he's been dying for a good excuse to break into the museum ever since they declared their security to be thief-proof.
  • In Roommates, Rakesh's main motivation for doing pretty much anything is that he thought it would make good art. He says that he follows nature's example: nature doesn't ask you if you like its flowers, or expect you to pay it anything in return; it merely blooms because it feels like it.
  • One of the Apocalyptic Logs in BioShock is from Bill McDonagh, a plumber hired for the construction of Rapture. After being paid to use cheaper tin pipe fittings instead of brass, he went ahead and ordered brass anyway and planned to pay the difference on grounds of professional pride: "Profit or not, no man bails water out o' privies built by Bill McDonagh."
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, the House of Reveries is a theater troupe in Summerset that's all about this trope: while most artists in Summerset are hoping for fame, the members of the House of Reveries give up their identity, donning a mask and a new nickname (such as "Alchemy", "Feathermoth", "Clever", etc). It's to the point that if the face of one of their members is seen, that person is kicked out of the troupe.
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2 has a substory about Sugano, a former fanboy who became the new director for the Yakuza Sunset film franchise and initially showed enthusiasm into making Yakuza Sunset 3, only for it to be lambasted by the fans and he considers quitting over this. Kazuma Kiryu, a semi-retired yakuza himself, watches the movie and praises his music direction and poignant interpersonal character drama, then helps to improve in the areas of action and Critical Research Failure about yakuza customs, while encouraging him to stick to his strengths and not live in the shadow of the previous director.

    Visual Novels 
  • Corpse Party is this. Team GrisGris was pretty much four people making a horror game with the RPG Maker 98. The game had loads of characters, notes and multiple endings, leading to it gaining so much popularity that it not only got a remake by the now much larger team, full with voice actors and all, it also spawned an anime, a manga series and multiple pre- and sequels.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215:
    • It 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
  • Katawa Shoujo is a Visual Novel done entirely by a worldwide group of amateurs being 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. What's even more staggering is the project was birthed on 4chan, yet the subject matter is handled with much more care, respect and dignity than many a Very Special Episode cares to afford.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, this is Natsumi's reasoning for running The Black Rabbit; her actual profession is a horror author, but the bar was left to her by her husband, so she keeps it running as a hobby to satisfy their loyal customers, rather than to make a profit.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb: Who could forget Phineas' rant at the record producer?
    Phineas: You think just because you'll pay us obscene amounts of money we'll continue making records? Phineas and the Ferb-tones are strictly a one-hit wonder. Good day, sir!"
  • Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in regards with her dress designs. The episode "Canterlot Boutique" has Rarity's desires to create new dresses come into conflict with the commercial prospects of her manager, Sassy Saddles.
  • The Simpsons: In "The Book Job", Lisa sets out to write a book after learning her favorite books are made by teams of writers who are Only in It for the Money. Homer, hearing about this, gathers up a team so they themselves can write a book for easy money, all done in the style of a criminal heist. Lisa suffers writer's block, while Homer and his team slowly fall into this trope to the point that they're willing to risk their earnings to preserve their vision.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture", Squidward originally wanted no part in the movie SpongeBob and Patrick make starring the real Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to compete with the new modern movie coming out, but when SpongeBob tells him that he can be the Makeup Artist, Squidward decides to put his artistic talents (or lack thereof) to the test. The makeover Squidward gives Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy is absolutely hideous, but SpongeBob loves it, saying that he made them look just like they did 30 years ago.
  • The tailor in Toy Story 2. While he does get paid for his work, he still takes the time to treat Woody with respect like a customer rather than a toy to repair, and when Al pressures him to hurry up, he replies with "You can't rush art!".


Video Example(s):


Jagged Stone

He couldn't care less if he's not at the top of the sales charts, as long as he gets to do his own thing. Of course, #2 is still nothing to sneeze at, which he points out to his producer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DoingItForTheArt

Media sources:

Main / DoingItForTheArt