Saturday, August 23, 2008

Regarding Layoffs

Add Ons belooow.

From the "Disney Tuesday" comments below:

... [A]bout 25 new animators were hired [for Bolt]. They were all told at their start that this was strictly run-of-picture, and they would be let go once animation was finished.

So, most of them are now being let go. Disney is unfortunately losing some talented animators ...

This is, by and large, the reality of the animation industry today. Also the reality of the movie business. You work on the production, and when the production wraps up, you clean out your desk and move on ...

But here's a flash memo: it's almost always been this way. When an artist tells me that long-term employment "used to be the way the biz worked," I reply that the "work one place forever" thing was actually just an eigh-year quirk.

Now, if you work someplace, any place, for a couple of years, that's "long term." If you work at one company for a decade or more, you're in the Golden Circle. Off the top of my pointy head, here are the long-term employment gigs in the L.A. 'toon industry now:

The Simpsons -- 19-year run at two different studios (Klasky-Csupo and Film Roman). Lots of long-termers, except hiatuses here and there that have lasted as long as nine to eleven months.

King of the Hill -- 11-year run, except that they cancelled it two-and-a-half years ago, then thought better of it and brought crew back .... minus layout ... four months later.

DreamWorks Animation -- despite sour-heads who keep deriding DreamWorks Animation product (I'm not one of them), Mr. Katzenberg continues to entertain the public with a fairly consistent stream of box-office performers that worldwide audiences keep flocking to see. As a result, Mr. Katzenberg has recreated Disney Feature Animation circa the 1990s: a large, stable staff and longer-term employment contracts. Plus there are olive trees, coy ponds, and a large, Florentine water fountain.

And that's pretty much it in the "long employment" department. Coming close would be the re-incarnation of Family Guy and the newer American Dad, but those shows saw months-long layoffs when the WGA was on strike for 100-plus days.

Industry employees look back longingly to Disney's two animation studios in the nineties, when both Feature Animation and Disney Television Animation had a steady stream of work and big crews employed year-round to do it.

But those happy ten-year runs were anomalies, and now gone. Disney Feature Animation has had wave after wave of layoffs from the turn of the 21st century to the present, and Disney TVA currently has way less product going through, so a small staff suffices to fill its needs. Few work twelve months a year (unless your in administration). As one industry veteran who's worked plenty of places said to me:

"A lot of animation facilities use the visual effects model. Sony Pictures Imageworks, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Disney Animation Studios and some others all hire production crew when there's a picture to get out and a tight deadline staring them in the face. Nobody carries anybody. Few try to create a flow of work to retain production staff. Studios know there's a talent pool out there. They tap it when they need to tap it."

My father spent his entire working life at Walt Disney Productions. In the entire cartoon industry, there were perhaps a hundred like him. Even in animation's so-called Golden Age, people got laid off when studios had less work; it was happening at Disney's when I got there in the seventies.

The eternal reality of the movie business is, if you work in it, you are going to work at a bunch of different companies. For most long-timers, permanent employment has always been a lovely myth.

Add On: Since I have no direct knowledge of Pixar's hiring and layoff policies, I won't argue how much staff is added or deleted during a production cycle.

As for L.A. studios, on the theatrical side only DreamWorks Animation has stable, long-term employment. Obviously this could change because nothing is forever.

I'm also told (here and elsewhere) that the Disney Animation Studio aspires to this model. Sadly, aspirations don't remove the reality of sizable layoffs at Disney, which have been going on intermittently since 2000, when the first wave of the hand-drawn staff was let go.

As I write in comments, I'm just stating what's happening in the L.A. animation industry, not whether it's good or bad.

Add On Too: A commenter points out that Disney Animation, Florida had a long, stable stretch of production. Righto. There are also some non-union L.A. cartoon houses -- Klasky-Csupo before it died, Film Roman in the later nineties, and Rough Draft -- that offered artists long periods of employment.

18 comments:

ping ping said...

A relative of mine recently retired, and he worked at every major motion picture studio in LA through his working career and many television studios. Paramount consumed the greatest portion. He retired as a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700 IATSE.

Anonymous said...

Pixar most certainly does NOT use the visual effects model. Disney tried it, and it doesn't work for them, either. It is not suited for production of Feature Animation on that scale. And frankly, it really doesn't work for feature animation anywhere unless you're hacking out the work like Vanguard.

i said...

Steve-
With all due respect, by pulling that excerpt about Bolt animators out of context, you ended up making the exact opposite point I was trying to make. Maybe I was unclear.

Disney, under Lasseter and Co. are trying to create stability, and to have a stable animation crew that simply moves from picture to picture, without the need for largescale hiring and firing. In other words--like what they've done at Pixar. They had their plan laid out after "Robinsons" wrapped. Yes, the peculiarities of the Bolt/Sanders situation threw everything into the air, and delayed the implementation of that plan until the next picture.

As it is, there are about 35-40 animators at Disney (not including the Frog Princess crew), and Disney is indeed carrying them over, through whatever downtime there is between pictures. Lifetime employment? Who knows, probably not. But they are trying to replicate the stability that Pixar has had, which is considerable.

Anonymous said...

Disney's Florida Studio employed many of it's animators for at least 15 years..nearly double the 8-year-quirk. But... people in CA often forget about FL.

Steve Hulett said...

Disney, under Lasseter and Co. are trying to create stability, and to have a stable animation crew that simply moves from picture to picture, without the need for largescale hiring and firing.

Anon. It's fine what they're trying to do, but I was writing about what they were actually doing.

And what they're doing is laying lots of people off. One hundred forty employees at the end of Robinsons, a bunch when Toy Story 3 was transferred to Pixar, and a bunch as Bolt wraps up. (There have also been story layoffs, but those numbers are relatively small.)

Yes, they're trying to do something besides large layoffs, but the reality has been ... large layoffs.

I'm not making a value judgment about it merely reporting what's going on.

Steve Hulett said...

Pixar most certainly does NOT use the visual effects model.

Then I'm misinformed. I've been told that some crew is laid off after a production wraps up.

quack mcbush said...

i said: "Yes, the peculiarities of the Bolt/Sanders situation threw everything into the air, and delayed the implementation of that plan until the next picture."

"As it is, there are about 35-40 animators at Disney (not including the Frog Princess crew)"


Uhm.. isn't Frog Princess(Princess and the Frog) their next picture after Bolt? It sounds like they're not doing what you're saying. If they're laying off a lot of the F and P crew you must mean Rapunzel?

Anonymous said...

Uhm.. isn't Frog Princess(Princess and the Frog) their next picture after Bolt? It sounds like they're not doing what you're saying. If they're laying off a lot of the F and P crew you must mean Rapunzel?

Frog is the next picture coming out in theaters after Bolt, yes. But it also uses a different set of animators than Bolt, being 2D vs. Bolt's CG.

They're not AFAIK laying off Frog animators-the discussion was about the Bolt crew layoffs. Which were expected to some degree given the need for a huge push to finish Bolt. The full staff of CG animators are not needed immediately on Rapunzel. There's a gap of however long before all hands would have shots to animate.

As someone pointed out earlier, the layoffs result from needing a lot of extra people for a set time because of Bolt's retooling. The core crew was probably never facing layoffs as many of the "extra", very talented and very necessary and also important people were-that's where the "trying to build a stable crew" comes into practice.

But the bottom line is that iron-clad job security is not a given anywhere(not even at Dreamworks)and never has been.
Not even in the golden age-ask the people in ink & paint who were handed pink slips every week.

Steve Hulett said...

But the bottom line is that iron-clad job security is not a given anywhere(not even at Dreamworks)and never has been.

Exactly. And the point of the post.

Plan accordingly.

Anonymous said...

everyone is looking for stability. Its all relative. The studio has stability in the fact it will do whatever it needs to stay open. artist think that is the same stability that will be shown to them. remember its about creating their content. I love working for the big studios as an independent and dont rely on any of them but my own abilities and choose what show I want to be a part of. its just a different way to look at it and much more enjoyable even after spending a dozen years at the biggest of them all. think more independently and its a much more enjoyable field to work in.

signed freedom.

Anonymous said...

Economic stability in relation to the market is born first from knowing your self-worth to the audience, ie -the market - and getting paid directly as a result of that worth. Projected studio revenues, published box office earnings, inflated stock prices, ratings, agent manager, and lawyer fees, and so-called pattern-collective bargaining agreements are all entrenched Hollywood mechanisms that conspire to obfuscate self-worth.

ie, unless one gets up in front of an audience first to determine for oneself how much they clap, you will never know what you are worth, how to scale that worth, and where and in what amounts to apply that worth.

It is a miracle movies and television still entertain. Oh, wait - they rarely do.

optimus crime said...

So are many of the artist on Bolt also able to draw hand drawn animation as well or can they only do CG?

I ask because I've heard that after King of the Elves, if Princess and the Frog is successful, Lasseter wants to focus maily, but not exclusively on hand drawn animation for Disney and let Pixar take care of the CG stuff.

Steve Hulett said...

My understanding is that Mr. Iger has -- thus far -- declined to make Disney Animation Studios a mainly hand-drawn shop.

Speculating on what might have if "Y" happens or "X" happens is good fun, but fairly pointless.

Anonymous said...

Pixar most certainly does NOT use the visual effects model.

Then I'm misinformed. I've been told that some crew is laid off after a production wraps up.

Steve,

This is what I have heard as well from those at Disney. That Pixar does indeed have layoffs after films, but never publicizes it and generally keeps it quiet.

I've heard this many times over the years but never actually seen anything published about it.

Anonymous said...

The first rule of Pixar Club is don't talk about Pixar Club...

Anonymous said...

shhhh.... thats the secret.

qatsel said...

R10'nun geçen aylarda başlatıp Adtech'in sponsor olduğu adtech ile reklam 2.0 dönemi başlıyor ve Trkycmhrytllbtpydrklcktr r10.net seo yarışması sitesi. / Tamamen ücretsiz her alanda ödev sitemiz..
Seo adına en güzel makaleler adtech ile reklam 2.0 dönemi başlıyor ve Trkycmhrytllbtpydrklcktr r10.net seo yarışması sayfası.. Toplistimize anında site ekle yin..
Yarisma sitemize bekleriz..

toki said...

araç sorgulama

Site Meter