Friday, November 10, 2006

Froggie Goes a Boarding?

John M. and Ron C. Back at Disney after a six-month sabbatical courtesy of David Stainton

A Disney effects animator told me today that they're "having fun on 'Meet the Robinsons,'" and if the prospect of layoffs wasn't hanging out there, life would be totally good. Another effects person said that people who've done effects for various live action shows and who are used to short-term gigs, aren't particulary bothered with the upcoming cuts, they know it's part of the biz. His words: "People were talking about it for two weeks or so, but not now. I can't speak for other departments, but in effects, morale is pretty good."

Disney staffers up on the third floor of the hat building tell me that "Frog Princess" is close to having some sequences put up on boards. I'm informed that directors Ron Clements and John Musker's script has circulated among various parties and met with a positive reaction. I say, congrats to Ron and John.

"Frankly, it's best if you two leave the studio now. We've just been a ball and chain around your ankles."

-- Former Disney Feature Animation topkick David Stainton to Ron Clements and John Musker, July 2005

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

So??? – With the inside rumor of outsourcing the cleanup and animation what’s the point. What’s new.

floyd Norman said...

What's new?

It means Feature Animation will become a mean, lean cartoon machine. Heck, we won't even need a new building if we outsource. Animation can just move into the Hyperion Bungalow on the Disney lot. That'll be plenty of room.

tc said...

As someone outside of the biz, could you guys elaborate on this 'outsourcing'?

who would be doing the animation?
and who would do cleanup?
and what would be done in-house at WDFA?

s.r. hulett said...

So??? – With the inside rumor of outsourcing the cleanup and animation what’s the point. What’s new.

Staffing for the actual production of "Frog Princess" is a year (or more) away. I think it's a trifle premature to speculate what will be in-house and what not. My guesstimate is that a lot of it (most of it?) will be done in L.A. for quality-control purposes.

Before everybody starts wringing their hands that "it will all go to Canada...India...Taiwan, let's wait and see, shall we?

Some Animator said...

Let's hope they get a crew together here, under one roof, not outsourced all over LA. If everyone is all split up like Curious George was, there will be no unity, no family feeling behind the frames. Animation is about mentorship and you don't have that when you work alone in your spare bedroom. This film has a chance to be something and reSTART something special. I sure hope they see that and make all the efforts to have everyone united as a team of artists.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Some Animator and TC…

The inside talk at meetings is to outsource to maybe Baxter Studio, which means it is ‘Outsourcing’, - only keeping a few ‘Lead’ people in house. Just like Curious George. To deny the talk about it is to keep the truth away from the readers. Let’s be honest here, we are tired of all the glorification of directors etc., and as artists are tired of working like ‘freelancers’. So you are right, 'what’s new?'... Another movie just like the rest (But let's see what's happening), - that the movie properly will be outsourced around LA can sound nice, but doesn’t change the fact that it is about saving money and benefits! – Hopefully The Union will be more supportive and listen to its members with time in this matter. Disney is trying to change its image, but honestly – what good is it for the ‘little’ inbetweener or animator working without a steady contract..
Let's all hope for the best in the name of animation.

Kevin Koch said...

Regarding the comment "Hopefully The Union will be more supportive and listen to its members with time in this matter." If you're talking about the Curious George production, the Guild listened loud and clear to it's members, and had numerous meetings and contacts with Universal and July Films.

It certainly was NOT the Guild's choice for Universal to so completely blow their budget on endless script rewrites that the production choice came down to two choices: do it the way it got done (with most of the work done in town), or send virtually all of it out of state.

It was a crap situation, with, in the end, no good choices. The Guild could have taken a hard line and made sure almost all the film was done elsewhere. Instead we listened to our members.

Kevin Koch said...

And, just to clarify one other point, the outsourcing Disney has already done with the Baxter Studio (on Enchanted) was done under a Guild contract.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kevin.
Sorry to ask a different question here not reflecting the article, but I am curious to know how the union basically operates. Wondering if the union president and its other representatives get salary paid from union member fees? (If so: Good. If not: Why not?) If the representatives works independent like in Europe, where no president or representative in the higher ranks at the unions are allowed to work in the companies in which they represent the union members? One way or the other is that maybe an issue to discuss (Thinking about the maybe unpaid workload a representative can have, and also the issue of conflicts of interests)?
Best from,
F.

s.r. hulett said...

Hopefully The Union will be more supportive and listen to its members with time in this matter. Disney is trying to change its image, but honestly – what good is it for the ‘little’ inbetweener or animator working without a steady contract...

A few clarifications: On Curious George, TAG spent weeks negotiating with July Films, Universal management and TAG members to bring the work on CG under contract. We were close to a deal, then the budget got cut. For its own reasons, Universal opted to spend $2 million on an animation script it didn't use rather than pay animators and assistants guild wages and benefits.

It finally came down to (as Kevin says) keeping the animation work in Southern California without a contract or see it go to Toronto. A less than ideal outcome, but the decision was Universal's, not the choice of the animation guild.

At Warners (Osmosis Jones) at Universal (Curious George) and at Disney (Frog Princess) the Animation Guild wanted (and wants) ALL of the work to say inside the studio under contract, but it doesn't make the production decisions. Warners, Universal and Disney management do.

As for glorifying directors, the above post is about a) effx animators on "Meet the Robinsons b) the script for FP starting to get storyboarded, and c) David Stainton laying Musker and Clements off.

If FP isn't greenlit for production, the question of how much hand-drawn animation gets sub-contracted outside the hat building is going to be academic.

s.r. hulett said...

I am curious to know how the union basically operates. Wondering if the union president and its other representatives get salary paid from union member fees? (If so: Good. If not: Why not?) If the representatives works independent like in Europe, where no president or representative in the higher ranks at the unions are allowed to work in the companies in which they represent the union members?

TAG's President, Vice-President and board members serve without salary. The Business Representative is the only office that's a salaried position. The Business Rep -- because he is paid by TAG -- is forbidden under the constitution from working for any contract studio. Other officers are not.

Anonymous said...

Does the union represent animation directors like Ron and John... or are they represented by another union like the DGA? Just curious....

Anonymous said...

''TAG's President, Vice-President and board members serve without salary. The Business Representative is the only office that's a salaried position. The Business Rep -- because he is paid by TAG -- is forbidden under the constitution from working for any contract studio. Other officers are not.''

TAG’s President & Vice-President without salery and allowed to work for contract studios… Not that it is, but couldn’t that be a conflick of interest??

tc said...

So, what I keep wondering is - hypothetically- if they decide to outsource, what actual work in animation goes out, and what stays in?

out- inbetween, cleanup, efx, etc.
in- ? I would think that some of the key scenes and the stuff that 'supervising animators' would do should stay close to the team inside Disney? I would think that some of the best lead animators at Disney would want to work on this project and get back to hand drawn work?

s.r. hulett said...

TAG’s President & Vice-President without salery and allowed to work for contract studios… Not that it is, but couldn’t that be a conflick of interest??

No conflict of interest. TAG's constitution, drafted and ratified by members, makes it okay.

Added to which, IA officers in other locals have always worked for signator companies. Once example: George S. Dibbie, longtime President of the Cinematographers Guild, was a Director of Photography on a guild-covered television show most of the time he was its president.

Tom Sito and Kevin Koch worked for signator studios while officers; I worked for Disney while serving at TAG's Vice-President.

It comes down to what's constitutionally mandated by various guild and union constitutions.

s.r. hulett said...

Does the union represent animation directors like Ron and John... or are they represented by another union like the DGA? Just curious....

Ron and John are covered by TAG for story work, but not for work as feature animation directors. Back in 1952, when TAG was founded, feature animation directors were deemed to be "management" and therefore outside our jurisdiction.

The DGA has made some attempts to organize feature animation directors, thus far without success.

s.r. hulett said...

So, what I keep wondering is - hypothetically- if they decide to outsource, what actual work in animation goes out, and what stays in?

In the recent past at other studios, work has gone out on cleanup, stayed in for animation and keys.

I think it's way premature to figure what stays in and goes out on Frog Princess, regardless of the rumor-mill buzz. Estimates are going to change as the studio gets close to production, gets bids and run numbers. And all that will be subject to change. On Osmosis Jones, for instance, Warners ended up doing a lot more at the studio than they originally planned. Director Tom Sito (and others) successfully argued that quality would be better in-house, and the creative staff was able to show that the crew could do it cost-competitively.

Anonymous said...

Whether it is outsourced to the ex-Disney guys at Baxters or the ex-Disney's guys at Firefly, it is exciting to see Disney get behind a hand drawn film again. But it is way too early to say where it will ultimately get done. So much can happen in a year. Look at this past year at Disney's, and its not even through yet.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is far too earlier to say. Let's just hope they don't outsource at all! i'd doubt you would have been able to make "the Incredibles" had you outsourced everything. It's about the unity of the crew-- I have faith in John and Ed and believe that we all need to be patient as they continue to turn the Titanic around.

Anonymous said...

Good point on the reference. its a big slow turn, everyone lean to starboard!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so if animation directors are not represented by the union (except for when they storyboard) then what happens to their pensions and benefits while they are directing? Are they refused benefits or considered inactive? How does that work?

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