Monday, October 30, 2006

The Disney Monday Roll Around

As is my habit, I was at Disney's hat building beside the 134 freeway on Monday morning, seeing what I could see. The mood in the place is somber because the production staff has processed and now owns the fact that, come the end of the year, a sizable number of them will be receiving pink slips.

I got asked a lot of questions about how long health benefits would last after departure (answer: 6-15 months, depending on length of service. Everyone's mileage varies.) I got questions about work around town (answer: it varies day-to-day.)...

I found out that the new producer on "Rapunzel" is Roy Conli. The other news is that longtime Disney animation producer Don Hahn will be taking a lengthy sabbatical from Disney Feature Animation. Don sent out an e-mail to the animation staff on Friday saying that he needed a break, and planned to take one for an indeterminate length of time.

Don is a Disney "old-timer," starting at the studio as an in-betweener and then a production support guy back in the seventies. He was an associate producer on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in the middle eighties, and then producer of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King," two Disney animated films that did a bit more than okay at the box office.

It'll be a loss for the studio while he's away; hopefully it won't be forever.

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow-- that does come as a surprise indeed..I guess if Don needs time off,that's what he must do;but I'm sure a lot of people are going to be bummed out about this development.He's well liked and his successful track record certainly speaks for itself.
I was under the impression that he was producing/overseeing prepro on "The Frog Princess". Since he is leaving for a while, who will be taking over, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

"taking a lengthy sabbatical from Disney Feature Animation" sounds like code to me.

tc said...

^if it is code, why would they want to get rid of someone that seems to be SO well liked and respected? at least from this new management team that obviously "gets it"?

Anonymous said...

There is so much 'STUFF', that is going down at Disney's right now and over the next 4-5 months. I think Don is very smart, in his position to take an extended leave of absence relax and enjoy time away until all this STUFF settles out.

if I was able to do that i sure would.

floyd norman said...

Grim.

Not real happy about current events at Disney. Wish I could be blissfully optimistic about things, but I'm afraid the honeymoon is over.

Anonymous said...

why do you keep posting sensitive company information to the internet?

I personally am tired of steve poking around offices looking for dirt to post on the internet!

Steve Hulett said...

Sensitive how, exactly?

Don sent out a division-wide e-mail that he was going on sabbatical. (So much for "sensitive.") Nothing in the post is negative.

So what the hell are you talking about, Anonymous? Has Disney become the Cheney-Bush Administration, all of a sudden?

Anonymous said...

It's industry news.

So what if Steve put this on the blog?

Sensitive info? Pleeeaase!?!

There is such a thing as being over-sensitive.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I'm not a Demorcrat but I have to side with you on this one. for the guy that thinks "what's said at Disney stays at Disney" has certainly not been in the industry very long at all.

Besides its not a big secret. I applaud Don H for saying i need to get some rest, and he's fortunate enough to be able to!

Steve keep representin!

CW

Anonymous said...

ed catmull asked everyone to keep it in the family!

>"what's said at Disney stays at Disney" has >certainly not been in the industry very long >at all.

this is a prime examply of why big changes are happening!

Anonymous said...

This is a good example of the opposing Disney/Pixar cultures.

Pixar has a real hypnosis over its employees. After accepting a position at the lamp, it is suggested that you drink the kool aide and keep your yap shut. People go in as nice guys but come out as a brain washed shell of their former selves.

On the other hand. Disney employees love to talk. Catmul, Lasseter and the rest of the ring leaders are peeved at this and insist that this culture must be changed. It aint going to work.

Maybe this Disney purge has more dark reasons than one would initially think.

Kevin Koch said...

The lengthening of production cycles, and the associated reduction in workforce, are things that have been publically discussed by Disney officials -- they aren't any company secrets being spilled here.

The statement that "this [not keeping things "in the family"] is is a prime examply of why big changes are happening!" is nonsense (and a shabby attempt to stifle discussion). Do you really think Disney execs are going to keep staff based on who's the most secretive? Of course not. They'll try to determine who has the most to offer the future of the company, and they'll cut those they think don't have as much to offer. Who's the most secretive won't have anything to do with it.

Anonymous said...

That has always been the case.

...in hard times, you keep only who you absolutely have to.

Anonymous said...

If Pixar really wants to change/fix Disney, then they need to get rid of ALL the Sups and Leads along with the management first! Getting rid of the worker bees (work force) means they (Disney) will keep turning out the same old crap. The worker bees are only doing what they are told to do.......

s.r. hulett said...

ed catmull asked everyone to keep it in the family!

Apparently the sups, worker bees and management types that talk and e-mail me haven't gotten the memo.

And to restate: I don't publish proprietary information. And Don Hahn going on sabbatical (as earth-shaking as that might be), does not constitute proprietary information.

Darin Hollings said...

Steve,

As a union rep you have access to walk around Disney. I suppose this is to make sure workers are not getting miss-treated etc... To take any information gathered on those trips and share them here in a public forum is wrong. Good information or bad- secret or not- you are useing your union access to gather information for your personal blog. Its lame and its wrong.

"This weblog reflects their personal opinions and does not necessarily represent the official position of the Animation Guild."

You are able to enter Disney because of your position in the Animation Guild but you post your personal opinions here- hmmm- if you worked for the government would that logic hold up in a blog like this?

Steve Hulett said...

Darin --

With all due respect, Disney management is well aware of what I do. If I reveal proprietary info, they have every right to call me on it. To date, I've heard little out of them.

Question: Have I revealed proprietary info? Answer: No.

Question Two: Have I used this blog to disrespect the company? No. I call things as I see them. I focus on workplace issues, since that's my job description. I do it for every company I walk through. (I've had discussions about it with management reps at various studios.. Nobody so far has gotten particularly excited over things that have gone up here. But I do understand that it bothers you.)

Finally, as regards revealing that Don Hahn is going on sabbatical: to put your mind at rest, the information wasn't received by me on Disney property. It came via e-mail.

I'm sorry that you think I am overstepping bounds and violating sacred trusts, but I happen to (respectfully) disagree. Nevertheless, I thank you for your thoughts on the matter.

Steve

Anonymous said...

> If Pixar really wants to change/fix
> Disney, then they need to get rid of
> ALL the Sups and Leads along with the
> management
>
> The worker bees are only doing what
> they are told to do

Let's see... indiscriminately axe all leads, sups and managers while retaining people who only do what they are told to do? Sounds like a plan.

Anonymous said...

> Do you really think Disney execs are
> going to keep staff based on who's
> the most secretive? Of course not.
> They'll try to determine who has the
> most to offer the future of the
> company, and they'll cut those they
> think don't have as much to offer.
> Who's the most secretive won't have
> anything to do with it.

Nevertheless, there's always someone willing to be a total tool. :-)

This is Hollywood, not East Germany.

Anonymous said...

> As a union rep you have access to walk around Disney.
> I suppose this is to make sure workers are not getting
> miss-treated etc... To take any information gathered on
> those trips and share them here in a public forum is
> wrong.

I have a solution to this little tempest in a teapot.

How about Steve Hulett waits until the Disney directors or story artists spread the news to their friends at Dreamworks over lunch (which won't be much of a wait, since it occurs almost instantaneously), and then Kevin Koch blogs it from there? No "misuse of access". :-)

Anonymous said...

There is always a difference of opinons but unfortunately whenever a studio full of artists are facing a large downsizing there is going to be a lot of tension.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big union type of guy but why are people coming down on the guild for posting something that is so widely known?

i dont get it.

Anonymous said...

Stevie Wrote:
"Sensitive how, exactly? Don sent out a division-wide e-mail that he was going on sabbatical."

Right, an internal company email. a company you are not a part of.

Anonymous said...

As the numerous posts above demonstrate, the union blog is clearly being visited by the powers that be. No artist working in an industry as disloyal as animation could be as ridiculously big a company shill.

Anonymous said...

> If Pixar really wants to change/fix
> Disney, then they need to get rid of
> ALL the Sups and Leads along with the
> management
>
> The worker bees are only doing what
> they are told to do

>Let's see... indiscriminately axe all leads, sups and managers while retaining people who only do what they are told to do? Sounds like a plan.

Sounds like a GREAT plan to me too! :)
Just think, if Disney gets rid of the Sups and Leads and gets new blood in there then at least the have a chance of doing "good" CG movies.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love this blog and how stimulating the conversation gets.

The differences in opinions and philosophies is amazing. All I know is without these blogs, sites and forums on the animation industry, everyone would be ignorant to information that is normally unavailable. Yeah some of it may be based on rumors or half truths but I love that Steve is putting any information out there. I laugh any time someone may be offended or think Steve is abusing his priviledges, within my circles theres even more information given out, so basically Im saying I believe Steve could even reveal more information but he knows there are limits.

What also makes me chuckle is there could be someone attacking him for what he posts. If you dont like the blog dont pull it up on your computer. I have to think your either an HR person or some animation zombie whos been so brainwashed by the fat check corporate give you you take offense to any so called nagativity towards your sugar daddy.

Keep it up Steve and like always this is a free society and knowledge is power baby!!!

Rusty

Anonymous said...

Steve,

this is a small topic that has stirred up a lot more serious concerns about people's future.

There is a lot of scared people, but if anything, they shouldnt be because this is an industry of change. Change is not a bad thing, just do the best you can wherever you are and be proud of the work you do. Regardless of the reasons why Don H has decided to get out of the Mouse house for awhile, ....he will be missed.

And to the best of my knowledge you did not post the COMPANY email. So calm down anonymouse.

floyd norman said...

Since when have animation professionals become children afraid to voice their opinions?

I've worked in animation since the fifties, and when anything big went down at any studio in town, the entire animation industry knew about it. The same goes for Disney today.

Don Hahn leaving Disney is big news. However, it's not top secret info from the Bush/Cheney administration.

s.r. hulett said...

Stevie Wrote:
"Sensitive how, exactly? Don sent out a division-wide e-mail that he was going on sabbatical."

Right, an internal company email. a company you are not a part of.


I know this is difficult, Anonymous, but I'll make one more effort to shine light on this crucial subject:

I never received an internal company e-mail about Don leaving. I received an e-mail from an employee, a PERSONAL e-mail from her NON-company e-mail address TELLING me about it.

On a visit to the studio, I had this information confirmed by multiple employees. I viewed, with my very own eyes, Don's internal e-mail.

I blogged about Don's departure in a positive, pleasant way. I mentioned the fact that he had sent out an e-mail. I never quoted the e-mail. Wasn't my place, didn't do it.

Last point: 50%-60% of what I know about the Mouse House I ingest far outside the studio walls. Why? Because I'm the union rep and know a lot of people. Also because between me, my father, my father-in-law and my wife, we have a total of 105 years with the Disney company, and so I know ahm, a lot of people who know a lot of things.

Now, I could spew gossip and third-party conjecture a la Mr. Hill until the cows come home, since I've got plenty of sources. But I don't do that because I don't think it would be useful or to the purpose of this blog.

When I become a gossip-monger, feel free to (metaphorically) beat me about the shoulders and head.

Anonymous said...

"to the best of my knowledge you did not post the COMPANY email So calm down anonymouse"

That was not my point anonyclueless.

My point is that there are a lot of people that talk to and email Steve that have no idea that he dishes on a blog regularly. He should at least disclose that now that he is a reporter.

His new job is not only to be our business representative but apparently, to be the TMZ of animation as well. I'll be speaking with my vote next time around.

How does this help anything? Like others say, everyone in the industry knows what is going on anyhow so bfd right?

Well, he dishes to a much larger worldwide audience which helps labor relations how? Which makes people excited to join the union how? Which makes Ed want to embrace the union how?

bah!

Anonymous said...

Dear bah!

If you are at Disney's maybe your new. When you have been there for more than a decade you will understand that this is an animation community whether its 3D mentality or 2D traditions. I dont know how reiterating the departure of a Disney icon producer could be viewed as a negative posting. Everyone will miss him.

Steve is not a reporter but simply stating a fact about a beloved producer that a great deal of the community have worked with over the years.

Kevin Koch said...

Just to clarify, the word is that Don Hahn is taking a sabbatical, not that he's left the company. We all know that "sabbatical" can be Hollywood code for a permanent departure, but most Disney insiders I've talked to are taking this as a true sabbatical, and expect Don to be back.

On another note, I think we're doomed to have complaints about Steve "abusing his position" every time there is news from Disney that is less than 100% positive, simply because it's a major issue for one of our readers. The reality is that part of Steve's job is advocating for the industry and for the rank and file workers in the industry, and illustrating the Guild's place within the animation ecosystem. The kinds of posts he regularly puts up on this blog clearly fall into those categories.

The amount of material he doesn't disclose is vastly greater than the amount he does. Given the way rumors swirl around our industry every day, Steve is a voice of clarity and reason. The overwhelming majority of the Guild's membership recognizes that, just as the overwhelming majority of feedback we get on the TAG blog is positive.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading this blog. However, I have to agree that there is a fine line that seems to be crossed on occasion. If this were Steve Huletts personal blog, then no big deal. But this is the union blog and some of the content doesn't seem as if it belongs on an official union thing. Of course that is my opinion. But, it is an opinion shared by a few people around here.

Regarding the Don thing. I don't think that announcement was cause for alarm. It was known by a ton of people already. However, some of the things discussed... well, that is another matter.

With that said, keep it going. I love hearing the info and it gives me something to read instead of working.


My favorite part of the blog is hearing Kevin Koch get all defensive and crazy in the comment section. Keep those coming!! haha

Anonymous said...

I think what Steve's encountered, through no fault of his own, is the Pixthie mentality. Somehow it can be perceived that Don leaving implies a less than positive behavior from the new masters of Disney (not to mention all the other layoffs that have been reported lately) and the Pixthies are ready to do battle.
Steve just reported news without a commentary and yet those that want everything to be rosie now that John, et al are in charge are reading more into than Steve ever suggested...maybe they know something we don't? Or are they just upset that Camelot has chinks in its armor?

Keep up the good work guys.

Darin Hollings said...

Kevin,

This is a problem for more than "one" of your readers. When I post I use my name. I don't know who the other posts were from.

I have spoken to lots of people here at Disney who think that this blog is crossing the line.

Darin

Anonymous said...

7.5 billion and counting doesnt always solve the real problems. time will but that cost even more money.

Kevin Koch said...

Darin, I appreciate that you don't hide your criticisms behind an anonymous tag, and I'm sorry for lumping you and the other anonymous commenter together.

Anonymous said...

Jeeeez. Have some of you just landed on this planet. Whats crossing the line Darin, Kevin Hollings, whatever your name is.

What difference does it make who says what or if you sign your name or anonymous.

Thats what happens when you post a blog and are open to comments from the public.

I would love to post my real name but Im not going to expose myself to the potential harrasement that may follow. I have a family and privacy I want to protect. If you want an open forum and we can talk face to face fine lets do it, but even then Im not going to give you my email, blog site address, phone number and etc.

The nutty thing is this all started when Steve posted a blurb about Don Hahn taking time off.

Signed,
The guy with dark hair wearing the red shirt shorts and white sneakers.

Anonymous said...

> I have spoken to lots of people here at Disney who think that this blog is crossing the line.

Maybe those people need to be busier.

hans said...

...as if there were no bigger problems in the world!

s.r. hulett said...

My point is that there are a lot of people that talk to and email Steve that have no idea that he dishes on a blog regularly. He should at least disclose that now that he is a reporter.

Just so we're clear, the individual who gave me the info on Don knows perfectly well that I blog...and would blog about Mr. Hahn's sabbatical.

s.r. hulett said...

I enjoy reading this blog. However, I have to agree that there is a fine line that seems to be crossed on occasion.

In the interest of furthering my education, please tell me what they are.

Darin Hollings said...

"Nothing in the post is negative."

This seems sensitive- and negative to me.

"The mood in the place is somber because the production staff has processed and now owns the fact that, come the end of the year, a sizable number of them will be receiving pink slips."

Anonymous said...

Wow - things really have gone from bad to worse at Disney Feature Animation!

Elder statesmen ride off into the sunset while loudmouthed toadies curry favor with the snake oil salesman who rule the roost, based upon their penchant for "secrecy".

Looks like we got out of the game in the nick of time, eh Floyd?

s,r, hulett said...

Point taken. It is negative. But is it inaccurate? Don't think so. And it doesn't seem sensitive, when that's the topic of conversation.

Again, we have a disagreement. You don't think I'm playing fair, or should blog about layoffs (a labor issue) because it's negative, or about production execs who leave (a workplace issue that impacts members.) I understand that. But I don't plan to stop doing what I do.

Nevertheless, feel free to criticize me when you believe me to be over the line...

floyd Norman said...

Animation, no matter how much money it generates is still perceived as Hollywood's bastard child. Ever wonder why? Suddenly it's a big deal because word is out that a senior executive is taking some time off.

No wonder our live-action colleagues think we're laughable. Sadly, I would have to agree.

Anonymous said...

> I have spoken to lots of people here at Disney
> who think that this blog is crossing the line.
>
> Darin

Geez, who IS this tool?

Anonymous said...

you are so right floyd. we call it KINDERGARTEN in the other part of the world...

Anonymous said...

I noticed it only gets heated when we talk about a particular studio. Why is that?

floyd norman said...

There's an emotional connection to Disney. Studios come and go, but Disney was there at the beginning. In many ways it set the standard.

When things go wrong -- and sometimes they do. We care, and we care deeply.

It's understandable. It's Disney.

Rufus said...

Dear Darin:

A visit to your therapist would do you lots of good! Tell him/her about your frustration with your inability to control what info is out there on this thing called 'internet'. Tell him/her about your control issues as well.


(Are you related to Stalin by any chance?)

Anonymous said...

i hope Disney will return to producing great films again. there have been so many people that had to go through the recent closures over the years, it would be nice to see the studio stabilize sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

You have not crossed the line, Steve. The information you dispense regularly is invaluable. The Disney HR folks posting comments here should just find another website to read. Leave the artists' website to the artists.

Anonymous said...

^ ^ ^ ^ P.A.R.A.N.O.I.A.


Do you really think HR people and execs are sitting here reading this website? Get real, they could care less.

Anonymous said...

BTW, this is not an artists website. It is the guild's website. Slight but important difference.

Anonymous said...

Disney's HR folks and execs DO follow this website.

floyd norman said...

Wouldn't surprise me. What else do they have to do?

Okay guys, just kidding.

s.r. hulett said...

BTW, this is not an artists website. It is the guild's website. Slight but important difference.

Again, to clarify, this isn't, strictly speaking TAG's weblog. TAG doesn't pay for it.

If you read the top disclaimer, you'll see it's Kevin K.'s log...and mine, reflecting our views, both as TAG officers, and as individuals. Kevin is also a working animator with a long track record. I'm a former Disney, Filmation and Disney TVA animation writer.

Hope this helps to clarify.

s.r. hulett said...

You are able to enter Disney because of your position in the Animation Guild but you post your personal opinions here- hmmm- if you worked for the government would that logic hold up in a blog like this?

Maybe, maybe not. I'm not a lawyer. But it's one of the reasons why, each and every day, I give thanks I am not working for the government. Especially the current government.

Anonymous said...

i didnt read the top disclaimer. I only followed a link from the official guild website, or maybe it was one of the links from other websites pointing to the guild website. my bad.

Janus said...

Steve, you are wasting too much of your time explaining yourself. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hello:
I'm number 62.

s.r. hulett said...

Steve, you are wasting too much of your time explaining yourself. :-)

Too true. But wasting time is one of my many specialties.

Anonymous said...

"^ ^ ^ ^ P.A.R.A.N.O.I.A.


Do you really think HR people and execs are sitting here reading this website? Get real, they could care less."


Yeah, you are right. The artists that are laid off whenever it suits Disney and treated as chess pieces are vehemently defending the studio. Of course.

floyd norman said...

A history lesson from one who worked with the "old man."

Walt Disney had contempt for butt-kissers.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, you are right. The artists that are laid off whenever it suits Disney and treated as chess pieces are vehemently defending the studio. Of course."

Don't mistake artists that arent drinking the union kool-aide to be HR and execs.

Darin Hollings said...

My first and last conversation with Steve was at T.S.L. I was not happy with many things about the union so I closed my office door and let him know. Next pegboard that arrived- there it was- our entire conversation- in print. I think he described me as some "hot shot" or something like that. Anyway the point of the story is that I had no idea he was a reporter and I felt that he betrayed my trust- I think everyone should know that talking to him is the same as talking to Variety or The Hollywood Reporter.

tc said...

^Thanks for the lesson Floyd! I like that one.=)


You know, people here keep bringing up how this is somehow a return to the dark ages, and that everything from here on out is doom and gloom (well, at least till the end of the year). And again, it is never good news to hear that people will lose their jobs (though you folks here tell me that it is kind of just the way the industry goes these days).

The thing that gets me is that WDFA is being run now by someone who obviously knew how to make things work at Pixar. And from what Steve has been posting here, it seems Ed (and I am sure he has support from others, especially fellow Pixarians) is trying to fix A LOT of problems that have been going on for YEARS!!!- and in several different areas of the FA studio. But I would think that he is trying to take into account the LONG-term health of the studio. I agree that getting out the un-necessary execs and business folks that only contribute to a bad environment is a big key, but there is obviously much more to it than that.

Overall, I would think (as an outsider) that Ed and John are trying to really take into account the Long-term health of the studio, and then how films are distributed and when. It seems to be that some major sacrifices are just going to have to be made, and unfortunately in the artist area too.
I believe Steve said that Ed is trying to get WDFA on a more long-term stable path for the future.
I would think, in the end, it would be a good thing?

Steve Hulett said...

Darin:

Two points: 1) We've conversed (briefly) since TSL; 2) Rule of thumb re quoting somebody in print? If you don't identify the speaker (and I didn't), then no trust has been betrayed because nobody knows who's talking.

Anonymous said...

"Don't mistake artists that arent drinking the union kool-aide to be HR and execs."

Ah, another fierce individualist (or rather, another corporate toady). I assume at the same time you're rejecting that union kool-aide you'll also be rejecting the union pension and health benefits?

Anonymous said...

"Don't mistake artists that arent drinking the union kool-aide to be HR and execs."

Not the point. However you feel about the union, drinking the studio "Kool-aid" is reserved for HR and execs. Not much of a reason for an artist to do it...

RJ said...

> drinking the studio "Kool-aid" is reserved for HR and execs.
> Not much of a reason for an artist to do it...

Unless they're naive... or trying to toady up. :-)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Union pension.... Is there anyone following this thread that is currently collecting from the pension plan? I'd love to see a story here on several folks who are actually retired and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Is there anyone out there? What do they think of the plan now that they are using it as a supplemental income. Maybe I've been in the dark, but I have never read a story in regards to retired animators and their happiness or disregard for the union's contributions to their retirement.
- Anonymous animator weighing both sides.
Thanks!

Kevin Koch said...

Steve talks with more retired animation pros than I do, and from my recollection he's referred to some of their stories on this blog and in the Peg Board on several occasions. But it's a good request, and I'm sure he can do a future posting on some real life retiree stories (by the way, what are the two sides you're weighing -- pro-pension benefits, and anti-pension benefits?).

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