Industry Spotlight: Richard Goldsmith on the State of Animation

Picture of Richard Goldsmith with a while background
Richard Goldsmith, President, and CEO of Cyber Group Studios

The entertainment industry is experiencing unprecedented change and with it, opportunity. Here to tell us what recent events mean to the animation space is Richard Goldsmith, President and CEO of Cyber Group Studios, who also serves on Exceptional Minds’ Industry Council.

EM: We’re hearing very encouraging reports about the increase in animation as a solution to the content development challenges brought on by the pandemic. What are you experiencing there at Cyber Group Studios?

RG: The most immediate reaction to the pandemic from the major platforms that air animation was to acquire existing animated series for kids who were home from school, namely educational content. As of today, a few platforms have indicated that they are going to cut their budgets for content, whether animated or live-action, due to the projected decrease in corporate revenues caused by the pandemic. Otherwise, we have not seen a change in the desire for animated content, so all indications are that the current bullish market should continue. 

EM: How has the pandemic and the greater demand for content changed the animation pipeline?

RG:  The most immediate development for animation production was to move production personnel from studios into their own homes. This could possibly be continued by some studios well after the pandemic as it has proven to both work efficiently and be cost-effective. The second development was the desire to have a new pipeline that can make animation faster and less expensive. The studios that have invested in these new technologies originally intended to produce content for platforms for which lower-cost animation made sense, such as YouTube. However, if the pandemic continues and live-action production remains closed, these new animation processes can produce animated content to fill slots that would have had live-action content.

EM: What does this mean for the skills that you look for in talent today and the diversity of that talent pool? We’re curious what this all means to our students and graduates who, as you know, have a very unique perspective on animation and are paving the way for others on the autism spectrum to continue to diversify the work-ready talent pool.

RG: In the event that the trend for work-at-home remains, certain animation professionals on the autism spectrum may require additional training or support in order to perform their tasks independently, without the in-person help that they may have received in a typical studio environment with lots of people and resources. Accordingly, both training and workplace support programs will likely have to pivot to meet these new needs. 

EM: Let’s talk about another important event of 2020 that is impacting how we all view the world. How has the protests, and what they stand for, changed the industry and specifically animated content? In the past, we have looked to the entertainment industry to lead in issues such as inclusion for all, and, in fact, Exceptional Minds is one very good example, as you know!

RG:  I am hopeful that the recent protests will result in changes that make the world a better place for all. We noticed an immediate reaction from media companies to further diversify both their personnel and the content on their platforms, although this had already been an active initiative for some time. Including people with special needs as part of this diversity is essential and should be advocated for. 

EM: Finally, we’d like to thank you for serving on our industry council and we’d like to know what inspired you to become a role model for young people with autism. What is it that you see in Exceptional Minds – perhaps it was a student you met? – that you feel can make a difference in the animation industry?

RG: A friend of mine who has been an advisor to Exceptional Minds since its inception asked me to visit given my background in animation production and distribution. From the moment I was greeted by the students who looked me in the eye, introduced themselves and shook my hand, and then each proceeded to share their work with me, I was hooked. Over the years, spending time in the studio, and with the staff and committee members, has only reinforced for me that Exceptional Minds is providing a life-changing and unique opportunity for incredibly talented animation artists who just happen to be autistic.    

Cyber Group Studios President and CEO Richard Goldsmith is a hands-on leader and a prolific family entertainment executive who has led production, media distribution, licensing and merchandising, and business development for major brands at The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Jim Henson Company, and Univision Communications. Richard is a valued Exceptional Minds Industry Council member whose insight continues to guide and inspire our students during these unprecedented times. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two kids. 

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