Needs to be revised.
My intuitive take on this matter is that it involves a lack of respect for one's elders, goddamnit. We had to walk through the snow every day to do computer animation. When we needed a computer we had to build our own. We thought 250 MBs was a lot of disk. We were excited by getting 800 vectors on the screen 15 times a second. You kids are just spoiled, cough, cough.
Unfortunately, the rest of the essay is serious.
The second observation is that many of the issues below are not really mistakes at all, they are in many cases a natural result of being in this field when it was early, or other circumstantial things such as being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Also, whatever the issues are here, I do not think it is about the current economic depression we are in that the government denies exists. Perhaps that depression and the dot com bust has made things worse, but its not the primary cause.
1. Most of the pioneers are colorful individuals who took chances, in a world which expects everyone to be like everyone else and not take risks. So when they are considered later for employment, people who are not their peers judge them by saying they are too colorful, or controversial, or take too many risks, and they are not hired.
2. In inventing the field they made unconventional career choices or worked for companies with very short lives, and thus have a non-traditional employment history. Again they are judged negatively and not employed.
3. Computer animation/graphics/3D turns out to be a niche field. The few companies that advertise for 3D people are generally looking for production people to use tools, not to do new kinds of work.
4. The relationship between computer graphics technical knowledge and other related fields, such as user interface design, is not recognized. Furthermore, even areas which use specific computer animation/3D technology have split off to form their own fields with their own credentials, such as medical imaging, or scientific visualization.
5. All of the early computer animation companies made mistakes. Those who stayed in business were able to show that they had learned from their mistakes, those which did not were tarred with the brush of those mistakes.
9. The field is very competitive. People from the early days are generally slandered, unless they are in a position of power which does not describe the people who are unemployed.
15. It is easier to hire someone new, recently from school, then to hire someone with experience.
16. Jobs are limited because so many have been off-shored.
17. Ageism. Computer animation is one of the few industries I know (along with the music industry and the game industry) that proudly admits it is ageist.
18. There is no noblesse oblige in the computer animation industry.
Are there lessons to draw from this? Yes. In America, to be early in a field such that you are not able to profit from it is to be wrong. Second, it is true what they say, there are no prizes for second place.
1. There is a longer topic lurking in here, that I am skimming over in the interest of not making an already over long post even longer. And that topic is why not do something entrepreneurial? That is a very good question and deserves a very serious answer. For the sake of this discussion, we are leaving the entrepreneurial issues until later. A brief version of my take on it is that in fact there are some entrepreneurial opportunities, but that they are dicey.